I’ve made this observation before but I’ll say it again.
Over 40 years ago I arrived in Birmingham from my home in Helmsdale, deep in the Highlands of Scotland. Shell shock best describes my initial reaction. (It’s love now). Helmsdale is a beautiful place in beautiful surroundings. Nothing like parts of Birmingham I found. There is poverty in the Highlands but there is also strong community spirit and action. Sparkbrook, on the other hand, isn’t pretty. Community spirit was hard to find. It’s there but not obvious. Community Action, back in 1975, was scarce. Bit more obvious in recent years though
I’m not having a go at Sparkbrook but, the point is, it is still – 40 years on and after 30 years of trickle down/Reagan/Thatcher economics – an area of deprivation. Why hasn’t something been done? Lots of areas in Birmingham and the wider Midlands are the same. Areas that have improved have often been gentrified. Not much use to the locals.
The problem is, the same solutions applied constantly with the odd push to try harder. That’s not going to work. As someone more clever than me once said “We didn’t get electric light bulbs by constantly improving the candle”. We need something different if we really want inclusive growth – an economy that works for all? The question mark is asking the question, is that what our (Tory) government want>? I’m not sure it is.
Party Politics & Politicians will never understand or solve the problem.
Doing the same old same old gets the same old results. What’s needed is action in the community, by the community, for the community. That’s how Helmsdale does it and it’s been described as a “surprisingly vibrant and resilient community.” It requires leadership. It requires creativity. It requires entrepreneurial flair. Not the Alan Sugar/Donal Trump TV Apprentice version. I mean real entrepreneurial flare.
Social Enterprise – Businesses Where Society Profits
It exists. It’s called Social Enterprise. Businesses where society profits. Social Entrepreneurs are not like other businesses. Their businesses are similar but the people running them aren’t. Conventional business support doesn’t work for them. I’ve watched many social entrepreneurs look like fish out of water at Chamber of Commerce network events. That’s why, after 30 years in industry, corporates & private business I decided to go to the dark side over 12 years ago. I had something to offer but needed to learn a new language and culture. Thanks to Colebridge Trust (including SUSTAiN and Colebridge Enterprises), I did.
Now, I have the privilege of running the School for Social Entrepreneurs in the Midlands. The privilege is helping 125, and counting, passionate and entrepreneurial people learn, build networks and grow in confidence. I love watching then fly the nest and go on to great things. Sometimes they look back and wave. Sometimes they don’t. It matters not.
The point is, they are the people who will change communities. They are the people who will create inclusive growth. They are the people who could fix our broken society. They just need to be supported.
The proof of whether government really wants inclusive growth and an economy that works for all is what they do to support Social Enterprise and the Third Sector and how they handle the relationship. I’m still waiting.
Maybe I shouldn’t wait on government. I’m not sure I’ll live that long.
What is more interesting and hopeful is businesses from small to massive corporations starting to take an interest. Starting to realise their customers and employees care and want them to care too. Starting to understand the ‘market’ and consumer feelings. Something governments are failing to do time and time again. Starting to look at Social Enterprise and realising we are cousins. Politicians are from Mars.