It’s been the week of manifestos. There’s been some interesting analysis of what the main parties are pledging to do for social enterprise/social enterpreneurs from Nick Temple at SSE and Dan Martin, while yesterday saw Social Enterprise London launch their long awaited (in the sense that it came out after the rest of the lobby’s efforts) document.
Compared to the previous ones from elsewhere, SEL’s manifesto is mercifully short and focused consisting primarily of five ‘asks’ – asks being things it wants politicians to do.
1. To commit to a social enterprise hub at the Olympic Park
2. To foster a new system of social business support
3. To capture the added value social enterprises create through the public procurement process
4. To support frontline public sector staff to establish their own social enterprises
5. To actively support and advocate for the social enterprises in your area
Having attended one of the consultation sessions, I know that it’s deliberately designed to be relevant local politicians and London’s backbench MPs as well as representatives of whichever party (or parties) ends up being the government at Westminster. On this basis, at least two of the ‘asks’: ‘Support frontline staff to establish their own social enterprise’ and ‘Actively support the social enterprises in your area’ are directly relevant to the work of councillors and non-Ministers.
The most interesting ‘ask’ is ‘Capture the added value social enterprise create’. This – when you read the full text – is a call for social impact clauses in every public sector procurement contract. This is potentially a positive idea. The current procurement picture is already much messier (and slightly better) than the 1980s era of compulsory competitve tendering when contracts had to go to the lowest bidder, irrespective of any wider social implications but social impact clauses could take things a stage further.
This call for social impact clauses does raise at least two immediate questions:
(i) What is social impact? or Is there a coherent, accepted definition of social impact that can be imposed in a uniform way across all public sector contracts?
(ii) Will social enterprises necessarily be better at delivering social impacts than private companies that don’t describe themselves as social enterprises?
If the answer to (ii) is “no” that’s a problem for social enterprises but not necessarily for the general public who, presumably, would still end up benefitting from more socially responsible and socially beneficial service delivery even if it wasn’t delivered by a social enterprise.
Anyway, I’m keen to hear what others’ thoughts are on any of the five ‘asks’ or any other manifesto related stuff.