Does ownership matter in social business?
<p>I find myself becoming increasingly impatient for change. I'm 35 now and have been actively involved in this social business game for 10 years or so. In those 10 years, in broad terms, the world's become a worse place to live. So if we're going to make the world a better place, social entrepreneurs had better get a move on.<br /> <br /> I sometimes wonder whether ownership structures get in the way of creating social change. Social ownership is generally seen as one of the three pillars of a true social enterprise - alongside a clear social mission and an enterprising approach. But is ownership as important as some people make it out to be?<br /> <br /> The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rochdale_Pioneers">Rochdale Pioneers</a> suddenly spring to mind. Ownership mattered then because people were being sold adulterated flour by unscrupulous private merchants. So by taking control of flour production and distribution, the early co-operators could ensure that business was done for the benefit of the many, not the few. <br /> <br /> <a href="http://www.divinechocolate.com/home/default.aspx">Divine Chocolate </a>comes to mind next. Ownership clearly matters there. Through social ownership, Ghanaian farmers are given a stake in the part of the cocoa business where real money is made - selling chocolate bars. <br /> <br /> But does ownership matter everywhere? Surely it's the social change that you create that matters most. I'm not convinced that, for the bulk of social businesses, ownership makes any real difference at all. <br /> <br /> I see many social enterprises going through the motions when it comes to social ownership. They'll proudly proclaim their social enterprise status, as if being a Company Limited by Guarantee, or a CIC, automatically means that everything they touch turns to social gold. It doesn't. A structure is no more than a legal vehicle. If you drive that vehicle in a certain way, it may help you to get where you want to be - a better world - more quickly. But there's no guarantee that it will. </p>