‘Our movement attracts generous, self-motivated people – and its present growth is not surprising. Like all successful movements it will eventually become part of the establishment – and the whole thing starts again; that’s the natural order of things.’
Senscot Bulletin, 3rd June 2016
I am currently collecting data for the Focus 50+ project and can think of little beyond that. However when I read Laurence’s words quoted above, I felt it encapsulated so much of what I am experiencing every day as I meet new people who engage with social enterprise in Scotland. As researchers on CommonHealth, none of us forget that the work we do each day can and will contribute to the constantly growing wealth of knowledge about the place of social enterprise in society. Personally, I find myself moved by my daily encounters with the generous, self-motivated folk working to make the lives of individuals and communities better.
As I am spending time with our Focus 50+ social enterprise partners, I am learning how their organisations work and what they do on a day-to-day basis. I am also interviewing people about the impact social enterprise has upon them, their health and their wellbeing, and this is proving to be a powerful and interesting experience. I am really looking forward to sharing our Focus 50+ results in the late spring of 2017.
As I continue through this fieldwork phase of Focus 50+, I witness daily the impact of social enterprises on people’s mood, their day, and their lives. On an individual level, this impact is like a domino effect. I have observed people’s mood brightening when greeted warmly by staff, and watched as this happy welcome is spread onward by the individuals towards the group they then join.
At the most recent Knowledge Exchange Forum this domino effect was also apparent in the way social enterprises considered ‘what if our service did not exist?’ and the effects that this would have on service user’s lives. For example, if a disadvantaged family was unable to get help with childcare, this would have a knock on effect on the ability of parents to get to work or gain an education, which in turn would affect the child’s future.
What is most unique about social enterprises is this ability to affect people’s lives in both small and large ways. It is not just about the direct benefits to staff or service users, but also the indirect and ‘non-obvious’ ways in which they can touch people’s lives that we may not necessarily consider.
I am finding the generous and self-motivated people Laurence refers to above everywhere in the social enterprises I have become involved with – amongst the board members, amongst the staff, amongst the volunteers, and amongst those who participate in the activities the organisations provide. And I know that CommonHealth researchers, including myself, will continue to strive every day to capture their spirit and the intangible atmosphere of support and belonging they create for everyone in their organisations, no matter how great that challenge may appear to be.