Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Let's grab more vote for the Social Enterprise Party

Hard days these. On one side the long-distance running of setting up a new venture. Lonely, pressurised, anxious. On the other, the raft of things that suck up my time but also keep me sane - Councillor, School Governor, Trustee.

Like a lot of people, I am actually well-suited to portfolio-living. But try as I might it doesn't pay the bills. And new busineses require, really 90% plus of your time. This one is getting about 75% - and I am now bursting at the seams.

However, I am ignoring the textbook and carrying on plural. Part of my reason for setting up in business is becoming free. Chucking in my community commitments is kind of defeating the objective. This is why although Stepping Out is not a social business in the technical sense, it feels like it is because I am clearly foregoing work and profit to do other stuff that is essentially, given-time.

Stepping Out's area of work - helping social enterprises emerge from the public sector - is at last being talked about. My good friend Peter Holbrook of SEC isn't convinced that these emergent enterprises should all qualify as social enterprises. I see his point - they are often legally still quite tied into the state, particularly Foundation Trusts. But my argument has always been that there's a big, ambiguous space emerging between straight profit-driven FTSE100, City capitalism and simple charities. This large praire contains thousands of organisations rom socially minded businesses through to public sector spin-outs. A new and growing `centre-ground' between pure white of charity and red claw of turbo-capitalism.

Being a politician I see this new space as up-for-grabs by the Social Enterprise Party. Much rather us go in and co-opt these people than leave untended a huge flock of similar-minded organisations which could widen our movement. This debate will rumble on in its friendly fashion. Although I disagree with Peter on some things, he is one of the best things that has happened in the social enterprise sector for many years. I just hope he is able to expand SEC to absorb this burgeoning and unchallenged middle-ground.

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