VitalSpark: Coalition Blog

Posted: 09 August 2010, in Blog

Now that Edinburgh Leisure has received the “Social Enterprise Mark” what does that mean for the rest of us – if anything?

Cards on the table here. I’m totally and utterly opposed to public bodies getting social enterprise recognition for being clever with the reorganisation of their services. Quite frankly, I could not care less that these new bodies have charitable status and all the legal trappings of NFP structures – they just aren’t social enterprises. Chameleons are still chameleons no matter how much they change their looks.

Check out the link and look at the Board membership. Are these folk and their senior executives social entrepreneurs?

Is Edinburgh Leisure a member of the SSEC? (Clue – rhetorical question). Do the staff and good citizens of Edinburgh notice much difference from when the council were directly in control of leisure services? Notice that their website declares that the council set up the “not for profit” company.

I’ve always been impressed if occasionally exasperated by the independent spirit, norms, values and attitudes of social entrepreneurs – council officials and councillors display a different set of norms by and large because they tend to be municipalists or statists. The bottom line for me is that they are not social entrepreneurs if all they have done is get their legal department to fill a few forms in.

The question also arises about motivation. I’m cynical when I see what I think are contingency and instrumental approaches to organisational developments – where is the social entrepreneurship, vision and the passion in that? However, I do note that on the Edinburgh Leisure website a document relating to board members includes a requirement that candidates possess” an understanding of the public sector service ethos and the issues encountered in working in such an environment”.

If local authorities and other public bodies wish to reinvent their services and take advantage of tax breaks and funding opportunities currently denied to them I can understand that motivation. If Edinburgh Leisure being removed from direct council control was a response to public service cuts say so and be honest, but don’t insult real social entrepreneurs by adopting our structures without adopting our beliefs.

However, just to be sure that we don’t confuse the public can I suggest that we hold a competition for a new term for these organisations? My suggestion is Public Sector Service Ethos Companies – after all it is what they demand of their own leadership and accurately reflects (in my opinion) the real normative and philosophical underpinning of their activities and motivations; The State disguised to look like something else – us.


The opinion expressed here are solely those of Morethanprofitman and do not necessarily represent those of the Coalition.