Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Getting in the mood

I knew it was December 1 today as dawn found me furiously hunting for a Santa hat. My daughter, Katie is singing carols with her class at the O2 tonight and I was informed solemnly this morning that ‘everyone else would be wearing a Santa hat, but don’t worry, it doesn’t matter’. My working mother’s guilt went into overdrive as I tore the house apart, finding no hat. I rang friends and neighbours, they had no hat, and finally I went shopping. I was aghast, and disproportionately grateful to find our local party shop open at 8.30am. I fell through the doors, told the shop keeper I loved her (alarming her I think) and bought three Santa hats, later informing the school receptionist that the others were for any class mates who might have parents that also missed the Santa hat memo.

Like every working parent I know, keeping up with school correspondence is a real challenge. Like every working mother I know, they are a source of constant guilt. I have had dozens of emails in the last week from the children’s schools, scouts and brownie associations asking for donations, preparation time and time on the day for their respective Christmas fairs (interestingly my husband gets none of these despite me making sure they have his email address as well.) I do what I can, making cakes at midnight and bagging up tat, and I heartily congratulate those who do so much more. However each and every email does serve to remind me that not everyone is living their lives at break neck speed. An odd, but curiously comforting thought.

Still I love life in the fast lane so social enterprise is a good place to be. Things are always shifting as we work away at the coal face of social change. Talking of change, I recently heard on the grapevine that there are key folk interested in changing the term social enterprise to social business, which is what the Japanese call it. Given the time and effort we have taken to build the brand of social enterprise, I think this could set us back. We need to focus resources on cranking up the social enterprise profile and fighting the corner of social entrepreneurs who are feeling the heat of cut backs, cut-throat markets and competitive contract tenders. Besides, I’m not sure 'social businesspreneur' would catch on???

The position of social enterprise, as we become more successful, will get more adversarial. So hang on to your Santa hats folks. Sadly we have unions like Unite and Unison producing anti-social enterprise leaflets; we have people like Peter Jones from Dragons Den talking about social entrepreneurs as a bad credit risk as if that were a matter of fact (I gave a rather blunt interview to a reporter yesterday on my public challenge to Peter Jones at the British Library when he made that unhelpful comment) and we have some voluntary sector leaders questioning social enterprise as either privatisation by the back door, or voluntary sector organisations masquerading as social enterprises to unfairly compete for funding. Make your mind up.

My job and SEL’s is to address these misconceptions and promote the real stories that are improving society through business.

To this end I met yesterday with Gerry Walsh and Mike Cornelius respective heads of procurement for LOCOG and the Olympic Delivery Authority. They were resolutely optimistic about the chances of social enterprises delivering some of the final £1.3 billion pounds worth of 2012 contracts. They both urged me to encourage SEL members to register on the procurement vehicle Compete For, and Gerry in particular highlighted transport as the next big opportunity. Such was their enthusiasm we concluded the meeting with an agreement to hold a joint event bringing them together with interested social enterprises. I am hoping the Cabinet Office will agree and if we do manage to get their support I will be in touch to let folk know when that is going to happen. Obviously given the timing of events, the sooner the better, so watch this space.

I relentlessly sell social enterprises, a part of my job I relish, made easier by the existence of wonderful organisations like the City of London Migraine Centre where I got life changing treatment for my migraines. Having suffered since my teens I had no idea how effectively migraines can be treated by the world class experts at the clinic. So when disaster struck on Saturday and I had one of my rare aura migraines that temporarily rob me of peripheral vision, I was able to take medication that restored me to the extent, that Katie and I made the rather lovely Gingerbread house below.

The result of the O-N's gingerbread house construction project. Kevin McLeod would be impressed.

"It’s too early" I hear you cry. Let me defend myself. It was a rotten afternoon, I was housebound and the pile of sweets I had bought to make the gingerbread house was fast disappearing into the mouths of short ghosts. Lastly I am a firm believer in prior planning and not leaving anything to the last minute. It is because of this that I am able to feign composure when our family and friends invade by the legion over the festive period.

Anyway I am a self confessed Christmas junkie and love the whole thing, more is more in my book so Ho Ho Ho to all you Grinches. For those of you getting in the mood but too busy to get to the shops I have posted some links to Christmas shopping sites in the right hand column (scroll up!). Let me know what you think.

Finally I urge you all to get out there and buy your Divine Chocolate advent calendars. It’s not too late!!!

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