Social Enterprise Development Reflections

We have just celebrated the 8 year anniversary of Libre Digital, a social enterprise with the aim of widening access to technology and information by and for communities, increasing media literacy and digital inclusion. On the 31st of March 2010, Libre Digital – formally called SilenceBreaker Media – incorporated. This is how we met and we have worked together ever since.

Here we offer five key reflections from our experiences of running a social enterprise over the last 8 years:

1) Be prepared to fail – there will be ideas, concepts, projects and initiatives that you are sure will work but for one reason or another they just don’t seem to have the legs that you thought they would. That’s fine, there are always lessons to be learnt from these experiences. In fact, funders want to know if there are any unintended consequences from your projects and activities and how you have taken this on board and modified what you provide. Every door closed means another one opens. Failure has resulted in some of the best things we have achieved (our article on the benefits of making mistakes can be found here).

2) Be innovative – in a changing funding sector, you need to be innovative. Jane wrote her MA dissertation on the changing social enterprise funding world (which you can read here). There is now more focus on revenue and income generation, with sustainability central to many funders requirements. You have to be prepared to change, especially in response to demand, mistakes and even failure.

3) Get the right people involved – this is so important; directors, volunteers, staff – these people make a massive difference to the impact your social enterprise will have. There are lots of tasks and responsibilities involved with running a social enterprise, including accounting, policies, Companies House, social media and marketing, funding, evaluations, administration – all things that 10 years ago there would have been lots more funding and support for. For instance, whilst incorporation for Libre Digital didn’t cost because of the support available, when we incorporated AFC Unity in 2015 it cost a few hundred pounds, with us having to obtain funding to help cover these costs. The more expertise and help you have from people you trust and who believe in the mission, the better your organisation will be. The phrase “do it, delegate it or dump it” is a useful one here too!

4) Keep the passion – without a passion for what you are doing, you will run into problems and it will make it hard for you to sustain the enterprise. There will be times where you will need the passion for what you are doing to keep you going, you will have to remember why you started it all and want to go forward.

5) Have a vision – make sure you have a business plan (our article on business plan development can be found here), a strategic plan, an idea of what you are wanting to do in 1, 5 or even 10 years. Have something you keep working towards, a goal, something that drives you. This will get you through the hard times and will make the good times even better knowing you are getting closer and closer to fulfilling what you set out to do.

Jay & Jane have over 25 years of combined experience in social enterprise and community initiative and offer a free initial chat to discuss your needs and how we might be able to help – get in touch for more!