On 8 October we held not one but two major events both held at the beautiful Two Temple Place in central London. Whilst the venue resembled a grand medieval banqueting hall there was nothing medieval about what was being discussed – the future of business, our climate emergency and what place social enterprises have in our increasingly unequal and divided world.

The first of our events was the launch of our flagship state of social enterprises research report. The 2019 report is called ‘Capitalism in Crisis? Transforming our economy for people and planet’, a bold title for a report which shows how social enterprises are meeting the challenges economic stagnation, social inequalities and environmental breakdown head on.

The report launch was chaired by our own Chair, Lord Victor Adebowale who opened with an clarion call stating that we have to change how we do business if we are to have any chance of getting the planet on a more equitable and sustainable footing.

“We’ve only got 11 years to sort out the climate crisis, we’ve persistent inequalities of health, wealth and representation. We need to change how we do business so it’s at the centre of our solutions to our economic, social and climate crisis” – Lord Victor Adebowale

Our Deputy Chief Executive, Charlie Wigglesworth then presented some of the key findings from the research touching on the economic dynamism of the social enterprises movement which is consistently outperforming traditional SMEs in terms of growth, innovation and start up rates. He also looked more depth at some of the newer elements of the 2019 report which took a closer look at how social enterprises act as employers and how the sector is taking steps to be better stewards of the environment.

Once again the report was supported by Santander and the Managing Director of Santander Business at Santander UK, Susan Davies, said a few words about why the bank supports the social enterprise movement.

We also heard from two of the social enterprises who are featured as case studies in the report – Cafédirect and PSS. Two very different businesses but each one succeeding as businesses, reducing inequalities and addressing the changing climate.

John Steel, Chief Executive at Cafédirect talked about how the social enterprise was set up to change the lives of smallholder farmers, working with coffee and tea farming communities so their voices are heard and that are paid fairly. He also mentioned how it supports farmers deal with the effects of the changing climate such as through helping them diversify their crops.

PSS are one of the UK’s oldest social enterprises, set up in 1919 to provide a safety net for people in Liverpool at a time when the welfare state was non-existent. Lesley Dixon, PSS’s chief executive, told us more about how they are continuing to deliver quality care services in a difficult economic climate as well as the innovation that comes so readily to being a social enterprise – empowering people with learning difficulties to vote.

John Steel and Lesley Dixon

The State of the Sector launch was followed by our AGM. A chance for our members to find out more about what we do, our plans for the future and to meet each other as well as the SEUK team.

As well as the standard fare of all AGMs – the voting and the running through of our accounts we were joined this year by Minister for Northern Ireland and also Minister for London, Nick Hurd. Nick was previously Minister for Civil Society with responsibility for the social enterprise sector and he gave an insight into his own thoughts on the current political situation. He finished looking at the prospects of a general election and the divided state of politics and society telling the social enterprises present that “You have power and a divided nation ought to be listening to the organisations that bring people together”.

Nick Hurd