Reflecting on 20 years in the sector – Part 1


Andrew Croft Can

With 2018 marking our 20th Anniversary we turned to Andrew Croft, Chief Executive here at CAN to get his take on how the sector has evolved in that time.
In the first of two posts, we look at the rise of the social entrepreneur and gaining recognition.


The rise of the social entrepreneur


Although social enterprises have been in operation for decades with organisations such as Co-op and Cadbury having a focus on the social aspects of operations it wasn’t until around 20 years ago when ‘social entrepreneurs’ were coming to the fore. The social enterprise model then started to be recognised marking an interesting shift away from individual wealth creation to a focus on societal impact and benefit.

As a business model, the social enterprise approach was capable of operating in what had previously been seen by the private sector as ‘broken’ markets, where margins were deemed too small to create a fair return. With this rise came the chance to address entrenched problems that had seen people and places left behind by trading with a focus purely on positive social impact.

Around 6 to 8 years later it was clear that the government was beginning to see the whole value of social enterprise not just in terms of financial results, but the value delivered beyond the product or service. 

From large national organisations such as the HCT Group to those with a local community focus and many in between social organisations use profits to deliver and create a positive social impact and deliver on clear social goals.

Receiving Recognition


Viewed as a ‘cottage industry’ by government for many years (classified as culture, media and sports) and on a par with the agricultural industry in terms of economic contribution, the recent report from Social Enterprise UK ‘Hidden Revolution – Size and Scale of Social Enterprise in 2018 has shown the reality of our strength as a sector.

Showing that combined we contribute £60 million to the UK economy and employ 2 million people Government is taking note: already we have seen the large social enterprise organisations re-classified, moving our economic contribution from being equivalent to the agricultural sector to the reality that we contribute 3 times the amount.

This is without question a great step in terms of recognition and I truly hope it is the first of many to come.


In the next post, we will be sharing how CAN has adapted over the last 20 years to support positive sector growth and change.


Category: CAN Group