VitalSpark: Coalition Blog

Posted: 19 May 2010, in Blog

One of the generally implied features of social enterprise is to make “things or life” better for people, families and communities. Where do upward social mobility and “life chances” fit in here? Are we social engineers who want to help people “move up” the system through better access to, and increased ability, to grab opportunities? Is the vocabulary of social mobility and class too out of date or restrictive to describe what we are about? Do some of us disagree with notions of upward social mobility?

Over the course of my life I’ve definitely “moved up”. Good school and university education helped a lot.  What about your and your family’s lot in life – has it moved up too? How would you describe or measure that? Are you comfortable with the notion of being upwardly mobile or are you feart to be accused of rising “out of your class”?

I’m intrigued by this election’s political rhetoric and the absence of aspiration. No party is using affirmative pop songs this time. So where are the optimists? Who is talking the language of aspiration and paradigm shifts? Can we believe politicians in election mode who talk of giving us more for less or who suggest that only they can solve intractable problems.

I groan when I hear Scottish politicians speak about our world class education system because I know that many bits of the system are awful. Many schools and teachers are wonderful, but any system that fails to ensure that thousands of pupils possess basic standards of numeracy and literacy is not world class. The inability to read, write and count is a social and economic disability that destroys potential. This is not just about a lack of confidence; it is also about an absence of aspiration that exists at the individual, family and community level. In some places this aspiration deficit has been embedded for generations.

So, what should social entrepreneurs do? I’d like to suggest that we decide to eradicate illiteracy and innumeracy in Scotland. That is the 21st century goal. We need to maximise and exploit our small population’s talent wisely. Watching thousands of people rot on Welfare is plain stupid and just wrong.

We should investigate what mothers; especially single parents want for their kids and work with them first.  Aspiration needs to be nurtured in the home and this will require investment.  Any social enterprises out there with a business plan or model to tackle this? I’d also look at our prison population. I’d introduce parole conditions linked to every exiting prisoner in Scotland being able to meet basic standards in numeracy and literacy. Just to be contrary, I’d probably also insist that every professional sportsman and woman in Scotland would need to meet basic standards as well in order to get a licence allowing them to “play”. Education, education, education. It’s a no-brainer really.