Social Enterprise and B Sharp

Social Enterprise

There are many ways of organising projects and businesses. How they are structured will depend on the aims of the organiser.

Economies may be considered to have three sectors:

  1. The business private sector, which is privately owned and profit motivated. The profits are distributed between the owners (a private enterprise) or between investors who have shares (a public company) and share the profit in proportion to the number of shares each investor has.
  2. The public sector, which is owned by the state on behalf of the people of the state e.g. the NHS and comprehensive schools.
  3. The social economy, or third sector, which embraces a wide range of community, voluntary and not-for-profit activities. The third sector is based around the idea of doing good things for people or the environment.

Brief explanations of different business structures can be found here.

A good blog about choosing a legal structure for a creative buisness, outlining the pros and cons of each model can be found on Creative Choise’s ‘How to set up your own business’.

The third sector can be organised in different ways.

It could be a not for profit organisation such as a charity, community organisation, or club. All their money is spent on their cause and they rely on donations, subscriptions, grants and volunteers to provide a service for people or the environment.

It could be a Social Enterprise, which is generally half way between private enterprise and a volunteer/community organisation. Social enterprises are defined by the government as  “businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.”  Basically a business that trades and is driven by a mission to tackle a social or environmental issue, and invests all profits back into the cause.  People, planet and profit, also known as the triple bottom line framework, is at the heart of a social enterprise.

A social enterprise can have various organisational structures e.g. a Community Interest Company, a Co-operative or a company trading for charitable purposes.

In all the business models mentioned above, people can be paid for the work they do or volunteer their time. The difference is about how money left over is used, after all expenses are paid.

Because the social economy is about benefiting people and the planet and relies on good will and trade to do it, the sector needs to measure these benefits to show what difference they are making. If they have evidence about their value, it’s easier to tell their story and gain support for their cause and efforts.

Benefit and value are not as easy to measure as quantitative data such as the number of people who come to a show. Benefit and value are subjective quality judgements made by individuals and groups. Techniques for measuring qualitative data are talked about in the monitoring section.

B Sharp sits in the third sector. It believes its work adds real value to the lives of young people by engaging them in creative activities such as music. It is a charity that wants to develop its social enterprise activities so that it doesn’t rely so much on donations and grants – spreading its financial risk. This is why we have started to charge young people to take part in B Sharp’s workshops.

B Sharp is particularly concerned about making sure opportunities for all young people are there if they want to take part in its activities.

People may not feel they can take part if they feel unwelcome, can’t afford to, or can’t access the venue because of physical limitations. All projects under the B Sharp brand must pay attention to these considerations and design activities to be as inclusive as possible.

B Sharp is aware that charging people to come to its workshops may put some people off because of financial hardship. One of the aims of this ‘Ideas into Action’ course is to give young people an understanding of what B Sharp is trying to do and its dilemma of creating incomes so that it can continue its work yet still be inclusive. We are pleased to be able to subsidise or give free places to about a third of our participants.


Private and public businesses driven by profit tend to compete against each other, with a culture of ‘winner takes all’. They rarely co-operate.

3rd sector organisations driven by a mutual social goal are more likely to co-operate. If you are in the third sector, there may be other organisations, businesses and individuals that are willing to help you. They could share resources, give advice and training, or help you find customers. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations says, “Working with others can help you to deliver new, improved or more integrated services whilst sharing knowledge, information and experience. Collaborative working can also deliver efficiency savings and help organisations to develop a stronger, more united voice.”

Dorset Loves Arts has written a useful download for organisational collaboration: Dorset Loves Arts- a collaborative charter and the Harvard Business Review has a 15 Steps for Successful Strategic Alliances (and Marriages) blog.

You may want to work with another organisation as a partner. The principle of good communication applies to your new team member. Misunderstandings about what each partner will bring to the project can happen and people fall out, leading to organisations falling out. It’s a good idea to write an agreement outlining what each partner will do and their responsibilities. An agreement could be a Memorandum Of Understanding (an informal agreement of intended actions) or obligations and responsibilities could be more formally drawn up as a legally binding contract.

To find the list and links to all B Sharp’s posts about event and project planning, go here: Ideas into Action

Links to other music resources, compiled by B Sharp, can be found here.