News barrage: ECT, added value, the future of enterprise

One of the (few) benefits of the lengthy commute in to work for me is to do some reading / listening of relevant information on the way in. Inevitably, on Wednesdays this means Society Guardian. Sometimes, there’s little of direct relevance, and then sometimes the whole thing feels like it’s waving at me. Like this morning:

Big article on ECT; I think it’s a very good article. Though it doesn’t clear up the precise details of the CIC stuff, it does give some reasoning behind what has happened and, rightly, emphasises the most important outcome: jobs secured for those in the company. I spoke to the journalist writing this, and am pleased that he interviewed Steve Sears directly and told it this way. Still unanswered questions about CICs (nothing from the regulator, and the legal person behind it could only say that it made being taken over much easier….as if that was a positive?), but the story is clearer.

– An editorial on the the lack of evidence / proof that the third sector is any better (or provides any significant added value). I’d agree with much of this, and the need to measure and demonstrate social impact….but am disappointed at the emphasis on cost ("The third sector says it offers "something extra". But extra will cost
extra. Buying services from the third sector requires an uneven playing
field or, as the MPs diplomatically put it, "intelligent
commissioning", which could well raise unit prices"
) without a similar emphasis on the benefits. For example, a place on the SSE programme has a higher unit cost than, say, 4 Business Link advice sessions….but the benefits are of a completely different order (and there is proof). Also what about the savings in other areas (benefits system, health service, social care, crime etc) that result from the (minimally) greater investment?

– The third thing was Peter Grigg’s piece promoting the new report from Make Your Mark and Demos called The Future Face of Enterprise. There’s some interesting stuff here, though I confess the commute isn’t long enough to have read all 157 pages yet. It ALL seems relevant, in different ways, though much won’t be new to regular readers of this blog, namely:

  • people (especially young people) are seeking more meaning / purpose from their work
  • people (esp. young people) are seeking outlets for their innovation and creativity
  • money still motivates, but (increasingly) so do other things: frustration, personal mission, inequality
  • self-employment can be a route out of frustrations (and flexibility / work-life balance)
  • unlocking entrepreneurial talent, regardless of sector / organisation, can be key to success
  • there are significant problems in society that need addressing that government can’t do (alone)

All of which leads to a growth in those interested in, engaging with and involved in social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. I’ll try and get to read it all in the near future…

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2 thoughts on “News barrage: ECT, added value, the future of enterprise

  1. So jobs at ECT Recycling have been saved, for the time being at least. But there were two worrying aspects to the Guardian article. Firstly, the implication that ECT Recycling would really be no different under private sector ownership. That may well be true, but only because ECT Recycling was such a poor quality social enterprise, that failed to develop any form of social competitive advantage.
    Secondly, there was the shocking implication of Stephen Lloyd’s statement, adviser to the government on CICs, that one of the strengths of CICs were that they could easily be privatised. All this underlines a worrying managerialist culture within parts of the social enterprise scene.
    Maybe one of these social enterprise managerialists would care to explain exactly what the difference is between private enterprise and social enterprise.

  2. I totally agree with you about Stephen Lloyd’s comment, Jim: as I said above, I was surprised that this was viewed as a positive thing. Wasn’t one of the aims (of the asset lock) to prevent assets being taken over for private gain?
    Also, there are still things that are unclear: one of which is the element of ‘social’ within the new structure. I don’t really feel I know enough to comment on the quality of ECT as a social enterprise. I can say, as an Ealing resident, that their recycling and waste collection is by far the best I’ve had anywhere. But, as you say, that could happen with a private enterprise as well…
    I’m still fairly amazed the CIC regulator hasn’t released/said anything publicly about this (to my knowledge; beyond “monitoring the situation”). I suggested the journalist ask them, but he either didn’t or didn’t get a response….