Allison Ogden-Newton says public sector spin-outs will need heroic leaders to succeed
As seen in the Guardian's Public Leaders Network on Thursday:
If you're a public sector worker, the government thinks you should consider setting up a social enterprise to deliver public services, and I do too.
But behind the vision and rhetoric from supporters of this agenda – myself included – there are some things you should know. Starting a social enterprise isn't a cure-all for the existing challenges that are already inherent in the work you do; and it can seem like you are reaching for the impossible in order to establish a sustainable organisation emerging out of the public sector.
The German political economist Max Weber described politics as "the slow boring of hard boards" which "takes both passion and perspective" to overcome. You could say that this also applies to spinning out a social enterprise from public management and ownership.
Weber goes on to say in his passage that "man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible. But to do that a man must be a leader, and not only a leader but a hero as well".
The simple truth is that social enterprise can and does work, but it isn't straightforward and it isn't the answer every time. We need to seek out leaders who have been there and done the slow boring before they emerged as successful social entrepreneurs to really work out what works.
Leaders like Mark Sesnan from Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), a social enterprise which runs local authority leisure services across London and which now has a turnover in excess of £100m and gives unemployed young people a chance of a career in the leisure industry.
And heroes like Ali Parsa who, inspired by a surgeon friend who complained he was fed up with the poor management of healthcare institutions in both private and public sectors, set up Circle Health that now runs and builds hospitals.
At forthcoming Guardian spin-out surgeries you can ask questions of practitioners like Mark Sesnan and experts from organisations like Social Enterprise London(SEL) and the Employee Ownership Association (EOA) who support individuals and teams to start social enterprises that deliver the services we all use every day.
Ask us the real questions you might not have seen answered anywhere else and we will give you an honest and straightforward answer. What we offer is spin-out advice without the spin.
The reality of the financial squeeze is that for public services to deliver what is needed to the communities, neighbourhoods and families that depend on them, we need public sector workers to reach out for what might seem like the impossible.
If you are interested we'll be there to support you, connecting you with potential partners, investors and most important of all, battle-hardened veterans. Warm words will be replaced by some of the most advanced social enterprise training and advice available anywhere, all we need now is for leaders and heroes to step forward.