Raising awareness of social enterprise within Defra

[Guest post by The Plunkett Foundation]

SESP Workshop
The role of social enterprise in contributing to Defra’s objectives was the flavour of the hour at a recent Defra lunchtime policy seminar (11/2/10). Peter Couchman of the Plunkett Foundation, outlined the multiple outcomes, relevant to goverments, that social enterprises deliver. 

For example, Rockingham Forest Trust in Northamptonshire, which in addition to managing a 650 acre forest and countryside trust, a £2m carbon neutral Education Centre and several associated social enterprises also actively supports community planning and community engagement projects. Or Tackley Village Shop, Oxfordshire – a multi-service project developed by a rural community after the village lost its post office, two shops and a pub. As is typical with social enterprise, all profits are fed back into the community. According to Peter, these multiple outcomes make measuring and communicating the overall value and contribution of social enterprise difficult, particularly where policy making tends to operate in silos.

Attendees tackled the question of ‘what is social enterprise’ with Lucy Findlay of RiSE outlining three typical characteristics – an enterprise orientation, social and environmental aims and social ownership. Steve Clare of the Development Trusts Association spoke about the need to raise awareness of the growing potential of social enterprise at a local and national level.

Attendees then engaged in a quick-fire discussion on specific policy areas. One group discussed how social enterprise is an increasingly important part of rural development and how food and farming policy makers need to recognise that community engagement with food is becoming an increasingly important part of the agenda. Another group tackled resource use and in particular the role of social enterprise in preventing waste, encouraging individual behaviour change and adapting to climate change.

The Plunkett Foundation,  is one of Defra’s five social enterprise strategic partners, together with Co-operatives UK, the Development Trusts Association, RiSE and the Social Enterprise Coalition.

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