So - as some of you know, I can be a bit of an anorak when it comes to sector governance, and statistics. Not just because my brain seems to enjoy doing it, but because I think that sometimes it's hard for us to get a proper understanding about what's really going on in our sector unless someone looks at published data afresh and offers an alternate view. (David Floyd and Nick Temple are both great at this, and also much more thorough too - I tend to look at headlines only here on my blog)
Anyway - every so often, someone publishes a survey about their part of the sector, and inevitably they never benchmark their charts against other peoples findings... This makes it hard to understand what might be really going on in the context of the 'bigger picture', and therefore how we can best support and celebrate each other.
So in spare half hours, I try and find a comparison against which to try and make sense of such published surveys. Last time I did this was on the Big Potential programme from the Social Investment Business. Comparing their report of social ventures supported against the wider sector suggests that they've been very successful in engaging a 'new breed' of social enterprise.
But this time I'm interested in CICs, because the CIC Association has recently collated and published its 10 year survey of this form of social enterprise. Now, I want to be very open and honest here in that I've never been completely sold on the idea of this legal form for various reasons, but I've always been open as to why, and also supported some clients to gain this legal form (see other posts here tagged with 'CIC' for more).
The CIC Association survey contains lots of charts and headlines, and in trying to make sense of if these show this type of social enterprise to be in 'good health' or 'having some cause for concern' I've compared it to the wider Social Enterprise UK 'state of the sector' report.
But - a few words of caution before proceeding further:
1) the CIC survey was published in spring 2016, and the SEUK survey in autumn 2015 so there's bound to be a little 'drift' in the sector over that year
2) the CIC survey is concerned with CICs only; the SEUK report includes CICs as part of the wider response base, so there's also some variance and risk of some 'double counting'
However, for my own purposes and interests in trying to stimulate some wider discussion, I'm not too hung up on such technical variances as I think the 'broad brush' comparisons are what are interesting:
- CICs are more likely to be trading directly with the public (75%) than other forms of social enterprise (30%)
- CICs are more likely to fail in their applications for finance (43%) than other forms of social enterprise (20%)
- CICs are more reliant on grants - 25% have them as their main income compared to 11% of other forms of social enterprise
- CICs are likely to be smaller than other forms of social enterprise - most have turnovers under £10,000 compared to in excess of £50,000
- CICs are more likely to be structured to have share capital (private ownership) than other forms of social enterprise (34% vs 11%)
- Both CICs and other forms of social enterprise prefer grants as the preferred option for financing growth
- Both CICs and other forms of social enterprise are likely to be micro enterprises (less than 10 employees)
- Both CICs and other forms of social enterprise are growing year on year in similar ways (60% and 52% respectively)
So there's potentially some clear markers here that make CIC very different to their wider family of social enterprises (more public facing, more open to having private ownership), but also a lot of common ground too (size, growth, and preference for grants to support growth).
However, might there also be some contradictions emerging within this latest survey of CICs too? Potentially they could be seen as a weaker form compared to their 'cousins' in the wider sector, based on their being:
- more likely to be reliant on grants,
- seen as a riskier proposition by investors (based on the extent that they're able to access finance applied for),
- more likely to be marginal businesses (based on most having turnovers below what the average salary in the UK currently is..,)
- that 28% of CICs saying that this form has not had a positive effect on their business.
But its still relatively early days for CICs: while their 'honeymoon' period looks like it might be starting to wane, other forms of Social Enterprise have been around for a few hundred years longer, so investors and funders are probably still getting to grips with the CIC form.
And as I caveated earlier, the above are very much 'broad brush' findings that I've drawn out in a half hour over a cuppa.
However, my hope is that this will help to contribute to the wider discussion, debate, and further analysis. The aim of which should be to help us to better understand how to best support and encourage this (and other) form of social enterprise, so that they can realise their full potential. And in doing so, help bring about a slightly shinier, fluffier, and groovier world for all of us to enjoy.