A DETAILED action plan aimed at putting social enterprise at the heart of British business is to be announced by the Government later this year.
Although the launch of the strategy is some months away, details of the initiative were given to delegates attending the Voiceག event in Manchester by Alun Michael (right), Minister of State for Industry and the Regions.
Mr Michael, Labour/Co-op MP for Cardiff South & Penarth, told delegates that the strategy – which is all about taking the social enterprise sector to the next level – has four main themes. These are:
• To convince doubters of the value and credibility of social enterprise. So, the action plan will include new research into the sector's impact.
• Embedding social enterprise as a recognised business model. That involves being ready to tackle increasing demands and expectations and improving business performance. In the new action plan, each RDA will ensure that social enterprises are well served by publicly funded business support and the Government's Business Link initiative will be emphasised as the place to start.
• Government has a key role as a purchaser so the action plan will outline the approach Government is taking to identify public services where social enterprises are able to compete on the quality of their offer. Opportunities to involve social enterprises in rural as well as urban regeneration will be explored and the Government is looking to facilitate the transfer of assets to community organisations.
• Encouraging new entrants to social enterprise is critical. New leaders for the future, new types of enterprise and new forms of innovation are needed.
Mr Michael told the 800 delegates that the Department of Trade and Industry will increase its promotion of social enterprise, working with the Social Enterprise Coalition, Enterprise Insight, the National Council of Graduate Entrepreneurship and others to raise awareness of social enterprise among potential entrepreneurs.
He said the fact that the Voiceག conference was sponsored by four Government departments and the North West Regional Development Agency shows the value the Government places on the sector.
He said: "I am committed to social enterprise and find I am pushing at an open door with my colleagues, many of whom are actively promoting greater community involvement and more opportunities in public services for the third sector within their own departments.
"Our approach is to improve the environment for social enterprises to compete for services that they are well placed to deliver and offer innovative solutions. We have a long way to go, but we are on the right path."
Added Mr Michael: "The new action plan will take this progress a step further – but I suggest there are three big challenges to social enterprises: You need to make money, so don't put up with bad practice and the reluctance of purchasers to pay a fair price for services; make full use of the support available to all businesses and, three, prove it works!
"Government can help the social enterprise sector – if the social enterprise sector helps itself. The 21st century is the right time and Britain is the right place for social enterprise to become a real, major, mainstream, business success story."