• Introduction

    Welcome to the Legal Stuff you need to know…

    No two social enterprises are the same but each SE has its own unique legal challenges. There are different legal structures depending on what you want to do and how and where you want to operate.

    Social Enterprises have been defined as “a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners”. Social Enterprises are involved in providing services or making goods. However they have explicit social aims and social ownership with a structure based on participation by ‘stakeholders’ such as users, community groups and employees. Most aim to be viable trading concerns, making a surplus from trading alone. Its therefore very important you choose the right legal structure, get good advice and even talking to those who have created an SE is a good starting point.

  • What are the Legal Structures in the UK?

    In the UK a Social Enterprise can take many different legal forms, therefore they are regulated by a range of different bodies, including:

    •                Community Interest Companies – regulated by Companies House and the Community Interest Company Regulator (limited by guarantee or limited by shares)
    •                Social Enterprises with registered charitable status – regulated by the Charity Commission
    •                Companies limited by share and guarantee – regulated by Companies House (Capture has this legal structure by Guarantee)
    •                Industrial and Provident Societies – currently regulated by the FSA
    •                Private Companies – regulated by the FSA

    Here are a list of the different structures in the UK

    Co-operatives and Workers’ Co-operatives

    A Co-operative is a business that is owned and democratically controlled by its employees but it is not a single legal structure. A Co-op can be established as a Partnership or a Company Limited by Shares. But the two most common forms are as a Company Limited by Guarantee or as a Bona Fide Co-operative Society / Co-operative Society.

    Partnership and Limited Liability Partnership

    A partnership is not generally considered to be a Social Enterprise, though social aims can be spelled out in the Partnership Agreement. A Partnership Agreement is between two or more people and defines how the business will be run. But there is likely to be a problem if the business wants to apply for funding, as it will be difficult to demonstrate any wider social involvement. Partners can be self-employed or employees of the partnership and they are personally liable for debts.

    There is also a form of Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), which is safer for the partners; they are not personally liable for any losses provided they have acted in a reasonable manner. An LLP requires you to register with Companies House and to publish annual accounts.

    Limited Company

    This may be a Company Limited by Shares or Limited by Guarantee. Its Memorandum & Articles of Association must state that any surplus is put towards the company’s social purpose and usually defines the company as democratic and accountable to the community through its membership. In law, a Limited Company is considered to be a person and it can therefore own land or enter into contracts. The directors are agents of the company and are not personally liable for its debts. This is a flexible structure, suitable for a wide range of Social Enterprises, but regulation by Companies House is fairly strict and there are detailed requirements for annual reports and accounts.

    Community Interest Company (CIC)

    A CIC is a limited company with special features to ensure that it works for the benefit of the community. It differs from a charitable company in that it can be established for any legal purpose, which benefits the community, whereas a charity must have exclusively charitable purposes. A further advantage is that a CIC is subject to lighter regulation than a charitable company. On the downside, a CIC may not be eligible for funding which is available to charities.

    CICs commit their assets and profits permanently to the community by means of an “asset lock”, ensuring that assets cannot be distributed to shareholders. They report to the Regulator of Community Interest Companies. A big advantage is that a CIC’s not-for-profit status is visible as well as assured.

    It is worth noting that a CIC cannot register as a Charity, but that a Charity may set up its trading subsidiary as a CIC.

    CICs have to register with Companies House as a company limited either by guarantee or by shares and then apply to the new Regulator for CIC status. The CIC Regulator’s website has detailed guidance notes on all aspects of setting up a CIC, or converting an existing limited company to a CIC.

    For more information contact the Office of the Regulator of Community Interest Companies.

    Industrial and Provident Society (IPS)

    An Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) is an incorporated organisation and its members benefit from limited liability. There are two types of IPS: a Bona Fide Co-operative Society / Co-operative Society and a Society for the Benefit of the Community / Community Benefit Society. An IPS must register with the Mutual Societies Registration section of the Financial Conduct Authority, the regulatory body. In general regulation is lighter than for Limited Companies and the accounting requirements far less stiff.

    An IPS is run by its members and there are several sets of model rules. Profits must generally be ploughed back into the business. Where a part of the profits is used for another purpose, that purpose should be similar to the main aim of the society, for example for philanthropic or charitable purposes. Where the rules of the IPS allow assets to be sold, the proceeds must be put into its business activities. A change in the law has now made it possible for a non-charitable IPS to have an “asset lock”, similar to a CIC above, to ensure that its assets are always used to benefit the community.

    An IPS whose aims are wholly charitable is considered an ‘exempt charity’ – it cannot register with the Charity Commission and is not regulated by them, but it is generally bound by charity law.

    A charitable IPS already has an “asset lock” under charity law.

    1. a) Bona Fide Co-operative Society / Co-operative Society

    This is a business owned and democratically controlled by its employees and founded on seven basic principles, one of which is Concern for the Community. Although a co-op must make a surplus to be successful, other motives may be equally important; for example, a recycling co-op will be based on concern for the environment. A co-operative must have at least two members.

    A Credit Union is a specialist form of co-operative, regulated by an act of parliament covering financial services. It is a financial co-operative whose savers are its members. Money is saved in a common fund and can be used to make low interest loans to members. A Credit Union is run by a Board of Directors elected from among the membership at the AGM. There are other specialist co-operatives such as housing co-ops, which are covered by separate regulation.

    In 2010 a legislative change was made to change the name from “Bona Fide Co-operative Society” to “Co-operative Society”. It is not yet known when this change will come into effect.

    1. b) Society for the Benefit of the Community / Community Benefit Society

    A Society for the Benefit of the Community / Community Benefit Society must show that its activities benefit the wider community rather than simply its members. It also has to demonstrate a ‘special reason’ for registration as an IPS rather than as a company.

    In 2010 a legislative change was made to change the name from “Society for the Benefit of the Community” to “Community Benefit Society”. It is not yet known when this change will come into effect, but some authors and organisations are already using the term “Community Benefit Society”.

    For more information about setting up and registering an Industrial and Provident Society, contact the Financial Conduct Authority.

    Development Trusts and Social Firms

    These are two fairly common forms of Social Enterprise but neither is a legal structure in itself. Development Trusts are set up to bring about local regeneration and are often established as Limited Companies with a broad membership. Social Firms are businesses set up specifically to provide employment or training to disabled people, and they are usually Limited Companies or Co-operative Societies.

    Private Companies

    A company that is owned by one person or a small group of people, for example a family, and whose shares are not traded on the stock market:

    Electric Pedals is an example of a private company that is for social benefit.

    The Case Kent website has a useful starter guide and says at the end;

    …Plus the curious case of social enterprise

    In addition to the distinct legal forms summarised above, several other terms exist for organisations working for social benefit.  These include enterprise and mutual.  Arguments over the definition of a social enterprise have abounded since the term was coined, although broadly it defines an organisation that exists to fulfil any social purpose through trade.  A somewhat stricter definition is laid down in the criteria for the social enterprise mark, a mark of quality that says a social enterprise must make half of its profit in community or business and, if it closes, its assets will be redistributed to an asset-locked body.  Some believe this definition is too lax.  Similarly, many of the legal forms described can be used to develop a mutual – a general name that refers to an organisation with a membership made up of those connected to it, particularly staff, customers and beneficiaries.  The model has been promoted by the government, which wants public sector workers to spin out their services into independent mutuals.  Most organisations that have spun out so far have formed community interest companies with all staff as members. For help in setting up a social enterprise, you can get some advise from the Kent and Medway Social Enterprise Network (known as KAMSEN).

  • EU legal structures

    Structures of Social Enterprises in Europe

    Here is great essay that covers what social enterprise is in Europe for most countries. We have pointed out the most important parts, however there is a lot more information inside the article (published below as an ISSUU book) about the structure of a social enterprise in each country. As you scroll down you will find information about Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy Poland, Sweden, Portugal, 


    The concept of social enterprise is still fuzzy in Belgium, but it is more and more frequently used to stress the entrepreneurial approach adopted by an increasing number of organisations in the third sector . The introduction of the “social purpose company” legal framework, in 1996, is clearly linked to this trend. This framework is not, strictly speaking, a new legal form; in fact, all types of business corporations can adopt the “social purpose company” label, provided they “are not dedicated to the enrichment of their members”, and their statutes comply with a series of conditions . However, this legal status (revised in 2007) has been adopted by no more than 400 enterprises between 1996 and 2006; this may be accounted for by the fact that it brings with it a considerable number of requirements, in addition to those associated with the traditional company legal form. Most initiatives that meet, to some extent, the criteria of the EMES definition of social enterprise have adopted the legal form of ASBL (non-profit association); this very flexible form allows developing commercial activities, provided that these activities are subordinated to the organisation’s social mission. Moreover, the legal form of ASBL is necessary to qualify for several forms of public support. However, some public schemes, such as the “work integration enterprises” scheme in the Walloon region, require that the organisation adopt the legal status of a social purpose company.

    Supporting structures

    At least two important facts are to be mentioned as to the overall environment of social entrepreneurship, especially with respect to supporting structures. First, at the national level, a special fund has been set up by the government in 2001 to finance the “social and sustainable economy”. Given the financial means allocated to this fund, it has become an important partner for an increasing number of initiatives. Secondly, the “consultancy agencies for the social economy” (in the Walloon region), many of whom are currently working for all kinds of social economy initiatives, are increasingly incited by public bodies to concentrate their efforts on the support to market-oriented initiatives.


    Social enterprise and related concepts

    “Social enterprise” (social virksomhed) as a concept is still new in Denmark; it is just about to enter common vocabulary and Danish discourses on social cohesion (Hulgård & Bisballe 2004). Until now, it remains primarily used by insiders of the field – mainly researchers in the third sector, social entrepreneurs themselves and third sector representatives in general. Among politicians, the concept has been used as part of an active labour market policy, with an ambition to make traditional enterprises – and especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – more socially responsible in matters of integration of unemployed persons into the labour market.

    Related concepts used in the Danish context are those of social economy (social økonomi) and social innovation (social innovation). The concept of social economy is used almost as an equivalent to the concept of social enterprise, but with a lesser focus on democratic ownership or ownership not based on capital than the notion of social enterprise such as defined by EMES (Defourny 2001, quoted by Nyssens 2006).

    The concept of social innovation is often linked to a focus on neglected “societal growth”; social innovation is considered as characteristic of enterprises combining both economic and moral values (Ellis 2004, 2006). The concept of social innovation is used – and highlighted as a way to produce new growth – by representatives of the private sector and by researchers in this sector.


    In Finland, work integration social enterprises are in practice the only type of social enterprises and, as explained below, the term “social enterprise” (sosiaalinen yritys) is reserved to them by law.

    It has to be noted, though, that in a near future the term “social enterprise” might become used in a wider context, as evidenced by some recent developments, e.g. in the field of social and health care. Indeed, most providers in this field would not be referred to as “social enterprises” : many are private enterprises and companies, some are nationwide associations – like the national associations for the disabled, the visually impaired or the deaf – which play a very important role of service provision to their members (these services are often provided by companies owned by these national associations) and only a few are co-operatives or other client or worker-based organisations; but a first discussion on a specific legislation for social enterprises providing social and health care services was held in Parliament in spring 2007, and the subject of enterprises combining social and economic dimensions is awakening growing interest among academics.


    The concept of social enterprise

    In France, the concept of “social enterprise” (entreprise sociale) is still a new concept, whose use and understanding remain limited to a circle of experts and social entrepreneurs; it is not really used as a key concept by policymakers and is not well-known to the wider public. Indeed, the notion of social enterprise is far from having achieved a recognition similar to that gained by the concept of “social and solidarity-based economy”, which has gathered coalitions of actors for the last twenty years.

    However, some events constitute tangible signs of the progress made by the social enterprise concept within French society. These include, inter alia, the “regional conferences of the social entrepreneurship” in 2003; the creation, during the same year, by some business schools, of a “chair of social entrepreneurship”; some activities launched by the “Agency of valorisation of socioeconomic initiatives” (Agence de valorisation des initiatives socio-économiques, or Avise); and the organisation, in June 2007, of an international conference in Paris on the theme of “Reconfiguring relations between economy and solidarity: associations, cooperative sand social enterprises” .

    Moreover, the boundaries between associations and cooperatives are becoming increasingly blurred; this evolution leads to the creation of new legal forms that can be said to focus on the concept of social enterprise. Associations’ increasing commercial activities and the role the former play as employers have already led a number of authors (such as Hély 2004) to talk about “associative enterprises” (entreprises associatives). With the changing public regulations and the advent of competition between associations and private companies for the provision of social services (e.g. services to the elderly), market pressure is no longer limited to mutual benefit societies and cooperatives; it has also become a reality for a significant section of the associative sector. In the social sector, in other words, the question of public governance of associations’ economic activities blurs the commonly accepted boundaries between market cooperatives and associations.

    Obviously, France – as the other EU countries – has seen the development of different kinds of “work integration social enterprise” (Eme and Gardin 2002; Bucolo 2006; Gardin 2006). In the area of the fight against the various forms of exclusion, work integration social enterprises have constituted, in the 1980s and the 1990s, a strategy of fight against unemployment and exclusion which has appeared as innovating insofar as it mobilised work and the creation of enterprises to serve a social goal – namely the integration, into the labour market, of disadvantaged persons (unemployed persons, social aid recipients, low-qualified young workers, handicapped persons etc.). In 2004, the 2,300 registered structures providing work-integration services – work-integration enterprises (entreprises d’insertion), temporary work integration enterprises (entreprises de travail temporaire d’insertion), intermediary associations (associations intermédiaires), integration work sites (chantiers d’insertion) – employed some 220,000 salaried workers (DARES 2005).


    The paradoxical situation of social enterprises in Germany

    Social enterprises and social entrepreneurship in Germany are facing a paradoxical situation: on the one hand, they almost do not exist on the political agenda nor in the public debate or the media, and not even in the academic discourse, where their study is limited to a small circle of individual experts with almost no support from official institutions. On the other hand, a social enterprise culture of quite considerable size and importance does exist; some of its elements are based on traditions which date back to the 19th century.

    The reasons behind this situation are basically twofold.

    First, the concepts of social enterprise and social economy (as a whole distinct third sector) are still ignored or rejected by the majority of politicians and economists alike in Germany. The factors accounting for this situation are rather complex:

    • –  The terms were imported from abroad by transnational research projects and in the first place did not mean anything to a German audience.
    • –  Furthermore, it was expected that social conflicts in post-war Germany would be solved by a special type of social partnership agreement which was referred to as the “social market economy”, and from this point of view, there was no need for new approaches such as the social economy and/or social enterprises. The situation became even more complex as the consensus between the social partners involved in the social market economy eroded heavily under the hegemony of neo-liberal economic thinking, and (more or less at the same time) the so-called “socialist economy” broke down in East Germany.
    • In this context the terms “social economy” and “social enterprise” were confronted with a lot of prejudices and misunderstandings.
    • Secondly, those organizations which could be qualified as social enterprises do not really see themselves as belonging to a wider social economy sector. They are still separated and split up in a variety of different “milieus”, each with its own terms, identities and organisations; quite often, they do not even communicate with each other. Although social enterprises play an important role in the field of fighting unemployment, poverty and social exclusion, there are no real support schemes at the regional or national level. The only exception is that of so-called “integration enterprises”, which can ask for special subsidies for employing disabled people, but these schemes are open to all types of enterprises.
    • Things have started to change only recently, and very slowly. In November 2006, for example, a first national congress on the “solidarity-based economy” took place in Berlin.


    Types of Irish social enterprises

    Social enterprises are part of the Irish social economy, which also includes charities and co-operatives. In the early 1990s, Planet (the network of area-based partnership companies) and the national social economy group developed a typology of social economy organisations on which subsequent statutory funding measures came to be based on this typology included three main subsets:

    • –  community businesses, which are generally financed from trading income alone.
    • –  deficient-demand social enterprises, which tend to emerge where the demand for particular goods and services within a community is not matched by resources to pay for the provision of the demand, due to such things as local disadvantage or low-density population;
    • –  enterprises based on public sector contracts, which deal with the potential for subcontracting public sector expenditure in disadvantaged areas to local community businesses and enterprises.
    • A key attempt to categorise Irish social enterprises has been undertaken by O’Hara (2001), who has developed five broad categories of Irish social enterprises on the basis of their objectives, activities and operation. These categories are as follows
      • –  work integration social enterprises, associated with the integration of members of excluded groups into the labour force;
      • –  credit unions;
      • –  social enterprises providing personal and proximity services;
      • –  local development organisations;
      • –  housing co-operatives.
    • The Irish credit union movement, which was established in 1957, is an excellent example of a successful social enterprise. A credit union consists of a group of people who collectively save their money and lend to each other at a reasonable rate of interest. The Irish credit union movement is a voluntary movement, and each credit union is an independent autonomous body with support and advisory services organized by a central body, the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU). The ILCU is an umbrella organisation for most credit unions in Ireland. There are 547 credit unions in the country, serving over 3.2 million members, with an estimated 3.6b euros turnover. And with an estimated 3,800 employees and a 24% share of the national personal loan market the credit union has been established as a viable alternative financial institution in Ireland (Carroll & Beckett 2007).

    Legal structures

    Irish social enterprises adopt a variety of legal structures, including the company structure limited by guarantee or share, industrial and provident societies, and co-operatives. Social enterprises can also apply for charitable status, which provides them with certain exemptions from certain taxes. The Revenue Commissioners determine whether a body is entitled to charitable tax exemption under the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Charities legislation is currently under review with a view to reform as the charities sector in Ireland is unregulated. As a consequence there is no such thing as a registered charity in Ireland at present and no statutory definition of what a “charity” is.


    From social cooperatives to a broader legal conception of social enterprise

    Social cooperatives have so far represented the main type of social enterprise in Italy. Since the approval of Law 381/1991, which introduced the social cooperative legal form, these organisations have registered an average annual growth rate ranging from 10 to 20%. In 2005, there were over 7,300 social cooperatives; they employed 244,000 workers.

    However, this impressive development of social cooperatives has not prevented other types of third sector organisation from developing social entrepreneurial activities, and a law on social enterprise (Law 118/2005) has recently been adopted, which undoubtedly constitutes a landmark in the history of the Italian third sector.

    The new law incorporates the principle of pluralism of organizational forms and does not consider the organizational structure as a condition for eligibility as a social enterprise. The law divides eligible organizations into two sub-sectors: that of companies and that of organizations that are not companies. The innovative character of the law results from both the opening towards new sectors of activity, other than welfare, and the variety of the types of organizations eligible to become social enterprises.

    As said, the law crosses the boundaries of legal and organizational forms, enabling various types of organization (not only cooperatives and traditional non-profit organizations, but also investor-owned organizations, for instance) to obtain the “legal brand” of social enterprise, provided they comply with the non-distribution constraint and organize the representation of certain categories of stakeholders, including workers and beneficiaries.

    The law also provides that associations and foundations that want to be registered as social enterprises must provide evidence of their entrepreneurial nature; conversely, investor-owned companies applying for the social enterprise brand have to comply with certain requirements regarding the distribution of benefits (namely respecting a total non-distribution constraint) and participation of relevant stakeholders.

    Interestingly, the definition of social enterprise introduced by the Italian legislator mirrors the EMES definition, except on three points.

    • –  the law imposes a “total non-distribution constraint” on social enterprises. Indeed, the latter have to invest all their income in their core business or in increasing their assets.
    • –  the goals pursued and the sectors of activity overlap;
    • –  the criteria of stakeholders’ involvement (workers and users) prescribed is weaker than the one proposed by EMES, as the definition of “involvement” introduced is indeed very wide.


    Recognition of the social enterprise concept

    The concept of social enterprise is an emerging notion in Poland; there is not yet a common definition of the concept, which originates in the concepts of third sector, non-profit sector and cooperatives. The specificity of social enterprises, compared to third sector, non-profit or cooperative organisations in general, lies in the fact that they are profit–makers, although not profit–maximizers, and that they focus more on general interest/community interests, and not only on mutual interest goals.

    Social enterprises are still rarely a subject of public discourse and they are only partially integrated into policies and laws. Only recently have a few policy debates recognized the potential of third sector and social enterprises as a vehicle for creating services for households and communities and jobs for hard-to-employ groups.

    Training structures

    Several Polish universities offer training programmes developed for social enterprise leaders and staff. One example is a pilot training/educational programme for social enterprise managers, which was launched in March 2006 at Warsaw University’s Institute of Social Policy, within the framework of the EQUAL project “We Have Jobs”. This innovative postgraduate programme for existing and would-be managers in social enterprises and local leaders is supplemented by winter and summer schools on social enterprises with a series of national and international visits. Various state and private universities also include the subjects of social economy and cooperative movement to the curricula of the general studies (mainly within the faculties/institutes of economics, management, law, social policy, economics and management of agriculture etc.); some of them also organize postgraduate studies on these topics.

    Some cooperatives and other social economy organizations themselves organize training courses for the managers/employees/elected leaders of social enterprises. Most of them focus on very concrete issues (accounting, taxes, marketing, quality control, personnel management etc.). Most of these courses are financed by the participants themselves (sometimes with the support of the organizations of which they are members/employees); sometimes they are organized in the framework of EU or national projects.


    Social services and labour market integration

    The public sector’s increasing inability to satisfy demand and quality expectations stimulated the emergence of the first social enterprises in social services in the 1980s. Cooperative childcare was the first and most successful field, presently providing over ten percent of child-care services (Pestoff 1998). In other welfare services the trend peaked in 1992, only producing limited results (Stryjan 1996).

    Labour market integration in Sweden is steered by a separate set of institutions. The progressive erosion of these and the restructuring of mental health-care in the late 1980s fuelled an increase in openly marginalized groups (Stryjan and Wijkström 1996; Stryjan 2001). The first work-integration social enterprises (WISEs) were started as a response by those directly affected and/or by committed public employees; this grass-roots’ action produced new organizational models. No specific institutional/legal groundwork was laid beforehand, and formal financing agreements or rehabilitation contracts were negotiated locally with some municipalities. Likewise, relations with labour-market and social-insurance organs were developed locally, but never regulated nationally. On the whole, the level of institutionalization remains extremely low, which increases the enterprises’ vulnerability but also provides for a high level of innovation.

    WISEs gained increasing recognition, first at the directly involved county and municipal levels (which dispense medical care, social aid and residential care), and gradually at the national level as well. This acknowledges social enterprises’ important contribution to rehabilitation but also notes the makeshift character of their financing, and the lack of adjusted tendering mechanisms as major development hinders, and recommends a review of WISEs’ situation. It is unclear whether this recommendation will be followed by the present government. Business-wise, WISEs are active in a broad variety of branches, ranging from technical ones (as logistics and a scrap yard) to services, gardening and janitoring (Stryjan 2006). Some enterprises provide services to the population, while others rely on business-to-business contracting. Only a handful have municipal contracts in their mainstream business activity, though contracts for rehabilitation placements and occupation are a source of additional revenue for some. No incentive for a commercial binding to public authorities exists, since the Swedish interpretation of EU public procurement legislation does not allow for preferred treatment for social enterprises, and periodic public tendering makes public agencies less reliable as business partners than the private ones.


    The field of social enterprise in Portugal

    The concept of social enterprise, as such, is still relatively absent both from mainstream policy and scientific debate in Portugal. However, there is an on-going debate about the larger set of third sector organisations, to which social enterprises belong. In the last few years, this debate has revolved almost exclusively around the concept of “social economy” and, more specifically, around the “Social Employment Market” (Mercado Social de Emprego), which aims at the work integration of disadvantaged persons.

    Most third sector organisations have been traditionally oriented to the supply of social services, namely to children, elderly people and people with disabilities. Indeed, the Portuguese system of social security is based on a model in which responsibilities are shared between the state – through public bodies, including local authorities – and the non-governmental and non-profit sector. According to the principle of complementarity, it recognises the articulation among the various forms of social protection – public, social, cooperative, mutual and private for-profit organisations – for developing, replacing or complementing state initiatives for social security purposes and especially for social action.

    But third sector organisations have recently been growing and diversifying, penetrating new areas and developing new forms of response, including in the field of work-integration. An important factor accounting for this evolution is the launch, in 1998, within the framework of the Social Employment Market, of a specific public scheme – the so-called “Integration Companies” (Empresas de Inserção) scheme. “Integration Companies” receive public technical and financial support. They may be promoted by different types of third sector organisations: misericórdias (charitable organisations closely related to the Catholic Church), mutual benefit associations, private institutions of social solidarity (Instituições Particulares de Solidariedade Social, or IPSS) and cooperatives, mainly from the social solidarity branch. They are practically the only form of organisation in Portugal combining social and economic purposes; talking about social enterprises in this country thus virtually amounts to talking about Integration Companies. Consequently, the present contribution will focus on the latter.

  • Write and Action Plan or do a course

    Here is a useful video about making an action plan. Have a look at Mind Tools for more detailed information.

    Online courses 

    Both webinars and online courses, some free some paid for, are available. Here is a list (as of Summer 2017(.


    List of Social Enterprise Webinars

    Paid Online courses

    Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Social Impact

    List of Coursera course on Social Impact Cost: free

    About this course: This course offers an introduction to social impact strategy and social entrepreneurship, including key concepts, an overview of the field, and tools to get started as a changemaker. Students will learn how to innovate and design new ideas and new organisational forms to implement those ideas. Students who take this course will be better prepared to launch social impact
    organisations of their own invention. 

    By moving through four stages, Define, Design, Pilot, and Scale, students will turn their passion for changing the world into concrete plans for launching a nonprofit or for-profit venture designed to achieve a social goal. This course will allow students to systematically think through problems; develop and test an innovative solution; assess risk, competition, and performance; and spread impact in a way that is financially sustainable.

    Identifying Social Entrepreneurship Opportunities

    List of Coursera courses on Social Entrepreneurship includes prices.

    About this course: This Course will clarify the definition and meaning of Social Entrepreneurship and will focus on the need to learn about the source and root of a social problem. You will be introduced to different perspectives about Social Entrepreneurship and you will learn about complementary and opportunistic assets which will help you to detect an opportunity and develop an idea of how to create a business for social change. 

    From a practical perspective you will be asked to initiate a team formation process and start to think about a problem topic that you want to address with your social venture in the future. You will work in a team to research this topic and will gradually start to think about a particular opportunity and identify a purpose for your social venture project.

    First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship

    Free course providing you with a short introduction to innovation and entrepreneurship, clarifying some key themes and terminology and helping you to examine your own views about these important subjects.

    After studying this course, you should be able to:

    • examine personal pre-existing ideas and assumptions about innovation and entrepreneurship, and see how they compare to those of other people
    • identify core innovation and entrepreneurship terms and categories, apply these categorisations to practical examples and recognise where boundaries between these categories are blurred
    • recognise the main connections between innovation and entrepreneurship and start to isolate a distinctively ‘entrepreneurial’ role in the innovation process.

    Starting a Business or Social Enterprise – The Stone Soup Way


    This free interactive online business course with Stone Soup covers entrepreneurship. Taking as its inspiration the book: “Stone Soup – The Secret Recipe for Making Something from Nothing”, this course takes you through the 26 ingredients needed. This course not only brings you a flavour of the book, it also provides a profile of the successful entrepreneur/venture founder.

    Social Enterprise: Business Doing Good

    Can business do good? In this Business Doing Good course, we explore different models of social enterprise and the local and global problems that they aim to address.

    Where could this course take me?

    This course is a must for anyone who wants to understand more about what social enterprise is and its relation to sustainable development. You will learn how to evaluate social enterprise in the context of global and local problems. If you work with social enterprise or are thinking about launching a social enterprise, this course provides a valuable foundation.

    What and how will I learn?

    Social Enterprise: Business Doing Good, jointly run by Futurelearn and Middlesex University online includes a mix of theory, practical information and case studies from around the world. You will assess different definitions and models of social enterprise and evaluate their social impact. Video interviews with experts and practitioners, articles and discussion steps will offer you the opportunity to learn and engage with other learners on key concepts and ideas.

    By the end of the course, you will understand the key concepts related to social enterprise and how to assess the social impact of a social enterprise model.


    Practical Advice for Every Step on Your Journey

    The Unltd toolkit offers practical guidance and working models for every stage of social entrepreneurship from initial idea, setup and piloting, on to longer term sustainability, growth and replication. The toolkit is not meant to be a formal textbook, instead it aims to to present the authors’ experiences of supporting social entrepreneurs and the challenges and opportunities of social entrepreneurship in a structured way.

    The toolkit is divided into sections, each focusing on one stage of this journey. There are 3 different ways to view the toolkit, each designed to help you find what you need fast.

    Create societal impact through social entrepreneur Cost: £99

    In this Coursera course you will learn how to create societal impact through Social Entrepreneurship. Social Entrepreneurship describes the discovery and sustainable exploitation of opportunities to create social change. We will introduce you to examples of Social Entrepreneurship and guide you through the process of establishing a venture to address a social or environment problem. You will form of team and study a problematic issue to learn more about the source of the problem. We will equip you with frameworks identifying opportunities, support your team, and outlining your idea. You will develop your idea and iterate on your business model throughout the Specialisation, and conclude with a complete a business plan.

    Entrepreneurship is not about a single genius doing magic, but about a group of people who combine forces, take action and initiate change. Throughout the 3 courses learners will be encouraged to work in teams and form a social venture. They are asked to reach out to people who share similar thoughts and concerns about a particular topic to eventually form a team. This team will focus on a very specific issue and do research to examine the source of the problem. Results will be used to identify an opportunity to address this problem. Gradually a business model will be developed. Learners will choose an organizational form, devise an appropriate financial structure and start to create a business plan. Measuring social impact and selecting the right strategy to scale will define success. Whether a team sticks to the very same members and project throughout all 3 courses will depend on the individual learners. Changing topics or switching teams is possible anytime.

  • Talk to a Social Enterpise

    No two social enterprises are the same but each SE has its own unique legal problems. Talk to the Social Enterprise that inspires you for advice and guidance.

  • Additional Info on legal structres

    Social enterprise – key formation options

    A social enterprise can be set up as a limited company (which must be registered at Companies House), sole trader business (registered with HMRC), business partnership, charity or charitable incorporated organisation (CIO), mutual (eg industrial and provident society and co-operatives – owned by members and run for their benefit) or community interest company (CIC).

    A CIC is a type of limited company created specifically for social enterprises. CICs have a social objective and are regulated, ensuring that they cannot deviate from their social mission and that their assets are protected from being sold privately.

    You need to apply to Companies House to set a CIC up (it costs £35), following approval from the CIC regulator. You can convert an existing company into a CIC (£25). Each year a CIC must submit an annual community interest company report along with detailed accounts and a confirmation statement (Annual Return). The CIC regulator pages of the GOV.UK website contain a wealth of helpful information about CICs, as well as downloadable forms and handy guides.

    What is a charity?

    The Charities Act 2011 describes a charity as “an institution established for charitable purposes only”, which is “subject to the control of the High Court’s charity law jurisdiction.”

    According to the Charity Commission (the independent government department that registers and regulates charities in England and Wales): “Charities exist to benefit the public, not specific individuals. Because of this, charities pay reduced business rates and receive tax breaks but are restricted in what they can do and how they work.” Charities must observe charity law, which includes being transparent about their activities and only do things that are charitable according to law. They are normally run by trustees who do not benefit from the charity.

    A CIO is a legal form of charity launched in 2013, as the Charity Commission explains: “Created in response to requests from charities for a new structure which could provide some of the benefits of being a company, without some of the burdens.” CIO’s must only register with the Charity Commission. Visit the organisation’s pages on the GOV.UK website to find out about setting up and running a charity. The GOV.UK website also features information about tax rules for charities.

    Support and advice for social enterprises

    Seek out free sources of reliable advice and support. The website of Social Enterprise UK (the national body for social enterprise) features a wealth of advice and information, including a downloadable guide to setting up and running a social enterprise [PDF]. Also find out about Inspire 2 Enterprise (“a unique, free-to-access service for the social enterprise sector providing information, specialist advice and support from start-up to initial growth and beyond”).

    Here is a list of examples of legal structures across Europe!