Tuesday, 13 July 2010

2012, it isn't all just Games

Elegantly hosted by the Guardian newspaper, SEL held a roundtable on 2012 this morning.  Jane Dudman, Editor of Guardian Public was our Chair and kept everyone in line, drawing out the discussion as only a journalist can. Lord Wei kicked us off with some thought provoking comments about Big Society and how 2012 was a unique showcase for social action, and then we got stuck in.

You can read all about it in a feature to be published by the Guardian soon, together with pictures. As we spoke we had our pictures taken, which I have to say makes me quite self conscious. I suddenly became very aware of just how much I wave my hands about when I speak. You will also see that I wore large hoops in my ears, as it was the Olympics.  I point that out in case you miss the reference, it's very subtle.

Some real eye openers for me were comments made from senior colleges about just how much Government prefers to commission the private sector, seeing social enterprise as a risk, and how even some of the biggest firms in the UK, CISCO and GE Corporate represented at the meeting by their senior directors, find Government procurement almost prohibitive.

On a more upbeat note I was delighted to hear from GLL Managing Director and SEL Co-Chair, Mark Sesnan that GLL now employed over 5000 people and has a turnover of nearly £100 million. That settled a late night argument I had with a colleague in Korea, who maintained you could never have a social enterprise topping a £100 million turnover in a developed country. It seems I was right, because it turns out that you can.

I thought contributions from CISCO were particularly erudite, Neil Crockett their Managing Director for the Public Sector gave us both some great challenges and opportunities and I look forward to talking to him soon about how CISCO can work with social enterprise to achieve their extremely ambitious goals for social impact.

Lord Andrew Mawson famous for his work at Bromley by Bow, John Charles of Catering to Order and a successful 2012 contractor like Dai Powell, Managing Director of HCT, all battled on behalf of social enterprise delivering Olympic contracts and Legacy. They argued that we can build jobs and ensure local investment that will transform the East End. This was reiterated by Sophie Tranchell, Managing Director of Divine Chocolate and SEL co-Chair who made the last point which was that surely if we wanted to keep investment in London then companies that had a commitment to reinvest their profit into their social mission were an effective way of achieving just that.

I threw in my lines about Government being a notoriously bad shopper and that we should build the Social Enterprise Square Mile on the 2012 site (a brilliant idea from our friends at Calverts) and that having just returned from Seoul, a city which is still showing all the signs of being an Olympic venue, I have an immediate sense that there is a lot at stake.

We have all had an eye on the World Cup, and even if you didn’t care much for the football, the social commentary about how it has raised the economic well being, vision and pride of an already fiercely proud country is a lesson we should learn very quickly. It isn’t about the fireworks, fancy stadia and ceremonial flourishes, it’s about the people.

The world over, people are the same, they all want to be inspired by bravery, generosity and vision and Brits can do that in spades. It struck me this morning that Korea is a country hungry to learn from the UK experience of social enterprise and replicate it post games, they even expressed to me their regret that they had not discovered social enterprise before hand, and here we were with little time left to plan, but still with the games ahead and not behind us. Those in the driving seat, encouraged by us all, have an historical opportunity to embed social enterprise in our Games and their Legacy and show how Government and private investment in a very public affair can deliver excellence and world class social transformation.

SEL, with we hope, LOCOG, will be launching its vision for the Games, Legacy and social enterprise very soon, and lets hope there is still time to make this not only the best Games ever, but also the most inspiring.

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