This week is all about Ed Miliband and his success in the Labour leadership campaign. Although somewhat overshadowed by David’s resignation, Ed is the man everyone is talking about.
This is what I know about Ed, he is a decent bloke with whom I once joked that he was too nice to get to the top in politics, which shows what I know. He was our very first Minister for the Third Sector and set a standard no subsequent Labour Minister matched in terms of innovation, reach and growth. He is extraordinarily frank for a politician and will tell you not only what he thinks but also what he feels. When my beloved Dad died suddenly, nearly three years ago, Ed’s message of condolence said something that no one else did at the time, and it was a sentiment I actually found very helpful indeed. It was extraordinarily kind. Ed is a fan of social enterprise and it is something that he gets. He has a greater understanding of its varied implication than most, and as a politician whose ambition knows no bounds, he is likely to make use of it.
I for one am pleased with his bold approach. Given the times in which we live, the economic constraints and the boldness of Government, a gutsy opposition seems right.
I am a fan of truisms. One of my favourites is that happiness comes from small achievable tasks, the other, and one more relevant to this post, is that under pressure people revert to type. We are all under pressure now and, here’s another one, when the going gets tough the tough get going. Social enterprise like every other social and economic solution is in the market place, and it needs to be fit for purpose. Most of my members operate in the private sector and they need top notch advice to exploit their business model, a growing market and banks to lend them money to meet demand. For the majority of them the current confusion over governance is often an irrelevance and not a priority. For those public sector workers interested in social enterprise, or mutuals or coops or employee ownership its a minefield and one we need to sort out pdq.
I have said this in the Cabinet Office, at IDeA and to three local authority CEO’s this week. Public sector workers need to start with how can they build a sustainable business. Even with a fixed term public sector contract they need to be able to attract investment and maximise whatever social impact they want to achieve. That is where you start, whether that leads you to a mutual or joint venture or indeed to something that could qualify for the Social Enterprise Mark is not the defining issue, nor, in my view, should it be. This is about finding the most efficient way of delivering public services that look, smell and are experienced as the embodiment of public service ethics, but that can share management and ownership with staff and reduce current costs. In short it's bold, like the times in which we live.