Two weeks ago I was in Scotland for the excellent CEiS Annual Social Enterprise Conference. Glasgow is rightly still basking in the glory of the Commonwealth Games but as you might expect, there was only one thing that people really wanted to talk to me about – and it wasn’t social enterprise. From taxi drivers to conference delegates and Big Issue vendors, everyone was talking about independence.
I’m a localist, I wave the ‘local by default’ flag enthusiastically, and passionately believe in self-determination. I know only too well that many of the best ideas and the talents required for tackling our most stubborn social and economic problems exist within the very communities blighted by them.
Because I believe in self-determination I’ve intentionally stayed well away from wading into the independence debate, particularly when in Scotland. It’s primarily a matter for them but with obvious implications for us all.
Over the last couple of years I’ve seen more and more of my friends, mainly within the Scottish social economy become more confident and comfortable extolling the virtues of being out and proud as ‘yes’ voters. There’s a strong belief that has been emerging that independence will enable Scotland to become a fairer, more prosperous and more ecologically sustainable country. Whilst the ‘independence = fairer’ is not a belief I share, it’s certainly an ambition, and an aspiration I wholeheartedly support for Scotland, for Britain and for the world.
Whatever the outcome, the trend for greater localism and self-determination is evident across much of the world, and long may it continue. In my view, the trend to towards greater localism is in part driven as a response to globalisation, where increasingly our lives, our opportunities – even many of our behaviours – are determined less and less by our own ‘free’ choices or even by our respective government’s policies. More and more of these controls, influences and effects are now controlled by opaque transnational companies over whom we have very little influence and almost no control.
Greater localised political self-determination, whilst welcome, does nothing to assuage the increasing trend of economic power being siphoned from our communities, regions and nations, and placed in the hands of those unaccountable, almost invisible elites controlling our global markets and the transnational mega corps, which have so much more influence over our lives.
Unless there’s a worldwide revolution that overthrows our globalised market economy (which I fear is unlikely), then localised political power will do little to challenge the rapid rise in inequality, wage stagnation, declining social mobility or climate chaos. What’s needed is much more localised, sustainable economic systems and social enterprise has to be part of that process however local, national or international we determine our political leaders should be.
I hope to see you in Seoul next month for the Social Enterprise World Forum. Immerse yourselves in what’s happening across Asia and the world, see how far the movement now stretches and is progressing across whole continents. The Social Enterprise World Forum was incidentally born in Edinburgh seven years ago. Convened, developed and scaled by a great friend; an Irish man and a resident of Scotland, an internationally admired social enterprise leader who has his focus firmly on social justice in local neighbourhoods whilst walking and cooperating with nations near and far. We’ll be travelling together with a rag tag of great social enterprise leaders and supporters. It’s still not too late to join us, you’ll come back with a renewed sense of your place in the world whatever the outcome tomorrow.
Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive, Social Enterprise UK