I've been to a few ministerial lunches where the hand picked guests make their case on a given topic for the benefit of the politician present. Our little lunch, with private, public and social enterprise leaders upping the anti on buying from social enterprise, this Thursday, was different. For a start Angela Smith, our Minister, was totally on the money, she didn't stand on ceremony and she really got stuck in sharing her views and asking loads of questions. Secondly everyone present was equally animated, leading to the most exciting conversation on procurement you can imagine. Thanks to the LDA for supporting us in making it happen.
Angela was shadowing Sophi Tranchell from Divine Chocolate for the day, as part of a social enterprise Ambassadors Programme initative. She told me she was learning all about the chocolate world and found it really interesting. Not unsurprisingly, I suppose.
At the lunch, held at the Baltic in Southwark, we did talk about Government being a bad shopper, but much more engaging than that we heard from Ray Mills, Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers who told us about his clients that want to spend millions with social enterprise. Our old friend Colin Crooks, CEO at Green Works confirmed that in the early days their first contract with HSBC came in at 28 times their turnover. That's unthinkable in the public sector where contracts are often a maximum of no more than 25% of turnover. So maybe if social enterprises are to grow quickly, as Green Works did, the private sector as purchaser, is the place to start.
In any event no one was talking about CSR. For the big business in the room, social enterprise was a provider, not a post divided investment in PR. That has to be good news.
I'm looking forward to a day at the allotment. Because I have had so much on I have only been able to stay on top of the garden. I sorted out my 2010 seeds last night and put my seed potatoes out to chit (technical term for sprouting shoots) and tomorrow I'll be pruning my apple trees and soft fruits. I will no doubt end the day looking like I've had a fight with a mad cat, covered in scratches, but frankly, I can't wait. My idea of fun.