A week is a long time in social enterprise

For the social entrepreneur and social enterprise aficionado, there are two main event seasons: the cluster around October / November (Good Deals, Social Business, Global Entrepreneurship Week etc), and the end of March extravaganza of the Skoll World Forum, its fringe Oxford Jam and (this year), Voice 11. A few reflections on the events of last week, then…

Voice 11 came first, and marked something of a step-up in ambition for the sector, being held at the O2 and (I think) having delegates in four figures for the first time. It had a decent ministerial line-up (even if Cameron appeared only on video) to represent their policy reach, but more importantly the tiered pricing and programme created much more of a buzz of business than previous years. Stands were busy, sessions were well-attended, and the networking area was full of good conversations and deals being done.

Announcements included (*minimum*) £10m more for the Social Enterprise Investment Fund from the Department of Health: good news for the waves of right-to-request spin-outs, and prompting some to wonder what the split of the £10m will be (in terms of grants and loans). The Big Society Bank was also the source of much debate and conflab, with a start date now of summer 2011, though many fear it will be significantly later than that. It was also interesting to hear Vince Cable say there were “40,000” CICs, which was about 10x what I’d thought there were…

The only gripe people had was that it was cold (the third bottom line would have been swiftly dropped for a well-placed patio heater); but this is a hardy sector, and good humour overcame the chills. And that good humour was much in evidence at the awards in the evening (congrats to all winners: especially the NI contingent), with Alexander Armstrong arguably upstaged by Ed Miliband’s range of “I get mixed up with David” jokes…

Up in Oxford, the glamour was more international. Where else but the Skoll World Forum could you find Desmond Tutu and Jude Law at the same event? Skoll takes a TED-type approach, in that the event is pretty exclusive, but much of the content is made available online. From the tweets / conversations I followed, the megatrends, neuroscience and deep leadership sessions are particularly worth tracking down. [click on the previous link for access to videos, blogs and more…]

Oxford Jam is now firmly ensconced as the Skoll World Forum fringe, and Amanda Jones, Ben Metz and Jonny Mallinson (and helpers) did a fab job of pulling it together on shoestrings and enthusiasm. The vibe was great, the dialogue open and challenging, attendance free / on donation, and the drinks were multiple.

Highlights included Paul Cheng from Venturesome (“we’re not far off the social enterprise world’s first Bernie Madoff”), Jonathan Jenkins from UnLtd launching their Big Venture Challenge (“Why are we doing this? Because I’m bored. Bored of having the same conversation about the ‘missing middle’ ”) and Geoff Burnand / Caroline Mason’s (from Investing for Good / Charity Bank) excellent social enterprise quiz over dinner. Long may the Jam (and the late-night cabaret) continue.

It’s a big commitment of time, energy and expense, but I returned with mind opened, networks expanded, and motivation renewed. Can’t say fairer than that.

[Nick Temple is now also blogging at www.NickTemple.org]

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2 thoughts on “A week is a long time in social enterprise

  1. Voice was freezing. No-one really knows whether the £10m for the SEIF is new money and it will probably be wasted anyway. The Big Society Bank won’t happen in our lifetimes. Vince Cable doesn’t know anything about social enterprise. Ed Miliband hasn’t got any new jokes. Skoll is full of luvvies. What is deep leadership? Everyone got leathered at Oxford Jam. Instead of having the same conversation over and over, Jonathan Jenkins is going to have the same launch over and over.

  2. Thanks POPse for demonstrating how I could have written my post in three lines…So young and yet so jaded / cynical ;0)
    If only there was a pop-up social enterprise think-tank forthcoming to reinvigorate your thinking and enthusiasm….