A week of Social Enterprise UK Awards, lots of business development meetings and looking ahead to our first City and Hackney Anchors session.

Social enterprise love

I was delighted to be at the Social Enterprise UK Awards dinner on Wednesday at the Guildhall.  You can see all the award winners here.

Winner of the ‘One to Watch’ Award, Hey Girls.

As one of the judges, I was reminded on the night of the many great applications I had read through, and also just how exciting the social enterprise sector is. All of the shortlisted organisations deserve massive credit and attention, but I was particularly pleased to see Hey Girls, Awel Amen Tawe and Homebaked CIC win recognition in their categories, and a real social enterprise stalwart, Furniture Resource Centre, get social enterprise of the year in their 30th year.

It’s such a privilege to be part of a sector which is consistently full of optimism, hard work and practical approaches to solve big problems.

Building relationships or achieving outcomes

I’ve had a lot of meetings this week that are, in one way or another, about business development. We are looking at doing more work with individuals around an interest or connection that allows us to build deeper relationships and provide more of the foundations of support, as well as our ability to help them find work.

At the same time, there are also some individuals we’d like to do really precise and targeted work with on a certain issue, such as how they engage with the gig economy.

As with most things, I’m finding that it’s not about either outcomes or relationships in how we work with people, but both/ and. Too often it feels like the debates about how to work well encourage us to think that we have to pick a side.

Health & education anchors

Next week sees the first of our sessions with City and Hackney Anchors, to explore some issues around their role in the local place (more information on the anchor network here). Many of those organisations are health institutions, and we’re really excited to see what emerges from that.

It was great this week to meet with some senior people at University of East London and Michael Wood of the NHS Confederation to talk about the different connections between the roles of health and education anchors in local economies.  Both obviously have different assets and outlooks, but there are some clear overlaps around scale and their procurement approaches, and there are definitely some complimentary resources around training, engagement and skills need. The community of students and academics can also bring something really special to a location if it is (as UEL is) a locally focussed institution. Lots to think about and hopefully lots to connect together as our work progresses.

Reading, listening and watching

I’ve been looking at the annual Power to Change research into the community business market, that was published this week.  This records around 9,000 community businesses in England. We’ve done a lot of work over the last few years with Power to Change, and we are evaluating a number of their programmes. I was struck, but not surprised by the fact that nearly half of those businesses are estimated to be community hubs or village halls. So much of what community business and social enterprise is about is preserving and reimagining social spaces within our communities, and fighting off a relentless privatisation of space. Even very different business models (such as pubs) are about space.

I’ve been listening to the new Leonard Cohen album, that his son Adam put together posthumously from recordings of Cohen reading his poetry. It’s called Thanks for the Dance, and is strange and dark and beautiful and all the things that were evident in the previous album, You Want it Darker. It’s a wonderful and quite moving surprise to get more work from somebody so brilliant.