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Choosing a form for your social enterprise

By | Cooperatives Work, Social Enterprise, Social Impact | No Comments

Does form follow function in social enterprise?

Our friends at the BCCA have a handy map that explains business forms.

Our friends at the BCCA have a handy map that explains business forms.

If you’re someone thinking about building a social enterprise, you’ll undoubtedly have to think about the form of the organization that you want to put together. Form follows function, to a certain degree, and form is really important when you’re thinking about what your social enterprise business will do.

In British Columbia, you have three (and a half) corporate forms that you can use to build a social enterprise. A corporate form is simply the kind of organization you build – don’t worry too much about the term ‘corporate,’ even though you might immediately think of corporations… a corporation is only one of the corporate form.

You’ll likely be quite familiar with two of the corporate forms, because they’re the kind you interact with all the time. The other one and a half forms may sound a little more unfamiliar, but they’re ones you should consider as well.

So, if you’re starting a social enterprise in BC, you can choose between a company (corporation), or a society (nonprofit), or a cooperativeThe final half option is a community contribution company.  I’ll explain a little bit about each of these below, but one thing I want you to really think about: form follows function.

I hear from a good number of people on a regular basis who have heard about one of these forms and who are really excited about them – and then want to build a business around the corporate form. This isn’t always the best idea. You should have your business idea, sometimes with your colleagues and collaborators, and then you should explore the form that fits it best. Going about this the other way around can cause some challenges.

This is important because each corporate form has a different kind of purpose. When you’re setting up your social enterprise, you’ll want to think about which one suits your purpose best. Read on to find out more.

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