Social enterprise masterclass: the event
The speakers at the Capsticks/LGC social enterprise masterclass may have been drawn from diverse backgrounds but they raised many common themes.
Title: ‘How to spin out your service from the council: a development masterclass in making social enterprise work in local authorities’
Date: 18 September 2012
Chair: Robin Latchem, Editor LGC
Social enterprise is becoming a real option
With local government required to deliver responsive, innovative services for less, social enterprise is no longer being viewed as a curio but as a viable option. It is one with central backing, as Natasha Price of the Cabinet Office confirmed that “the coalition government is really supportive of this agenda”, as she outlined the assistance available for those local councils considering social enterprise.
It is not an instant solution, nor a way to continue unchanged
“Social enterprise is not a quick fix,” emphasised David Harrison, director of social business advisory firm Pitchfork, to which keynote speaker Lance Gardner, left emphatically agreed.
“Only become a social enterprise if it’s right for your employees and your community,” the chief executive of Care Group Plus, a mutual providing health and social care in north east Lincolnshire, warned. “Don’t do it just to carry on doing what you’ve always done in the way you’ve always done it.”
Control freaks need not apply
“Social enterprise is about a much more involved set of relationships,” stated Cliff Mills, consultant to Capsticks. And ones that can prove daunting, he suggested: “None of us has been trained to give away power, and that’s what we’re having to do. Social enterprise is less about coercive power and more about influence - and that is a difficult change of mindset.”
Get employees on side
A mindset change is also required among employees: “You need to get them on board from day one,” suggested Danielle Proctor, the chief executive of Social Purpose Business Partners. “Unless you take people with you, it will not work” she added.
Part of taking people with you might be acknowledging that there are skills gaps. Debbie Medlock, assistant director of service delivery for adult social care at Surrey County Council, gave the example of the council’s ‘spun out’ deaf services: “We had to help our practitioners start to behave like a business,” she explained. “People have to understand that everything they do has a price and a value and that’s difficult because they’ve never had to do that before.”
Plan and take your time - but don’t reinvent the wheel
Ms Proctor reminded attendees that social enterprises are businesses and will naturally take time to set up: “Keep an eye on your day job but make the time and space to plan the social enterprise”, she suggested.
And Mr Gardner encapsulated the message of the masterclass as he urged attendees to draw on the experiences of the trailblazers that have gone before: “Don’t fight the battle on your own, because you don’t need to anymore”.
What is a social enterprise?
In the public sector a social enterprise is generally understood to be an organisation which:
- Was previously part of the state but has now ‘spun out’ and become autonomous
- Is run as a business but continues to deliver public services and reinvests any profit for the public benefit
- Is employee controlled: the owners are the employees, each of whom have a say in how the organisation is run
- Fosters strong, collaborative relationships with service users
What are the benefits?
There are many reported benefits of social enterprise, including:
- Increased productivity
- Greater innovation
- Increased employee satisfaction, not least because they have the power to make the changes they know are needed
- Greater cooperation with other service providers
- Better, more responsive services for users
Social enterprise has been around for some time in healthcare but remains a relative novelty in local government. There are now 58 projects operating but there are about 100 more that are in the advanced planning stage.
LGC’s social enterprise channel, providing the latest local government news, comment and analysis.
In association with Capsticks, specialist law firm for health and local government organisations.