The classic ‘cake or biscuit’ Jaffa Cake conundrum recently re-emerged on Radio 4’s ‘the Philosophers’ Arms’.

The programme was using the Jaffa Cake as the basis for a discussion about definitions and the value (or non-value) of attempting to define something. Are there universal definitions? What does a definition tell us about the thing in question and the wider world? All heavy stuff!

For me, the Jaffa Cake discussion highlights the dangers of following supposed models, tags and definitions without challenge and, most importantly, without regard for what your own organisation is trying to be and achieve.

Why be a biscuit or a cake? Maybe you are a Jaffa Cake… something that is different and distinct. The important point is that the legal vehicle and governance structure needs to suit your organisation. It should be appropriately distinct and act as the foundation for your artistic and creative vision. It also needs to fit with the proposed funding basis: grants, lending, equity, social investment or mixtures?

It is also important to avoid prescriptively defining ‘social enterprise’. There is no such legal vehicle choice as social enterprise. Rather, social enterprise is about how and what the organisation is trying to achieve. ‘Social enterprise’ can be delivered by a range of legal vehicles – and does not automatically lead an organisation to use a Community Interest Company.

So, whatever legal vehicle is to be used, the starting points are to think about funding, investment, decision-making and governance as they apply to what you want to achieve. Be wary of definitions and think Jaffa Cakes.