The summer feels like one to remember. We have the sun (not usually a given), endless BBQs, I’ve dipped my toe in the sea and that’s all before I’ve mentioned the football. However you feel about the endless football on TV, it has been wonderful to see the spirit of community that has spontaneously come together to celebrate (and commiserate) in back gardens, pubs and street parties across the country. And I say that even as an Irish woman, lost in London.

I joined Social Enterprise UK as the Director of Research a little over 4 months ago. Over the last few months, I’ve been out and about meeting as many members as I can. I have heard so many inspirational stories and learned so much more about the sector. It has been a real privilege to meet our members.

In my role at SEUK, I will be making the case for, and adding to the evidence base so that we can argue that social enterprise really is the future of business. We live in challenging times but social enterprises across the country are making a real difference to people’s lives.

The SEUK team has also recently been joined by Andrew O’Brien who will lead on policy and public affairs. We will both work closely together to ensure that we build and promote our message to government, business, social enterprises and the public. No mean task, but we are both excited about the opportunities we can create and believe that there is not a better, or more urgent a time to reform business to make the world a fairer place. We were delighted to hear the announcement from David Lidington, Minister for the Cabinet Office, that the Social Value Act was to be extended, but we will keep pressing for further clarity on what this means.

Last week I was very lucky to visit our most recent, and 25th, Social Enterprise Place - a very sunny Cumbria. We really couldn’t have asked for more glorious weather as we visited Watchtree Nature Reserve - a nature reserve that has been developed on a former WW2 air field and foot and mouth burial ground. It was inspiring to see how the area has been turned around and is now used as an asset for all the community. We also visited the aptly named Sunbeams Music Trust– that has blended music therapy with a recording studio and Gateway 4 Women who support domestic violence victims, those undergoing drug and alcohol rehabilitation, people with mental health problems and other vulnerable groups – Peter even had chance to get his nails done! And it was a privilege to meet the winner of the Cumbria individual Social Entrepreneur award, Julia Clifford from iCan Health & Fitness. I was very impressed to see people using the gym even in this hot weather!

On Thursday this week we held our annual health and social care conference – Fit for the Future. It was a chance to our members to put their questions to the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens who offered his own thoughts on how the NHS can best work with social enterprises.

The team and our members were especially pleased recently, to see the Ministerial Statement advising of the additional funding for those social enterprises who both deliver NHS services and who adhere to the Agenda for Change contract, after the initial position excluded those staff working for social enterprises.  This campaign was led by Jo Pritchard and our members, working together to ensure that the funding shortfall was bought to the attention of decision makers. We are very proud that we have had such an impact on a national level, but more importantly that we were able to support out members, help ensure their futures were not put in jeopardy and fight for #NHSEqualPay.