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Taoyuan 246Creating a 'Social Business City'

From an article by Pioneers Post

The development of social business across the country of Taiwan began back in 2014, when the central government launched its Social Enterprise Action Plan to increase knowledge of social business across the country.

In 2018, the national government launched Social Innovation Action Plan 2.0 and a number of initiatives have been developed in different municipalities across the country, including a Social Innovation Lab in the capital Taipei and a Social Innovation Unit in the city of Taichung. But it is the city of Taoyuan that appears to have taken social enterprise policy and practice furthest, embracing the concept of the ‘Social Business City’.

Taoyuan City is one of three such ‘Social Business Cities’ to have been established under the Social Business City Programme (SBCP), which is endorsed by the celebrated social entrepreneur and Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus. The other two are in Barcelona in Spain and Pistoia in Italy.

Prof Yunus had, in fact, already been involved in establishing a research base for social business in Taiwan, with the opening in 2014 of the Yunus Social Business Centre at the National Central University, based in Taoyuan City. A meeting between Yunus and the then City Mayor Cheng Wen-Tsan provided further inspiration, and the city government established its own Social Business Centre in 2017. 

In the same year the city also established a Social Business Committee, inviting entrepreneurs with practical business experience, as well as scholars and experts in social business research, and partners engaged in social business promotion from other counties or cities, to serve as committee members. The aim was "to link various kinds of resources to provide young people with substantial assistance for the development of social business". New social businesses were also provided with equipment subsidies and grants to pay office rent.

The development of social business, which is able to make profits and improve social issues at the same time, was viewed as a key part of the mayor’s broader goal to make Taoyuan “a sustainable city where citizens live in peace and work happily”.

Taoyuan City was awarded Socal Business City status in 2020 after passing a six-stage evaluation process over three years. The objective was to create “an enabling ecosystem for social businesses, social enterprises and social innovation”. To achieve this, the programme focused on removing the obstacles preventing the development of social businesses and social enterprises, and giving them the “power, means, opportunities and authority to pursue their final goals”

The strong commitment of the city government has been a key factor in the success and sustainability of the programme. However, it also highlights some issues to be addressed. For example, despite the achievements, it says that people still often find it confusing to differentiate between ‘social enterprise’, ‘social business’, ‘social innovation’ and ‘corporate social responsibility’.

Looking forward, legal recognition of social enterprises and social businesses could help to promote them further as well as a certification system through which social businesses could be verified. This alongside appointing 'local champions' from already-established and successful social businesses, promotion in high schools and universities, and a grants and low-interest credit programme to help social enterprises through their start up and growth phases.

Taoyuan has not only encouraged the creation or incubation of more than 150 social enterprises, but it has also succeeded in engaging with many hundreds of citizens, students, entrepreneurs and public officials. Perhaps most significantly, the programme has “started a process of changing the mindset of people that now can see there is an alternative to traditional, for-profit enterprises”.

Read the full article here.

We have tens of thousands of social enterprises in the UK but could a city become a champion of enabling such businesses?

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From an article by Pioneers Post, 15/03/2023

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