Pioneers Post

The Voice11 diary

6 April 2011



'We don't just need a social enterprise sector, but a new capitalism with social purpose at its heart'

Hazel Blears MP

'This is the worst venue I have ever chaired a session at'

Matthew Taylor of the RSA complains about the Arctic temperatures inside the O2

The biggest event in the UK social enterprise calendar took place at London's O2 last week. Here, Social Enterprise reporters Chrisanthi Giotis and Gemma Hampson bring you highlights from Voice11.

Big Society could turn social enterprise into 'half way house' for privatisation

Former communities secretary Hazel Blears blasted the coalition government as creating an agenda that was 'nothing new' with ministers who couldn't define social enterprise at a Voice11 debate on public service reform.

The fiesty session, which also heard from Sampson Low of Unison, Fay Selvan of Big Life group and Claire Fox of the Institute for Ideas, heard Blears say she could see social enterprises innovation the health system ten years ago in her days as a junior health minister.

She also admitted that she asked current health minister Andrew Lansley to define social enterprise, and his response was 'anything that's not the public sector'. 'That's not my understanding', she said. 'It's about people who want to put something back into the community and be accountable for services.'

She continued by a warning that the localism bill, something she supports in pricipal, was not designed in the favour of social enterprises and community enterprise as its devices such as 'right to buy' could open service delivery and asset ownership to the private sector.

'What I'm increasingly worried about is that epople are crowding in on this sector with a model that's not social enterprise,' she said.

She also said there was a 'skism at the heart of government', which meant that some ministers supported Big Society, but others wanted to see services in the hands of the private sector.

'The social enterprise sector, if not careful, will be used as a half way house to privatisation,' she said. 

Fox was the only panelist to condemn social enterprise in core public service delivery, but said they did have a role in collaboration.

She said: 'I say to social enterprise, it's in your interest to demand that this state deliver core services, not you. You need a stable base to be innovative.'


UnLtd launches ambitious new competition

UnLtd is searching for the 25 most ambitious social entrepreneurs in the country in a new competition called the Big Venture Challenge.

All 25 will get £25,000 to help develop their ventures, a further ten will get £50,000 if they can find match-funding and a further two will get £100,000 if they can get match funding.

Launching the challenge at Voice director of ventures at UnLtd Jonathan Jenkins said: 'This is an opportunity to showcase social enterprise to a whole new generation of investors that we know is desperate to engage with this marketplace.'

Applications for the challenge open on 9 May.


'I see you as part of BIS' - Vince Cable

Business secretary Vince Cable told delegates at Voice11 that he saw social enterprise as part of his government department, despite it officially sitting in the department for civil society.

'I, as someone responsible for business, see you very much as part of business and we want to work with you,' he said.

In the conference's closing plenary, Cable added that 'unconventional finance' like the Big Society Bank and Regional growth Fund and different organisational forms, such as community interest companies, would 'give this movement momentum'.


£1m support competition launched

RSM Tenon announced up to £1m support to help up to ten social entrepreneurs at Voice11.

The cash would be used to help entrepreneurs prove their ideas, build their business plans, pitch for contracts and start delivering a service


Have you read our other Voice11 stories? See below for links.