At our AGM everyone asked where’s all the money gone? 

With few exceptions, people work within social enterprise, social investment or public service, at least in part, to make a proactive, positive contribution in our communities and society - or perhaps across the whole wide-world.  We are right to feel good about making the contributions that we all do. It’s clear to see that increasing numbers of people are seeking more purposeful lives - and we know that social business is an effective route to making a real and authentic difference through our work choices and our careers.  

So, it’s always a pleasure to be among you folk at our AGM. There’s little that’s more hopeful in our world than a room full of do-ers, pioneers, social activists and social enterprise people. The chitter-chatter is full of how, despite all odds, services have been protected, expanded, re-invigorated or reimagined.  Or how markets have been disrupted, of how other businesses have been forced to respond in the wake of your better business models. People talk of Inclusive Growth and find themselves in social enterprise, people study sustainability and end-up, inevitably, in our world. Even issues of low productivity, regeneration, innovation, youth unemployment or the housing crisis inevitably end up talking about #socent, even if they call it something slightly different. 

Nothing lifts the soul as much nor acts as a better antidote to our modern problems than what you good folk achieve and being with you at our AGM was a real treat.  Thank you for coming (if indeed, you did) 

That said, this year, we were joined by Oliver Bullough, award-winning author of Moneyland; and amid the usual mundanity of an AGM and the positivity that you expect to find in a room full of social enterprise folk, came a hailstorm of insights that frankly would leave most people stone-cold, dismayed and depressed in equal measure. Oliver provided a stark reminder of what we’re up against. His exposé on the pandemic levels of secrecy, vested interest, hidden money and corruption throughout the global economy was truly alarming, but more so is the central role that the UK continues to play in the growth, protection and very existence the space in the economy in which the rules no longer apply – the ‘Moneyland’ of the book’s title. 

The UK’s complicit role should be of great national embarrassment and public intolerance. Resolving and recovering from the devastating implications of Moneyland’s creation should be at the forefront of how we choose to redefine and evolve our national identity in the critical years ahead. Oliver’s riveting, and at times amusing revelations, shook even the most enlightened, informed and cynical people in the room. It really is a must read, particularly in the context of a divided Britain. 

An inevitable conclusion reached from reading Moneyland, is that simply creating ever more social enterprises will never be enough to resolve the complexity of challenges and outright corruption we face. We need to deconstruct much of the financial, legal and political systems and take the power away from the controlling elites, whom, over decades, have been discreetly building this parallel, secret state in the sky. 

I guess that we’ll no doubt be absorbed by Brexit for many years to come, but none of us should ever get bored of being reminded about the true extent of the problems we’re busy trying to fix, the power of us to collectively create the changes we need, the requisite courage and skill required to evolve and re-imagine, not just a business, or a service or industry, but the architecture of the entire global system of commerce and capital.  

If this sounds all too scary and unimaginable, or perhaps you reasonably think that it’s beyond the scope of your community owned shop or fan owned football club, well think again. The very economics that brought our high streets to death’s door, that de-industrialised our once-proud towns, that led to the onslaught of austerity, the housing crisis, or led to public services in private-equity hands…. well, the creation of Moneyland is implicated in just about every problem we face.   

To achieve the world that we want to live in, we must keep shining a light on our social enterprise successes and show that there’s another, better way, but it’s also imperative that we keep shining a sanitizing light on the unsustainable status quo.  

See you all soon,