So here in California we assemble at the World Forum to understand the global implications of our movement…
The conference started for me on Tuesday as a steering group member to begin the planning of the 2011 conference in Johannesburg.
Organising a national conference in the UK is a big enough job. International conferences require much more delicate planning. Coordinating the best time of year for all six continents to converge in one place is almost impossible. Weather, national social enterprise conferences, other conferences, delegate security, sporting events, school holidays, public holidays, to name but a few, all need to be taken into consideration. But hey, we got there in the end.
Today (Thursday) the first full day of the conference began. I was speaking in the main plenary for just over an hour alongside Jim Schorr from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University, Anne Jamieson of the Toronto Enterprise Fund and Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy at the US Department of Labor. Comparing the state of social enterprise and its relationship with government was the theme. Five years ago the UK was told that we were decades behind the US – today we lead the world.
UK delegate after UK delegate came and said just how proud they were to be part of the UK social enterprise movement when they had an opportunity to reflect on the progress we’ve made over the last five years when compared to the US and Canada.
Queues formed to get copies of our manifesto, our survey results and to get more information on the Mark. Offers flooded in to operate as Social Enterprise Mark franchisees. And civil servants from across the world declared just how much they have to learn from us and were eager for advice and guidance.
I met up with many from the UK nations who have supported SEC tirelessly to get us where we are today. Our thanks of course go to Antonia from Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition, Gerry Higgins from CEiS, delegates from Ireland, John Bennett the new CEO of Welsh Social Enterprise Coalition and the many others that have helped the movement along the way.
Sometimes you need an international perspective to appreciate just how far we have come, without of course losing sight of still how far we still have to go.