EEUK Event in Greenwich

Another week, another conference or workshop. This time in Greenwich near the historic observatory at the i3Centre (Innovation, Imagination, Inspiration). Check it out at . They have, amongst other things, an Enterprise Challenge that is attracting hundreds of student applications and a well-developed incubator. Although Greenwich is steeped in history and enjoys Wren’s architecture, it does have some very challenging communities at its varied university sites and the VC talks passionately of the University being an anchor institution. The institution has seen a growing involvement in social enterprise since 2014 and is now an important institutional focus.
Jeffery Robinson, a prolific writer and Associate Professor at the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at the Rutgers Business School (with 83 thousand students in the University!) spoke of three challenges to the future (and present) of social enterprise. They are, in summary:
1 The right sort of growth: he recognises that every social enterprise is different and needs to adjust to its own size and capacity. Size does not always matter and pressures to ‘scale up’ can be negative. Small schemes may not attract funding as the big lenders want maximum impact. There is the challenge of finding, recruiting and retaining the right people. Sometimes social enterprises become highly professionalised and require workers with high level qualifications to match.
2 The innovation problem: Jeffery spoke of a focus on technological innovation and the need to focus closely on social innovations. Enterprises need to get insights into how things actually work in the community. Different types of information need different ways of implementing.
3 Diversity and inclusion: Involvement in social entrepreneurship is low amongst marginal groups. Lenders tend to be educated and privileged and get the recognition. Non-profit boards often do not have the target group represented. Also, interestingly, the people involved on the ground may not be called ‘social entrepreneurs’ until they get the recognition from more privileged groups. Clearly, status is an issue.
Jeffery Robinson had this advice:
• Source social enterprises from the community
• Reconsider selection processes
• Focus efforts on a particular problem or issue
• Incentivise/require community co-operation
• Champion local solutions.
In his view, we cannot sustain a society with so much extreme inequality. We need better solutions to social problems. We need to harness human capital, bring communities in, empower them and have skilled and diverse teams to tackle difficult problems.
More about the workshop in my next blog.
Dr Mike Calvert

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