Social Entrepreneurship Landscape in England

منظر کارآفرینی اجتماعی در انگلستان

منظر کارآفرینی اجتماعی در انگلستان

In the UK, a dynamic and well-developed social innovation (SI) system has contributed to the rapid development of social innovation, particularly through social entrepreneurship. Although the UK remains at the forefront of this field, there are further opportunities for research and capacity development outside the field of social entrepreneurship. In this article, we are going to look at the perspective of social entrepreneurship in England.

Understanding social innovation in the UK
In the UK, as in many other parts of the world, the concept of social innovation (SI) is dynamic and broad. This concept can range from “innovative ideas that have a positive result” to “innovative activities and services that are inspired by the goal of solving social needs and are mainly developed and expanded by organizations with a social purpose.” But usually the definitions are in the range between these two.

In the UK, the language of social innovation is well established and, while often still confined to specific communities, recognized across government bodies, civil society, and research institutions. This indicates a degree of consolidation of social innovation and, indeed, the policies governing it have been expanded during different administrations, indicating that policy makers are still interested in the concept. In other words, these policies have created one of the most productive social innovation ecosystems in the world, as they have supported both the development of infrastructure and financing for both the demand and supply sides.

Compilation and reflection on experiences of governance in Western Europe
One of the focus points in the area of government actions and social laws in Western Europe has been the issue of “ordering”. The Social Value Act (2012) obliges commissioners to consider wider social benefits when selecting service providers. This law is considered a basic foundation for innovative approaches in providing services. Also, the ‘Buy Social’ campaign has been launched in the UK under the auspices of the UK Social Entrepreneurship Corporation and encourages individuals and organizations in the public and private sectors to buy from social entrepreneurship companies.

In the context of funding social innovation in the UK, there are various and extensive mechanisms. This variety includes traditional financing to more advanced models. “Big Society Capital”, as a provider of social investment capital, and “Social Impact Bonds” are among the first global models and are clear examples of the UK’s leading role. In addition, the UK government has taken additional measures to provide tax relief for social investment and encourage private investment in innovation and social entrepreneurship companies.

Support and research
The UK continues to be a center of research activity in the field of social innovation, with many institutions (including Saeed Business School) having dedicated programs for research in the area of social innovation. Also, there is a dynamic sector of social innovation interfaces, which, for example, organizations such as Young Foundation, NESTA, High School of Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation Exchange (SIX) operate and provide leading work in support of social innovation.

Beyond planning
Although social innovation (SI) is considered in the UK as an independent concept from social entrepreneurship, recent developments in the field of social innovation have particularly focused on the ability to facilitate new business models. This point should be considered in the context of a continuous program of reducing government resources since 2010, in which social entrepreneurship has been introduced as one of the solutions to deal with social needs, despite the reduced role of the government.

Among people active in the field of social innovation, it has been noticed that social innovation goes beyond planning. The emphasis on social entrepreneurship and social innovation with a focus on design has, of course, led to the creation of new innovative products and services, but social innovation is also about new partnerships between people, new business models, new ways of working, etc. Indeed, many of the leading examples in the fields of finance and regulation are presented not only as providers of innovative social enterprises, but as innovations in themselves.

The UK has also made progress in the public sector, which appears to be increasingly focused on social innovation activities, particularly in a way that moves beyond specific work programs and focuses instead on changing practices. Examples of this point of view include the work of the Behavioral Investigations Team (BIT), which has used a behavioral science approach to change the way government interacts with citizens.

Using social innovation tools and methods
Attention to the increasing use of social innovation tools and methods, especially by the public sector, is increasing. Apart from user-led design approaches, public institutions are now using new approaches to engage people in new ways and adopt new work practices. The user-led design approach is an idea that the user’s experience and capability in identifying needs and promoting solution ideas is considered valuable.

For example, in 2012, Argyll and Bute Council’s Children and Family Services Department used co-design to develop a new funding system in collaboration with local non-government sector organisations. They realized that this process allowed them to reduce unnecessary administrative burdens on civil society while at the same time going beyond quality assurance.

In another example, Warwickshire County Council’s customer engagement team decided to improve the commissioning process for services for people with learning difficulties by bringing in five people with learning difficulties as trained peer reviewers to assist in their decision-making. While these approaches require sensitive management and careful monitoring, the process has yielded positive results.

Planning for social innovation
Indeed, we see the use of social innovation tools and methods by local authorities and specific government departments. However, there is a flaw in the coordination of this use. These approaches often appear incidentally and learning from them happens informally.

There are still more opportunities to develop social innovation broadly across sectors and in a more coordinated way. Also, there is an opportunity to transfer these collaborative social innovations to new areas, instead of being limited to public institutions and expanding to areas such as community-based social innovation and corporate social innovation.

For example, the UK’s Department for International Development is looking for strategic opportunities to develop corporate social innovation, such as its collaboration with Vodafone, which led to the creation of a mobile money transfer service called MPESA, as well as through its strategic partnership window under the Work Framework. The challenge of educating girls has benefited. However, such approaches are still implemented sporadically.

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