It's nearly a year since I was in Christchurch, along with 1600 others, attending the ninth Social Enterprise World Forum and the first one to be hosted by New Zealand.

As Rachel Rose pointed out in her column last week, social enterprise is a progressive model of business that offers multiple benefits.

It often starts locally, with grassroots solutions to market failures, whether that be the retirement of our sole Whanganui cobbler or challenges in affordable healthy housing for all.

Chair of the Social Enterprise World Forum board David Le Page is in Scotland at the 10th forum happening right now.


His quote from Twitter colourfully explains it: "Social enterprise is not lipstick on a pig or CSR [corporate social responsibility] in pretty wrapping paper ... it's how we create social well-being, it's how we create community capital."

But social enterprise isn't necessarily new, even if the language may be unfamiliar.
This model is extremely common in indigenous communities and a strong theme in Maori business.

It's only in more recent times our drive to return a profit to shareholders has become the dominant force in decision-making.

Anna Guenther, founder of PledgeMe, said this week: "My hot take is that social enterprise is any enterprise that focusses on having a positive social or environmental impact, has (or aims to have) revenue from trading, and doesn't maximise profit at the expense of people/the planet."

It makes me wonder why all business can't aim for that? How do we get out of the trap? What are the alternative models that are fairer at sharing the profits?

David Le Page again: "We are trying to change the marketplace, so if we aren't ruffling feathers then I would seriously question what we are doing".

Scotland's been actively working on its growing social enterprise sector for the past decade.

It undertakes a national census of social enterprise – they have 5600 social enterprises employing 81,357 fulltime equivalents with 72 per cent paying living wage or more, and generating 3.8 billion pounds of annual income.


Of these, 64 per cent are led by women with 34 per cent operating in rural locations (compared with 18 per cent of the Scottish population being rural).

Another quote from the forum, this time from David Duke who founded Street Soccer Scotland.

"Social enterprise is about impact, equality, purpose and hope — hope that we can make our world more equal for everyone."

Street Soccer delivers football-themed training and personal development for social disadvantaged people.

We don't have to look overseas for examples, though.

One of the dynamic speakers from the Thrive Expo we hosted in Whanganui in February was Taaniko Nordstrom of Soldiers Rd Portraits. Their concept is celebrating identity through vintage portraits, dressing customers in Maori, Pasifika and Native American and First Nations regalia.

But it's not cultural appropriation – it's built on whakawhanaungatanga, relationships and connections.

Soldiers Rd is also working with Waikeria Prison in a pilot to reduce reoffending by helping prisoners reconnect with their culture and reflect on their lives, past, present and future. It's a powerful experience.

A new one I've recently come across is The Happy Cow Company. Based in Canterbury, founder Glen Herud is producing milk in glass, reusable bottles.

Yes — the milk of my youth is back. But it's not without challenge.

This is Herud's second crack at a business model doing dairy differently. He's looking for people who will follow less intensive farming practices and keep calves with their mums for the first year, to supply quality milk locally.

In the Far North, ĀKAU is an architecture and design studio with a difference.

They engage youth in their work directly to create solutions that represent and connect with their communities. delivering commercial projects and having a charitable foundation which does community projects.

Another one is reducing waste and helping vulnerable people around the world. Take My Hands has helped more than 110,000 people through reusing and redistributing prosthetics and medical equipment overseas.

There is much need and many ways to meet it.

Thrive Whanganui is gearing up for the next phase to help grow social enterprise. Get in touch if you'd like to be part of the momentum to grow business with heart.

*Nicola Patrick is a Horizons regional councillor, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru, and is part of a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mother of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member