VitalSpark: Coalition Blog

Posted: 15 April 2010, in Blog

Our nation (or is it just the State?) is at war and true to previous form our returning soldiers, air force and naval personnel  are being neglected, ignored and mistreated. Typically, the press focus on injustice and unfairness in how public services (housing, jobs, benefits, retraining, health services etc) continue to be denied to these ‘heroes’. ‘Others’ are deemed to receive services as a priority. These ‘others’, tend to be categorised as immigrants, asylum seekers, criminals, drug addicts, gypsies, single parents and anyone else the media disapproves of.

Over the Easter weekend, one of The Sundays ran a spread outlining disturbing details of ex-military personnel who have a range of mental health problems, disabilities and ensuing lifestyles typified by poverty, exclusion, relationship breakdowns, criminality and suicide.

The examples used were dramatically unheroic and rather unremarkable in their ubiquity and of course, the impact on children, spouses, partners, families and communities is brutal. Meanwhile, politicians promise solutions and resources but history suggests that aside from truth being the first casualty of war, promises to heroes are pretty hollow.

What should social enterprises do about this?

We should strike a covenant with the military. We help them develop services and businesses and in return we benefit by demonstrating how our various social mission(s) are crucial to the successful repatriation of young men and women who have faced true horrors and who need physical, emotional and practical support if they are to lead productive lives.

I’m also convinced that the family analogies the military often deploy when talking about peer support and self help reflect social enterprise values. Can Scottish social enterprises stimulate the development of these people into social entrepreneurs? There is a problem though – they don’t really have an easy route into our world, do they?

We also get a lot back if we engage with the military because we can access a group of people used to hard work and discipline and who possess a group mentality of getting things done. I’d love to see a situation where these men and women become entrepreneurs and leaders in the social economy – it would certainly add to our diversity at conferences and dramatically alter our networks. Our groupthink may also be challenged and that has to be a good thing.

First things first. Can our Scottish leadership arrange a summit with military leaders and forces charities to kick-start a relationship? We may get a welcome, we may get a rejection but we may be surprised about what we have in common – a conviction that the State does not have a monopoly on social and public good for example.