Peter Holbrook’s Blog

Peter Holbrook’s Blog
31.03.11

Well we’re back at SEC towers after a long but inspiring VOICE 11 and UK Social Enterprise Awards event.

We struggled in late this morning battered and bruised and with sore feet and drained batteries on our pedometers… I had clocked up 19,027 steps from the time I was pedded up at 12.30pm until the time I got to my bed at 4.30am. Given that I had been at The O2 since 7.30am I reckon I’m entitled to add at least another 10,000 steps to that total.

But getting in this morning was a treat; we shared the texts, tweets and emails and it was a joy. The overwhelming sentiment is that we got it mostly right; people have said that we listened to last year’s feedback, adapted the format and delivered what you had asked for and that for everyone good business was done. Some have fed back that based upon the business deals done yesterday that they’ll being employing extra staff and I hope that we hear and that you share many similar stories with us too. It’s really important we capture your experiences and stories from Voice11 so we can learn from you and expand the event’s future impact so please get in touch with us. We know the venue was cold, particularly for exhibitors, but I’m amazed that someone didn’t think to go buy some gloves, scarves and thermals and set up a pop up shop!

We at SEC can make all sorts of things happen but alas the weather was out of our control.

The People’s Food Company did a sterling job in keeping a constant supply of hot drinks available to delegates, which certainly helped stop the onset of hypothermia for many. We were delighted by the content of the live debates and they certainly created a stir in the twittersphere. The workshops we hear were practical, purposeful and covered the agendas you said you wanted.

I was delighted that Andrew Lansley chose Voice to announce another £10m worth of funding for social enterprise investment, I was thrilled that the Prime Minister had understood the uniqueness of the sector in his video message and that Nick Hurd was willing to roll up his sleeves and chair a fascinating debate on the future of CSR. Great too that Vince Cable was on hand to reiterate his department’s commitment to social enterprise as a great and sensible way of doing business sustainably. And it was fab to see M&S, BP, BBC, Diageo, Google Logica, Natwest, O2 and many other corporates send along senior executives to learn to listen and to understand.

We don’t have final numbers but we’re expecting the final count to be over 1300 attendees. The success is in large part down to the energy, ideas and business you brought with you so thanks for your enthusiastic support.

The awards have always been a personal highlight of the year for me. It was such a celebration, such a high spirited, friendly, exciting event. I spent lots of time with the winners from the heats and the UK nominees, and I know just how much the recognition means for them all. Ecovation were up against Stonelaw High School Traders for the Young Social Enterprise of the Year Award. Stonelaw took the UK prize back to Scotland and I thought it was incredibly touching when the 25 young people from Ecovation instinctively stood and gave their competitors an impassioned standing ovation when Stonelaw were announced as the winners.

All the winners and nominees were great. “The best day of our lives” said Ecovation, and they enthused this shortly after they’d found out that they hadn’t won the UK prize. What an outstanding group of young people we have within our movement.

Alexander Armstrong was on sparkling form, Ed Miliband said it was like being back with his extended family.

It was a truly great event. The tireless work, the long days, the reliance on sugar, caffeine and nurofen that staff here at SEC have had to endure are temporarily over. We will rest a bit, but not sit back on our laurels. We’ve got a lot to do. We want to know your Voice experiences, what you loved, what you hated and what we could have done better. And we want your ideas and vision for the next big event – planning will start soon.

I’m off to the Social Enterprise World Forum on Sunday so watch out for my tweets. In South Africa, alongside looking at how social enterprise can catalyze sustainable development, we’ll be working on a global campaign strategy to support Mohammad Yunus. I’ll let you know how we get on.

Thanks for your support and hello to our new members who joined yesterday. Welcome aboard.