ENP-CA News Service Launches Inquiry Into Scaling Up Social Enterprise

ENP-CA News Service Launches Inquiry Into Scaling Up Social Enterprise

Initial stories to glean insight from social enterprises experiencing success

While an employee who has a disability derives pride, sense of accomplishment and financial security through daily work at a Cape Breton social enterprise, organizational leaders grapple with questions about the development of their enterprise. Do they build capacity to extend such opportunities to more people who have a disability in the province? Or hone in on optimizing what they offer to existing staff and clients? Is scaling up the answer? And, if so, what does that look like, what supports are available to enable that expansion and what are cautions to keep in mind?

The Enterprising Non-profits Canada (ENP-CA) news service is launching a news inquiry into the scaling up of social enterprise.

It's clear this topic is of interest across the sector. Questions are surfacing around what scaling up means, whether new language is needed to capture the essence of what's intended in using this term and what are not only the benefits but the risks in scaling up.

The news service also recognizes strong possibilities in learning from enterprises that have successfully scaled up — as well as those that realized they were actually operating at the correct scale and/or were not successful at scaling and why.

Andy Horsnell, co-founder of the Nova Scotia-based Common Good Solutions Inc., which also serves social enterprises, offers this insight on one of the key issues: “I think that scalable solutions are critical, when we consider that we've got over 33,000 people on any given night in Canada living on the street, and almost a million every month getting by with food banks.

“But a scalable solution doesn't have to, nor should it, in my opinion, mean growing a bigger, corporate-style enterprise; it can just as well mean replicating small-scale, community-based solutions, many times over.”

A May 6 article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review titled Shifts in Thinking to Achieve Transformative Scale also invites fresh thinking on scale.

“The existing mental model of scale is left over from the industrial era,” writes author Mark Bonchek, founder of the SHIFT Academy whose mission is to update leaders’ thinking for the 21st century.

“The 20th century was an era of mass production in which scale meant the ability to produce and deliver large quantities of goods and services. But the 21st century is an era of mass collaboration. Scale is no longer about production but impact. It’s not about how big you are and how efficiently you operate. It’s about how well you catalyze action around a shared purpose.”

The article notes new mental modes in four areas need to be adopted to achieve transformative scale.

While there’s a plethora of options for how to explore this subject further, the ENP-CA news inquiry is making its entry point through connection with people “in the trenches,” starting with those working in social enterprises that have experienced success scaling up. It will also engage representatives from supporting aspects of the sector, such as researchers and consultants.

The plan is to publish eight to 10 stories based on interviews with these sources over the next several months. An analysis of what the stories are surfacing on trends, insights and issues will follow.

“Our hope and expectation is that this series will inspire and educate our sources and readers around this important topic,” says the Axiom News team leading the inquiry on ENP-CA’s behalf.

“We invite people across the sector — social enterprise practitioners, consultants, researchers and others — to contact us to participate.”

To join the inquiry, please e-mail assignment(at)axiomnews.ca.

You can also particiate via Twitter using the hashtag #scalingupsocent.

You can comment on this story below, or e-mail michelle(at)axiomnews.ca.

A version of this article was originally written for the Enterprising Non-profits Canada news service. This repost, for which we received permission, follows the style guidelines of the original post. To learn more about generative newsroom options for your organization or community, please contact peter(at)axiomnews.ca.

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