Two of Britain’s leading social enterprise support organisations, CAN and Senscot, have ended their relationship with a Trust set up to administer £100m of public funds because of concerns about the way in which the funds are being dispensed.
In 2001, CAN and Senscot were two of seven third sector intermediary organisations – all active in the field of social entrepreneurship – which formed the Foundation of Social Entrepreneurs.
In 2002, the Foundation successfully bid for an endowment of £100m from the Millennium Commission – and set up UnLtd to manage the Millennium Awards Trust (MAT). To administer the awards in Scotland, a separate charity was created – Scotland unLtd – with two members, CAN and Senscot.
The object was to fund ordinary citizens – to pursue their own ideas for public benefit – creating a new pipeline of grass-roots social innovators. It was principally to be a learning experience for the individual – a minority of whom, through some kind of business model, would go on to establish sustainable social enterprises. Any grants to private, for-profit enterprises were to be rare exceptions, with the reasons clearly documented at point of grant dispersal.
There was an erosion of the not-for-private-profit principles from 2008 and, by 2012, it became clear that a significant number of MAT endowment awards were made to structures without asset-locks (despite HM Treasury requiring a beneficiary of tax relief to be investing in an asset locked legal form). Although UnLtd drifted off mission, CAN and Senscot operated Scotland unLtd according to the founding principles of the Millennium Commission.
While using the £100m endowment, UnLtd has developed into one of the UK’s leading advocatesagainst the regulation of social enterprise and for the inclusion of private profit companies in the sector. CAN and Senscot campaign in the opposite direction, arguing that social enterprise attracts the special recognition of fiscal benefits from the state precisely because it excludes private profit.
Although recognising the enormous potential for business to adopt a pro-social stance, CAN and Senscot consider UnLtd’s vision of a ‘private profit social sector’ to be fundamentally damaging to public perceptions of third sector activity; this has reached the point that we no longer find it acceptable for Scotland UnLtd to receive the flow of MAT funds to Scotland on the basis that UnLtd seeks to see them distributed. The decision not to accept further funds has now been taken and our relationship with UnLtd is at an end.
Senscot is a Scotland-wide network for social entrepreneurs. We believe that social entrepreneurs and their enterprises are a valued part of everyday life. To achieve this, Senscot builds and services a network to help social entrepreneurs become more effective. Our activities include: • Connecting and informing social entrepreneurs – via our weekly Bulletin that goes out to over 4,000 recipients. We continue to add content to our web-site to make it a valuable tool for social entrepreneurs. • Facilitating Networks – Senscot encourages and support 22 Social Enterprise Networks (SENs) across Scotland . The SENs encourage social entrepreneurs to support each other by working together and sharing knowledge and expertise, for mutual benefit. Over 600 social enterprises are engaged with these networks • Developing the Sector - Senscot works with others to incubate and spin out new services – as with Scotland unLtd; DTA Scotland; the Social Enterprise Academy; Firstport; and, most recently, Senscot Legal.