Social Enterprises – A major way forward

On Tuesday night this week I went to a  dinner at the Royal bank of Scotland in the City which had been convened by the Social Enterprise Coalition who brought social enterprises, mutuals, co-ops and CICs active in the Health Sector to meet Health Minister Paul Burstow.

Two things struck me:

Firstly was the vibrancy of those who presented their stories to us about the way in which high quality social and health care can be provided in ways that are both better and providing more value for money by organisations which are outwith the staid and tried compartmentalisation of both the health and local government sectors.

Secondly was the fact that most parts of the public sector have a long way to go in their thinking and culture if they are to get the full benefit of this vibrancy. We heard too many stories of minds that were closed to new ways.

I was very pleased that all the organisations present agreed to work together on telling the stories of what they do much more loudly and clearly and to work together to bring about the culture change in the public sector which is so clearly needed. Paul Burstow gave assurances that the DoH will work with others including the LGA, RBS and SEC to establish this hearts and minds campaign. This closely followed the line of discussion I had the previous week with Ed Davey the BIS Minister responsible for Social Enterprises and Andrew Stunell the Lib Dem Minister in DCLG.

It seems to me that if we are to change the culture we need to work at two levels:

  1. To get top opinion formers in central and local government and their quangos to understand and promote new delivery methods.
  1. To get staff and users to the point where they will wish to challenge current orthodoxies in service delivery and devise their own mechanisms for change.

Neither of these will be easy given the way that walls are being erected by some councils and departments in the light of the CSR and some parts of the public sector have been proven to be very change resistant over many years.

We need to develop a sustained hearts and minds campaign which will encompass:

  • Strong and consistent political leadership from both central and local government
  • Engagement of key opinion formers and decision makers
  • Messages to workers and vested interests such as Trades Unions that this is an opportunity and not a threat.
  • Practical support and advice to both commissioners and deliverers of service wishing to find new ways.

I’m inviting some people to come and discuss this with me on 20th October in London. Do you think social enterprises could be a big part of the future delivery of public services? Let me know what you think are the challenges and problems in taking this agenda if you do agree with me. Tell me why I am wrong if you don’t!

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. . Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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