What Are You Worth?

Posted: 29 October 2010, in Blog

Sociologists are able to point to significant research that demonstrates that different groups of people (age, class, gender, ethnicity, race, faith, sexuality, wealth, education etc) have different conceptions of their self worth and motivations. This intrigues me and I wonder to what extent the Coalition’s plans for innovations and cuts in the delivery and management of welfare and public services will alter people’s self perception.

That is not to say I approve of what they are doing, but I am interested in the opportunities for social enterprises that the Coalition’s plans represent. It’s just a pity that the Scottish Tories have supported this stuff as an example for Scotland. Nothing is surer to irritate the doughty defenders of the status quo here in Scotland than the sight of Auntie Annabel trying to advise on reform of public services etc.

Anyway, despite often disagreeing with him, I’ve always respected Ken Clarke and I’m increasingly intrigued by his notion of increasing work opportunities for prisoners. Is this not a social enterprise opportunity rather than the private sector opportunity the Tory Press are trailing it as?

I wonder what the self worth of those prisoners who want to go straight is, and whether or not dignified work would help their rehabilitation and re-entry into society as a productive person.

I often get a bit glazy eyed when I hear folk talking about prison reform and I’m inordinately irritated by so called social entrepreneurs who just want to run tax payer funded projects rather than trade in markets. But, I’m tempted to think that prison reform might represent a good opportunity for some social enterprises. The deal should be that social enterprises raise capital, set up ethical, green or environmental business and compete for business with the security of a contract with the Scottish Government over the deployment and payment of prisoners.

Personally, I’d give prisoners physical work that deals with environmental issues – flood plain, canal, river, brown field site management etc but the ideas are only limited by our imagination. The beneficiaries are prisoners and all of us, but the customer can be landowners, property developers, local and national government and quangos or NDPBs. As a demonstration project I’d ask Prince Charles for a contract with the Crown Estate and get him to use his influence to secure it.

But, this is Scotland. Wanna bet that the May 2011 election and its leaden rhetoric will be about fighting the Coalition cuts, the phoney independence debate and no one looking at what innovations are being mooted in England and asking why we don’t try some of that up here?