VitalSpark: Coalition Blog

Posted: 05 May 2010, in Blog

Apart from having to get used to the unfortunate American habit of having indigestibly earnest plenary panels in the middle of meals,the Scottish contingent are getting on rather well at the 2010 World Social Enterprise Forum in San Frabcisco. Outside the trolley cars jangle and hot sun bounces off the sidewalk. What a swell city this is. I confess in the middle of the conference I am carried off for an hour by Berkeley friends for champagne and oysters in the Ferry Building, but make no mistake every minute we are programme by our American hosts about our values and entrepreneurial spirit.

‘Find the Bright Spot’ says Stanford based Chip Heath, author of ‘Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard’.We get a free copy of this new book ( his last has been apparently translated into 27 langauges ) and his presentation comprises much powerpoint about elephants and riders. Can’t remember why now, but I remain thoroughly thrilled by all that expensive Stanford perspicacity. I note that so many of the speakers, Chip Heath excepted, seem to have a middle initial in their names . Suzanne N Smith, Wendy K Baumann do a fantastic session on the black arts of lobbying. Watch out Holyrood! I wonder whether I ought to adopt a middle initial. My own , J short for Joy, has long since been has long been dropped as inaccurate by my family. So how about .. Antonia N. Swinson? N for er, nothing . But who cares, it looks great. By the evening plenary with a glass of wine at the Awards banquet costing 10 extortionate dollars.

I’m afraid the Scot contingent are a tired lot, but we’re to WORK people not play, so we listen to lots of big words such as ‘ social impact architecture.’ and are we are reminded, high flying hot shot business pioneers in the city of the Gold Rush. The Americans can quite happily do plenary sessions after 8pm without losing the will to live, you have to admire that energy level. The day been a riot of information and I am particularly smitten by the widespead use of the 2 sides of A4 annual report, given out by speakers – and I thought I was succinct. The main criticism is the World Forum in all its plenaries and workshops has not much

World in its speaker programme despite 700 delegates from 30 countries. Apart from Sec’s Peter Holbrook, the folk up on the panel seem to all-American with an apologetic exception of a Canadian or two. The UK is frequently lauded from the platform along with Quebec, as a paragon as progress for social enterprise, but as for Scotland’s distinct policy identity, we might as well be Milwaukee. In the coffee queue, I mention that the Scots enlightenment invented the world”s first coop, savings bank and mutual to a polite group from St Paul’s Minnesota. They seem impressed but I now realise to make any information stick,but I really need that middle initial.