Strategic departures

Finally announced yesterday the news everyone – within the social enterprise lobby – had been waiting for, the guidelines for the OCS ‘transition’ strategic partner funding*.

For those organisations thinking that it might an idea to jump aboard the strategic partnership bandwagon as it slows to halt in 2014-2015, the news is not good and the operative questions are about how many of social enterprises representatives will be able to cling on. As reported previously, the current list of 40 partners is being slimmed down to 15 and the available cash for the coming year (2011 – 2012) is down from the previous £12.1 million to £7.5 million.

Logic would assume that these criteria:

1.  The programme is open to:

  • existing OCS Strategic Partners only, either individually or jointly with an(other) organisation(s) as part of a merger (under way) or formal collaboration.

2.  The new Strategic Partners must be:

  • national membership organisations that represent a clear constituency within the VCSE sector; and
  • capable of representing the sector on a broad range of national issues and activity.

mean that current strategic partners SSE/Unltd (who are not membership organisations) and SEL (who are not a national organisation) are not eligible for renewed funding – although this position may be clarified at later point, and it’s not yet entirely clear if organisations who don’t fit some criteria could be involved in partnerships.

In light of these developments, I’d point people in the direction of Andy Gibson’s thoughts on social enterprise and The Big Society – particularly his point (4) re: social enterprise and infrastructure. Now is certainly the time for social enterpreneurs to think about the kind of support they would like the government to fund while their are still a range of options available.

One leading social enterprise commentator based outside London recently told me that he’s lost interest in what he regards as ‘increasingly irrelevant’ London-based national lobby activity and questioned whether or not we need a national sector body to represent us at all. That’s an interesting question. I’d be keen to hear people’s views on that.

Equally interesting is the question of whether we need more of the practical support that Andy calls for in his post. My concern is that a lot of what Andy is suggesting is right but there’s a big danger that we could actually have considerably less of that practical help available to social entrepreneurs from April onwards.

I don’t have a clear enough understanding of what OCS want to do with their strategic partner pot to be clear about whether that the right source for that work to be funding but I do know that support from organisations such as SSE and SEL has been extremely important to me and my organisation. If the Big Society is going to work, practical support to the people and organisations who  are going to deliver it is surely a priority.


*I am a trustee of Urban Forum which is a current strategic partner. My views expressed here are personal views which do not reflect the views of Urban Forum’s trustees, staff or members. Urban Forum is not involved in delivering social enterprise support services.


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5 responses to “Strategic departures

  1. jeffmowatt

    Well David, I’m outside London too and today its was the news of implanting social enterprise in forest communities which got to me having been thwarted in my own efforts since 2004.

    A news article about the misuse of funds for a local healthcare CIC prompted me to comment that there were two interpretations of social enterprise emerging. One sees its own profit as the means to address social problems the other sees public services as the means to profit. The former contributes in taxation to support grant funding for the latter and the latter blocks the former from opportunity and soils the reputation of both.

    Under current circumstances I’m in no mood to see more of our work hijacked.


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  3. Just briefly, David. No, the point about SSE / UnLtd (and others) would be that it is capable of representing a sector (social entrepreneurs) on a range of issues and activity. Neither are membership organisations, but the collective constituency of people supported / given awards by us far outweighs many other strategic partners. These criteria haven’t really changed at all.

    And surely the point about the fact that this scheme tapers to zero makes the question of “the kind of support they would like the government to fund” something of a moot point.

    Strategic partners is actually a relatively small deal in the context of social enterprise support (apart from a few who it will affect significantly). It is the local and regional government cuts + Business Link changes that are having far more effect already.

    Obviously, like you, I’m primarily interested in delivery on the ground: policy work for SSE has only ever been a route to doing more of the work, and to helping the people we support do more of the work.


  4. beanbagsandbullsh1t


    You’re probably right. It’s easy to see what’s happening with these kinds of funding streams because there’s going to be specific decisions taken on who does and doesn’t get funding.

    I think SSE’s work linking policy with practice is very valuable – my concern about some SE policy and lobbying work has been that the link between (honourable and positive) policy goals and practical reality hasn’t been so clear – but I agree that the practical stuff is the biggest issue.

    At risk of turning this blog into a focus for collective grief, has anyone done any calculations on how much funding was going into direct social enterprise support – through Regional Development Agencies and other funding bodies in 2010/11 and how much will be left in 2011/12?


  5. What a good idea David! I’ll make the calculations and will let you know!


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