The Linguist

The Linguist 57,4 - August/September 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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FEATURES SUPPORT STAFF Interpreter training at Enable2, which reinvests its profits in the business, as well as using them to fund charitable work, often with a health focus 14 The Linguist Vol/57 No/4 2018 Are social enterprises the future for business? Miranda Moore explores the non-profit interpreting companies generating income for the greater good "Social enterprises show us what the future of business can look like," declared Victor Adebowale, Chair of Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), as the organisation launched its 2017 report on the state of the sector. "These are credible businesses, competing in the open market but set up in a way that addresses some of the biggest issues we face… They are showing traditional businesses how social impact and profit can go hand in hand." According to the report, social enterprises are now outperforming for-profit SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in terms of turnover growth, start-up rates and diversity in leadership, among other measures. But such statistics alone may not be enough to convince entrepreneurial interpreters to adopt a not-for-profit model. Jeanice Lee, Executive Director of Elite Linguists, started out with a traditional limited company specialising in public service interpreting (PSI), but changed her business model in 2011 after working with an organisation building the capacity of voluntary bodies and social enterprises. "As PSI interpreters, we are part of public service delivery and, to me, that shouldn't be treated as a commodity. That was our starting premise," she explains. A lack of profits for company owners and shareholders is what sets Elite apart from a traditional business. "We are still a company limited by guarantee, but we are a community-interest company," says Lee. The day-to-day running of the business hasn't changed – they still need to maintain accounts, register for VAT and manage payroll etc – but while a traditional business might be established in the hope of one day selling it on, "Elite is not ours to sell," she explains. "I am an employee like everyone else; the profit doesn't go into my pocket. I'm very happy to earn a decent wage from what I love doing; I don't want to get rich from it. Although I do have a say in how we use the money we make to achieve our social aims." To date, this has involved subsidising a training programme for interpreters, in addition to adhering to the standard commitments of any ethically run business, such as fair remuneration, prompt payment and quality service. Because it is not accountable to shareholders, Elite also has greater freedom to take on loss-making work, such as legal aid interpreting and pro bono work for charities, to ensure vulnerable people can access language services, while interpreters are still paid fairly. The set-up at VoiceOver Interpreting is similar, says Manager Fraser Macinnes: "The lack of shareholder demands means we've never felt the pressure to reduce our interpreters' hourly rate or increase the cost to our clients." However, less pressure to make big margins does not mean the business has no need to make money at all – a common misconception. In fact, social enterprises operate on the same commercial lines as any other business, and VoiceOver was set up in 2011 specifically to generate money – its profits funding the work of the Govan Community Project, a charity supporting refugees in the Govan area of Glasgow. Because it works with the local immigrant community, Govan Community Project requires interpreting services, and an in-house service evolved initially to meet that need. "It seemed a small step from organising interpreters in-house to selling that as a service to other organisations," says Macinnes. There was a clear, niche market to serve among third-sector organisations working with the migrant community, and VoiceOver's biggest clients today include the British Red Cross and Scottish Refugee Council. It provides work for around 150 interpreters in 55 languages. Enable2 also began life in-house, as the interpreting service for Bradford and Airdale Primary Care Trust. "There was an opportunity to generate income from the interpreting service by working with other organisations as Keeping a good company

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