There are various definitions of the term social enterprise. We have chosen the DTI definition because it has been arrived at through consensus amongst a wide range of organisations, businesses and social enterprise experts.
'Social enterprise is a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profits for shareholders and owners'
Social Enterprise: A Strategy for Success, Department of Trade and Industry 2002
'Social enterprise' is a buzz-term for an old idea: using business methods to benefit the community, rather than to make private profit. Social enterprises are businesses with social objectives. They charge for some of their services and use any surplus funds to reinvest in the business or in the community.
Community Food Projects
Whilst support for social enterprise is high on the government's agenda, support for community food projects seems to be diminishing - with funding often precarious, short-term, and tied to varying grant provisions. Community food projects are complex creatures. Hard to define formally, they encompass a range of food-related initiatives operating in a given community. They may include food buying co-ops, cookery clubs, community allotments, slimming clubs, and community cafes. However this website is primarily concerned with projects that increase access to healthy foods for those living on low incomes.
What's it all about?
Given a static or shrinking supply of grant funding and the growing level of support for social enterprise, the Food Poverty Project decided to investigate whether the time might be ripe for more community food projects to consider becoming social enterprises, to achieve at least partial, if not full, financial independence from the endless fund-raising treadmill. (Why we did it)
This website has been developed to help determine whether becoming a social enterprise is a viable option for community food projects to achieve some independence from grant funding. Here you will find case studies of community food projects, some of which are exploring the options, some are operating as social enterprises, some want to but don't yet have the skills. The case studies are here to illustrate the complexities of community food projects and the difficulties of attaining financial security. There is also information, guidance, and signposting to a range of support organisations that can assist community food projects looking to become social enterprises.
The information on this website has been compiled as a result of research carried out by Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming's Food Poverty Project over an 8 month period during 2004 / 2005.
The aim of the research was to explore the potential for community food projects to engage with social enterprise methods as a means of securing greater financial security. The information on this website largely covers England and Wales although there is information about UK wide organisations. Similar work is currently being undertaken in Scotland by the Scottish Community Diet Project.