What do Labour and the Conservatives have to tell social entrepreneurs?
It’s that time of the year when the leaves are turning red, the air is turning crisp and droves of policy professionals, campaigners and journalists flock to the party conferences to find out what’s keeping Labour/the Conservatives busy these days.
UnLtd joined the conferences too, listening to the speeches of various Ministers and attending fringe events organised by third sector organisations, think-tanks and companies covering many different policy areas relevant to social entrepreneurs.
Our aim was not only to learn about where each party’s thinking is on policy areas relevant for social entrepreneurs, but also to raise awareness of social entrepreneurship among decision makers and build relationships to continue these conversations.
Contrary to the current portrayal in media, our impression was that many MPs were experiencing Brexit fatigue, and welcomed the opportunity to talk about other policy areas. Have a look at our key takeaways:
Pleased to hear @johnmcdonnellMP talking about how social enterprise is a key element of Labour's economic policy - & that maybe they should talk about it more! at the @resfoundation event #Lab19 @UnLtd pic.twitter.com/MnZjWYHDPW— Laura Kekuti (@laura_kekuti) September 24, 2019
Is social entrepreneurship the way out from the crises of neoliberalist capitalism?
Not surprisingly, many at Labour were very vocal about the failings of the current system and the excesses of capitalism, promising to nationalise many services should they get into power.
From the outside, however, it did seem like a period of polarisation: from excessive corporate involvement to large-scale renationalisation. One couldn’t help wonder where social entrepreneurs and the wider civil society - with its proven expertise in delivering solving problems whilst being embedded in communities - were in the discourse?
Fortunately, we had a chance to publicly ask John McDonnell MP, the Shadow Chancellor about this, who reassured the audience that social enterprise is a key part of Labour’s economic policy – and that they should talk more about what role social entrepreneurs would play under a Labour government.
Interestingly, the current neoliberalist capitalism has also received substantial criticism from several Conservative Party Members, highlighting how it is not serving the best interests of the majority of the country. The need to restore/create a fully responsible capitalism that distributes wealth more equally and protects the environment was discussed, alongside the need to create a shared understanding that markets are not invisible forces but are made by humans, so can be changed to serve the public interest better.
At UnLtd we see daily how social entrepreneurs are using entrepreneurial solutions to create a positive impact. We know that many small businesses also feel passionately about their contribution to their local communities. Purposely, the tool we have created makes it easy and free for all companies to legally embed and commit to a purpose. It’s high time we create an environment where it is easy to set up and scale up social ventures.
Markets are made by humans. We create them & we can decide who they'll serve - @JohnPenroseNews at the @ukonward— Laura Kekuti (@laura_kekuti) September 30, 2019
panel at #CPC2019. Great to hear the call to create the right kind of environment for good businesses to thrive! @UnLtd pic.twitter.com/mY5t7bAbst
Can we finally unlock the potential that lies in Government procurement?
The government spends £284 billion a year on buying goods and services from external suppliers. Government commissioning, if done well, can catalyse inclusive economic growth and improve the lives of people living in the UK. However, recent examples like Carillion and Interserve have shown the disastrous consequences ill-commissioned procurement can have on people’s lives.
At UnLtd we have been asking the Government to level the procurement playing field for social entrepreneurs and realise its buying power’s potential in driving social change – and it’s great to see the importance of this shared in both conferences.
The next generation will demand a different deal from employers - @GillianKeegan at the @ukonward #CPC2019 panel. We at @UnLtd see how social entrepreneurs already demonstrate that profit & purpose can coexist #socent pic.twitter.com/UNO5h4OVWS— Laura Kekuti (@laura_kekuti) September 30, 2019
Still no news on social care
The party conferences offered several discussions and debates about the future of health and social care. Rightly so, as increasing numbers of people (1.4million last year) say they simply aren’t getting the care and support that they need; grant subsidies such as the Better Care Fund run out in 2020; and to top it off, the Prime Minister confirmed last month that the Government’s Social Care Green Paper still isn’t ready to be published, despite the fact it was first promised in 2017, then again by the end of 2018, and then yet again by Spring 2019.
Labour announced a pledge to introduce free personalised care, subject to a minimum age and for non-catastrophic incidents only. But Conservatives have remained ambiguous on when the Green Paper is finally going to be published and what’s going to be in it.
Earlier this year, my colleague Kevin asked if the time has come for adult social care in England to have its own Extinction Rebellion. As we are in the middle of Extinction Rebellion’s two-week action, the question is raised of how the future of health and social care will be decided before it’s too late – especially as life expectancy is now in decline.
UnLtd’s policy team will be working hard follow up with these contacts and commitments and ensure that all the talking turns into tangible difference and positive next steps. Keep an eye on our twitter feed & newsletter for updates.
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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