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The important thing charities should be doing is sticking to their knitting”

Brookes Newmark as Minister of Civil Society 2014


With trust based on common purpose, open book costing and pricing, incorporating recognition of the Social Value of public benefit provider development may become a standard practice.

This allows for public benefit ecosystems, including mature social enterprises, specialist charities, community organisations and businesses and with clear, established Social Value policy imperatives, any socially-responsible private sector organisation which adopts those requisite Social Value imperatives.

By this means the mature social enterprise, which has, over 30 years, adopted and adapted business methodology and made service improvement, reform and innovation a specialisation, may reverse influence the commercial providers of public services, so they too: place purpose and social impact first; aspire only to reasonable and not extractive profit; and recognise that best business is socially responsible business, in both social and business terms.    


A public benefit organisation often will also have the socially-valuable characteristics of being local, small and community-based.

But, more fundamentally, public benefit organisations will, by definition, be driven by Social Value purpose, incentivised by Social Value impact and typically will engage dedicated individuals, with high levels of productive business participation.

They are not directed and incentivised by the profit that may be extracted from service provision, which pulls away from quality and Social Value and engaged workforces.

This inherent public benefit purpose and incentivisation aligns, directly, with public sector responsibilities.

Public benefit organisations do not seek to maximise profit, they seek full cost recovery, including reasonable surplus, that will provide sustainability and support development and public benefit service improvement. This makes service cost a shared practical issue, not a naturally antagonistic negotiation between lowest cost and highest price.


The public benefit sector is generally misunderstood, especially by Government, and its essential value in public services is consequently greatly under-estimated and substantially unrealised.

Everyone will say “charities are a good thing”, but entrenched capitalist orthodoxy sees charity, while providing moral safety-nets and cultural cohesion, as: peripheral to the mainstream commercial economy; unbusinesslike; small-scale; amateur (not professional); and (merely) voluntary.

However, Social Value, or Public Value, is the defining essence of a charity. Thus, the well-run traditional charities, providing services that require subsidy, certainly have roles within the existing system, but that is only part of the public benefit sector.

Social Enterprises, in charitable and other public benefit forms, blend the Social Value of charities with business methodology. They competitively deliver public services and are founts of public service innovation, but they are discriminated against and patronised by the prevailing pro-private sector narrative.

Without the false security of an equity-capital balance sheet, they are ignorantly dismissed as excessive insolvency risks. Overall, they are still seen as unbusinesslike, small-scale, amateur, and voluntary, when, in their well-established, mature form, they present a model for the future of mature-capitalist, or post-capitalist, business, in line with the contemporary zeitgeist. Their purpose is to provide the Social Value people want and they succeed, in social and in pure business terms, for that reason.  

Mature social enterprise is, therefore, an ideal form for a public service provider. Furthermore, because it is dedicated to purpose, it is complementary with and supportive of traditional charity; and because of its balance of Social Value purpose and business sustainability, it is a model for any business, in any form, which aspires to public service provision. 

Compounding misperceptions of the nature of the public benefit sector, with reference to procurement, public authorities have failed to understand the difference between: preferring a provider per se because of its public benefit status; and giving due weight to the distinctive Social Value characteristics of public benefit organisations, which can and do make them objectively assessable as best in legitimate, competitive terms.

This is similar to the difference between: the illegitimacy of preferring a local, or small, or community-based organisation per se because it is local, or small, or community-based; and the legitimacy of an assessment based on the inherently valuable characteristics of being local, or small, or community-based.