|First Minister Alex Salmond declaring Scotland as the best place in the world to set up a social enterprise|
There were the usual acoustic problems that you get when exhibiting and debating combine – my session was a little like trying to have a conversation in the lounge of Terminal 4. Whenever the lady over the sound system announced the next event, it felt like an air-raid warning and I had to resist the desire to get under a table. Even our star turn, the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, had to stop during a lunch-related announcement and repeated the queuing instruction for the benefit of his audience. Oh we laughed.
I have to say the lunch was outstanding especially for such a large event, you could choose from a number of social enterprises and I went for ChangeKitchen's excellent veggie chilli with wrap and coleslaw. It was yummy and I loved eating it while sitting in the front row listening to my friend Sophi Tranchell, MD of Divine Chocolate, debate the efficacy of social enterprise with Chuka Umunna, the Shadow Business Secretary, Paul Monaghan from the Cooperative Group and Jim Duffy from Spark, all adjudicated by the fantastic, if a little tired looking, Kirsty Wark from the BBC.
At one point, they had a fascinating chat about capitalism. For Paul, using the term capitalism was wrong as a description of all businesses as for him it was where capital extracted profit for shareholders which only described a proportion of business-based activity. That got me thinking and is of course true; the kinds of business models pursued by the 1,250 delegates were unlikely to fall into that category and yet were just as legitimate in their entrepreneurial zeal.
I met loads of wonderful people and had a tweet from the lovely Tariq Ali who said he felt like a social enterprise groupie listening in to my session. Lots of people picked up on my duck analogy, which got a few tweets or should that be quacks? You know the one that goes if you walk like a duck and you quack like a duck, you are probably a duck, but if you are having difficulty persuading people you are a duck, you're probably not. Got it?
I was sad to hear a delegate comment that investment in social enterprise infrastructure was London-centric, when nothing could be further from the truth. But overall, I thought the quality of the debates was good and I was pleased to meet so many wonderful Scots social enterpreneurs, such as those from Hebridean Chocolates.
However, my favourite exhibitor had to be Erin the owl from social enterprise Owl and the Pussycat Centre. Erin was a dream and let me cuddle her; she had posh mates like Hedwig but I liked her best because she liked me and she got my owl thing.
Well done to our friends at Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) for putting on a great show and giving us all a real boost. It's a new era and a rough one, but when we all get together anything seems possible.