Thursday, 29 April 2010

SELing social reformation

It's been quite a week; so much so that it's taken me until now to blog - so I've got a great many things that I want to share with you.

I'll start with the last half an hour and work my way back to the start of the week.

I have been watching the Twitter feed on Bigotgate and whatever you might think of what the PM said and how he and his team subsequently mishandled it, the one issue that is only just surfacing is that very little has been said in defence of the Eastern Europeans in the UK who work hard, pay taxes and nonetheless can't vote.

What's happening in social enterprise? I have to tell you it is frantic, behind the scenes SEL and our members are having a thousand conversations about the changing landscape and how social enterprise is going to deliver social reformation.  As a trained historian I keep coming back to that which went before. What social enterprise is proposing is a Reformation, we want to challenge conventional thinking that neatly divides the world up into business, government and charity. Top of the list are education, health, energy, regeneration and above all money. We can do this, but only with the support of a Government that carefully listens to the detail and helps us put into place the necessary investment.

Today 2000 charity leaders came out in defence of the Future Job Fund. I am not a charity leader but if they had asked me I would have joined them.  At SEL we put together London's Future 500 which is putting over 500 young, unemployed people into social enterprise jobs, and I have to tell you, it is going well.  The applicants are enthusiastic, the employers are being, as you would expect from social entrepreneurs, supportive and early findings show that the number of permenant job offers coming out of the scheme is high. Surely no government could contemplate ending a program like that? Not when all of us fear growing unemployment, particularly in the young.

That is the saddest thing about new governments; change for change's sake. They often think ending things will save money and on the face of it that can be true.  But then the social cost is felt and then they have to invest in a new program to address the problem which ends up being more costly than keeping what was originally there in place. I have seen it in further education, the FEFC becoming the LSC and that being abolished in favour of...well, what?

Last night I had the Tory local authority candidate, Paul Hodgins, on my door step.  I must have been one of the few people he spoke to that evening who had actually read his parties manifesto, as I have poured over all the major parties proposals (incidentally, in return, increasing numbers of candidates are looking at SEL's own manifesto; encouraging) I asked him if their commitment to enabling communities to run local schools would, if they won, lead to something being done about our local school. I have met our local MP Susan Kramer and she seems like a good egg, and yet Shene School remains an unacceptable choice for many local parents.  Having said that Paul didn't seem to share my fury over the shambles that is Richmond secondry education, so I'm not sure he's going to get it sorted either.

On Tuesday we had an amazing event on the crucial issue of social impact assesment.  Like it or not, and despite what anyone says to the contrary, in future there will be more counting.  If its jobs, contribution to GDP or energy consumtion savings there will be more counting and those who get on board with how to do it will be in the strongest position.  The event was held in conjuction with PricewaterhouseCoopers and the London Development Agency and attendees were social entrepreneurs and accountants.  One lot knew all about social impact and the other, measurement and assessment. Combining the thinking of the two is the challenge.  Having been involved in this field for over 4 years and with our resident expert Sabina Khan, SEL's Director of Policy and Research at the helm, we are doing a great deal on this. So if you are interested check out our website for more information.

Finally, a few quick gardening updates.  I have got in my beetroot, salad, chard and carrot seeds, and I am preparing my runner bean beds.  But the crops at the moment are the real highlight of the week.  We have had our first asparagus, delicious and sweet and my purple sprouting is, as you can see from the photo, outstanding!


Both of them have interesting effects on the colour of your wee, so eating them together can provide endless entertainment.  All good clean fun! Talking of which, I'm off now to watch the leadership debate.

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