Manifestos

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.

These are:

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?

and

(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.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Manifestos

  1. James Doran

    I thought that this post would be on the party manifestos and what they offer social enterprise.

    I’ve always felt that reducing social harms that are dealt with by public services, charities and social enterprises can only be done by reforming the private sector – increasing co-owned enterprises being key to this. Sadly, of the three biggest parties, only Labour mentions employee and trust ownership of firms. It seems that the Lib-dems 2005 manifesto was not a blip – private-sector employee-ownership gets no mention again.

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  2. beanbagsandbullsh1t

    I agree that private sector employee ownership is a good idea – and it’s obviously one the quite a few companies are doing successfully.

    What do you think the government should be doing to encourage it? Are you saying they should put up cash?

    Maybe there’s a possibility for the much-mooted social investment wholesale bank to help finance employee buyouts as well as third sector delivery of public services?

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  3. James Doran

    I’m not suggesting that the government actively seek to turn companies owned by outside investors into employee-owned firms, but rather establish something akin to Supporters Direct. And since HMRC is usually a creditor in the case of firms entering administration, there’s potential in some cases for collective employee takeover.

    This might not even be an area in which the government need be involved – certainly, for trade unions in the private sector what better way of being taken seriously by management than employees having a collective stake in the company.

    As for the SIWB, something tells me that extending it to private sector employee-ownership would be conflicting with the agenda somewhat…

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