We were not surprised by Francis Maude’s comments that Government funding should go directly to community organisations rather than social enterprise umbrella bodies (at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event organised by SEC and Demos on Sunday) because no-one expects to receive such funding for the same things they have always done when the landscape has altered so radically.
Any organisation that hasn’t been working hell-for-leather on its sustainability plan in recent months needs to take a look out of the window. Anyone who represents social enterprise needs to walk the walk. SEC is a social enterprise in its own right and has agreed major changes to its business model to ensure its sustainability. But our first objective remains to support and enable the social enterprise movement.
The social enterprise movement has never been in greater need of investment in its national infrastructure. The Big Society needs a much bigger social enterprise sector and upscaling this can only happen with the help of SEC and the other support bodies.
At the Conservative Party Conference we have seen huge enthusiasm for social enterprise from MPs, ministers and think tanks: a real thirst for the work we are doing to join up organisations across the UK and replicate some of the phenomenal results that social enterprises are already delivering.
A national infrastructure to support the growth of social enterprise is vital. Social enterprises need access to capital; public sector organisations need support to bring more social enterprise to the communities they serve. Small to medium-sized businesses – in and outside of the private sector – are going to get the economy moving and local enterprise partnerships need to know how social enterprise works, what it can deliver and how to support it.
In the wake of the economic crisis we cannot go back to business as usual. Social Enterprise can radically alter the landscape but the sector needs Government support to deliver on the promise. Luckily we have a Government that has signalled its support for the sector again and again.