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Move over Mr Cameron there is a new Coalition in town, one with groundbreaking ideas, new directions and a promise of a better future for all. However this Coalition are not attempting to take the power from the Tory/Lib Dems, but instead are working closely with them to help re-shape the landscape of public services through a Social Enterprise model. In a series of special interviews around the future of Public Services, Editor, Scott Buckler, caught up with Chief Executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition, Peter Holbrook, to ask him more about the power of Social Enterprise.


1.    Peter, Can Social Enterprises transform public services?

The public sector has tried outsourcing and privatisation and has not been completely successful. Social enterprises have better engagement with their staff and service users, which not only improves productivity but can also help design and innovate new ways of delivering services in a radical way. These can be cost effective and in terms of the public sector very successful.

2.    Peter, How have social enterprises developed over the past decade, can you give some examples?

What we have seen is a huge increase from young people and society to contribute to their community. They want good careers and they want a good salary. There has been an increase in grass roots social enterprise which sees communities address a problem and tackle it through the setting up and running of a social enterprise.
In my time within the Social Enterprise Coalition I have seen bureaucracy and red tape get worse which is frustrating staff and employees within the public sector.  But by moving to a social enterprise those frustrated by these issues can gain a freedom which is not available within their organisation. Staff moral increases under co-operatives and enterprises.  By moving away from the state they feel a sense of empowerment and control, which is what I believe the Big Society is trying to aim for.

3.    The forthcoming White Paper on Reforming Public Services will have Social enterprise at its heart, what work has the Coalition undertaken and is undertaking with the Government?

We have worked with the previous government and the current coalition government.  In the lead up to the election we worked with all the main parties to share what social enterprise is all about, and they listened and took on board what we said.  I currently sit on the Mutual’s Taskforce which is looking at removing barriers for organisations to deliver better services which centre on employee control and ownership.

4.    How do you start a social enterprise?

You need to engage with the community and understand what their needs are, visit another social enterprise and see what they are doing, they will be more than happy to help. It is only when you understand what services your community most requires that you can then move forward and build your social enterprise.  The next step is accessing the finance and the business support you need.

5.    Can you tell us more about the forthcoming event, Voice 11?

The event is the world’s largest gathering of those already in and those wanting to get into social enterprise. The event at The O2 will explore how the public sector can move towards a social enterprise model. There is an opportunity to meet investors, legal experts and accountants, all who can help make sure you can succeed in your social enterprise. There will be a whole series of workshops which will provide the nuts and bolts and how to.  We have Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude kick-starting proceedings as well as Civil Society Minister Nick Hurd and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley coming along to speak, which highlights the important role that social enterprise is likely to play in reforming public services.

Voice11 takes place at The O2 on Wednesday 30 March.  The full programme is available to view online.  Tickets priced from £75.

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Written by Peter Holbrook   
Wednesday, 30 March 2011 12:09
Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 March 2011 11:44


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