Report on Listening to the Social Entrepreneur

Last Thursday, I was at a conference called Listening to the Social Entrepreneur. Here are some short notes about the plenary session, which were written at the time, along with thoughts on the workshops that I’ve just written up.

HCT Group – credit crunch opportunity – business with ethics – transport – dislike 3rd sector term – difference between social enterprise and charity – optimism.

Haley House – ex-soup kitchen staffed by ex-homeless, bakery, bank donated equipment, financial picture – catering grew 36% cafe grew 21% september, cooking classes; recipe for success: collaborate with experienced partner, secure enough capital or equivalent, align venture with mission; plan for sustainability; future…

Roskilde university – relevance of academic research – why references for things I know – hard to have your feelings discussed. (meeting last Monday?) – don’t care what it’s called – too much jargon – several ways of learning, conceptual doesn’t seem useful but will later. CICs. Four flags of SEs – eship, er, e, econ.

Bikeworks – practitioner and academic. Formation, setup, establishment, sustain. SE changes; viewpoint: academic, researchers, help us. Useless website.

Then came three workshops of varying usefulness: Procurement Versus Marketplace was an interesting idea and reminded me why I avoided public-sector projects for years: I’m better at negotiated than at rules-based selling. I also was told (with a straight face) by a development trust worker that cooperatives are simply profit-sharing schemes, which was very disappointing.

Social verses Business Goals seemed pretty ill-conceived. The reason why many people work in social enterprises is because we don’t believe we should choose between them. It’s an integrated, multi-faceted approach.

Born or Made? was an interesting examination of the people powering social enterprises. Food for thought, but I’m not sure it really produced much. But I’m not that sure whether any of the workshops had much of a productive purpose.

The final plenary session was confusing. I was sat further back, the sound system was intermittent and echoy and the talks seemed truncated and still, but maybe I was just tired. A lot of people had left by this point. I stayed on for the networking reception and met a few interesting people, but left earlyish to meet another TTLLP member on the light railway. The venue was OK (I think the main hall problems were more sound system and operation than the hall itself) and coffee, lunch and reception were well-catered.

In conclusion, it was an interesting conference, but I don’t feel that we got much out of it, apart from some thoughts from a workshop session. I suspect it was more useful for the researchers than for the entrepreneurs. There weren’t many opportunities for professional development or sales or even putting things into consultations or . I’m not sure I’d spend best part of two days work (attending plus travel plus costs) on another similar event.

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