Thursday, 3 March 2011

Our Annual General Love-in

I know I shouldn’t be, but I am always amazed by our AGMs, and even though this was the week we moved offices and times have been tough for intermediaries like SEL, last night was no exception.

We do try, every day, to give social enterprises what they need and be as useful as we know how. We have events at the rate of at least one a week, and in one way or another meet and work with on average of over 300 social enterprises every week. We encourage all intermediaries who have things to offer our members to see us as potential partners, our attitude is the more the merrier, and frankly let's welcome anything that’s going to work for the benefit of social value.

The up-shot of this are strong SEL themes around “working for our members” and “being at the heart of a vibrant social enterprise community” so I shouldn’t really be surprised when at an event where the only thing on the agenda is us, SEL, so many of our members turn up, the open debate is knowledgeable and thought provoking, and people say such nice things about us.

I’d had a tricky day yesterday. I shan’t go into details but Wednesday had got off to a really rotten start leaving me not feeling on my usual top form. But my God our lovely members and staff turned my day around. The venue, Training for Life’s Hoxton Apprentice was perfect, hosted by our own board member, its Founder Gordon D'Silva and so many social entrepreneurs, officers and politicians turned up we quickly ran out of seats. People kept coming up to me all evening to wish us well and thank us for the work we had done for them that year leaving SEL board members and staff with a strong sense that whatever we were doing in these very challenging times, we were doing it right. It all got a bit emotional actually, or maybe that was just me.

Our Co-Chairs Mark Sesnan MD of GLL and Sophi Tranchell MD of Divine chocolate, the Sonny and Cher of social enterprise opened the debate with impressive, moving and at times wickedly provocative ‘state of the union’ thoughts about where we are now, and it flew from there, picked up by members like Andrew Hadley from the Momentum Youth who highlighted the need for SEL to do more brokerage for social enterprises who want to work with bigger organisations. My favourite comment was from the wonderfully sincere but seldom pc,  Mark who said, "Anyone who doesn't get social enterprise must be a bit thick."

I left the SEL staff in the pub, round the corner from our groovy new offices off Great Eastern Street, engaging in some well earned hard drinking. I don’t know what the coming year will bring but I have absolutely no doubt SEL will be there to share the highs and lows and do all it can for this simply wonderful movement of ours.

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