Following on from the previous post, there was an interesting discussion on Twitter on Thursday between two tweeters whose views I respect a lot: Journalist, Claudia Cahalane (EthicalJourno) and social enterpreneur, Liam Black (LiamABlack).
What struck me about this discussion is that although it was clearly a robust exchange, I found myself partially agreeing with both tweeters.
The conversation went as follows:
One is because however wealthy we are (or aren’t), we – both as individuals and organisations are all agents within the economic and social system. It matters who we give money to and who we take money from. I don’t think ‘making money in dubious ways’ necessarily affects the practical value of any support a company or its employees might give but it’s a two-way endorsement. Not only is the company (to some extent) endorsing the social enterprise but the social enterprise is also (to some extent) endorsing the company.
I’m personally pragmatic about this. Our team has received – very helpful – mentoring through Business in the Community from an employee of Capita and also from an employee of PwC through the School for Social Entrepreneurs. That doesn’t mean that Social Spider necessarily supports public sector administration being outsourced to companies like Capita, or necessarily believes that the public sector is improved by the commissioning consultancy services from PwC and their colleagues – or that we actively support anything else they do – but I think it does signify that we don’t believe those companies to be specifically evil.
I don’t see that as argument for or against corporate support for social enterprise – hopefully banks and others can both support social enterprise and do business in a socially responsible way – but it’s a salutory reminder of its relative insignificance.
Where Liam is right, though, is that we do need to move beyond the stereotype – still popular with a minority in the social enterprise and voluntary sectors – that developing and selling goods and services to make a profit is fundamentally an attribute of the dark side. It isn’t.