SEWM launches ‘Social Enterprise: The Time is Now’

Today, in front of an invited audience of around 100 people, the new regional social enterprise prospectus, Social Enterprise: The Time is Now, was launched at the ICC.

The prospectus — developed by Social Enterprise West Midlands in collaboration with key networks and enterprises in the region — is intended as a ‘tool’ rather than a ‘report’, a means  of engaging with and gaining the support of key players and partners.

The SEWM team did a great organisational job in making a quite large and ambitious programme run as smoothly as clockwork, but they were assisted in this by the superb chairing and facilitation skills of  Jon Argent, CEO of Leominster social enterprise Halo Leisure. Jon acted as MC-cum-chair and did a brilliant job, especially in steering the interactive sessions where delegates used a keypad messaging system to post comments and questions about the prospectus in real-time. (If I can find out what this technology is called I’ll post something about it — it really did add a quite different dimension to the proceedings.)

The prospectus sets out a five-year vision for a growing and increasingly influential social economy in the region, but it is also split up into a series of ‘calls to action’ aimed at different groups of stakeholders — the basis for a new dialogue (and new business!) with customers, partners and public service commissioners.

What it made me realise (again) is how complex a process is involved in mobilising the support, enthusiasm, resources, opportunities and efforts of a wide range of (largely institutional) partners and stakeholders. First you have to identify these ‘market segments’. Then you have to develop messages which will engage them. The prospectus does this.

But then comes the hard bit. Having engaged partners (from whatever sector — but this is especially the case with the public sector), we then need to work out practical things we want them to do. How do we translate that engagement into achievable action?

We need to get cleverer at this. We need to find ways of engaging with partners in which there is a shared understanding about how to create — or capitalise on — market opportunities, and especially how we work together to seize the big strategic opportunities. That’s the challenge.

And as Freer Spreckley, SEWM chair reminded us at the start of event, it isn’t all about public services, important as this driver is. It’s also about social enterprises developing and extending their own ‘independent’ marketplace.

Now we all need to download the prospectus and work out the best and most effective ways we can put it to use.

Congratulations to SEWM for a smooth and successful event.

  1. Simon Lee Reply

    I was sorry not to be able to be there – it sounds like it was a very good event and I will definitely be reading the Prospectus soon.

  2. Tony Reply

    Alun, I absolutely endorse your comments about Jon Argent’s chairing and facilitation and also about the technology, which for an old Luddite like me was truly a wonder to behold!
    I think that the prospectus is a very well produced piece of work and thank Kevin and all at SEWM for their efforts on behalf of the social enterprise sector.
    I was on a table with the financiers – Triodos, Charity Bank, ART, Capacitybuilders, National Lottery etc and the document didn’t seem to do it for them. I think that the prospectus is a very good starting point and what I would like to see now is for SEWM,on behalf of the sector, to progress the PR/Marketing/Lobbying and strategic engagement roles but tailored and targeted specifically at what you call the “market segments”. In addition, it is up to us “the sector” to ramp up our outreach and engagement efforts at whatever level is appropriate to where we are, making use of the prospectus as a tool.

    As I said at the event – we are very good at talking to each other and preaching to the converted. We need to be more lateral thinking, outward looking and engage with the new definition of “difficult to reach”

  3. Nick Temple Reply

    Hi there – at first glance, it looks like a nicely done publication and well put together. Potentially useful in parts for introducing to new audiences, and good glossary + explanations (and some case studies). And it does give a sense of what social enterprise and social entrepreneurship can potentially achieve.

    My challenges would probably be similar to Tony: there’s lots of nice words here, and we’re very receptive to them. But it may well be an “all things to all people” situation. If I’m a policymaker, I want clear + SMART recommendations; if I’m a start-up, I need more practical, specific advice; if I’m a financier, I want market segment analysis + investment targets…and so on. The section towards the end nods towards this, but is still very general and introductory.

    Perhaps that’s a touch unfair: it is positioned as a broad, introductory vision…and a basis for more; so maybe it’s the more that comes next that will move this on.

    • Alun Severn Reply

      Nick & Tony — I think you’re both thinking on similar lines: how the prospectus is USED will probably prove to be more important than what it actually says…. It’s the ‘what comes next?’ bit that is critical…

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