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Through Junction Point I have had the pleasure of working with many pre-start Social Enterprises as well as those taking their first steps as established organisations. Many people have the misconception that in order to run a successful CIC you need to be an expert in:
  • The not-for-profit sector
  • Fundraising and income generation
  • Strategy
  • Business management and compliance
  • Project management
  • Accountancy and financial management
  • Policies and procedures (GDPR, Safeguarding, HR, Equality & Diversity etc.)
  • Marketing and social media
  • Evaluation and impact measurement
All these things are certainly useful and important to learn about, but the consistent factor that has defined an individual or group’s success, in my opinion, is their mindset.
According to Dr Dweck, someone with a growth mindset believes that their talents, intelligence, and abilities can be developed with effort. They see failure as an opportunity for learning and continuous development.
This is the opposite to someone with a fixed mindset who see any mistakes as failure. They believe admitting a lack of knowledge/skill will be received as a sign of inadequacy. They are often preoccupied striving for success and avoiding failure (at all costs) in order to maintain their status/image.
In the diagram above from Carol S. Dweck and Nigel Holmes, you can see how each mindset manifests itself. This is the vital component to success within a social venture, combined with some key characteristics:
Driven by evidence:
This is often overlooked or is a secondary thought of new Social Enterprises. Instead, the first task of any Social Enterprise should be to consult with its proposed beneficiary group. Ask them what they think! Who better to help shape your organisation that the people it is set up to serve? This practice should become ingrained in your organisation so that any strategic decision naturally includes an element of codesign where possible. Gathering other evidence is also vital. It’s just like maths homework – we need to see your workings out. How do you know this is a ‘need’ or ‘issue’ and what evidence do you have that your idea is the best possible solution?
This characteristic doesn’t mean artistic, it means you have a natural ability to identify solutions, innovate and have an inquisitive approach to your work. Instead of looking for why an idea won’t work, you will instinctively provide multiple options as to how adaptations can ensure success. ‘Creative people bounce off creative people’, they work in an open and inclusive way which enables a team to contribute to a bigger picture. Without this creative approach, directors are missing out on valuable input from a wider collective.
Starting a new Social Enterprise is rarely a smooth road. You and your team need to be able to practice resilience when projects don’t go according to plan, funding doesn’t come off and participants don’t behave in the way you anticipated. When facing unexpected outcomes, you have the choice to see this as failure or an opportunity for learning. Resilient people will always take the ‘lesson’ approach. Utilise the new information you have to make adaptations and allow your organisation to evolve and improve at every opportunity.
Generally Social Entrepreneurs have the deep desire to make a positive impact on the world. This can be a blessing and a distraction. Successful enterprises are firmly anchored within their mission and avoid wandering into other areas of ‘need’. Being too fluid can result in mission drift and spreading your resources too thinly. It also affects your brand as your message becomes unclear.
The consistent factors of success that I have witnessed to date are not perhaps what you’d expect. They are:
  • hunger to learn and strive for best practice
  • honest desire to be led by their beneficiaries’ input
  • willingness to work in whatever way is necessary to meet the objectives of the organisation
  • commitment to a clearly defined mission statement.
If you need to develop your growth mindset, I recommend a course delivered by Reviving the Heart of the West End called ‘Thought Patterns for Success’. Check it out at and be sure to tell them where you heard about the course.
Registered provider for the North East Business Support Fund and RTC North.

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