Archive for March, 2011

Well we’re back at SEC towers after a long but inspiring VOICE 11 and UK Social Enterprise Awards event.

We struggled in late this morning battered and bruised and with sore feet and drained batteries on our pedometers… I had clocked up 19,027 steps from the time I was pedded up at 12.30pm until the time I got to my bed at 4.30am. Given that I had been at The O2 since 7.30am I reckon I’m entitled to add at least another 10,000 steps to that total.

But getting in this morning was a treat; we shared the texts, tweets and emails and it was a joy. The overwhelming sentiment is that we got it mostly right; people have said that we listened to last year’s feedback, adapted the format and delivered what you had asked for and that for everyone good business was done. Some have fed back that based upon the business deals done yesterday that they’ll being employing extra staff and I hope that we hear and that you share many similar stories with us too. It’s really important we capture your experiences and stories from Voice11 so we can learn from you and expand the event’s future impact so please get in touch with us. We know the venue was cold, particularly for exhibitors, but I’m amazed that someone didn’t think to go buy some gloves, scarves and thermals and set up a pop up shop!

We at SEC can make all sorts of things happen but alas the weather was out of our control.

The People’s Food Company did a sterling job in keeping a constant supply of hot drinks available to delegates, which certainly helped stop the onset of hypothermia for many. We were delighted by the content of the live debates and they certainly created a stir in the twittersphere. The workshops we hear were practical, purposeful and covered the agendas you said you wanted.

I was delighted that Andrew Lansley chose Voice to announce another £10m worth of funding for social enterprise investment, I was thrilled that the Prime Minister had understood the uniqueness of the sector in his video message and that Nick Hurd was willing to roll up his sleeves and chair a fascinating debate on the future of CSR. Great too that Vince Cable was on hand to reiterate his department’s commitment to social enterprise as a great and sensible way of doing business sustainably. And it was fab to see M&S, BP, BBC, Diageo, Google Logica, Natwest, O2 and many other corporates send along senior executives to learn to listen and to understand.

We don’t have final numbers but we’re expecting the final count to be over 1300 attendees. The success is in large part down to the energy, ideas and business you brought with you so thanks for your enthusiastic support.

The awards have always been a personal highlight of the year for me. It was such a celebration, such a high spirited, friendly, exciting event. I spent lots of time with the winners from the heats and the UK nominees, and I know just how much the recognition means for them all. Ecovation were up against Stonelaw High School Traders for the Young Social Enterprise of the Year Award. Stonelaw took the UK prize back to Scotland and I thought it was incredibly touching when the 25 young people from Ecovation instinctively stood and gave their competitors an impassioned standing ovation when Stonelaw were announced as the winners.

All the winners and nominees were great. “The best day of our lives” said Ecovation, and they enthused this shortly after they’d found out that they hadn’t won the UK prize. What an outstanding group of young people we have within our movement.

Alexander Armstrong was on sparkling form, Ed Miliband said it was like being back with his extended family.

It was a truly great event. The tireless work, the long days, the reliance on sugar, caffeine and nurofen that staff here at SEC have had to endure are temporarily over. We will rest a bit, but not sit back on our laurels. We’ve got a lot to do. We want to know your Voice experiences, what you loved, what you hated and what we could have done better. And we want your ideas and vision for the next big event – planning will start soon.

I’m off to the Social Enterprise World Forum on Sunday so watch out for my tweets. In South Africa, alongside looking at how social enterprise can catalyze sustainable development, we’ll be working on a global campaign strategy to support Mohammad Yunus. I’ll let you know how we get on.

Thanks for your support and hello to our new members who joined yesterday. Welcome aboard.



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I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Social Enterprise Coalition offices as busy as they are now. We’re almost ready for what is turning into a spectacular Voice11, with a big final run on tickets in the last couple of days. When I say it’s not like anything we’ve done before, I really mean it. The online programme shows the massive breadth and sheer amount of stuff happening across the day. Delegates won’t know what to choose. It’s going to be like a festival where you’re not sure which act to see for fear of missing out (minus the alcohol of course – stay on for the Social Enterprise Awards for that!)

The build at The O2 has begun – the Live Quarter is being transformed. We listened to what people said after Voice10 in Cardiff and what they wanted next time so we hope it’s everything you asked for. As well as us having gone out there to bring you the most inspiring speakers and thinkers, it’s great that lots of people and organisations (including some VIPS) have come to us wanting to be at Voice11.

I can’t wait to see old friends from within the movement as well as welcome lots of new faces. It’ll be fantastic for us to be together under one (rather gigantic) roof. If you haven’t yet put your name down for the reception tonight, the day before the big event, please do.

From all the staff at SEC and our Board, we looking forward to seeing you and your colleagues there.


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The Prime Minister was making some bold statements about enterprise this weekend;

“The enterprise culture is alive and well in this country, now we just need an enterprise government to go with it.”

Well in my little part of London there is definitely growing confusion between exactly what an enterprise culture is… two consecutive Fridays and two consecutive burglaries (will someone please tell the burglars in Wanstead about the difference between crime, enterprise and perhaps even introduce the notion of social enterprise to them?). To be honest I’ve not had too much time to even notice these recent intrusions because we are so incredibly busy with VOICE 11, the UK Social Enterprise Awards, end of year, rebranding and a few other things like the Mutuals task force, bid writing, contract delivery and policy consultations on everything from community rights, Big Society bank, cutting red tape, GP commissioning and the future of the forests.

And so it’s easy to miss out on the narrative around just how many serious opportunities there could well be for social enterprise in the coming months and years. The PM also said “So I can announce today that we are taking on the enemies of enterprise… the public sector procurement managers who think that the answer to everything is a big contract with a big business and who shut out millions of Britain’s small and medium sized companies from a massive potential market.”

I’m not sure it’s the just the fault of procurement managers but much more the culture within which these managers have to work, however our movement should be poised to take advantage of these forthcoming opportunities because if we don’t it will be our communities and other beneficiaries that will miss out. So how will collectively grab these opportunities? Well back to VOICE11.

Together with O2, we are making sure Voice will be the most exciting, exhilarating and purposeful event in our history. Dynamic and interactive, yes, but most importantly it will be good for the businesses that attend and take part. The sheer scale of the O2 in London means that there’s much more on offer than ever before. There will be hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of investment up for grabs on the day, amazing interactive sessions for every size of business and every area of trade. We have some very prominent politicians, a whole host of trading social enterprises, live debates and spot-on legal advice, tax and accountancy consultations and HR support. The event will reflect the vibrancy of the sector. We have huge networking zones, a twitter forest, social enterprise caterers, and a spectacular youth zone dedicated to what’s being delivered by and for the UK’s young people.

And the UK Social Enterprise Awards follow directly afterwards – the four nations category winners will be competing for the seven categories in the UK awards and more than ever we have some incredibly inspiring and entrepreneurial nation winners and UK award entrants. Oh and a very special compere for the event.

I can’t tell you how excited we all are.

And I can’t wait to see you all there!

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