As the heavens open, again, I think of Noah, the patron saint of forward planners. Even without Mr Fish, those of us working with Government can read the signs. Only strong swimmers need apply.
So if you can hear the sounds of busy hammers its the strategists determined to keep their head above water by building vehicles fit for the new era. Anyone labouring under the misapprehension that the status quo will prevail should check their water wings for holes, cos they're gonna need 'em.
I do think a lot of wonderful social enterprises will go. Those too small to respond to the meta programs the Government are constructing, and too bespoke to fit into the new o/s era. I don't know about you but I have never looked good in o/s, and an o/s society seems counterintuitive to Big Society to me.
But it is possible for some to construct a mighty ark. I had a meeting with the fantastic Sue Slipman yesterday, Director of the Foundation Trust Network, and she has some top tips on boxing and coxing for success. Sue and I had a really good explorative talk about her model and what makes it so perfect for the times. Sue helped develop my thinking on hybridisation and its profound relevance for social enterprise. As I said to Sue, and to anyone who will listen, the strength of social enterprise is in its ability to maximise social value in any commercial transaction. For me Foundation Hospitals are not only social enterprises but bloody good examples of it. What we need are more of the same and there is a high probability that if we are clear in our thinking and articulate in our approach we will have the opportunity to strut our stuff.
I had lunch on Monday with Stephen Bubb ceo of acevo the wonderful organisation I have the privelidge to be Vice Chair of. I was horribly late because getting around London can be a joke, which upset both of us. Stephen and I really enjoy one another's company. Stephen is the consumate advocate who does not take himself seriously, which is precisely why he has been spoofed, and why he is very good company. Oh we do have a laugh, although we got quickly to the very serious business of working out how to offer direction to our movement when all but the rhetoric seems disasterous for small, local community based groups. As Stephen has said in his blog, the Ministerial visits are sure to dry up with the funding.
Yesterday I was met by Giles Wilkes, Vince Cable's Special Adviser, to talk about the plight of the social enterprise regional support bodies. Giles confirmed what I suspected, which is that in closing the RDAs there was no intention to deconstruct the social enterprise support infrastructure. Giles could not of course make any undertaking but did say he would make enquiries and see how the land lay. Sitting in BIS for what must be the hundreth time I was struck at actually how many times I have had that conversation. In one form or another I have explained to at least four Secretary's of State, a dozen Ministers and a bus load of officials how our fledgling movement has grown sometimes in spite of Government "support". We have survived to date because we are clever and able and we have members who respect and need us. But we could have done more with a leg up from BIS and if they want unprecidented social enterprise growth in the public sector, we of the supra local networks, would be a very good place to start.
Maybe its time to see a fully fledged return of social enterprise to BIS?