As we approach the end of 2016, it is always a good time to reflect on lessons we have learnt over the year and thought I would try to reflect on what that has meant in terms of BNest.
Firstly, it is the confirmation of the degree of passion by which people participate in this space. All entrepreneurs need passion but socially focused ones have it in abundance. Indeed, they need it given the limited support there is there for them but it is never the issue.
Secondly, it is the complete openness that they share both their interest, passion and problems. Most incubators will claim to want to generate interaction and synergy within their participants. However, start-ups almost by necessity, need to be somewhat selfish and by default, while inclination to help others is always high, time restraints inevitably hugely limit it. However, social entrepreneurs seem to be different in that regard and actively respond to others, largely ignoring the implications for themselves. Cooperation among them is almost self started!
Thirdly confirmation that there is a problem with Boards on all sides. Firstly, the entrepreneur does not see usually the resource a board could and should represent. Secondly, the Board, in comparison with the entrepreneur is usually “interested” rather than “committed” and there are lots of problems that come from that. In fact, the usual start-up structures for social enterprise in Ireland actually are completely unsuited in the initial stages. This has almost converted me to the belief that the better way is simply to start as a standard Ltd company and by the time the shape of the enterprise is more clearly evolved, transform it into the appropriate shape then.
Fourthly, the degree of patronising that goes on around social enterprises is high. While the commercial side you would think might suffer more from that in fact they tend to kind of get it and certainly appreciate the challenges and efforts people are making. The governmental side of things, though, is often extreme in their views – often even being dismissive of such efforts in private even when praising effort in public. There is almost a smugness at what they perceive as “naivety” with which people strive to address challenges that actually arise from their own failures to deliver on their roles – if they had sufficient self-awareness to realise that!
Finally, again the passion- without it there would be little social enterprise activity. For many stopping is never an option and as always for those as much admiration as possible, but for those that exploit this, stringing minimal support in the knowledge that people won’t quit, no respect whatever.
However, whatever the struggles and the negatives, the abiding image is always the positive drive, passion and energy to do something that makes ca difference – just brilliant!