SEC leaders set out case for an expanded sector

IT was a case of “right place, right time” as Social Enterprise Coalition Chair Claire Dove opened the national social enterprise conference, Voice 10, at Cardiff’s International Arena.

Ms Dove observed that Wales is “an incredibly exciting place to be for social enterprise” and added that “at a time when many want to see ethics, morality, fairness and values at the heart of business, it’s a big moment for our country”.

She said that, across the UK, social enterprise was helping to invigorate communities and inspire individuals. “We were doing this long before the recession and will still be doing it long after,” she said.

Ms Dove said that the past year had been one of change for the Coalition, with a major review of governance leading to the appointment of new board members. It had also seen long-time Chief Executive Jonathan Bland stand down for family reasons.

Ms Dove said Mr Bland had “set us on a course of real change for the social enterprise movement … I feel privileged to have worked with him”.

Mr Bland’s successor is Peter Holbrook, the former Chief Executive of the Sunlight Development Trust in Gillingham.

Having only been in post for four weeks, Mr Holbrook asked delegates at the sixth annual conference for a “long and happy honeymoon” during which he would be listening to a wide range of social enterprises and social enterprise support organisations.

He said his vision of the Coalition was of a “dynamic, diverse and empowering” organisation that would “continue to inform and influence policy” — work which he said had never been more timely.

“The economic crisis has shown that profit at any cost is no way of doing business — it’s dangerous and it’s unjust,” he said.

He said the Coalition, with the promise of an enhanced membership offer, would continue to represent the sector, building on its business support programme, delivering events and maintaining, and perhaps expanding, its social enterprise ambassadors’ programme.

He said that ten years ago the social enterprise movement was “out in the cold”, whereas today all the major political parties recognise the importance of social enterprise. “We face challenging and unknown times, but whatever happens politically we are in a great position,” Mr Holbrook said.

He announced the Coalition will be launching its own general election manifesto this month. It would outline measures and call for incentives to help the contribution of social enterprise to grow from being one per cent of GDP to three per cent.

He said that the Coalition played a vital role. “There are, of course, times to debate and dissent, but there are also times to speak as one clear voice,” he added.

Reflecting that the key message he had taken from his time at Sunlight Development Trust was that “the sky is the limit”, he ended by thinking big: “We all have the social enterprise bug and we need to spread it as quickly as possible. I want to see a full-blown pandemic of social enterprise across the world.”

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