For the first time in my 10 years at the helm of Social Enterprise UK, I’m struggling to know what to write. Of course, there’s lots I’d like to say, but I know that I should keep my personal views reserved for my friends, rather than expect you to listen to how my emotions have been rattled or how I’m feeling on this important day.
Our country is divided in ways in which I’ve not previously experienced and those divisions have been laid bare and deepened through the election campaigning.
You are a diverse community, with diverse views and I shall not try and represent the diversity of opinion that exists among you.
Rather I’ll give you this commitment, that whatever political settlement emerges today, we at SEUK will be at the front of the queue, engaging with whatever circumstance we find ourselves with, banging the drum and making the case for the social enterprise way of working. This is likely to require us building some new and perhaps unusual alliances and partnerships and trying new ways to cut through with whoever holds power.
It is our duty to the communities we serve, the people that work in our sector and our planet to do whatever we can to boost the growth of social enterprise. We are needed now more than ever. We cannot afford to sit on the side lines. The closures of Thomas Cook and Mothercare are symptomatic of the ongoing deterioration of our high streets, the rise of poor mental health symptomatic of increasing work insecurity. We cannot go on like this.
Hence we have been promoting through our Ad-Van and Light Projections the message that; business as usual isn’t working.
Over the 10 years I’ve been here, inequality has never been so obvious, climate chaos never more urgent. Rough sleeping has trebled in my city and in many of your communities too. Public services and those working within them have never been so stressed or stretched and uncertainty has become the new normal.
Yet I am, and I believe you are too, fundamentally optimistic. Here’s a few reasons to be cheerful whether you find yourself cheering or mourning the election results of tomorrow.
By the end of the year there will be 18,000 active CIC’s trading in the UK, a continued growth in our movement of doing business differently. They are joined by an expansion of social cooperatives, community businesses and community energy initiatives.
We are seeing a continued expansion in social value principles across local authorities, city regions, and even Whitehall departments. That is unquestionably leading to ever greater opportunity for social enterprises to grow and flourish. Large businesses are continuing in ever greater number to commit to buying socially.
We continue to attract great talent, principled entrepreneurs, workforces who want to contribute to our fundamental, locked-in purposes in ever greater numbers.
Our movement is growing and growing well here in the UK and even more so, right across the world.
Once a bit of a civil society niche, it is becoming mainstream. I feel that like I never have, and I hope you do too.
Amid the political shenanigans saturating our social media, TV and radio channels we should not feel powerless, quite the opposite. We are building, we are growing, and you are needed more now than ever before.
You’ve told me over and over again that last week’s UK Social Enterprise Awards were the most inspirational yet and that being there or even just being aware of them left many of you feeling re-energised and empowered to achieve ever greater things. That of course is the very idea behind them; to help us all realise that whatever struggles and battles we face in the day-to day delivery of our businesses, that we are part of a shared community built on values and principles of kindness and hope.
These difficult times that our communities and nations face will not dissipate tomorrow, whatever we’ve been told. We need to prepare ourselves for some tough years ahead. Divisions such as those so evident across our nations cannot be resolved in days, weeks or months. But they can d and must be resolved and its up to us, the optimists and can-doers to step up and be at the forefront of that difficult task.
Enjoy the festive period and see you in the new year.