It seems a life time away that David Laws found ex treasury secretary’s Liam Byrne’s note ‘I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left’. But I was reminded of that ‘joke’ at Tuesday’s Festival of Social Enterprise (#FSE12) organised in partnership with the Robert Ashton Foundation.
Both from the floor and the platform we heard about the impact of that ‘life time’. Put simply there is less money from traditional sources and an ever increasing burden on traditional service. As a result we heard how entrenched organisations are breaking down or falling away. One questioner noted 20% Lincolnshire’s charities had fallen by the way side – but asked if any one had noticed?
That context could have been a depressing back drop to the day – but there was a marked air of optimism about the room.
‘In some ways it’s a disaster’ (said David Floyd (@davidsocialsp) of Beanbags and bullsh1t blog and Social Spider CIC ) ‘but in other ways it’s liberating. We are living through a bizarre financial climate – one where need is growing and resources are shrinking. But social entrepreneurs are just getting on with it – finding different ways of doing things, different ways of finding resources, different ways of thinking. Allowing new ideas in’.
In an article for Guardian Professional conference chair Robert Ashton wrote:-
‘We are living in very different times. What worked really well will not work now and more of us need to recognise our challenges as wicked (‘a social problem in which the various stakeholders can barely agree on what the definition of the problem should be, let alone on what the solution is’ based on work by Tim Curtis of University Northampton). We need to respond with innovation, creativity and most of all by involving everyone you can think of and more besides’
And there were good examples of this involve, innovate, creativity create spirit throughout the day – @rjmorris67 Giving machine, Lofty Heights and Build’s response to a cut in turnover to name but a few.
All the ideas presented were underpinned by a strong business sense and ethic so it was interesting to hear how the Eastern Enterprise Hub (based at the Waterfront in Ipswich) were supporting the next generation of social entrepreneurs (including Olive Quinton of Lofty Heights). Digby Chacksfield of the SSE shared one of the schools mantras -‘Failure is not falling down’ he said ‘ it’s not picking yourself up’. Later Emma Finn (@emmanewanglia) of the LEP talked about their role in supporting businesses , the regions strengths and weaknesses and their ‘together we’re stronger’ philosophy. Interestingly too there was a growing recognition in her presentation of the role of social enterprises in the regions economy. Knowledge, innovation, technology, creativity, lifestyle are the buzz words the LEP have chosen for their business conference on 22 October. Echoes there of themes emerging from #FSE12
For me those themes were around a sense of a brave new world, how best to cultivate new ideas, collaboration,creativity and partnership. I was struck by James Kearns (chief exec of Build) comment that their work was not about pity – but about giving people a helping hand on the way up – practical impact being so much more than a simple sympathy vote (or the ahhh factor). Richard Morris (@rjmorris67) talked about ‘’we’re being social entrepreneurs because there is a social purpose to it, spotting a need and moving to address it’
Putting aside the ethical arguments about the role of the state it was refreshing to hear mantras like these – but you are left with a nagging doubt. A reliance on individuals – on society – to take responsibility inevitably leads to unequal coverage – something I’ve written about before here.
What #FSE12 did offer was – despite a recognition that there was going to be a lot of people falling down over the next couple of years – the hope of fresh thinking emerging, new ideas and lots of people to help the fallers get back up again.
Links from the conference:-
· UnLtd – http://unltd.org.uk/
· CIC regulator – http://www.bis.gov.uk/cicregulator/
· Big Issue Invest – http://www.bigissueinvest.com/
· Buzzbnk – https://www.buzzbnk.org/
· Eastern Enterprise Hub – http://www.eehub.co.uk/
· Lofty Heights – http://www.lofty-heights.org/
· Social Spider CIC – http://www.socialspider.com/
· New Anglia LEP – http://www.newanglia.co.uk/
· Enable East – http://www.enableeast.org.uk/
· The Giving Machine – http://www.thegivingmachine.co.uk/
· Lyndon Green Limited – http://www.lyndongreen.co.uk/
· Build – http://www.buildnorwich.org.uk/
· SOS Evaluation & Training – http://sos-evaluation.co.uk/
· The Robert Ashton Organisation – http://robertashtonorg.org/