Last week saw us launching our Yorkshire Coast Social Enterprise Zone with the support of Social Enterprise UK. The two day event was both exhilarating and exhausting. Wednesday involved a short ‘social enterprise safari’ where we unashamedly showed off a small handful of our fantastic social enterprises here is Scarborough. We took our visitors from Social Enterprise UK to the Seafood Social for lunch – an example of a private enterprise supporting the social business specifically for the benefit of an established charity locally. We visited the prison to see the rather amazing Scarborough and Ryedale Community Cycling, and finished off with FutureWorks here at the Street. We know they are all wonderful, and it made us so proud to see the impression they made on our SEUK colleagues. A launch dinner was held in the evening attended by 16 people from the public, private, third and community sectors at the fabulous Plough* in Scalby. The second day was a mini-conference at The Street in Scarborough.

     

I was asked to provide the introductory address for the conference, and part of this covered CaVCA’s history and how we are an ‘accidental’ social enterprise. None of the organisations which came together to form what CaVCA is now intended to become a social enterprise or actively planned for financial independence, but, we have always provided socially innovative and enterprising ways of tackling poverty in our area of benefit. During a long period we acted predominantly as CVSs, infrastructure organisations, helping frontline charitable organisations to address the causes and impacts of poverty by enabling them to do what they do, better. Now, we are seeking to provide a new kind of infrastructure support, being an honest broker in conversations about matters of community interest and need. The Social Enterprise Zone gives us the opportunity to do this, giving a geographical focus and a framework of values which encompass all players in the local area.

     

The Zone can support a local economy where the usual practice of all business, where for profit or not for profit, is committed to the social principles of local recruitment, local procurement, living wage and social innovation. The Zone will be a place where the public, private and third sectors work together in collaboration with local people on a shared agenda, co-designing and co-producing efficient, high quality and sustainable solutions to local need. A place where young people can see role models, develop aspirations and see the opportunities available locally – including those they can create for themselves. We know that young people are increasingly looking for three key factors in their future jobs – career, cause and community – this Zone can enable all our employers, from whichever sector, to authentically offer these to their people. Peter Holbrook CBE of Social Enterprise UK quoted Laurence D Fink of Blackrock (with whom incidentally CaVCA has an investment) ‘to prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society’. By participating in our Zone, every local business can start to demonstrate how they make a positive contribution at the most local level.

     

We see the Zone as a real opportunity to start a new conversation. This Zone is not just about social enterprise development, or about the Yorkshire Coast being a good place to locate your social firm. This is an opportunity for us all to formulate a new conversation about the social economy in all-embracing terms, about how we can work together to do things differently, creating a more resilient local economy that works for local people. It is about a re-imagination of public sector service delivery and the role of the voluntary and community sector in that. It is about how businesses can operate effectively serving shareholders’ interests, whilst also having a strong social motivation, delivering social value – locally. It is about harnessing the enthusiasm, optimism and motivation of whichever agency, organisation or individual who comes forward wanting to make a difference.

Peter Holbrook also quoted Albert Einstein – ‘we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them’ – we need to take collective responsibility, forge new relationships and start to think about and do things differently. So, social enterprise, or local enterprise, it really doesn’t matter to us. If you’re delivering a quality service or product that is needed locally, you’re employing and developing local people, and you’re contributing to the local economy, that’s ‘social’ enough for us! If you’re trading for good, if you want to make a positive contribution to your people and your place, then you are part of our Zone. This is our unique, bespoke, social enterprise zone. Its work will be driven a determined by local people and the local context. We hope it will support and strengthen the conditions required for a vibrant, independent and resilient local economy and will provide, with our support, the infrastructure needed to enable the growth of community led, community delivered, enterprise for collective good.

Postscript

*The Plough in Scalby is an example of a private enterprise doing good locally – one of the community initiatives spearheaded by the owners of this lovely venue was the adoption, with CaVCA of the former BT telephone box in the village, to provide a home for a community defibrillator.

Click here for more info about our phone box