By Daniel Hunter

The rise of the social entrepreneur represents an exciting challenge to current thinking about the role of business, particularly how to blend commercial and social values.

There are a number of models emerging that have done this successfully. To share this best practice, the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (CfEL) based at Cambridge Judge Business School, has appointed two social enterprise pioneers — Dr Neil Stott and Tim Jones — as Entrepreneurs in Residence to give students the benefits of their experiences and insights.

Neil Stott is Chief Executive of the Keystone Development Trust, he developed a sustainability plan that moved the trust from a position where it was 99 percent public funded four years ago to 80 percent earned income as it is today. He says social enterprise is on the rise due to a number of factors:

“The desire to make a difference in challenging times and provide new opportunities for disadvantaged people and places is a key reason. Government policy has recently emphasised social enterprise and provided resources for experimentation and organisational transformation and this has provided new mechanisms for recycling profits into social action.

“However, necessity is also a key motivator. With increasing public austerity, many charities or community organisations are forced to find alternatives means to raise income to achieve organisational purpose. This is creating new demands on their management teams and that is why programmes such as those developed by CfEL are so valuable for sharing best practice.”

Tim Jones, Chief Executive of the charitable organisation Allia, has pioneered the development of a new type of bond; it has raised £20m through social and charitable bonds over the last 13 years. The latest, a social impact bond helps fund a project intensive support for young people with behavioural problems and promises a 12 percent return on investment.

The organisation provides a range of support for social entrepreneurs, since 2001 it has helped create 200 businesses and enabled 40 charities to develop sustainable business models.

For Tim — who built and then sold a successful business based on his own invention — supporting others develop their own businesses is ‘enormously rewarding’ with each day creating a ‘new set of challenges’.

“Behind every successful enterprise there is a good idea.’ He says. “‘Ideation’ the process of formulating and developing these from their initial concept is exciting. At Allia we support businesses at every stage from first thoughts through to floatation on the stock exchange.”

Tim is also Chairman of Treatt PLC, a listed company with international operations that supplies flavour and fragrance products. The plant-based products are produced on fair trade principles helping small farmers gain a sustainable living. Treatt shows that operating on ethical principles doesn’t need to compromise growth.

Tim sees his role as Entrepreneur in Residence as making his knowledge available to students through coaching, mentoring and the occasional presentation.

“To be a successful social entrepreneur you need the same skill sets as a traditional entrepreneur but also you need to understand the legislative environment, for example how to set up a board, how to conform to the Charities Commission regulations and those of the Financial Services Act. There is a lot more to get right.”

Neil agrees, “Passion is abundant. The struggle is to turn ideas into viable businesses often working with limited resources and clients or customers with limited income. Social entrepreneurs face numerous problems, not least how to overcome the tensions created by blending social and commercial values. They also require empathy, a sense of social justice, ethics and how to operate in multiple worlds with different languages and values simultaneously: business, public and NGO’s.”

Dr Joanna Mills, the Programme Director for the Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship at CfEL says the working knowledge of entrepreneurs is invaluable to the programme and the centre greatly appreciates the contribution that Tim and Neil will make to the learning experience of students

“The Entrepreneurs in Residence are appointed on a pro bono basis. They mentor students through business plan competitions and courses, are available for panels, share their experiences and insights for workshops, presentations, case studies. They act as ambassadors to advance the work of the CfEL - it's vision and mission.”

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