Social Enterprises and 'changing the rules of the game' 15 Jul 2018 Post by: Steven Moe
Thankyou is a social enterprise that recently launched in New Zealand. Jason Pemberton wrote an analysis of what they are doing here https://www.youthink.co.nz/thoughts/thankyou in response Steven Moe set out the following thoughts:
"You make a lot of great points. It is vital we rigorously think and thank you for promoting that!! It was great to catch up with you in person last week and debate this and other topics! I’ve just been reflecting and my own response that I hope adds value is to disagree a little by throwing in a sports analogy.
Traditional business is soccer and social enterprise is rugby. Soccer has certain rules that apply to it. To say that Richie McCaw would tackle better than the players on the field at the Soccer World Cup right now is accurate but would break the rules of that game and what is possible (…for now). What Thankyou New Zealand are trying to do I think is to start to bend/change the rules of the existing game by playing within it and introducing new ways (new rules) of playing imported from another source (where values exist in the game such as purpose trumping profit, SDGs are more than an unknown acronym, consumers think twice about their choice, there is real measurable impact through the nature of entities and who they employ, what they produce, rather than only how they use their profits). Thankyou are at the coal face of attempting to do this and it is really hard work – any new start-up is! Over time I would suspect Thankyou will evolve as more new rules are capable of being introduced into the game. So, I think they should be encouraged for what they are doing within the rules of the existing game because they are on the same team, attempting to do good.
My feeling is that if you were to pick any social enterprise business - anyone! - there will be flaws that are noticeable once you dig (relying too much on volunteers, sourcing of product, type of product, packaging, how profits used, lack of partnership, too much reliance on partnership to deliver on promises etc). This is still the early, early days (chapter 1, if you will) of social enterprise in New Zealand. We have the chance to help shape and mold and become world leading. So anyone who is pushing the boundaries and expanding the traditional rules of the game and raising the profile and promoting a new way of doing business – trying to be someone even I have heard of who am not a soccer fan - a Pele, Maradona, Ronaldo - and transcend the traditional rules – needs as much support as possible.
Maybe the environment isn’t the key goal right now and it is raising social awareness of other issues. We live in a consumer driven world and that will not change quickly but in encouraging a conscious choice about what they buy it may help people on the journey of moving along the spectrum towards a future where we have even dropped the term social enterprise because the outliers become the businesses who aren’t environmentally responsible, don’t treat their employees well, extract profits to bolster the bank accounts of the already wealthy etc. It is a journey to get there and have such a new conception so I applaud anyone willing to stand up and play the game a different way as it helps challenge the nature of the game itself.
Disclaimer: I interviewed Daniel Flynn for the ‘Seeds’ podcast have been doing so his story is one of the 48 in the last 9 months talking to social enterprises about their stories and trying to spread the word about people working to 'change the rules of the game'. I was honestly impressed with the genuineness at the heart of the actions taken. At a personal level for him this was not a corporate marketing campaign he really is trying to introduce change to the system. As you note, it’s not a perfect model. But as you also note there are many positives not least of which is the inspiration to others (pebble in the pond + ripples) to maybe think a little differently about the ‘rules of the game’. Time to unleash Richie McCaw and change the game!?"
We have a team at Parry Field who work in the Social Enterprise/Start-up sector who would be more than happy to assist or answer any queries that you might have. We also have a book that might be of interest – more information on this can be found here.