Cabinet reshuffle

In reaction to yesterday’s local elections (sadly, the marvellously named Martin Bleach of the Green Party failed to win a seat in my ward), Tony Blair has re-shuffled his pack, and in some style too. Key ones for social entrepreneurs include:

John Reid taking over at the Home Office
Ruth Kelly in charge of Communities/Local Government
Alan Johnson to Education
David Miliband to Environment

See the full breakdown of all the various moves backwards, forwards and sideways…

UPDATE: OK, buried in the detail is more interesting stuff….

– Hilary Armstrong is Cabinet Minister for Social Exclusion (in Cabinet Office) which will have remit over volutnary and community sector + social enterprises….trying to cut across silos in government departments, I guess. Beneath her is rising star Ed Miliband, who is the new voluntary sector minister.

– Also, the Active Communities Directorate (of civic renewal / communities fame) is moved, as long promised, to merge with what was the ODPM, but is now the DCLG (if it keeps the name of Department of Communities and Local Government), so will also, as with all neighbourhood renewal / regeneration stuff, be under the remit of Ruth Kelly….

– Finally, just to note that Alun Michael, the DTI minister with responsibility for social enterprise, has lost his post


Jonathan Bland puts the Social Enterprise Coalition’s point of view across in the Times about the Social Enterprise brief’s move from DTI to the Cabinet Office. Welcomes the ability of said Cabinet Office to cut across all government departments, whilst emphasising the need to focus on the ‘business’ aspect of social enterprise and (in relation to this), the important role that Regional Development Agencies will play over the next few years….

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The Social Apprentice: the human face of ambition?

In response to a piece the other day about how the TV show The Apprentice demonstrated that "Blair’s Britain was all about profit", I wrote in a letter, printed in the Guardian, which set out an alternative point of view, and the potential for an alternative type of show: the Social Apprentice.

The basic idea is for 14 social entrepreneurs to take the place of these business high-flyers driven by pure profit. Tasks could be similar, if themed: participants sent out as chuggers on the streets, or organising a big fundraising event (as they will have to in this coming week’s episode), or developing a new product for a social enterprise, or rebranding and so on….the ultimate prize could be £100k towards starting up/expanding their own organisation/initiative, or a job with Anita Roddick or Muhammad Yunus or Al Gore, or someone else doing interesting things socially and environmentally.

People always say at ideas like this (and I’m not pretending I’ve come up with this….BBC/ITV/C4 have all discussed various versions of this or Dragon’s Den with us and other organisations…) that the show will be too worthy and dull, and everyone will get on because they’ll be so ‘nice’, and they won’t have strong personalities etc….these people have obviously never worked in this field. They should come and sit in on a session here at SSE and tell us there’s no passion, ambition, personality or conflict in this world.

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Why call yourself a social entrepreneur?

I was reading through the comments of an interesting post over on the Let There Be Light blog, titled Do Social Entrepreneurs exist? Nothing like a provocative title to get the comments flowing.

An interesting comment by Jim Fruchtmann who, I think, runs Benetech, who says there are two reasons to call yourself a social entrepreneur (in his opinion):

"1.  You get to meet people who are much more like you than typical nonprofit or for-profit leaders, and
2.  It’s a fund raising hook."

Is it really that simple? Certainly the amount of hype/buzz around social entrepreneurs and social enterprise at the moment (check Cameron’s recent speeches) gives it a cachet of some sort I guess…but ultimately, I find this fairly reductive. I recently met someone setting up a new initiative that was fairly entrepreneurial and clearly charitable/social in mission….she just wanted to get on with it, but everyone kept mentioning ‘social enterprise’ to her. My advice was to ensure that she had a USP, could make her case, evaluate her work, prove it in a pilot and promote it effectively + have a robust strategic plan. And that legal structure/titles would follow from whatever work/governance/funding she chose to pursue.

There are no great funding pots that become available as a social enterprise / social entrepreneur-led organisation (although some funders might be attracted by applications that are, to use Gilligan-speak, ‘sexed up’ by such words)….the former point though is valid: meeting other people of similar mindset, attitude, drive and commitment. That really IS what it is all about….

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Upstarts and Green Fellows

Some announcements of distinct relevance:

– First up, the nominees for the Edge Upstarts Social Enterprise Awards have been announced; there are some SSE connections which we are happy to see; 2 out of the 3 nominees for trainee of the year (Michelle Baharier and Bernadette Wright) are SSE Fellows from London and Salford respectively; also, up for the prestigious Social Entrepreneur of the Year award is current London student Simon Fenton-Jones……best of luck to all.

Also heavily represented are our friends at Training for Life, who are up for an award, along with their CEO Gordon D’Silva, and their flagship enterprise, the Hoxton Apprentice.

– Secondly, in the US, Echoing Green (who’ve been working with and connecting social entrepreneurs for many years) have announced the finalists for their 2006 Fellowship Finalists. You can see the first finalist here, and then click through to the rest…Some really impressive people/projects here (mostly US-based) competing for some serious money. They cover a range of areas including leadership in Africa, clean technology in Latin America, helping Palestinians travel freely and supporting farmers in North Korea… well worth a look, as is the whole Echoing Green site

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