One day on, it’s time for some general reflections on Shine 2010 – hopefully to be followed by some thoughts on some of the issued raised.
Shine brands itself as an ‘unconference’. The point being that – unlike some social enterprise and wider third sector events – it’s not just blokes and ladies in suits from umbrella bodies, quangos and the civil service making lengthy speeches in jargon and coded language after which all the angriest social enterpreneurs clamour to grab the mike and deliver questions/speeches complaining about the fact that the council has just cut their funding.
Shine’s about social entrepreneurs talking to other social entrepreneurs about what they’re doing and the help they need to do it but with other interested people dropping in and joining the conversation.
The organisational side – delivered by Germination with founding and organising partners: Unltd, SSE, the Hub and Ashoka – has moved on a lot since the first Shine in 2008 (I didn’t get to the one in 2009). The first event had lots of good bits to it but, as someone just turning up rather than being involved with any of the participating organisations, it wasn’t always easy to work what was going on, when and where.
To an extent, this is an occupational hazard of running a conference that is specifically meant to be spontaneous and co-operatively run but the big (positive) difference between Shine 2008 and Shine 2010 was that, while the flexibility was still there, both venues – Show Studios and The Hub Kings Cross – also had a clear focal point where the bigger sessions were taking place.
Work commitments meant I only got to attend part of each of the three days. The opening speeches on Thursday were a mixed bag. Listeners will have had a range of views (or none at all) about whether Paul Twivy of The Big Society was right to be angry about the way Labour politicians and others mocked the concept of the same name in the run up to the recent general election but unfortunately this anger, which edged towards bitterness, came across more clearly and forcefully than any positive message about what his organisation wants to do.
Phillip Blond, on the other hand, brushed off the same political derision far more quickly with some self-depricating comments at the beginning of his talk, and then got on with a positive and engaging speech about how social enterprise can form part of an alternative to the overbearing state and the untrammelled market, before launching The Venture Society, a blueprint for growing social enterprise developed by Unltd and Blond’s ResPublica thinktank. That publication needs its own post.
On Friday, I arrived in time to catch up with some social enterpreneurs I knew – and to meet some I didn’t – before the start of ‘Fink Club’. This event involved four leading figures from the social enterprise world putting on big comedy boxing gloves, jumping on to a stage set up like a boxing ring and exchanging strong views on the future of social enterprise, with Liam Black of Wavelength acting as a provocative referee.
Social Enterprise Ambassador, Saeeda Ahmed, lampooned the idea of social enterprise delivering public services on the cheap by badgering volunteers into doing what would’ve otherwise been paid jobs, Rod Schwartz of Clearly So said that for years – it may have been 30 or 13 – the economy had been run like shit but social enterprise offered an alternative, Amanda Jones of Red Button Design backed up her call for social enterprise to stay young, freakish and beautiful with lots of swearing. The fourth person in the ring was a bloke called David who was very angry about the co-op’s investment fund not giving him any money to set up a chain of co-operative supermarkets to rival the Co-Operative and Somerfield – the relevance of this issue to any wider debate wasn’t really clear.
Contributions from the floor were lively and varied. A lady called Jess said it (all the badness in the whole world) was Coca Cola’s fault, prompting Sam Conniff of Livity to respond that he was pleased to work with Coca Cola and social entrepreneurs should stop talkng to each other all the time and start working with corporates.
Ed from Yorkshire proposed the gift economy as an alternative to cash and Liam Black asked him to kick start the plan by buying him a drink, which he did.
A lady from Eastside Consulting said social enterpreneurs were narcisstic and that they should merge into bigger organisations, and that the Social Enterprise Mark was crap. Liam Black asked for someone to come up and defend the Mark but there were no takers.
Someone called Ben reminded everyone that in 1649 Gerard Winstanley had proclaimed the earth to be a common treasury for all and the Bob Marley had not left a will because he couldn’t take it (his cash?) with him. This comment was in support of mutualism.
Erica Sosna from The Life Project asked what Business Link, with their salaries at the end of the month, knew about supporting social entrepreneurs. The Business Link advisers who’d been around doing one to one advice during the afternoon had either gone home or didn’t really fancy responding.
The event ended with the audience getting to choose which of the four experts had won. The biggest cheer went to Saeeda Ahmed and her arm was held aloft in the traditional end-of-boxing-contest style.