The state of social enterprise in Bangladesh, Ghana, India and Pakistan
The British Council has published a landmark survey that provides a rich and fascinating trove of data on social enterprises in Bangladesh, Ghana, India and Pakistan, including about their operations, turnover, impact, beneficiaries, challenges and number.
The report finds that social enterprise is growing in all four countries and is creating jobs for disadvantaged groups, empowering women, and addressing social exclusion.
Social enterprises are businesses which trade for a social purpose, re-invest surpluses into their social objective, and make themselves accountable for their actions, rather than simply maximising profits for owners and shareholders.
Supporting the most vulnerable
Social enterprises are creating jobs for vulnerable populations. In India, for instance, 70 per cent of social enterprises are working with individuals from socially and economically disadvantaged communities, 31 per cent are working with differently-able individuals, and 46 per cent are working with children.
Across the four countries, social enterprises are working towards a range of objectives. Among the most commonly cited are creating employment opportunities for disadvantaged groups, improving health and well-being, protecting the environment, addressing social inclusion, and empowering and uplifting women.
Social enterprise is growing in all four countries
Social enterprises are growing – generating jobs and increasing turnover, and are set to continue to do so in all four countries.
More than half of all the social enterprises in India (57%), for instance, were started within the last five years. In Bangladesh the average social enterprise is six years old, whilst in Pakistan more than half of all social enterprises surveyed were launched after 2013.
Most are micro or small sized ventures, with mean average staff of between 10 and 47 full-time equivalent and average turnover per organisation of between £15,000 and £106,000.
That said, at least 71 per cent of social enterprises in all four countries expect job creation to grow next year and 74 per cent anticipate that their turnover will increase within the next year.
Social enterprises are empowering women
Social enterprise is a welcoming and diverse sector that stands out for its comparatively high rate of women leaders in countries with relatively low rates of female entrepreneurship and women business leaders.
For instance, the survey finds that 24 per cent of social enterprises in India are led by women, whereas only 8.9 per cent of mainstream enterprises and private businesses are managed by women. In both Pakistan and Bangladesh more than 20% of social enterprises but fewer than 13 per cent of mainstream businesses are led by women
Overall, social enterprises are likely to have proportionately more female staff than mainstream businesses. Social enterprise may be more accessible to women or, by being more socially focused, better able to help women to overcome barriers and biases they face in general. Social enterprise could provide insight for solutions to some entrenched issues faced by women.
Areas of activity
The findings show that social enterprises are especially focused on providing education to underserved communities and supporting employment creation and skills development, notably for populations that have been marginalised from the workforce.
Other sectors with reasonable consistency across four countries are agriculture, business development services and entrepreneurship support.
Challenges and growth constraints
The report shows that access to finance is the largest barrier identified by social enterprises, whether it is access to capital or access to grant funding.
Anther common challenge is finding qualified staff. In India, over 50 per cent of the social enterprises feel that there is a shortage of adequate managerial and technical personnel in the social enterprise sector. By comparison, less than 10 per cent of the mainstream businesses face this constraint.
Why does the survey matter?
Much has been written about the growth of social enterprise in Asia and Africa, but to date there has been little quantitative evidence to draw upon. This study seeks to help fill that knowledge gap by providing quantitative information on the social enterprise sectors in these countries.
What do we hope it will achieve?
In addition to could also, we hope, raise awareness of the beneficial role that social enterprises are playing in these countries and help policy makers, social investors, development agencies and other key actors provide more targeted and enhanced support to the social enterprise sector.