10 reasons why social business is the way of the future (circa 2008)
On a slow Friday afternoon, an old Powerpoint presentation made its way around the ClearlySo offices dating back to a breakfast event with investors on the 26th of June 2008; a time when ClearlySo was better known as socialinvestments.com. The title of the presentation - as put together by ClearlySo co-founder Julia Meek - was 10 reasons why social business is the way of the future.
Here they are:
1. Affluent consumerism peaks?
2. Renewed quest for authenticity
3. Climate change impacts intensify
4. Disenchantment with 'greenwash'
5. A more educated population
6. Ethical motivations strengthen
7. A job for living
8. Collective individualism grows
9. Rise of the creative class
10. A more networked society
Nostalgia aside, we began discussing whether the message was still accurate in 2013 and the overall verdict was that they were. The question therefore is whether the 'dream' of social business as the way of the future has failed to progress over the past five years or whether it's a more long term vision. As believers in the prophecy (as it were) we were firmly voting for the latter and in fact managed to highlight many areas of Julia's starter-for-10 where real progress has been made.
Firstly, we have potentially witnessed a new paradigm of highly educated professionals moving in to the social sector in the UK. The rise and success of professional networks such as Escape The City lends evidence to this, working in tandem with (and owing a great deal to) a far more networked society. At ClearlySo we have been directly affected by this trend; benefiting from extremely talented professionals turning their attention to the social sector and joining our team.
Secondly, the 'creative class' has seen unrivalled growth despite downturn in many other sectors. The comparison of soft, web-based technology between 2008 and 2013 is truly a vast chasm. This has enabled many would-be social entrepreneurs to leverage technology in new and creative ways which would have previously been impossible. In 2013, there's nothing to stop the bedroom entrepreneur from making substantial social impact.
And thirdly, no matter how hard CSR departments try to cling on, an increasingly ethical public are becoming wise to 'greenwash' initiatives. Since 2008, the sustainability spotlight has shifted its gaze somewhat from the individual consumer and governments on to business; highlighting fundamental flaws in the way we approach manufacturing and waste. As theories such as a 'circular economy' gain traction, hopefully the sustainability blame game can finally be dropped in favour of actual progress.
The Powerpoint presentation signs off with three challenges presenting the social entrepreneur in 2008, which I'd like to leave open for discussion in the comments:
1. Free falling economic indicators
2. Growing culture of fear
3. Red tape and lack of support
However I would argue that the support network for social enterprises is healthier now than ever before, backed by support from government. We're currently working on an updated version of our 'Guide for the Ambitious Social Entrepreneur', which attempts to signpost all of the various support channels for social entrepreneurs in the UK. Hopefully the challenges facing the 2008 social entrepreneur no longer look so stark.