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Social Enterprise in Sport for Social Change

Social Enterprise in Sport for Social Change

Dr Alex Richmond

Social enterprise is a business model that Sport for Development and Social Change (S4SC) organizations can implement to address their sustainability challenges. It also offers a platform to foster new engagements with the local community, including international NGOs and other business entities. Alongside this, new capacity building initiatives have emerged such as the Yunus Sports Hub Pitch Project or Common Goal’s Social Enterprise Assist, reinforcing the viability of this approach.

The need for new business and funding models in the S4SC field
Inconsistent funding opportunities and partnership power imbalances hint at a need for new organizational models in the S4SC field. One of the most prominent acknowledgements of these challenges sits within the United Nations Kazan Action Plan. This 2018 policy statement calls for “sustainable investment, resource mobilization and funding streams, alongside creative partnerships, for achieving development and peace objectives through sport.” In the past 7+ years, S4SC organizations have continued to pilot and evolve social enterprise models, creating new investment avenues and mobilization of community and partner resources.

For more information on this growth, please visit Exploration of Sustainable Funding Mechanisms used by football for good organizations. 

Social enterprise is defined as trading in the marketplace for social purpose, many times providing a sustainable solution to social problems where both the state and market have failed. As this term grows in practice and literature in the S4SC field, it is important to note there is no single interpretation on why organizations enact social enterprise.

For some, social enterprise is as a novel solution for S4SC organizations to promote financial independence through the generation of their own income. For others, it offers a platform to provide employment opportunities to marginalized communities. It is helpful, instead, to think of the social enterprise approach as a puzzle, where organizations can find the social enterprise entry point that best reflects their current needs.

Three suggestions are offered to support funders, policymakers, and S4SC organizations as they start thinking about their approach social enterprise and sustainability:

1. Start with a language shift. Ask do we mean sustainability or regeneration?

The S4SC field is no stranger to the word sustainability. However, we must question if we are even using it the right way or if we should use it at all. Current usage suggest sustainability is an outcome, something to be achieved. Yet, there is reason to argue that sustainability is not an “end-goal,” but rather the processes that enable S4SC organizations to maintain and grow their programs and impacts. In other words, it is investment in both the resilience and growth of the organization.

These processes include:
• How organizations approach interorganizational development. Examples of this include developing workforce capabilities, creating growth pathways, and ensuring reoccurring revenue.
• How organizations strengthen ongoing exchange between the organization and the local community. Examples of these processes include leveraging local expertise and talent, restoration of community spaces, and community capacity building.
• How organizations influence partners and funders to clearly understand the organizations needs to foster regenerative growth in the community. Examples of this include

Overall, we should start thinking in long-term KPIs that can be realized through long-term investment approaches. For funders and policy makers, this starts with accurately querying what resources these organizations require to facilitate each of these processes above.

2. Let’s invest with the environment in mind, starting with access to natural capital

There is an overwhelming benefit of investment in natural capital to support S4SC organizations’ engagement with their local community. Granting organizations access to land enhances credibility in the community and can empower ownership of community resources, whether its ownership of the local football pitch or repurposing a training facility to offer financial literacy courses. Working with the community to consider the opportunity is a critical first step following access to land. Additionally, we know that investment in land rather than infrastructure may be easier for funders.

3. Higher degree learning institutions can play many roles in the S4SC field. Let one of those be as capacity builders in social enterprise

We know that academic institutions play a part in theorizing and evaluating the growth of the S4SC field. When it comes to social enterprise and developing the capacity of these S4SC organizations, they also play a role.

Finally, the higher degree learning institution can be a notable partner to the organization by helping them co-design courses and/or certificate initiatives for S4SC organization staff to be the next generation leaders of social enterprise growth in the organization.

For a more in-depth look at the methodology and findings within the above study, please visit the following articles and book chapters:

Richmond, A., de Leeuw, E., & Bunde‐Birouste, A. (2022). Towards negotiation: a RAMESES narrative review of social enterprise to support sustainability in Sport for Social Change (S4SC). Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 32(3), 449-474

Potvin, L., & Jourdan, D. (Eds.). (2022). Global Handbook of Health Promotion Research, Vol. 1: Mapping Health Promotion Research. Springer Nature


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