Lessons from Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK
11 June 2013 at 9:42 am
There is good reason for Australia to look to the UK for leadership in the social enterprise movement over the last 15 years, according to Social Traders Head of Strategy and Market Development, Mark Daniels. In the land of hope and glory, strong political leadership, significant financial resources and supportive enabling organisations have all contributed to creating a vibrant social enterprise environment, he says.
The growth of social enterprise activity in the UK has stemmed from political champions since Tony Blair’s election as Prime Minister back in 1997, followed by Gordon Brown and now David Cameron.
Recent initiatives include Big Society Capital and the Social Value Act.
The £600 million Big Society Capital is an investment bank that provides access to finance to tackle social issues.
The Social Value Act requires public sector buyers to give consideration to social, environmental and economic benefits in the procurement process.
Investment-readiness and contract-readiness funds have also been set up in the UK to support start-up and early stage social enterprise development.
Having joined Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) on his recent whirlwind trip to Australia, I was struck by three key insights about what is needed to develop a thriving social enterprise In Australia:
- Top of the list is the way that SEUK frames social enterprise. It is not part of a ‘third sector’ or ‘fourth sector’ in its own right; but a more embracing model for responsible capitalism. It is the way we want business and society to operate in the future. Social enterprise leaders and believers are the activists that will demonstrate to business, government and consumers a new model of operating that benefits society.
- Social enterprise has been embedded in public policy and legislation. The Social Value Act, the right for public sector staff to mutualise public services and the introduction of the Community Interest Company (CIC) in 2005 are all mechanisms that embed social enterprise in government systems and move society towards responsible capitalism.
- Concerted advocacy and professional expertise is critical. Over the last five years in Australia, several new support organisations have emerged that are building capacity and brokering in resources to support social enterprise development. However, social enterprise does not yet figure in mainstream economic or social policy of government. More needs to be done in capturing and communicating the significant economic contribution and impact of social enterprise. And we need to promote the benefits of buying social value and creating stronger linkages between social enterprise and buyers.
The current development here of A Manifesto for Social Enterprise, outlining a vision and pathway to enable the growth of the social enterprise sector in Australia, will hopefully bring greater energy and focus to emulating the impressive UK experience.