Thinking of starting a social enterprise? Read these 8 principles first.

Jerr Boschee is the definitive social enterprise guru. I heard him speak at a UK government sponsored social enterprise conference a few years ago. An adviser to social enterprises in the US and abroad, he also founded the US based Institute for Social Entrepreneurs. After hearing him speak, my emerging interest in social enterprise became a commitment.

He has written many papers on social enterprise, including “Eight Basic Principles for Nonprofit Entrepreneurs” which has the sub-heading “These lessons from the pioneers in the field could save you many heartaches”. These are the eight points:

(In the UK, “nonprofits” would be our voluntary organisations and charities.)

1 Earned income is paramount.     Traditionally non-profits regarded earned income as extra income. With social enterprise, earned income is the primary goal.

2 Be a player or don’t play at all.     Many nonprofits spread themselves too thin by trying to be all things to all people. Social enterprise, by reducing some commitments, have frequently found themselves serving more people.

3 Starting a business venture is not the only path to success.     Nonprofits uncomfortable with the business ethos of social enterprise may be better suited to earned income strategies.

4 Unrelated business activities are dangerous.     Stay with what you know and what is appropriate.

5 Be patient–and don’t run out of money.     Don’t underestimate the amount of time and money you will need.

6 Recognize the differences between innovators, entrepreneurs, and professional managers.     Social enterprises need people with the right skills.

7 The “nonprofit” culture gets in the way.     The changes needed to enable a social enterprise to develop and succeed.

8 Remember the Noah Principle.     A lot of people plan to start a social enterprise, but not many do it.

This is the link to the paper http://www.socialent.org/pdfs/8BasicPrinciples.pdf

There is also lots of information on the main site http://www.socialent.org/index.htm

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