Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Making friends in Merton

Today I chaired a social enterprise event in Merton. I really enjoyed it as the group the council had brought together were really on the ball. We had old hands like Nick Temple from the School for Social Entrepreneurs and some fresh faces from Merton based social enterprises like the inspiring Annys Darkwa from Vision Housing which works with newly released ex-offenders to find suitable, sustainable housing. The purpose of the meeting was to give the council a steer on taking their plan for social enterprise development on to the next level. James McGinlay, Head of Sustainable Communities at Merton Council opened the session and laid out his commitment to making Merton a place where social enterprise is making real impact. I was listening intently as SEL are about to publish a route map for local authorities to engage with social enterprise and achieve maximum return on investment.

As I keep saying, if you mean to do something then you are more likely to do just that. By the same vein, if Councils set about to grow social enterprise, they'll do it.

Much of what was said this aternoon underlined the 4 key pillars in the route map. These pillars are firstly to extend the right to request to all public services. This would encourage and enable public employees and community activists to spin off a given service, out of direct public management, whilst improving it. Secondly we are arguing for local and central government  to invest in developing a culture of entrepreneurship within communities through existing networks. My plea to all government is not to establish new support bodies but work through existing ones with a proven track record. Thirdly social enterprise creates jobs, it should therefore be a priority within every economic development strategy. Lastly procurement and commissioning guidelines should include social clauses, these will ensure the public sector gets the most from social enterprise and they in turn will have ample opportunity to demonstrate their social impact. With social clauses local authorities can get more bang for the buck.

All of these themes came up spontaneously  in the discussion today, which makes me think we are on the right track.

Finally I came home to two children that needed seperate costumes for their respective school plays tomorrow. Once again I seemed to have missed the memos. Sam needs to be a sort of Ali Baba character and Katie a punk rocker. After a lot of running around the house I think we have pulled something together. They both seem pleased.

Katie does counter culture
I am now going to sit down quietly avec a gin and read today's Guardian in which I alongside some of my friends in social enterprise are featured. Its all good stuff, a four page special on social enterprise put together by the lovely Patrick Butler. The timing is perfect, because now is exactly when we need to be asking ourselves the tough questions Patrick poses, namely where do we want to go and how do we plan to get there?

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