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Archive for February, 2011

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!

Peter

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It’s Friday and another week has flown by (really, where do they go?!). There’s been some serious but exciting planning for the future at SEC HQ, productive meetings, a good time at the Guardian’s Public Services Summit, I’ve met some newcomers to social enterprise who are at the beginning of their journeys, and enjoyed the glorious morning sunshine that we were given in London earlier in the week as I cycled through the capital on my way to work. SEC also welcomed some amazing new members on board (thank you to those who came by our offices and said hello in person – lovely to meet you).

But that’s enough about me and SEC. Three announcements from within Westminster were made this week that are important news for our members and the wider movement.

The first is that ‘clawback rights’ are on their way out. They’ve been a huge barrier, stopping social enterprises from leveraging finance against their assets when public funds have been used to finance them.

The second is that a number of big banks are clubbing together to give £200million to set up the Big Society Bank. No, the sum isn’t huge, but it is an opportunity for social enterprises to show the banks what they can do. Here’s hoping the capital becomes available soon.

And the third is that a number of measures are being put in place to make sure that a quarter of Government business goes to SMEs, and that more contracts are won by social enterprises and charities. Definitely a good start, but we want to see (at least) 25% of Government business go to SMEs that are social enterprises. Fingers crossed Government gives our movement a more open door in the future so that those public spending decisions can go further in benefitting our people and our planet, rather than simply growing the profit margins of private sector businesses.

A big thank you to our members and others who fed into the consultations we submitted on these issues. We’re here to represent you and ensure your voices are heard.

Happy weekends to you all.
Peter

Ps. Enter to win free tickets to Voice11 every week between now and the event on 30th March!!

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