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On 6 October 2011 - 4:00pm

The tragedy is that the government has adopted a laissez-faire approach to the delivery of the big ­society. It has claimed that if the state stepped back, and social enterprise was incentivised (not least by the “Big Society Bank”), then the civic sector would grow itself – and there is no doubt that, in some parts, that will be true. But there is no civic infrastructure on which to base this ­innovation. It required a retail offering – every town or village or locality should have had its own big society platform where people could go for advice and input, and where the new powers in the Localism Bill could be explained and augmented with civic expertise, training in social entrepreneurship and the delivery of public service.

This a quote from a lengthy piece in the current issue of the ...more

On 3 October 2011 - 12:50am

It’s a been difficult week for supporters of an increase in social enterprise delivery of NHS services. First commissioners in Surrey awarded a £500 million contract to a private sector provider owned by Virgin rather than a flagship spin out, then a few days later Civil Society reported that plucky campaigners in Gloucestershire had succeeded in derailing their local PCT’s plan to hive off its delivery arm into a Community Interest Company (CIC).

In Gloucestershire, local resident Michael Lloyd, supported by the campaign group Stroud Against the Cuts, is bringing a legal action ...more

On 29 September 2011 - 12:32am

Public spending cuts lead to cuts in public services. Not a groundbreaking revelation but there’s a danger that hype-laden initiatives such as Big Society Capital and Social Impact Bonds serve as tediously over-reported distractions from the important day-to-day issues faced by millions of people who have been using public services and now find that those services are no longer there.

Whether or not we chose to use the term Big Society, the current economic climate is causing us to think differently about (formerly) publically-funded services and our relationships to them. This report, in ...more

On 26 September 2011 - 12:21am

To be successful as a business, the possibility has to exist that you might one day lose. It keeps all businesses – including social ones – honest and focused.

Part of Craig Dearden-Phillips’ matter-of-fact reaction to the news that Central Surrey Health(CSH), the government’s favourite healthcare spin-out, have failed in a bid for a large new contract. As The Guardian‘s Patrick Butler explains, CSH have lost out in the race to land a £500million five-year contract to deliver community services in south west and north west Surrey with preferred bidder status ...more

On 22 September 2011 - 12:28am

The popular notion (without the social enterprise lobby) that social enterprises are better equipped that conventional businesses (or charities) to survive the current economic downturn (and presumably others) is explored in  New Philanthropy Capital‘s report Are social enterprises more resilient in times of limited resources.

The starting point for the report is a wider  evaluation of the work of the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE). While that evaluation clearly provides valuable and statistically meaningful data on the impact of SSE’s work on its students – and their impact on the wider world – the attempt to compare ...more

On 17 September 2011 - 4:01pm

Big Society Capital is not operational yet – but it continues to move away from the social enterprise sector which I understand… The overarching assumption seems to be that social outcomes are measurable and that successful projects should deliver a profit to investors. I think this strategy is both inoperable and objectionable; They are clearly making it up as they go along.

The verdict of Senscot’s Laurence Demarco on this interview with Nick O’Donohoe, chief executive of Big Society Capital(BSC) – the project formerly known as the Big Society Bank. I don’t share Demarco’s view that the strategy outlined by O’Donohoe is ...more

On 15 September 2011 - 5:30pm

I spent Monday and Tuesday at the third annual International Social Innovation Research Conference(ISIRC), hosted by London South Bank University. Amongst the wide range of exciting discussions taking place (which I’ll reflect on over the next few weeks) was the latest in a series of skirmishes over controversial accreditation scheme, the Social Enterprise Mark (the Mark). As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really a big fan of the Mark but I’m beginning to think that the Social Enterprise Mark Company (SEMCO) often finds itself on the receiving end of a disproportionate level of ire as a proxy for wider problems that it’s in no way responsible for.

Roughly a year on ...more

On 8 September 2011 - 7:42pm

The popular women’s magazine, Cosmopolitan, has a section called ‘Inside His Mind‘, which gives readers the chance to find out what real men really think while exploring key issues such as ‘How to go from seeing a guy to dating him’ and ‘What he says vs what he means’. The Guardian‘s Social Enterprise Network moves into similar territory next week with an online discussion entitled ‘Do politicians really ‘get’ social enterprise?’

The on-off romance between social enterprise and the UK politicians has been going on for a while. It began around the year 2000 when New Labour and the then ...more

On 31 August 2011 - 11:21am

Social Impact Bonds are, by some distance, the most hyped innovation in a sector – social enterprise finance – that is currently rivaled in the spin versus substance stakes only by reality TV. Based on expectations raised in recent years, anyone who attends both social enterprise conferences and football matches would probably be unsurprised to see their team’s physio running on to the pitch and massaging their star striker’s injured calf with a social impact bond in place of the famous magic sponge.

With that in mind, it was probably high time that Social Impact Bonds were on the receiving end of Polly Toynbee’s moral ...more

On 28 August 2011 - 7:07pm

“But why don’t those social enterprises take young people on anyway if they have genuine jobs to offer? The answer is economic. Social enterprises still struggle to attract mainstream investment so they are often undercapitalised and their restricted growth means that taking on skilled staff is a process undertaken carefully, and long-term unemployed young people with limited skills pose too great a risk.” 

Social Enterprise London(SEL)’s chief executive, Allison Ogden-Newton, explaining the impact of the premature demise of the Future Jobs Fund (FJF), an apparently successful but relatively expensive New Labour initiative to tackle youth unemployment. Under FJF, employers received funding from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to pay young people ...more