As I think you are aware, Social Enterprise Europe has been helping to develop the FairShares Model. This work has progressed steadily and FairShares is now recognised as an innovation in the ownership, governance and management of social enterprises. Recently, I’ve had online and face to face meetings with people from the US, Ireland and Australia. I want to tell you a bit more about this, then invite you to subscribe to the FairShares Association.
I was one of six social enterprise educators and consultants who formed the FairShares Association in February 2013. In July 2014, I co-published V2.0 of the FairShares Model with Rory Ridley-Duff. This set out the development pathways, social auditing diagnostics, model constitutions and support documentation for FairShares.
What is the FairShares Model?
The FairShares Model is a set of design principles and development pathways for companies, cooperatives and associations who want to promote solidarity amongst their stakeholders. FairShares design principles make it much harder for the top 10% of earners to enrich themselves at everyone else’s expense. It achieves this by adopting practices we have developed over the last 40 years and refining them using findings from top quality research on the social economy and sustainable development.
As a result, we are confident that between 70% – 100% of the power and wealth created by a FairShares enterprise will go to the social entrepreneurs, workforce members, customers and social investors who create and develop it.
Don’t we already have models for this?
Unlike social enterprises incorporated under new legislation in the US, UK, EU and Australia, FairShares social enterprises are unambiguously based on co-operative values and principles (with workplace democracy supported by one-person, one-vote). But unlike most co-ops and mutuals, they are also unambiguously multi-stakeholder in their design (enfranchising entrepreneurs, labour, users and investors). Unlike charities, FairShares enterprises permit individual and collective wealth creation through a transparent system for issuing and trading shares amongst members. Member-owners, mutual societies, employee trusts and charities are the primary beneficiaries, rather than institutional investors.
This ‘second generation’ social enterprise design transcends many of the limitations reported by early practitioners of social enterprise, and by academics engaged in scholarly studies of the sector.
Why is this getting popular now?
At SEE, we are not sure what is driving international interest in the FairShares Model. We are aware that FairShares got a mention in public proposals advanced by the P2P Foundation for a ‘Commons Transition’. This has been circulated to hundreds of thousands of academics worldwide. We’re also aware that New Start Magazine listed FairShares as one of 10 ideas to create systemic change. New Start is sent to tens of thousands of public policy professionals.
Whatever the precise reason, it has prompted an approach from the founders of Mass Moasic (who are developing a global crowdsourcing platform) and the founders of Independent Living Ireland (who want to create a national care support service across Ireland). Both are passionate about using the FairShares Model (and Brand) to build their national / international enterprises. For the first time, the association really needs to secure a larger supporter base willing to seed fund this type of work through regular (small scale) subscriptions.
How will Social Enterprise Europe benefit?
We won’t benefit directly. Social Enterprise Europe has a stake in the FairShares Model as a result of the time and energy invested by two of its directors. We do, however, expect to gain indirectly from the demand for consultancy when FairShares is adopted by enterprises and regional networks, and when its value to strategists in the social economy becomes more apparent. So, while we won’t gain directly (your subscription goes to the FairShares Association), it helps us if our supporters are well represented inside the association.
If you think you can help, please take out a subscription to the FairShares Association. At present, they are offering a complimentary copy of the world’s first social enterprise novel – The Dragons’ Apprentice – with each new subscription.
Born in India but based in the UK, Cliff is one of the founders of the Social Enterprise movement in the UK and manager of England’s first Community Cooperative. He also set up a successful managed workspace company in the 1980s. He has pioneered work on legal structures, social auditing and licensing and new practices on social enterprise governance and management. As Managing Director of Social Enterprise Europe Ltd he introduced the concept of social enterprise to many countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. He is currently the UK representative on the Board of the Euclid network of third sector leaders.