History and Social Enterprise



It seems as if a social enterprise has the reputation of being new but we all know that while the label is new, the business of doing good has been around for a long time. Whether it was always actually beneficial for the affected people in need, is a different matter. I pointed out in my last post about how social entrepreneurship is affecting change, that as social entrepreneurs we need to do business with integrity and this has always been true. A case in point is the undoubted good intentions of the Victorians when creating the poor-house workshop system.  People in need were used to generate profit by making, mending and repairing goods which could then be reused and/or sold. This was in return for medical and accommodation support and, in many cases, a meagre and miserable existence.  A more positive example of a historical enterprise is Goodwill Industries, who reinforced the concept of “a hand up, not a handout”.  Since 1902, however, they were actually paying people for similar tasks as involved in employment in the Victorian poorhouses.  Goodwill still exists and its mission is to provide financial independence for people in need. It employed and/or trained more than 2 million people in 2014 and made over $4.6 billion in revenue through retail sales and other earned income sources.


So, though the label is new, social enterprise has been attempting to create a better world for a very long time and in fact, if done correctly, it can be very profitable. This is, I feel, a very encouraging indicator that we can work together to ensure that no one is deprived of their right to a decent standard of living, education, and opportunities.

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