What is a Social Business?

Change for our Children Limited is one example of a social business. It uses the legal form of private company to return a social benefit to the community. In fifteen years the company has worked to drive down preventable infant mortality through its education and intervention programmes. Pleasingly, in 2015, New Zealand has the lowest infant death rates for babies aged 1-52 weeks) on record.

New language needed

We need a whole new language to hold the work of social change. Currently, many organisations working to bring about a social impact are defined by what they are not: non-governmental, non-profit, not for profit or as charities. Yet social change is absolutely about profit. It is about a profit returned to society, a social impact, lasting social change. And it need not be charity.  

We believe it is time to move away from commercial understandings of profits, shareholders and bottom lines, move away from non-commercial purposes as being charitable, voluntary, non-accountable and build a strong language and frame of reference for the work of social business that defines what it is

Social profit is the purpose of a social business.

The work to change the problems of society cannot be left to governments, established charities, the commercial sector or a good idea. These on their own are not enough. Broad participation, and across sectors, is the cross pollination needed for growing ideas, shifting paradigms and having societal impact.

Across the globe, the cry is for far more social innovation, for investing in people, in networks, in ideas, in visible social impact. People are becoming dissatisfied with incremental change, old ways of doing and thinking that grew out of a different time and need. 

Changing times - changing methods

We live in a time when banking has been turned on its head with the micro-credit movement, when shared power is dramatically saving infant lives (Tanzania's community health fund) and when a black man can lead the free world. Our working methods need to fit the environment, time and need.

In 2008, we, at Change for our Children, proposed the social business as a mechanism for change. It involves the bringing together of commmitted funding and accountable development for designing solutions to the current human and environmental challenges of society. The concept is social enterprise is a lot more advanced in 2015 and is being driven by the young.

Private company for public good

?The legal form of private company provides the imperative to return a (social) profit, to make a societal difference, to improve individual quality of life.  It  expects the organisation to run on best practice business principles in order to achieve this and so is rooted in the trio of principles: innovation, accountability, results.

In 2009, we launched two independent social businesses, from the work of Change for our Children
  • Smokechange Limited to champion smokefree pregnancies, and 
  • Tender Shoot Limited to align education for new parents with the developmental imperatives of their babies. 

The hope of the social business

The social business is a vehicle for focused and accountable action in the social arena. While the environment  is still gearing up to think differently about achieving social change, we hope that the social business will become an important part of the business landscape of New Zealand with measurable change enabled through these enterprises.