Morethanprofitman Blog

Posted: 07 April 2015, in Blog

Elections, social investment and doing it anyway

Morethanprofitman sits down to write this at the beginning of the UK election campaign. Mr Cameron has popped along to the Palace to tell Her Majesty what she already knew (even The Racing Times had an article on it so she can’t have missed it), that Parliament has self-dissolved and the game is afoot (Sherlock Holmes reference to prove that MTPM doesn’t only do Doctor Who).

But what does the election actually mean for us? Unless there’s an angle that’s eluded MTPM, it’s hard to see that it’s going to make any direct difference to the social enterprise community. There will be stuff in the manifestos, no doubt, but basically the sector will just keep on growing by itself, making use of whatever surviving and new tools the election throws up. Since it’s a UK election and the sector in Scotland is almost wholly under the relatively benign auspices of the Scottish Government, there should be very little change.

The one area that might be affected is one that MTPM has been getting round to in previous blogs – social investment. There’s so much MTPM has to say about this, that it’s going to take more than one Morethanprofitmanifestation to get it all off his chest, but let’s make a start. As he’s hinted, MTPM is neither pro nor anti the concept of social investment, but what he is sure of is that it’s there, it’ll be around long after this election, and that it shouldn’t be written off as a wholly good or a wholly bad thing. He is even more certain that there’s not a specifically English and a Scottish position on this. There is a well-articulated skepticism in Scotland about the notion, but there are also very many for whom the idea does not scare the horses. And the same is true of England.

There has been a lot of ill-judged hype emanating from offices-with-a view in London, and there are public skeptics – see the report of the Alternative Commission on Social Investment – but there have also been social enterprise takers. MTPM, if he has any thoughts, is to ignore the puffery and make an individual judgment on what’s really on offer. We should generally welcome the fact that the emergence of the model adds one more tool to the financing toolbox for the sector, one that some will find attractive and will use to make things happen that otherwise might not have, and others shouldn’t touch with a barge pole. Horses for courses, as Her Majesty would say, though it’s probably not what they discussed over the Hobnobs at the Palace.

What has poisoned the well is an unfortunate impression given that some, like Sir Ronald Cohen, have promoted the new sector as a cure for all ills – but it isn’t. And others, like the UK Chancellor, have left the impression that their support for the sector derives from a covert wish to plug gaps left by state funding – no it shouldn’t.

The third sector, let alone the social enterprise sector, can make use of as many models of funding as the imagination can create. Creativity and imagination are what our sector does best – that’s where it came from and how it constantly refreshes and reinvents itself. We shouldn’t be blanket-dissing a new (ish) form of access to financing. It isn’t good, it isn’t bad, it isn’t Scottish, it isn’t English, it isn’t a panacea and it isn’t for everyone. It just is.

There’s so much to say on this and MTPM is in an unusually serious and passionate mood this time (probably because he can’t quite figure out who to vote for, seeing as the only thing he knows for sure at this stage, is that he knows what he doesn’t want to happen). He could write a blog on it every week up to the election – but rest in your armchairs dear readers, he won’t. Partly because Social Enterprise Scotland has better things with which to fill their newsletters, and partly because, finishing where we started – the election doesn’t really have anything to do with it.

There will be more. Next time, the moral aspects. The only way is ethics…



NOTE: This independent opinion piece blog does not necessarily reflect the views or beliefs of Social Enterprise Scotland.