Social enterprises told to promote values as unique selling point
by Henry Palmer
Social enterprises have been warned by the Treasury that they must shout more loudly about how their values mark them out from potential competitors in the private and public sectors.
Delegates at the Social Enterprise Coalition’s first annual conference in Manchester this week were told by John Healey, economic secretary to the Treasury, that despite the excitement surrounding the emergence of the sector, it faced significant challenges.
‘I want to offer some words of caution,’ he said in response to the more upbeat assessment of the sector offered by his cabinet colleagues Alan Milburn and Nigel Griffiths.
In particular, he fired a warning shot at voluntary organisations considering models of social enterprise. He said they should not lose focus on their social mission.
‘I suspect that third sector organisations that become social enterprises need to work harder than others to retain their essential focus on the needs of users and their capacity to build the trust of users,’ he warned.
He also called on the sector to beware of the issue of accountability when seeking to deliver public services. While social enterprises had a role to play in the government’s agenda of public service reform, there would be limits on the contracting out of services.
‘There are questions over accountability as many public services are provided by public authorities which are accountable. This raises questions over the strength of governance and the limits of contracting out services.’
Mr Healey said the Treasury would work with the social enterprise sector to examine these issues.
Earlier in the day Alan Milburn, the cabinet minister in charge of Labour’s election strategy, offered the prospect of a key role for social enterprises in the party’s agenda: ‘Social enterprise can extend and deepen its role not only in reforming public services but in spreading opportunity and unleashing aspiration in our country.’ (STORY HERE)
Source: New start magazine