VitalSpark:Coalition Blog

Posted: 19 March 2010, in Blog

In the commercial world, change is constant or so the rhetoric goes. What about us?

One crude analysis is to look at the 20 largest Scottish social enterprises of 10 – 15 years ago and look at the 20 largest now. Are they the same and have any of them gone to scale? Do we need them all – the way they are?

What about the leading social entrepreneurs in Scotland over the same period – are they the same too? What % of our current leadership is nearing retirement age? Is the next (succession) tier of manager/entrepreneurs similarly aged? Are any of our principals under 50 or even if they are, are they all burnt out and worrying about family, pensions and future health care.

If we want to change the world or even a small bit of it how will this occur? Do we understand the huge changes/challenges that are coming our way and what we need to do to compete?

My suggestion is to think about Clinton’s aphorism about the economy and stupidity.

Money talks, and paradigm change requires that we get our hands on lots of it. We may need to bring in (younger) fresh talent to help us do this. These folk may not look, think, vote or act like us. Their blend of motivations may be different to yours or mine.

So how do we get this money? One way is to raise investment capital from private ethical investors and their intermediaries.

Café Direct and the Ethical Property Company have been successful at this and it surprises me that we have not all cottoned on and got serious about this way of funding business growth. Maybe our culture is to prefer to look to State funders and philanthropic donors rather than private investors and banks. Maybe some or most of don’t want to pay investors a return on their investment. I believe this is an error in our approach. It also occurs to me that those social enterprises that operate in commercial or consumer markets may be better suited to private investment and market rewards than those whose customer is The State.

One remedy. Let’s help Scotland’s financiers and bankers recover their good name. We should hold a Summit and invite the finest investment brains we have to devise support for Scottish social enterprises to pitch for private cash, do some good business and reward their investors – a virtuous economic and social relationship. It is how capitalism was funded and became the dominant global economic orthodoxy. Or we can adopt the Scottish cringe, retreat and hope that something will turn up or that change won’t affect us – doubtful that.