British Council outpaces Provincial Councils with landmark survey in the provinces


Ms. Gill Caldicott, Country Director of the British Council Sri Lanka hands over a copy of the report to Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce, in Colombo yesterday. Pic. -Sujatha Jayaratne

by Sanath Nanayakkare

Despite the fact that no Provincial Council or other local administrative body had been able to effectively support by chipping in with vital data and statistics on the state of social enterprises in Sri Lanka, a survey commissioned by the British Council yesterday came out with a comprehensive report which reveals the exciting breadth, depth and the potential of social enterprises in Sri Lanka.

The unprecedented clarity with which it was produced could be a catalyst in opening the eyes of provincial authorities to build their own databases to improve efficiency and relevance in policy making for their respective provinces.

This fact became evident when the British Council launched its research report; "State of Social Enterprises in Sri Lanka" which brought together social entrepreneurs, policy makers, academics, service providers and development practitioners where Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce was also present.

This survey is part of a global effort by the British Council to build a global baseline of social enterprise research and this report will sit alongside previously published surveys of social enterprise in countries such as Bangladesh, Kenya and the Philippines.

This global research project aims to mobilise support for the sector and strategic deployment of resources in support of social enterprise. The British Council also hopes that it will inspire academics and other organisations to join in this exciting and crucial endeavour to build the evidence base for social enterprises.

The report evaluates the growth rates of these enterprises, identifying those with the highest growth and why they succeeded in expanding. It also identifies the social objectives of social enterprises and how surpluses are directed towards achieving those aims. This study will equip policy makers, social investors and other key actors with the knowledge they need to provide more targeted and enhanced support to the social enterprise sector while simultaneously raising the awareness of the general public on social enterprise.

Based on a methodology developed for British Council's Global Social Enterprise programme, the research was carried out by Lanka Social Ventures and Social Enterprise UK with support from United Nations ESCAP and a number of other partners.

The survey finds that social enterprises are active in all nine provinces, with many operating in multiple locations, and that they are addressing issues at the village level, nationally and, in some cases, internationally. The survey also confirms that the sector is growing rapidly, with 38 per cent of all social enterprises set up in the past ten years.

The key findings of the survey are:

• There are estimated 6,000 to 15,000 social enterprises in Sri Lanka operating across all major sectors, the - manufacturing, agriculture, cultural, creative and environmental protection sectors.

• The social enterprise sector is vibrant and increasingly diverse, with social enterprises adopting a range of business models including private enterprises, 'not for loss' organisations run by communities and groups, and cooperatives.

• The most common social objective is 'creating employment opportunities' followed by 'improving a particular community', while providing access to quality products or services and protecting the environment are also common objectives.

• About 41% social enterprises direct their surpluses towards achieving collective social or environmental aims.

• There is a striking gender gap in social enterprises with 31% women in leadership roles in social enterprises compared to men (69%).

• The majority of the social enterprises have drawn upon external funding sources in their business ventures, with 24% having accessed loans, 21% having received donations and another 21% report having received grants.

• Some of the biggest barriers facing social enterprises, include a lack of awareness and understanding of social enterprise among the public, lack of targeted support for the sector from government and other influential organisations in the areas of technical, managerial and financial support.

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