Fast Social: News for the week beginning 8th July 2013

The ShadowThis week things got political. And when I say political, I mean some politicians did or didn’t do something, and everyone else gossiped about it.

Towards the start of the week, SEUK launched their biennial ‘State of Social Enterprise‘ survey which suggests social enterprises are outperforming SME’s. Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills took to the podium to officially launch the report. “The majority of social enterprises are led by women” he said. Lies! probably thought the crowd. The actual figure is 38%, which is still pretty darn impressive (particularly compared to only 19% of SMEs and only 3% of the FTSE 100!) But perhaps the most interesting finding can be found deep in the back pages – women and BME groups still find it hardest to access finance. Hmm, there seems to be a growing bank of evidence suggesting this….

Over at ‘Shadow BIS‘ Vince’s rival – the Lord of Shadows, laid out Labour’s plans for the government’s ‘key business and industrial strategy department’ which didn’t include any mention of social enterprise (which were businesses last time I checked). Cue lots of loud tuts. Let’s just hope that doesn’t cost Labour 688,000 votes!

Speaking of Lords, back in June the House of Lords (which is actually a powerful decision-making body, not a provincial nightclub) blocked Chris ’50 shades’ Grayling’s plans to allow private companies and civil society organisations to take on more than two-thirds of the work currently done by the probation service. Although that cut off another potential income stream for the Third Sector and others, this week it emerged that this may in fact have been foresighted.

News broke on Thursday that private security firms G4S and Serco were potentially going to be investigated for fraud following revelations that they had been overcharging the government by millions, potentially since the 1990’s, for electronically tagging offenders. Cue a Newnight examination of the issue and an appearance from SEUK CEO Peter Holbrook. He successfully argued for a more plural economy, with lots of small scale providers challenging the oligopolies held by larger providers. This seemed to go down well, although presenter Kirsty Wark highlighted the potential ramifications of this in terms of complex benchmarking. Will this prompt more debate about shared indicators etc? Probably not.

Elsewhere Michael Fallon MP announced the sale of Royal Mail. ‘But what about the Post Office?’ asked everybody who doesn’t post their letters from work. ‘Don’t worry’ he said, ‘that’s not as profitable, so we’re turning it in to a social enterprise’. Because that’s what social enterprises apparently are. Obviously he didn’t read SEUK’s report!

At least Nick ‘The Quiet (Revolution) Man’ Hurd was spreading some love this week. He flicked back his hair and said ‘Charities are venus, businesses are like Mars – but why can’t we all just get on together hey?’

With all this activity you can see why they deserve an (almost) 11% pay rise.

Last but not least, something that has nothing to do with politicians. Buried away in the back of the internet, another research report out this week suggested that even large third sector organisations experience income fluctuation. Which is a bit like finding out that even your boss also scrapes through the last week of each month waiting for payday. It’s some consolation, but perhaps masks a wider problem. But they do make a good point – “Being enterprising, in short, is not just about getting the money in – it’s about knowing what the purpose of that money is in relation to the organisation’s social objectives“. Fancy that!

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