New Blog – “We Gotta Get Outta This Place”

Posted: 05 December 2011, in Blog

“We Gotta Get Outta This Place” – The Animals (1965)

I’ve been reading a Senscot piece that was concerned with the way Big Society Capital is positioning its investment strategy. The problem is that there is no legal definition of social enterprise. Anyone can therefore call their business a social enterprise with impunity. This opens the door for the private sector to masquerade as social enterprises – just as the public sector is already doing through leisure and sports trusts etc. This is deemed to be a bad thing by all concerned.

Anyway this got me thinking but I was stopped in my tracks by a quote from Andrew Hind the editor of Charity Finance magazine – check him out at http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/profile/Andrew-Hind

“…We would all applaud BSC if, through its intermediaries, it invested in a stakeholder-owned social enterprise with a strong asset lock which was creating new employment opportunities IN (my highlighted uppercase  italics) deprived inner-city areas. But what if the social enterprise was a for-profit franchise of an international pizza chain focused on providing employment for the long-term unemployed? Would we feel as positive about that?…”

My negative reaction is based on the bit above about “…creating new employment opportunities IN deprived inner-city areas…”  My problem is that in supporting the idea of inner city job creation and warning about multinationals running job creation schemes I fear that Andrew is missing the point.

The point being that I don’t want to create jobs IN inner city areas if there is no local economy strong enough to support them in a sustainable fashion. We have tried this for years and it doesn’t work. Please remember Einstein’s dictum folks about insanity being defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The trouble with projects is that the jobs disappear when politicians get bored or run out of cash. The market never existed to support their business model (sic) so without “funding” the business cannot and will not succeed. This is not entrepreneurship, social or otherwise. These are inner city projects folks and they don’t create long term sustainable jobs – unless you are a middle class policy person or municipal employee. They create loads of those jobs.

My take is that social enterprises should get people to work for them in markets that can support their jobs in the long term. As for pizzas, I’d applaud like mad if a social enterprise got enough capital to build a pizza business outside a deprived area – i.e. WHERE THE MARKET IS! You’ll recognise the place. They tend to be busy retail and/or social spaces with lots of consumers. It is where Jamie opened Fifteen. http://www.jamieoliver.com/fifteen-london/about

Far better a real social enterprise pizza chain than one of the many “never in a million years going to make a profit” projects that we have all watched wither and die in every deprived community you care to mention. The task here has to be to get social enterprises out of the “charity-ghetto mindset” and into the mainstream economy. That would be worth investing in.

Now, If Andrew was an entrepreneur he would embrace the opportunity to persuade BSC to invest in social enterprises that build great businesses rather than inner city charitable not for profit employment projects. Ambitious and well-capitalised social enterprises would compete in markets and through that create long term jobs for folk from inner city areas. But you need a social entrepreneur who understands and quite frankly enjoys markets to deliver that. If Andrew wants projects can I suggest that he and his chums invest their own money in them?

Morethanprofitman

NOTE: This blog does not necessarily reflect the views of Social Enterprise Scotland or endorse any political position.