Although most people are probably channelling their Brenda from Bristol (watch this clip if confused!), I think that social enterprises should be welcoming this election. We can’t predict the result, but what we do know is that the past three years have been wasted as far as reforming our economy, tackling climate change and healing our society is concerned. The government has also continued to ignore the potential of our sector to solve these interlocking crises (the triple threat, as we call it at SEUK) that face our society.
Another spin of the wheel is a welcome chance to reset the political agenda and to put fundamental reform of our economy and our society back on the front page.
In case you needed motivation, here are three reasons why this election is so important for the future of social enterprise, our planet and society.
We only have 11 years to solve the climate crisis
This isn’t my view, it is the view of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We have to cut our emissions in half by this point and in the West, we probably have to go a bit further than that in order to make our fair contribution. This is a drastic change that is required, and we aren’t going to do this without reforming business.
We don’t have time for backsliding and the next government needs to grip the climate crisis effectively. If the new Government doesn’t take this seriously and adapt our economy for the climate emergency, we aren’t going to hit this target. The next election wouldn’t be till 2025 and five years to hit the IPCC’s target would be almost impossible.
This election really is our last chance to reform the economy to tackle the climate emergency.
Government determines business winners and losers
People like to talk about the free market but in reality, there is no such thing. Governments set the rules for how the economy works and whilst this doesn’t determine the success or failure of individual businesses it explains why we have the economy we have today. Why has the UK got a massive financial services industry? Why is our high street struggling but online businesses are growing rapidly? Why do we have large levels of pay inequality within traditional businesses?
Government spending, regulation and tax policy are critical to all these challenges.
If we want social enterprises to breakthrough into the mainstream of the economy, then we need government to create the conditions for this. We need lower taxes for social businesses; higher standards and levels of transparency for competitors and a procurement system which favours our sector rather than traditional “big business”.
Organic growth is good, but after 200 years of social enterprise, we are running out of time.
We need grassroots action but also national government to stop abdicating its responsibility to create the kind of new economy that we desperately need.
Every social enterprise should recognise that a positive political environment is as important for its long-term success as a strong product, good marketing and wise financial management.
Our country needs us
Taking a more altruistic look at the current situation, I would also argue that the country needs us right now. People are crying out for change. The latest Onward report on the “politics of belonging” has found that 70% of people believe that the status quo isn’t working and want radical change.
But what change? What works? How can we turn the oil tanker of the UK economy around in time to repair our planet, heal social division and provide social justice?
Social enterprises have the solutions, but if we keep them to ourselves, we shouldn’t be surprised if people turn to despair, apathy or worse.
Elections are chances to cut through to the public consciousness and we must use them as best we can.
What can you do?
We could have sat this election out, given the focus on Brexit, but we have decided not to do so. It is just too important.
Over the next few weeks we are going to be equipping social enterprises with the tools that they need to campaign during this election. We are also going to be trying to use whatever method we can, potentially including unconventional guerrilla marketing, to ensure that issues around economic reform get to the top of the agenda. We cannot afford the next six weeks to just be a merry-go-around about Brexit.
Please look out for SEUK’s work, but beyond this, just reach out within your community, your supply chains and within your business.
Talk to your customers, employees and colleagues about this election campaign. If you see a candidate, engage with them. If you spot a journalist, talk to them about the real issues that are affecting our country.
If you have suggestions about how we can influence this agenda, please let us know. We want to hear from members about what we can do and what we should say.
Whatever you do, please don’t give up. All elections matter, but this one will probably matter more than most.