What is your background in Social Enterprise and Social Enterprise training?
It’s not as direct and hands on in one sense. I’m basically retired. Previous to that I had a lot of experience in organisational development and change and, also, in environmental strategies. In those areas, I worked for a county council in Hampshire. What we did there (in recycling and recovery) was to fund a number of people who wanted to set up businesses in recycling.
We gave pump-priming money to people and some mentoring and support. I was then a consultant in the South-East regional development agency and we had a fund. We gave a couple of million out to companies that could not raise capital [themselves] because they were very small.
For example, we gave a company in Southampton £150,000 for lorries, construction materials etc. I saw five lorries when I was there recently.
Latterly, I’ve been a trustee of the public monuments association and now Art UK and the vision there is to make art and culture available to the public. Both organisations have been looking at engaging social groups and asking ‘how can you add value’ and ‘how can you create value in the art world’, which is a really difficult question at the moment.
It may emerge from photography or people in tourism, or the development of apps, which exist, but in a more focused way.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of social enterprise training and provision, especially in terms of ‘added value’?
Firstly, there’s not much money. It’s all well to encourage universities and students, but… you need some mentoring or pump priming support funding.
My question is, ‘where is the leadership’ and ‘what topics are potential social enterprise students being taught’?
What do you think people expect from Social Enterprise programme and what should be the key provisions?
I think you’ve got to have a lightning rod between the capability to deliver [and the teaching]. Leaving university, people go into a harsh world, particularly at the moment.
People need to work harder at finding the right niches for themselves. A lot of things are replicable though. We did something on furniture re-use a while ago. But these schemes came about because me and my team had a small amount of money, there was a need and we were able to work out a business plan with them, and they could use the money we provided. You need to get over that initial hump. There needs to be a bit more of a link.
What’s the importance of ongoing support?
Ongoing support is important and also the network. You need to know what the community needs are.
You also need to ‘future proof’ a bit. You don’t want to set up companies in the area that don’t grow and expand. You need someone to know what people in an area want before they loan money.
Often it’s the case that a good idea is badly communicated. The people with money may reject it simply because it’s badly presented. There is therefore a ‘brokerage’ role regarding support.
What about governmental support?
There isn’t going to be a lot of government money. There’s a lot of research, but generally not much money.