Many organisations including Outreach International refer to themselves as a social enterprise, but what does this mean? Steve Summers offers his view on what it means to the values and policies of Outreach International.
“A social enterprise is an organisation that is driven by its social goals, not by profit. An organisation that cares about its role in the community, its ethics and values, over and above the need to make a return to shareholders. We believe this best reflects how we manage Outreach International and so we have joined Social Enterprise UK to formalise our mission.
We care passionately about helping improve the outcomes of the projects we partner with. This is the starting point of what we refer to as our Blue Tiger Philosophy; a set of values that guides how we work. Choosing the right projects and being diligent in evaluating how volunteers can really make a difference is the cornerstone of our placements.
In understanding our projects and supporting them through the supply of committed volunteers, we also provide the opportunity to enrich the lives of volunteers, both gap year students and those volunteering as part of a career break.
We want volunteers to get close to the community they serve, meaning we typically ask for longer term volunteer placements and for volunteers to stay with host families (rather than in volunteer houses or hostels). We don’t do volunteer ‘camps’ or take big groups, as we think this can have a negative impact on local communities and inhibits volunteers from experiencing the local culture.
If we do all of the above well, creating an experience and service that volunteers feel is good value, then we are able to pay our staff fairly. It’s that simple. And by ‘staff’ we mean all of our in-country supporters, both the coordinators and the host families we work with. In doing so we make an investment back into those communities we serve.
If we make a small surplus at the end of the year, then that gives us the opportunity to save some money in a contingency fund, and/or make funds available to both projects and volunteers to meet special needs that come up from time to time.
Overall we think this is a simple philosophy. We work hard to meet our social goals and keep our values at the front of what we do. But we also recognise we are here to provide a service to volunteers, supporting their ambition to make a difference.”