CIC Association

Serving Community Enterprise

Social Enterprise Mark - A double audit fee for CICs?

Update Feb 10 2011- With the recent increase in the Social Enterprise Mark fee to £350 a year from £99, a number of members have moaned to me that we still havent made any progress on the points made in this original post.


1. What shall we do, if anything?  They dont want to address our concerns and the criteria still split CICs, Co-ops and Charities..some can, some cant. 


2. Is 372 members a good return for £1million of taxpayers money? Thats over £2500 per member, why have they increased the fee's by so much?


3. The Association received a phone call from BMG, who are conducting the State of social enterprise survey for the SEC, who back the Mark and are part owners, apparently the Association ISNT a social enterprise.......what do you guys think of that?  should CICs stop trying to be part of it and position ourselves as more than social enterprise? Part of the Third Sector??


4. One suggestion has been to offer a social business mark to all CICs for free? opinion?


Im confused and a little tired with this, how can we finally get to a situation where I dont have to bother anymore?  


Your guidance please


Hi Everyone

The brand identifier has been delayed, and we want to use this time to gather more member opinion on it and feed that back into the powers that be. It seems we are all very keen to improve awareness, which is the aim of the Identifier, but it doesnt seem to be a popular product with a few serious problems.

We'd like to hear your opinion whatever it is, so far we've had a range of opinions in from members but a couple of clear themes are emerging. I hope to stimulate the debate by making a couple of statements as a default position, and will adapt them subject to your feedback. It would be great if you could post your replies onto this blog, but im aware some of you would prefer to email me direct at

We hope to get a chance to put your views before any decisions are made.

1. CIC Association CIC members feel it would be unfair on CICs to have to pay a second audit fee for the Mark , when we pay for and prove our status as social enterprise via the Regulator. Having to pay this charge every year would be unfair to CICs , who already prove their status to the Regulator every year with our Annual Community Interest Test. We want an exemption for CICs from having to pay any second audit fee to be able to use the Social Enterprise Mark.

2. CICs would like to ensure any awareness campaigns include CICs and explanations of what CIC is what we as practitioners do. We'd like to ensure we maximise the opportunity to raise CIC awareness at the same time, as we have no awareness budget.

On a lighter note, we 've just burst through the 500 members and have some really positive announcements coming shortly, keep those suggestions and offers coming!


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Comment by Adrian Ashton on September 2, 2011 at 17:03

an article published recently over on the Guardian Social Enterprise Network ( seems to have re-ignited this debate, not only for the arguments presented in the piece itself (including the role and contribution of the co-op movement to social enterprise today) but also for what's coming out in the comments section...


well worth a read

Comment by evangeline on March 4, 2011 at 20:59

 point two is important although my business includes cic in its title name the business plan  guidelines only state that cic is a regulator of the business and the business itself is a social enterprise with no explnation as to what cic is, however if we are community related surely the clue is in the name community interest companies?


My defination is: CIC's are built around sevring the community in several ways, with projects designed around community cohesion which is its primary aim and for which it has been established.   ????

Comment by John Mulkerrin on February 15, 2011 at 19:55

Thanks everyone,  a lot to take on board. I'll update if we get a response the Mark Company and kick it down the priority list.


Am keen to discuss whether CIC is a brand (as co-op is recognised maybe), In the Govts recent doc Growing The Social Investment Market Feb 2011 they cite 'appropriate legal structures are vital', and that the ' CIC structure provides a clear signal to investors that the enterprise operates for the benefit of the community, and that this social purpose is protected in law' ....I was thinking how CIC could be used to package social activity in a way that attracts the growing social investor opportunity.


I think CIC could be recognised as a brand in that perspective, CIC Bonds for example.  More to come on those very shortly :-)



Comment by Steve Blake on February 14, 2011 at 22:53

Social Enterprise Mark Forget it, this is one CIC who would never bother with it.


I am running a CIC to help people not pay for flash offices in London with high paid executives.

The CIC assocation has more memebers and therefore in my view are more representive of Social Enterprises, or the Third Sector or anything else you want to name it.


For get them and lets do ot ourselves. We do it better anyway.




Comment by Rory Ridley-Duff on February 13, 2011 at 13:12

I tend to support Jeff's thoughts.  The conversations that have surfaced in response to the SEM tend to be critical of its emphasis on standardised criteria, rather than helping social enterprises to undertake their own social accounting/reporting against criteria set by their own membership.  

In defense of the efforts of SEM (and others), however, there is the issue of gaining recognition for social enterprise generally (in competition with private enterprises), and also a need to defend the values of the social enterprise sector.  The problem is that the values of the sector are much broader and more diverse than those embedded in the SEM, and also that the process of evaluation reinforces, rather than rejects, the homeostatic (i.e. target-driven, standards driven) business culture that has done so much damage to the social economy.  

Much better to talk to and respond to clients, service users and customers that seek to curry favour with those developing quality marks (which inevitably leads to the creation of hierarchies of status and control).



Comment by Jeff Mowatt on February 13, 2011 at 12:17

John, As you'll see I added to your comment on Social Enterprise Magazine relating my experience with the people who created the SE Mark who I saw as a support agency for social enterprise in the South West. My experience was that this was not forthcoming, though what the SE Mark was eventually to come up with some 4 years later was quite close to the model I described in writing.

After that , my feeling was - why should I be approved by an organisation on the basis of how we'd been operating in the UK since 2004.

Though the process was even more expensive I took the decision to become a member of SEE What You Are Buying Into.  This is not about any particular model but an evaluation of social, environmental and ethical standards which is also very time consuming.

My point about these standards authorities is that they are grant funded by taxes that those like us who are self sustaining must pay to in turn be excluded by them as the "authority". 

Are these authorities using their own money and taking risks, financial or physical, to achieve a social outcome?

Solidarity is what's needed most, not all the showcasing and award giving sycophancy . I appealed for this recently on Our Society where it was evident that quite a number of  those involved in community broadband initiatives were being undermined by their local councils.





Comment by Rory Ridley-Duff on February 12, 2011 at 11:30
Difficult stuff. I have roots in the co-operative sector (as a management committee member of two cooperative organisations), in social enterprise education (as a lecturer at Sheffield Business School and author of an M-Level textbook on social enterprise) and as a non-exec director of Viewpoint Research CIC (that bid for the SEC State of Social Enterprise Survey but narrowly lost out to the appointed organisation). So, I have mixed feelings about all this and different interests in the SEM / Social Enterprise debate. Part of the problem goes back to the original consultation on CICs - the debate about stakeholder and workplace democracy was ignored by the government (even though there was more support for than against this requirement). This alienated many of the founders of the social enterprise movement - with roots in the co-operative sector - and many of these people have turned back to non-CIC IPS / CLG / CLS forms to satisfy their organisational needs. In the case of the Co-operative Enterprise Hub, 'social enterprise' is a term that is notably for its absence. Having bid for, and received, the Social Enterprise Mark (SEM) at Viewpoint CIC, it became obvious that the SEM itself is tailored for the CIC (i.e. that the value propositions embedded in the CIC legislation have been carried forward to the SEM) so it reproduces the problems that the CIC itself created in terms of branding/recognition. I can, therefore, sympathise with those here who believe there should be no further audit fee. As a director of a CIC, I think the SEM is valuable (even at the higher rate). I think it helps our profile and marketing, and we've got concrete evidence that we've won business as a result of holding the mark. So it has value in that context. As an educator, I'm mostly dissatisfied with the SEM. I worked for an organisation that was one of the founding subscribers to Social Enterprise London, and was one of the signatories to their M & A. I shudder when I think how many
Comment by Todd Hannula on February 12, 2011 at 1:26
Drive your business and social impact forward. Create long lasting, exciting businesses. This is the mark you want: not a SE mark or even a CIC mark. I would like to see this group work on the regulation issues (like the onerous 100% asset lock and severe dividend restrictions--no, I don't think recent changes make that much difference) that are preventing the model from attracting a larger group of potential investors and social entrepreneurs. Besides that, I would like to see continuation of sharing around the use of profits to make an impact.
Comment by John Mulkerrin on February 11, 2011 at 19:22

David, fair play.......I agree, I just dont want CIC to be shut out, it's too important. As individual CICs we will all have the usual stresses and strains to deal with, thats not what my concern is.

The SEC gave funding to a Mark that is run by an SEC board member, and the money wasnt put out to an open bid process, I dont want that to be the case any more. Do you really think ive enjoyed wasting all that time playing stupid games?  

Comment by John Mulkerrin on February 11, 2011 at 19:14
to give context to my previous post, Im stating CIC development should have been prioritised over the Mark............a bit of funding and support from social enterprise support structures would have enabled us to have this work done already.


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