Fast Social: News for the week beginning 9th Sept 2013

The_matrix_architectBig news this week for social enterprise aficionados is change at the very top of Big Society Capital – ‘The Architect of social investment’ Sir Ronald  Cohen is stepping down as Chair, and being replaced by Harvey McGrath, former chairman of Prudential and Man Group (which he apparently left £377m worse off). He’s a big name in philanthropy these days though, so interesting to see what happens (if anything) when he takes over as Chair in January. I imagine the handover will be much like the exchange between The Architect and Neo in The Matrix, with a real air of a gravity and profoundness, but largely incomprehensible to an outside observer.

Meanwhile everyone’s favourite social entrepreneur, Muhammad Yunus, is taking the good fight up against the Bangladeshi government, who have accused him of trying to fiddle the tax system, whilst seemingly fiddling with the rules of the system themselves.

Back in the UK, and buoyed by the growing number of Community Interest Companies (CICs) opting for the Social Enterprise Mark (SEM), the CIC Regulator and SEM have joined forces in order to exchange information and provide feedback on relevant issues relating to CICs.

And perhaps the most relevant issue for them at the moment (and many other people) is the consultation on the social investment tax relief, which closed at the end of last week. There has been a whole range of responses from sector intermediaries, but most are calling for the tax relief to offer more of a ‘level playing field’ for social enterprises. Interesting points from individual responses include:

  • BSC want it to permit investment into social impact bonds.
  • Social Enterprise UK is keen that all forms of social enterprise should benefit from the tax relief
  • Social Finance UK argued that the relief should be made available at as identical terms as possible to the existing commercial regimes of the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and the Venture Capital Trust (VCT) frameworks
  • UnLtd called for reform to the structure of the Community Interest Company limited by shares, to make it more straightforward and attractive to investors and social entrepreneurs.

Elsewhere, new research out this week from The School for Social Entrepreneurs found that UK social enterprises generally under-invest in training, but when they do go on courses etc, social entrepreneurs prefer to hear from expert practitioners who have been there and done it, rather than wonks like me (which is a disappointing thing to have to read and write halfway through a wonky blog post).

Futuregov have teamed up with Hub Launchpad to launch the ‘Public Service Launchpad’, which will launch public services from a pad. The 7 month initiative ‘will help turn early stage ideas into successful change initiatives and maybe even businesses that can change lives, by giving public service innovators access to the support they need to get their ideas off the ground’. Very launchy!

And over amongst the “real businesses” there are signs that they are finally getting it. Oh wait, what’s that? Latest research shows that total direct emissions from the world’s 500 largest listed companies have not changed significantly in the past five years? Shurely shome mishtake?

Still, at least we can rely on Generation Change, X, Y, Z, Whatever to sort things out. What? You’re kidding? New longitudinal research shows that younger people are less likely to consider themselves part of any particular religion or political party, more suspicious of the benefits of welfare and less supportive of traditional family structures. But that doesn’t mean they’re less likely to take social action though, does it?

Oxfam also heaped on the misery this week with a report warning that Europe faces a ‘lost decade’ with the number of people living in poverty across the continent set to rise by up to 25 million by 2025. Great…

Seems like we need to get the UN involved. Oh wait, they already are, denouncing the ‘bedroom tax’ as a ‘shocking policy’. Tory MPs were up in arms – how dare an ‘overpaid, over-mighty and unaccountable official’ tell others what to do, they said (presumably looking out the corner of their eyes at Iain Duncan Smith).

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