Approaches to measuring the scale of the social enterprise sector in the UK

Approaches to measuring the scale of the social enterprise sector in the UK
Document type
Working Paper
Author(s)
Lyon, Fergus; Teasdale, Simon; Baldock, Rob
Publisher
Third Sector Research Centre
Date of publication
1 September 2010
Subject(s)
Small business & enterprise: the practicalities of running a small business and the theory of entrepreneurship
Collection
Business and management
Material type
Reports

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This paper argues that, by understanding the origins of each source of data on social enterprise in the UK, a better evidence base can be developed. With growing interest in social enterprise in the UK, evidence on the scale of their activity is required to show their contribution to the economy. The figure of 62,000 social enterprises has been regularly based on a minimum three year rolling average of the Annual Small Business Survey between 2005 and 2007. This paper shows that different surveys have been based upon samples drawn from widely disparate populations. The Annual Small Business Survey is shown to be dominated by private enterprises (Companies Limited by Share, Partnerships and Sole Proprietors) while other surveys such as the National Survey of Third Sector Organisations, have only looked at particular elements of civil society. While there is still on-going debate about the definitions of social enterprise, careful presentation of data sources can allow those using the data to be clearer about what they are including or excluding. The paper shows how different definitions of social enterprise result in widely differing estimations of the population. Estimations of social enterprise activity may be more reliable as the definitions are more consistently applied. This working paper aims to present data and seeks feedback from the social enterprise community and researchers as part of improving the evidence base.

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