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.