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Social Enterprise Back in Global Spotlight

April 1, 2011
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This week, leading lights from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors are gathering in Oxford for the Skoll World Forum on Social Enterprise. A program of the Skoll Foundation, established by Ebay co-founder Jeff Skoll, the Forum is evidence of the gathering global force behind social enterprise.

graphic courtesy of Social Enterprise Associates

At the World Forum, attendees will undoubtedly take stock of the rapid progress this sector has made in attracting attention, investment, and talent as well as the real impact that social ventures are generating across the globe. Perhaps more importantly, these innovative leaders will confront the challenges that remain before them – including legal, financial, and political systems that are designed to serve traditional for-profit, nonprofit, governmental, and nongovernmental entities.

As social enterprise begins to merge these silos, new investment vehicles, legal classifications, and regulatory policies will be needed if the sector is to flourish. Progress is being made. The new LC3 business classification and the gradual emergence of a new asset class serving impact investors each point to the start of systemic change – but much more is needed. There must be a widespread shift in the way the private and nonprofit sectors view social enterprise. As UK Labor leader Ed Miliband stated recently, it must be taken seriously. It also must be understood for what it is, rather than confounded with corporate social responsibility, philanthropy, or other activities that are ancillary to a business model.

Here at IIC, we are interested in the dialogue surrounding social enterprise not simply because IIC is one, but because the nature of our model makes us a bridge between the traditional nonprofit and private sectors. We have a foot, and a stake, in both worlds. IIC connects these sectors for mutual benefit, and strives to replace a relationship of dependence with one of interdependence and collaboration. This requires changing conventions and challenging assumptions on both ends – no easy task.

In light of the World Forum, it’s a good time to revisit the topic of social enterprise here on the IIC blog.

So join us in the coming week, as we examine perceptions and misconceptions about social enterprise, and consider the future and role of this sector in developed economies such as the United States. Stay tuned!

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