Doing business by doing good
Monday, January 30, 2017
A social enterprise's most valuable asset is hope
It's hard to get a feel of what is going on with the government at the moment. Communication is muffled and it feels like we are watching a foreign psychological thriller without the subtitles.
The Prime Minister has said some great things about social inclusion but the feeling on the ground does not comfortably align to her rhetoric. What we see are children's centres closing, cuts to support services, no advisory staff in local authorities and cuts to social services.
The Brexit strategy has been described as hard, soft and clean but again on the ground it feels stained and in need of a good wash before its clean enough for any of us to wear. In the world of education, childcare minister Caroline Dinenage remains completely silent on the workforce strategy despite us meeting her in October to explain the recruitment crisis and despite a very powerful response from the sector to the November consultation on the sector qualification, not a word has been heard.
I was therefore very pleased to listen to Lord Victor Adebowale, newly-appointed chair of Social Enterprise UK, on which I am proud to be a board member. He gave a short but generous acceptance speech at the AGM thanking the outgoing chair Clare Dove and unlike President Trump was magnanimous and kind about the work that Clare has led over her 10 years as chair. His overall message was positive. He reminded us that even in our darkest hours we must hold on to the view that social enterprise and the social entrepreneurship movement is driving a big change and can help reshape our current established pattern of business behaviour because we can show that we are doing business by doing good.
The positive uplift was reaffirmed the next day when one of the LEYF area managers sent me her progress on the action research she is doing with nursery managers about kindness. We are celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Day at nurseries, to encourage the spirit of generosity. The Kidogochildren are reaffirming kindness and courtesy in the nursery as well as donating to food banks and charity shops, supporting a partner social enterprise called Kidogo in Kenya and extending our multi-generational relationships especially with the old.
The sense of hope was energising. It took me back to a great exhibition by Anselm Keifer at the White Cube Gallery. Two paintings transfixed me but gave me hope. The first painted destruction. The second provided hope. My husband looked at me in bemusement. Hope? Is this not about death and destruction? However, while I am no art critic, I like art that makes me feel. This gave me hope and right now we need to try and find hope everywhere.
June O'Sullivan is chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation. This blog first appeared on the LEYF website