Labour stirred things up this week by getting all political at their party conference and talking about “an economy and a society which is not only for the privileged few”. Socialism is back, or so the papers would have us believe (and if you ignore that fact that only in June this year Ed Balls said if elected Labour would continue spending cuts and introduce their own benefits cap).
One of their key policy proposals is to introduce a 20-month freeze in energy prices, resulting in £2bn being wiped off the value of some of the big energy companies. But as always an alternative emerged in the shape of the social economy. In particular, the Social Economy Alliance, who have written to Ed Miliband showcasing the work of cooperatives and social enterprises in the energy sector. In their letter the Alliance ask for a ’21st Century debate’, arguing it “must not be about big state versus big business. But about big problems versus big opportunities”.
Talking of big political debates, Conservative MP Andrew Lansley also spoke out this week to allay Third sector fears of being shackled by the Lobbying Bill. Under the proposed revisions, charities would only be regulated by the Bill if they did anything which could “reasonably be regarded as intended to ‘promote or procure the electoral success’ of a party or candidate”. Which still sounds a bit ambiguous.
Talking of ambiguity, Nick O’Donohoe of Big Society Capital sought to dispel myths that the growing social investment market will compensate for the shrinking grant market. O’Donohoe also reopened the social enterprise definition debate, highlighting that why being ambiguous is all very on-trend and postmodern, it’s not particularly helpful when trying to convince government and big businesses to involve social enterprises in their supply chains. Not that it seems to bother charities, who are reportedly turning towards the social enterprise approach in their numbers.
Yet new research out this week, looking at how to replicate social innovations in the UK, suggests grant funding is essential for this particular approach. Produced by the International Centre for Social Franchising, the report suggests that there is much potential to be realised through social replication, so long as the right ingredients and support are in place. And energy of course, we mustn’t forget about energy!