I went to the Guardian Social Enterprise Conference today which was really good, except I was speaking and was not so good. Classic school girl error, I wanted to convey a complex argument for the ways in which social enterprises need to be flexible in order to shape up to public service delivery, I used fun (?!) slides that in themselves required a little context, and I had a rigorous 5 minutes to do it and so inevitably ran out of time. Muppet. I am particularly disappointed because as the only woman speaking in any of the plenaries or key notes I wanted to give the boys a run for their money. Sorry girls next time I promise to do better. At least the podcast I did with Rodney Schwartz of Clearly So and Gordon d'Silva of Training for Life, with a contribution from Dia Powell at HCT, all SEL members, went well. We had a good rapport and I think got on to some chewy issues quite quickly which between us we were able to deal with. The difference of opinion gave issues a degree of balance.
Someone who had more to say was Secretary of State, Andrew Lansley who announced a new wave of Right to Request in the department of health, I cheered for those spinning out and those who want to and in particular our friends at Local Partnerships helping them to do so. He also threw in there was to be a new £4.5 million in the DoH's fund to enable social enterprise, investment that is as rare as hen's teeth these days. He told of a potential £1 billion of contracts open to social enterprises and to me seemed very well briefed and committed to the idea of social enterprise delivering health services.
The dishy Nick Hurd also spoke and gave a sensitive speech about there being very little anyone could disagree with in the concept of social enterprise and to see growth he recognised the need for increased investment and engagement with intermediaries. In fact he talked of the Big Society Bank only dealing with intermediaries which was clever I thought. I look forward to seeing how that pans out. I asked him a question I wanted to ask when I saw him at the excellent Good Deals conference the day before, which was wether he saw the social investment market being able to invest in public sector spin offs. I was thinking of the local authorities we are working with and wondering if they would be looking to social investment bankers or the high street? He thought they would be able to invest but perhaps it would be mixed. I agree but the people we are working with will need their money very soon and I'm not sure what and indeed how much will be available to them from social business, nor sadly how social enterprise friendly our friends for the high street will be feeling. We shall see.
SEL's lovely Michelle Richmond was brilliant in one of the breakouts on social impact, I was very proud; Ali Wilson of the School of Social Entrepreneurs was wonderfully phlegmatic when he asked us to spare a thought for the poor old entrepreneur who would need support and company on their difficult journey from grant or zero income to sustainability. In fact come to think of it there was a general dissing of grants which I think is sad. So many very good social enterprises start that way, like SEL member Colin Crooks at Greenworks who started with a grant only to become a profitable multi million pound business, recycling office furniture, providing employment to ex-offenders and getting nothing from from the state to do it. A process that took time.
One of things we struggle with in our world is celebrating one form of entrepreneurialism without criticising others.
There were lots of other great contributions too, and at both conferences it was good to talk to members and colleagues about what they're up to. All in all, and despite getting no signal to tweet and fluffing my speech, it was a good day.