Social enterprise got a good press today at the ACEVO Annual conference. It was standing room only to hear Francis Maude, Tessa Jowell, Hilary Armstrong former Cabinet Office Minister and Patrick Diamond tell us about the future. Both Francis, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Patrick who is Head of Policy Development for No 10 made special mention of social enterprise. Both went out of their way to map out the opportunites particularly in public service reform. Tessa mentioned HCT in her speech and when I came back to her on 2012 and social enterprise she offered to work with SEL on an event where social enterprises could set out their stalls to 2012 contractors. She said that £1 billion was about to go out, so watch this space!
Coming away from the conference I am struck by how many people don't realise how much our world is going to change next year. This troubles me. I think all bets are going to be off. Numbers are going to count like never before like how many jobs you can create or units you can sell. Contracts are going to be tight and despite the Conservatives commitment to maintaining grants, a good thing in my opinion as so much of the wonderful VCS rely upon them, still I don't believe they will increase in volume. Nothing will, other than potentially the distress caused by cuts. In conversation after the plenary Hilary told be that she felt there was still a job to be done to convince the Treasury that social enterprise had anything other than a bit part to play. Time to role the sleeves up again and get in there I think. It is for that reason that conferences like ACEVO's are critical for all of us to get into the zone, to hear what the politicians are thinking and planning and start drawing up our campaigns, I have my Winston Churchill monocle in as I speak, appropriate given the weekend brings us Rememberence Day.
Earlier on this week I had lunch with Stephen Bubb the CEO of ACEVO and Gordon D'Silva the Founder and CEO of Training for Life. One of the things Gordon told us was that over 25% of TfL's beneficiaries had come to them from the Armed Forces and often the streets. I know from colleagues working in the homeless world like Jeremy Swain at Thames Reach, who got a great name check from Hilary today at the conference, that the number of folk on the streets who are ex-service is shockingly high. How great a price do members of the armed forces have to pay in our name? If they survive the battlefield how far from a hero's welcome is a wet cardboard box on a cold street.
As we wear our poppies this weekend and observe the silence as I always do having, like too many, lost members of my family in both the First and Second World wars (My Grandfather lost his three brothers in the 1st) I will think of those who are being blown to bits in Afghanistan and the men and women back home traumatised, unable to readjust and forgotten by all but the social enterprises and charities trying to help them.