The Southeast Credit Union: The Social Enterprise Reviving Human Dignity

In this part, the Southeast Credit Union is presented as an example of a social enterprise that through its activity helps people deprived of dignity to win back this basic yet priceless value. Malala Yousafzai—a Pakistani activist for women’s rights and female education, and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate—in her speech to the UN General Assembly said “I speak not for myself but for those without voice ... those who have fought for their rights ... their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated” (The Independent 2013). These words precisely define the attitude, behaviour, and motivation of people who support others through the Southeast Credit Union.

The Southeast Credit Union (SCU)

The Southeast Credit Union was launched in 2006 in a seaside resort in southeast England, and was created to provide financial services such as saving and loan opportunities on favourable conditions to its members who own and run the organisation. Thus, the credit union is a community organisation socially owned and run where members borrow money from savings pooled by other members. The SCU was established by enterprising individuals who noticed a significant group of people struggling in the town. They decided to help them and came to the conclusion that the best way to do it would be through a credit union—the first organisation of this type in the town. They chose such a form because they wanted to encourage people to be active in improving their own lives.

The mission of the Southeast Credit Union has three core principles that relate to helping people. The first and most important one constitutes a foundation for the SCU operation: supporting people financially by offering cheap loans and bank accounts. The Southeast Credit Union proposes financial terms and conditions to optimise the social benefits to the recipients of the funding and to enable them to integrate better in society. Moreover, the SCU addresses its offers to all members of its community, whether they are the homeless, the average members of the community, or people coming from any other social groups. This reflects the diversity of the social base to which the credit union offers its funding. The second principle, resulting from the previous one, is to teach the SCU members money management, and the last one, which is not explicitly stated, is to give the SCU volunteers experience and to build their confidence.

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