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Social Enterprise: Delusions of Collaboration

In September 2015 York St John University will be hosting a conference on collaboration

"Now more than ever cross-sector collaboration is essential, because the challenges faced by society can only be tackled successfully if value-building capabilities, resources, effort and knowledge are linked or shared by organisations. Cross-sector collaboration is at the heart of social entrepreneurship cultures which are nurtured by the quality of their relationships. Collaborations need to be based on the values embodied by social entrepreneurship, such as mutual respect, reciprocity, solidarity, common good and respect for the environment."

I've been engaging online recently with one of the peoiple at York St John, who expressed interest in our work in people-centered economics. Of particular interest was our work on sourcing a social enterprise development centre at Kharkiv National University in Ukraine.

"The Center for Social Enterprise will engender and foster exactly this sort of enterprise thinking for the purpose of further addressing and resolving the wide range of desperate social needs throughout Ukraine. Programs can be designed and deployed all over the country – as long as there is a strong nucleus – center – to make them happen. 

The Center for Social Enterprise will be created in cooperation with Kharkiv National University. It will require a one-time foundation grant of $5 million, after which it will be permanently self-sustaining. That amount can be deposited into any one of several existing banks, with returns of about 14% per year in interest on a hrivnia deposit account. That amount provides CSE a comfortable operating budget of $500,000 per year and a comfortable reserve margin above operating costs. Note that funding for projects designed and implemented by CSE is a separate budget account. "

Referenciing Social Emterprise Typology by Kim Alter, it said this of cross sector partnerships:

"The Private-Sector Partnership Model represents a mutually beneficial relationship between a for-profit company and a nonprofit social enterprise. Relationships are forged on commercial grounds, whereby each partner is a contributor to the commercial success of the venture. The partnership adds value or enhancesthe nonprofit social enterprise by increasing its viability, and hence its social impact, either directly by reaching more clients through its business model, or indirectly by generating funding for social programs. The private partner also benefits vis-à-vis improving goodwill, increasing customer loyalty, penetrating new markets, attracting more socially conscious consumers, etc., which subsequently translates into higher sales and more profit.

The private-nonprofit partnership model of social enterprise is a mutually beneficial business partnership or joint venture between a for-profit company and a nonprofit organization. The partnership may occur with an existing social enterprise, or may result in the creation of a new entity or a profit center. The social enterprise may or may not be mission-related and leverages the nonprofit organization's assets, such as relationships with their target population, community, brand, or expertise. For the for-profit, the partnership yields one or more of the following benefits: lowers costs (cheaper labor/lower research and development costs); reduces restrictions (no strict regulatory oversight); improves community relations or public image; enables new product development; penetrates new markets; or increases sales. Partnership benefits for the nonprofit are financial return, marketing and brand equity, and in cases where the activity is mission-related, social impact. The market is most often external–the public, but examples exist where the paying customer and the client are one. The private-nonprofit relationship may be structured as a joint venture, a licensing agreement, or formal partnership."

With collaboration fron this University and local civic activists it was introduced to government in Febriary 2007 and within weeks governmenrt had pledged action on several of the recommendations on childcare reform. For our part, recommending the propsal to US goverment , there was no charge.

That's where collaboration ended, unfortunately when we put the plan in front of USAID. They wanted to do their own thing and our focus on tacklling corruption seems to have been the major obstacle. They would later partner ithe British Council and the corporations of oligarchs,

Two years later, UNLTD begins sponsoring the development of social enterprise in higher education  at rhe same time censoring what we shared for free, on their discussion forum.   . 

Six years later, writing in tthe Guardian about a sponsored international tour, UNLTD Trustee Natalie Campbell says  "I returned to London feeling that, as a sector, regardless of which country we refer to, there's a huge need to do more. We need to be more enterprising and we need to collaborate and share our solutions so more people get the help they need. Quickly."

Social enterprise had become the domain of an elite who don't use their own money, or care to engage.  While we going toe-to-toe with mafia over childcare corruption we seem to have become a threat to their authority.

The British Council were one of our customers and they wouldn't even collaborate in paying our support invoices. Partners were excpected to make a financial contribution said Martin Davidson of our disregarded application,

As a social business we pay taxes which fund these people.

I  approached SAB Miller who'd just set up operations in Ukraine . Andy Wales who waxes lyrical about partnership told me:

"Obviously this is very early days for our engagement in Ukraine. I think it will be some months yet before we are ready to engage with potential corporate social investment partners in that market."

And so it goes on as the country slides toward violent uprisnjg.

The final act of non collaboration is the new 'Marshall Plan' which Involves Lord Mandelson and Lord Risdby in collaboration with an Ukrainian oligarch fighing extradtion in Austria. The price tag is 3 times the entire EU budget and they'll "crowdsource" ideas from their closest friends to validate it. 

It doesn't require a Large hadron Collider to discover there's an alternative universe. One is the world of billionaires funding networks to talk of social innovation. Today it's a lucrative circuit of conferences and public funding. of people convinced that online engagement  in yet another networking platform will deliver the way forward.  On the other there's the people who share their ideas and commit to putting them into action. 

Some of the leaders of the forrmer have even been involved in funding the neoliberal agenda.