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Looking Back at 2015: Trends in Social Enterprise

As we head into the end of the year, many entrepreneurs will take this as a time for reflecting on both business successes, as well as reflecting on new opportunities to engage with in the new year.  We want to take this time to summarize some of the top trends that we have seen in social enterprise over the last year, and provide insight on which we consider to be the most successful.

1. The Move to Local

One of the top trends we have seen in Social Enterprise is the move to local.  The top social enterprises truly focus on building opportunities and business within their own neighbourhoods and communities first. Whether they provide a local service, source local food, or help neighbourhood youth, the top social enterprises are about LOCAL first and foremost. Local makes good business sense. By creating value in your small part of the world, you make changes, one story, one individual, one dollar at a time. It is really the most sustainable and socially responsible way to do business.

2. More Analytics

The feel good days of social enterprise have come to an end. Despite the desire to help, social investors and governments are demanding better analysis, reporting and planning than ever before. Social entrepreneurs must treat their operations like a business. They must focus on value creation, show the proper financial and operational analysis, and more than anything, have a plan. “Winging it” is no longer a feasible option, and you will be hard-pressed to find an investor or grantor who will give you funds based on your story alone.

3. More Impact

As important as the financials are, so too has the demand for greater impact increased. Social enterprises have to do more with less.  They have to be able to make a dollar stretch farther than ever before, and impact more people. Social enterprises need to develop an almost magical ability to maximize resources while courting donors and funders.

4. Better Metrics

Along with greater impact, is the ability to have better metrics. You need to collect data that quantifies what you do, and how you do it. These metrics are part of your story. Data collection should be embedded and automated through every facet of your organization. If you do not know how to collect or set up metrics, consult with a professional. The internet abounds with them.  Ask for references and get measuring. Funders, government and donors all demand metrics. The social enterprises with the best metrics, will tell the best stories, and secure their funding.

5. More “Connecting the Dots” and “Building Layers”

The days of low lying social enterprise wins are largely over. Today, successful social enterprises are the ones who build dense networks, partnerships and collaborations. Successful organizations have learnt that the denser your social and community network, the more successful you will be.  The problem you solve cannot be only one dot; you have to connect many dots, on different layers to solve the challenging multi-faceted problems that face our society. Successful social enterprise is built on a foundation of addressing and overcoming these barriers. The best solutions are never simple.  They are complex, just as human beings are complex.

We challenge you to look at your own initiatives and organizations, and see how you can incorporate some of these trends and improve both the likelihood of success as well as create better bonds within your own community.