Alistair Clarke MBE: Scaling businesses for a better society

Alistair Clarke MBE is director at four companies and vice-chair of Selnet, which delivers Two Zero: Social Enterprise. He is a specialist business advisor with extensive experience helping social enterprises to grow and prosper. He shares his thoughts on the role of social enterprises in the Lancashire economy and support from Two Zero.

While people understand the private sector and the public sector, everything else is a bit of a mush.

So let’s be clear what a social enterprise is. It is a community enterprise, a business, that has a social mission and is accountable to its members and stakeholders.

A great example is the Big Issue. It’s a magazine that people buy and some of the money goes to helping the person selling it, while the rest is reinvested to produce the next issue.

The good news is that Lancashire is bursting with social enterprises – old and new. Our sector is brimming with enthusiastic people from all walks of life; race, religion, gender. Each social enterprise is different, they often have a different approach and have a different sense of what being ‘successful’ is.

Why do I think Two Zero is so good for social enterprise?

The more social enterprises achieve in Lancashire, the more vulnerable people and fragile communities benefit from their work – it’s a double whammy.

Two Zero is an intense growth programme for ambitious businesses. For the Two Zero: Social Enterprise programme, this means engaging people like me and a small band of specialist advisors who can work with social enterprises and help them achieve ambitious long-term goals, which in turn improves wider society in Lancashire.

We take them out of that comfort zone and help them generate new business ideas and take on more staff while staying true to their social mission.

How can social enterprises emerge from the lockdown stronger?

Despite the challenges to the Lancashire economy in recent months, there is a great potential for social enterprise businesses to be bold and take a step forward and with a wealth of support.

Funders and public bodies have stepped up and been hugely supportive through a crucial time over the last few months and Selnet has also stopped its membership fees to help leaders in social enterprise businesses learn from and support each other.

Through lockdown, the Two Zero: Social Enterprise programme has continued to operate, encouraging social enterprise leader to be resilient, think ahead and focus on long-term goals.

To fully harness the support available and emerge stronger from the coronavirus pandemic, the key for businesses is to think differently about how their customers are operating in this new world and how they can support that.

I say to clients:

  • Can you change production to suit the current needs of your customer?
  • Can you pivot your business and offer something online rather than through traditional means?

The pandemic has prompted changes in the Lancashire economy nobody could have predicted a few months ago. By encouraging our social enterprises to ask these questions, and supporting them to adapt their business, we contribute to a better economy for all.

Alistair shared his thoughts on emerging from the lockdown for Two Zero TV. Watch his video here.

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