What is a CIC?
Just to be clear, a C.I.C. is a Community Interest Company which is one of several legal entities for social enterprises.
A CIC operates as a business but has an underlying remit to operate for a social purpose. Additionally, CICs have an asset lock which means all assets must be used for the community purpose. If those assets are sold, and/or if the business is wound up, those assets must be transferred to a similarly asset-locked body.
Due to the very nature of our work, ORB has also been a social enterprise in principle since it was incorporated almost exactly 10 years ago. However, technically it has always been a ‘normal’ limited company. This, at the time, was a conscious decision: our membership is predominantly for businesses and we wanted members and potential members to know that we, too, understand the trials and tribulations of the small business world. We aren’t funded and need to operate a sustainable business model, just as every business we work with does.
A love/hate relationship with Social Enterprise
And, as many people know, I personally have a love/hate relationship with the Social Enterprise sector. I love the essence of social enterprise but, in practice, I think Social Enterprise is ‘Politically Sexy but not Picture Perfect.’ (Please do read this article. It explains why I have such reservations about social enterprise and why I think we should focus on Good Business rather than ‘labels’ that are often meaningless and misleading.)
But as CEO of ORB, I need to consider what is best for the organisation and our members, and the greater responsible business/social value agenda, rather than allowing any personal bias to dictate. And whilst I don’t believe it should be necessary to be a social enterprise to gain the traction and possible funding we may be looking for to enable further development, in reality, it makes a huge difference.
And therefore, as of 28th February 2019, ORB is now registered with Companies House as Organisation for Responsible Businesses C.I.C.
There are several forms of CIC, predominantly limited by shares or limited by guarantee. ORB is limited by shares, but those shares are now owned by BSTLC CIC which is limited by guarantee. Two of the three directors of BSTLC are also directors of ORB as there is a great deal of cross-over in the work of the companies.
We do have some interesting development plans to drive the Responsible Business and Social Value agenda forward. And now, as a social enterprise, we shall be looking for grant funding which will enable us to do that……….