I started as usual with the accompaniment of the Today Programme. Not necessarily the start to Valentine’s Day that I would have chosen. Within half an hour social enterprise had been mentioned at least a dozen times. It seems to me as if this is a small but significant breakthrough. Up until now the likes of Francis Maude and Phillip Blond have continued to use the term when interviewed on the beeb but whether its James Naughtie or John Humpries whose doing the interviewing they have resolutely stuck to the narrative of charities and volunteers.
I met Nick Hurd this morning. Having done the rounds in the media all morning it had clearly been an early start but he continues to be totally sincere about his aspirations for social enterprise. He accepted that the Government needed to get onto the front foot and provide more clarity and less abstract interpretation of the big society vision.
I shared my frustration at how the social enterprise message continues to be confused by allowing the continued conflation with voluntary groups and charities and how the government is as culpable of this as the media is. Although the Evening Standard may perhaps prove the exception to the rule.
Nick shared with me an early release of the social investment strategy. We are no longer part of the third sector, nor civil society, nor even big society, we are now, all of us, social ventures…a broad collective of everything that’s good. And umbrellas are out! We’re now social venture intermediaries. But let’s not get too hung up on terms… This afternoon I went to the launch of the strategy with Francis Maude, Sir Ronnie Cohen and Nick Hurd. We almost have a big society bank and its shaping up to be just what we need. Cabinet Office has taken on board our thoughts and we have a starting point. Many may feel that this is the end of a very long journey. Some of us have been talking about the need for a social investment wholesaler for a very long time. But I’m sure this is just the start. What will start with a few hundred million quid will rapidly, I am sure, evolve into something much bigger. Supply will grow as demand is demonstrated and we will have born here in Britain a concept and a financial instrument that will be replicated by almost every other country in the world. Because it’s needed. Capital is essential to enable growth of the social enterprise movement and we must celebrate that we have been heard and that what has emerged is both bold and brave in these challenging times.
That doesn’t mean that the world is perfect. Social enterprise must be recognized as a tool for economic growth not just as a useful mechanism to address market failure. Only when we are seen as a very real serious economic solution and not just a bunch of social ventures will victory be ours!