“There will be a debate about the type of economy, society and country that will emerge from this recession,” he said. “I predict that social enterprise will become more, not less, influential because people are asking: ‘How on earth did we end up here?’
“A demand for answers will follow,” he told delegates at Birmingham’s International Convention Centre. “One answer will be that markets will need more morals like yours. We need business for the public benefit not the personal bonus. This country will look more for ethos with its enterprise – not just cut and thrust but care and trust.”
Mr Byrne said that social enterprise was an integral part of the Government’s New Opportunities white paper, which outlined how new jobs could be secured for Britain in the decades ahead.
He added that the Business Secretary Lord Mandelson would soon be chairing a social enterprise summit to ensure that that the sector plays a bigger role in the new British economy.
“If we want to re-balance Britain’s economy in the years to come, then the role of social enterprise has to expand. We will bring together the brightest minds and the most progressive thinkers – and even some politicians – to join us in this task.”
He said there would also be a bigger role for social enterprise in the delivery of public services: “In the last ten years we have rebuilt institutions in our communities — new schools, colleges, universities, health centres, surgeries and youth centres.
“In the next ten years we have to hand over the reins to local people, and we’ll need your help. When we publish our plans for accelerating public service reform, I will set out clearly how I want to see the role of social enterprise expand.”
In terms of new jobs, Mr Byrne said that he wanted to see 25,000 more people working in social enterprise in the months ahead.
He said that the “soft power” of social enterprise would grow when “investment in British youngsters is seen as more valuable than short-term bets on America’s sub-prime debt”.