The first decade of the new millennium has brought a level of social, economic, environmental, technological and political changes in an aggregated degree and to a whole new level previously not witnessed. With the Y2K bug fever, societies across the globe became explicitly aware of the fact that the process of globalisation culminated in new levels of threats and opportunities in equal measure. With the rise of social media and corporate giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube to name but a few, people all over the world realised the enormous potential and power of technology to solve problems on a local level. The first decade of the millennium was also marked by an unprecedented level of fatal natural disasters which proved to be costly in both social and financial terms.
Additionally, geo-political factors such as the number of protracted war conflicts, rise of BRIC countries as a new global economic force and the 2008 GFC have all contributed to the emergence of a variety of cultural adaptations to what may appear as a never-ending process of disruption. It is with that heightened degree of disruption and instability that new forms of social innovation started to emerge across the world. For instance, the rise of social enterprise has been one of the adaptive strategies that communities the world over have sought to apply to counteract the myriad of local social and economic challenges.
Social enterprises have now become an accepted and reasonably well understood model of value creation. In a way, social enterprise has established itself as a language that bridges the gap between the not for profit sector and the corporate sector and governments as a suitable replacement for ageing welfare models. The established difficulties in communication between the private, public and not for profit sectors have, over time, become a critical source of tensions, impacting on productivity and the bearing desired by the funding parties. However, this has started to change for the better, albeit with limited results, with a common conversation now being about an approach to delivering services using a standard business model structure.
A considerable number of social enterprises were spawned by entrepreneurial minds leaving the corporate world in search of more meaningful engagement. As the practice became noticed for its capacity to create socio-economic impact and its ability to maintain financial independence from government funding, an increasing number of not for profit community organisations joined the movement. Some governments, such as in the UK, became increasingly convinced that the role of government in solving local, social challenges may be better served by walking away from paternalistic welfare and embracing new ideas of partnership and collaboration with the social enterprise community. While it is fair to say that the transition has not yet reached a defining moment where societal ills, such as homelessness, social isolation of vulnerable groups, youth unemployment etc., are within acceptable levels, it is increasingly becoming clear that there is no turning back.
In the Australian context, the budget deficit, slow recovery, negligible economic growth and continued complex social issues across metropolitan, regional and remote communities, have all created a sense of necessity for further innovation in the way the not for profit sector ensures its sustainability. An emerging narrative of organisational sustainability has further evolved into critical examination of the feasibility of the not for profit sector’s reliance on government funding, which, in real terms, has started to fragment and decrease. Corporate support through CSR and sponsorship has also undergone transformation since the 2008 GFC. These factors have opened the door for not for profits to explore previous practices in a new light.
I believe that a transformative process of re-designing organisational capacity and approach to making a socio-economic impact at ‘street’ level can be achieved by what can best be described as an ‘enterprising collaborative’ (EC) model. An enterprising collaborative is a model of value creation that amplifies the social enterprise business model with collaboration as the central strategy. The concept of an enterprising collaborative is an innovative approach to creating opportunities for not for profits, governments and the private sector to create ‘collaborative advantage’ by forming strategic collaborative partnerships with clear governance and management structures. In essence, an enterprising collaborative seeks to create a resilient form of value creation with lasting impacts at the local level.
An enterprising model is multi-function platform which incorporates Collaboration as a Service (CaaS) strategy, with CSR and social entrepreneurialism. Therefore EC is simultaneously:
•A community hub
•A learning and networking space
•A commercial, not for profit project base
• A business mentoring hub
• A brokerage/curator of services
• A community brokerage hub, as well as
• An incubator of new ideas
At the same time, its capacity to support the range of activities is based on a collaboration with private sector and government stakeholders who may enter into a commercial arrangement whereby exchanges of service are of mutual benefit.
Local private sector business, local governments and community organisations alike can thus come into a collaborative space and explore and initiative projects that build on exchange of resources and expertise focusing on achieving a common goal. While it is expected that the initiative will retain particular local community flavour its capacity to engage and collaborate with larger state or national entities will be equally possible.
The combine effect of the entrepreneurial approach to sustainability, collaborative strategy of implementation and the philosophical values of corporate social responsibility forming the basis for the enterprising collaborative provides fresh and promising way forward.