Party conferences are over; what did we learn for social entrepreneurs

It’s been a busy autumn so far for UnLtd’s Policy team as we attended the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences in Liverpool and Birmingham respectively.

Our aim was twofold:

  1.  learn about where each party’s thinking is on policy areas relevant for social entrepreneurs
  2. raise awareness of social entrepreneurship among decision makers and build relationships.

As well as listening to the speeches of various Ministers, we attended several fringe events organised by third sector organisations, think-tanks and companies covering many different policy areas relevant to social entrepreneurs. These are our key takeaways:

Access to Employment

Several MPs acknowledged that whilst the employment rate is relatively high, there are still a number of challenges which mean that not everyone with the desire to work is able to gain appropriate, meaningful employment. Disabled people, refugees, care leavers, ex-offenders and veterans all face serious barriers in the workplace, and in being hired.

Social entrepreneurs were praised for offering solution in this context and one of them, Jacob Hill even had a chance to address the conference and talk about his experience at Offploy, his social venture that supports ex-offenders into gaining work:


Productivity puzzle

Several panels debated the causes of slow economic growth and possible solutions. From the perspective of social entrepreneurs, it is very encouraging that the increasing evidence of how purpose can drive productivity is being embraced by experts and influencers outside the usual social entrepreneurship bubble.


A panel titled ‘Could more inclusive workplaces be the key to future UK productivity?’ that included Alok Sharma MP, Minister for Employment, argued that more inclusive workplaces can address the productivity gap. This ties in well with how social entrepreneurs are creating opportunities for people distant from the labour market.   



Health and social care in the context of an ageing society

Health and social care was high on the agenda at both conferences this year. There were several debates about how the need for increased social care funding could be met without costing an election – as we remember during the snap election Theresa May’s proposal was quickly dubbed ‘dementia tax’ by the media and arguably cost her several votes.

By 2020, 12.5 million people in the UK will be over the age of 65, with people over 50 making up 47% of the total adult population.  We know that social entrepreneurs are offering innovative and cost-effective products and services for people in later life, but there are still many barriers we must overcome to help them deliver health and social care impact on a bigger scale.

We are looking forward to the publication of the much-anticipated Green Paper on Social Care due and will use it as an opportunity to mention and tackle some of those barriers. In the meantime have a look at what UnLtd’s doing to address these challenges here.

Loneliness is also high on the government’s agenda, with the Loneliness Strategy being published sometime in the autumn. We fed into that consultation with evidence from our social entrepreneurs and we are looking forward to seeing what the government will do to grow their impact.

Some of our ventures, such as North London Cares, have an explicit aim to tackle loneliness and many other ventures also support groups more likely to experience loneliness, including disabled people, younger people, people with caring responsibilities, migrants and refugees.


More power to the communities

Several fringe events talked about to the need to ensure that no communities are left behind in the future. Many MPs and experts called to tackle the centuries old centralised traditions of the UK, by devolving more power to the regions and towns and put the local people in charge, as they are often best placed to solve their problems


John Penrose, MP for Weston, Worle & the Villages called for a leap of faith, a degree of bravery from central government to devolve power and empower local councils and local people to solve their issues.

This approach is in the heart of UnLtd’s ‘Resilient Communities’ impact stream, where we are working with Big Local to bring together and support 600 social entrepreneurs across 31 under-served communities over a five year period.

Is it time for more inclusive capitalism?

Jeremy Corbyn pledged to ‘rebuild and transform our economy for the 21st century’, ‘explore new forms of ownership and enterprise’, and ensure that ‘a worker’s position is on the board’.

He said, ‘economic justice needs to be hardwired into the way the economy works’ and that ‘the old way of running things is not working anymore’.

The Conservatives, not surprisingly, struck a different note with some MPs fiercely defending free markets, although others, including the Prime Minister, acknowledged that some markets are not working in the interests of ordinary people.

She also praised the entrepreneurial spirit of the UK: ‘we are home to amazing creators, innovators and entrepreneurs’ and she thanked businesses for their contribution in job creation in particular: ‘creating a job is one of the most socially responsible things you can do.’.

We at UnLtd see first-hand the power of the amazing creators, innovators and entrepreneurs this country has to offer. Just last year (2016/17), our social entrepreneurs created 25,597 jobs, volunteering and training opportunities and have collectively impacted 874,649 people.

 We will keep you posted as we work to ensure that the current and future governments improve their support for social entrepreneurs.

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Author Info

Laura KekutiSenior Policy Officer

I have been working for UnLtd since November 2016. As a Policy Officer I am working with the government and other decision makers to create a more enabling environment for social entrepreneurs to start up and thrive. Previously I gained experience in charity and social entrepreneurship consulting in Hungary. I have a BA in International Relations and a MSc in Management and have completed the Charityworks graduate scheme while working at London's Air Ambulance.

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