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The Big Society debate needs to move on, warns Holbrook

16 February 2011
Peter Holbrook, CEO of the Social Enterprise Coalition

'This idea that we’re all supposed to work a 50 hour week and then do volunteer work isn’t helping us tackle the issues we need to tackle. Social enterprise is really the only horse left in town'

 

Peter Holbrook, CEO of the Social Enterprise Coalition (pictured)

The boss of the Social Enterprise Coalition has warned that the debate on the Big Society needs to move on from volunteering and the state if social enterprise is ever going to get a look in.

The government’s policy, which aims to empower communities, has taken a beating in recent weeks and come back fighting with a relaunch by David Cameron himself and news on the Big Society Bank.

But SEC CEO Peter Holbrook said Big Society needs to focus on the organisations in the middle ground between volunteering and state control – social enterprises. He also warned that social enterprises need to stop being pigeon holed with the voluntary and community sectors.

‘This idea that we’re all supposed to work a 50 hour week and then do volunteer work isn’t helping us tackle the issues we need to tackle. Social enterprise is really the only horse left in town,’ he said.

‘It’s partly the government’s fault because it keeps talking about the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector but actually we’re quite distinct and we have big solutions to offer and they need to draw much better distinctions.

‘The whole narrative of public service change isn’t helped by conflating traditional charities and social enterprise we need to be seen as a separate movement.

‘We’re desperately trying to find avenues and new audiences who can understand the distinctiveness of the sector and what we have to offer.’

He added that the debate about the Big Society was a ‘danger’ in itself if it didn’t ‘mature and move on’.

Holbrook’s comments to Social Enterprise come as SEC released a report that says the government has lost sight of the need for economic reform in the Big Society debate.

Time for Social Enterprise, based on interviews with social enterprise leaders, states that focusing on philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and grant-funding is a one-dimensional way of looking at ways to tackle social and environmental problems.

It also states that people working for a business that create these problems, only to then donate cash to a charity, is inefficient. If people worked in a social enterprise and bought their goods and services from social enterprises, they would make a bigger and better positive difference to society.

As a result of the report, SEC recommends the setting up of a national social enterprise taskforce to integrate social and economic policy, a standardisation of how social value is measured with guidance to report it and ‘education strategies’ to help workers and consumers choose social value when they ‘spend, earn, save and give’.

Download the full report below.

Time for Social Enterprise
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