Tuesday, 23 March 2010

More or less of the heroics?

The Tory Summit organised by Acevo on Thursday was great. We had an impressive procession of shadow ministers over the course of the day including George Osborne, Francis Maude, Oliver Letwin and Nick Hurd. They each highlighted different areas of consuming interest to us in the third sector, particularly around procurement, payment by results, right to request and social impact measurement and reporting. I didn’t agree with everything said but I did manage to blog most of it as it was happening.

Getting important public statements out onto a public platform in real time felt new and exciting, even if my right hand did ache with the frenetic typing. I was therefore chuffed when my efforts were described as 'heroic' in the Guardian blog the next day.

In the session I participated in I was asked to comment on social impact measurement which I hope I did coherently. It’s such a complex field to deliver in sound bites, and I think Phillip Hammond got the wrong end of the stick when he came back on my point, with a sense that what social enterprises need are two forms of contract, one for the things they make and sell (their economic return) and another for the jobs, training and opportunities they create (their social impact). No Phillip, two forms of procurement? I don’t think so. What is required are effective and clear social impact clauses in all contracts. Perhaps they should all come to a SEL event on same to bottom out the principles?

Still I thought it went well. They seemed keen, and more to the point they seemed organised and briefed which makes for altogether a better conversation.

Since then I have had some really interesting discussions with Asheem Singh, Deputy Director at ResPublica, Phillip Blond's think tank about new horizons for social enterprise. We both agreed that education will be the brave new frontier and that the SEL conference on education is well timed. The event should be a real groundbreaker. It’s on April 15th at RBS Headquarters on Bishopsgate. Speakers include Sir Michael Wilshaw the remarkable head of one of the UK’s leading schools, Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, and Paul Mason, who runs the Parent Promoted Foundation. If social enterprise in the education context is on your agenda then do come along. Tickets are available through the SEL website in the usual way. Or you can email me direct.

I should apologise for my unusual quietness on the blog front. I have been spending all my spare minutes painting my house. I started in the hall, but it’s turning out a bit like the Forth Bridge: each freshly painted room makes the one next to it look rather shabby. I will put up some more before and after shots when I have a moment. Now that piece of work is turning out to be heroic. I just hope I can get the house back to some kind of order before I head off to Tokyo on Friday to talk to a symposium about social enterprise.

I must sign off, I’m due at the House of Commons to meet with Vince Cable in 30 minutes. I am looking forward to it. He was so lovely when we shared a podium in November and seemed to have a real interest in social enterprise, not least because, as he explained, his son is a social entrepreneur.

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