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The State of Social Enterprises in Sri Lanka

The term ‘Social Enterprise’ is relatively new to Sri Lanka, although the practice of employing business approaches and leveraging market mechanisms to address social problems has a long and distinguished history in the country, in the form of co-operatives, thrift societies, and welfare and development societies.

In the past decade, there has been a surge in social entrepreneurship across Sri Lanka, with new social enterprises established to tackle a myriad of social and environmental problems and foster social inclusion, economic integration and sustainable development.

Commissioned by the British Council and based on methodology developed for our Global Social Enterprise programme, the research was carried out by Lanka Ventures and Social Enterprise UK with support from United Nations ESCAP and a number of other partners.

It finds that social enterprises are active in all of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts and nine provinces, with many operating in multiple locations, and that they are addressing issues at the village level, nationally and, in some cases, internationally.

The survey also confirms that the sector is growing rapidly, with 38 per cent of all social enterprises set up in the past ten years. It estimates that today there are between 6,000 15,000 social enterprises in Sri Lanka. Additionally, it evaluates the growth rates of these enterprises and identifies the social objectives they aim to achieve.

The findings indicate that the sector is vibrant and increasingly diverse, with social enterprises adopting a range of business models and operating across the manufacturing, agriculture, cultural, creative and environmental protection sectors. And these organisations are ambitious, with strong aspirations to increase sales with existing customers and diversify into new markets.

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