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Competing with the For-Profit World

One of the interesting trends that is starting to appear is the involvement of more-than-profit/non-profit organisations in the ‘Green tech’ world. This shouldn’t be surprising as many NGO’s have been working on power generation and alternative means of power in the developing world for decades. So the new movement towards both alternative energy solutions and recycling suit the sector well. What will be interesting is the fact that this means social enterprises will directly compete with for-profit organisations. Both sides have assets and liabilities.

Many for-profit organisations have attempted to gain the ‘cuddly’ appeal to customers whether through corporate social responsibility programmes, in-house volunteering or involvement in projects like the RED campaign. Social enterprises often have the assets to build a very strong brand through the trust that their brands evoke with the public automatically. For example organisations like the World Wildlife Fund have used their brand worth to generate increased funding from corporate donors.

Of course social enterprises have always competed to some degree – whether for resources (funding, best staff) or competiting with other causes to make an impact and by default build a brand.

And social enterprises are being enticed to compete in other areas, not just in the green sector. The British government have a project called Social Enterprise: Winning with 2012 about how social enterprises can get part of the large cake that will be the 2012 London Olympics. This makes sense as social enterprises have been encouraged in in the past in the UK to compete for government contracts through the procurement system.

Often when I mention ‘competition’ to people from the social sector at least 20% have a reaction to the use of the word (surprise, disgust, irritation). There is no doubt the sector is changing radically and increased competition is part of this change. We should embrace it.

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