Interview with John Mulkerrin

Hello, please tell me a little more about yourself and your experience in Social Enterprise

John Mulkerrin CIC Associations CIC. We are a business network primarily to represent and build the understanding engagement and utility of the CIC legislation. We incorporated in 2009 after forming in 2008. We have 4500 members now. We provide different levels of advice to different stakeholders so, we’ve got the entrepreneur groupings, professionals coming in trying to find out how to use it and other stakeholders such as medical groups, local authorities, libraries, transfer of assets, transfer of services to the community etc. The key achievement of the association was the changes to the CIC caps, which governs the distribution of profit on the CIC shares. When it was brought out, the original plan was for it to have one cap, it was put out to consultation. We put together a consultation and some proposals and put it through parliament October 2014.

We data scrape from the wider community. We have this year completed 3.5% of CIC’s completed our survey. We provide verification and ratification to the professional services. A lot of them are dealing with approaches from clients. Particular with joint ventures you get requests about the legislation, with regards to changes in the legislation to check it’s the same as company house. Confidence building scenarios. We help incorporate CIC’s and give them any answers they need.

What challenges are there in terms of providing your expertise?

The commonalities are the same. The objectives are described differently. Two CIC’s have different aims. One is to provide services to elderly people [for example], one to the youth. The function and utility within that should be the same.

Then you have another level. What is a social enterprise and what is a social entrepreneur? You have CIC’s which are not for profit, then others which are more dynamic equity models. The plan for one is to cure or solve a problem in the medical area and make a £50 million profit when it gets bought out by a big Pharma company. Its social objective is to create that product. We encourage holism as such but the other side of what we have to do is put in place the fact that not too many ideologies can be placed on this legislation, that you can do whatever you want with it… the solution’s going to come from the variability. We have non-profit and profit solutions to the same challenge. And they’re both succeeding. How’s that work? Surely only one should win. No, doesn’t work like that. Good business is good business however you describe it. Good social activity is good social activity. Positive activity is positive activity.

When it comes to training in a social enterprise sense, do you try to give them this holistic understanding?

I come from an IFA background. My career’s been [in] financial services. I come from a-better-inform-you-to-make-your-own-decision type scenario. I don’t really prescribe, like a lot of financial advisory services, which don’t suit the environment. What you need to do is listen to the entrepreneur and then feedback to them. There are commonalities within that. People want to know how to get the paperwork done, how to get a grant and they’ll figure out the rest once they get there. Then you’ve got middle scenarios where existing companies have succeeded in one borough and then other boroughs want to work with them and they want them to come in and bid. There are questions like capital flows which weren’t there before. The requirements for accountancy, legals become greater, for example.

Academic work like this won’t determine success. What will decide it is if the structures are in place and there’s engagement from the community. That decides everything.

Is there a gap between the academic and business world that needs to be bridged?

Those things are clichés. Departmentality? The CIC legislation is run under Biz, but also social enterprise funding comes from Cabinet Office hence why Kick has never been given funding for Kick CIC specific development

Because we’re promoting the generic term social enterprise, we can’t do anything particular with it, we have to include all these maybe, maybe nots, and end up spending our money on the events to discuss these things rather than the implementation of modular education products.

You seem to have more knowledge of the legislative side. Is it a big challenge getting legislation through?

Legislation is everything. The rest is fluff. I’m a social enterpriser until I walk into a boardroom door. And then I’m a Kick. What is a social enterpriser?

Some of these terms I get very disinterested in with the wider discussions. We often end up educating fresh faces.

Is talent the key driving force for any enterprise?

No. Need.

External need?

What’s external?

Supply and demand

Need. Need drives everything.

What does that entail?

Why does an entrepreneur start something for money?

Multiple reasons

He needs something. Ego return. Financial return, whatever. There are narcissists that are social entrepreneurs. Some people judge the motivation of your activity and sometimes it is the outcome. If I shot a German, and he was going to shoot five people, some people would say I should have because I saved five people, some people would say I shouldn’t have. Right there is the question, what do you judge me on? People are polar. It’s the same with a lot of these activities.

The entrepreneurs I work with are trying to solve problems whether they are driven by profit or community focused ideals. Social enterprise as a term is something we can now aggregate around.

I think I give permission to entrepreneurs to be more brave, to not be intimidated and try and achieve things. A lot of people don’t get the encouragement.

I’m someone who’s been entering new ground since I was born. I seek it, most people are terrified by it. I don’t mind failing, I call that learning… I prefer to work with someone who has passion. I’d rather train someone for ten hours if they have passion than if they don’t.

I tend to do one to one stuff for free with micro-businesses. The people I worked with might not have written a bid in their life. I’ve helped succeed a lot of people getting to the first phase.

I would guestimate I get contacted by about 50 students a year and I see the level of their work is very basic. There are problems in the educational programmes.