By Andy Brady, Chair, SEEE
It’s a real privilege to write the first blog for our new website. Change is an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve come from and where we want to go, particularly if, like me, you’ve been there from the start of the journey (in SEEE’s case at least).
We launched in 2005 at a time when steady economic growth with no nasty surprises was seemingly the new normal. There were political tremors in the aftermath of 9/11, the London bombings, and the invasion of Iraq, but institutions and alliances seemed robust and enduring.
Now, as anyone who tries to make strategic plans will tell you, the external environment is beset by uncertainty. It turned out that private borrowing to fuel economic growth had a down side, that war in the Middle East would last for decades not years, and that our place in the world – most notably in the EU – would be challenged as never before.
Who can make plans or predictions as we enter another period of instability before (and most probably after) the elections in December 2019? Not me! However, we can take comfort from the lasting progress being made on the social enterprise scene.
Our partners at SEUK recently released the latest Survey of Social Enterprise, which confirmed the sector is here to stay. I’ve picked out some highlights and feel confident in asserting that we’re:
Significant: 100,000 social enterprises across the UK making a £60bn contribution to the economy.
Growing: 42% of UK social enterprises started up in the last five years and over half reported an increase in turnover in the last 12 months.
Diverse: Women are in lead roles in 40% of social enterprises, and 35% have directors from BAME communities.
Should we rest on our laurels? Certainly not! If the economic and social problems of the UK and the East of England region weren’t enough, the spectre of climate catastrophe hangs over entire globe, challenging us to respond. A recommended read for your Christmas stockings is The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. It lives up to the title in listing the disastrous effects of the man-made warming we have seen in the last decades. But there’s hope, too, in the message that it is still not too late, and that the current generation have solutions in their hands to avert the worst.
At SEEE, we’ve been buffeted over the years by twists and turns of government policy: at times, austerity has severely affected our ability to serve and support our members across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. However, I’m proud to say that thanks to the efforts of our directors and most notably of Elaine McCorriston, Membership and Programme Manager we’ve kept going, and have enjoyed increasing success in winning funding to support training, hold events and undertake research.
We also benefit from the support of our wonderful partners (most notably SEUK, but also Leading Lives and ARU), income and input from a growing pool of members across the region, and the vital sponsorship we receive from Central England Co-operative.
Looking forward, 2020 will see us extend our membership offer with webinars and live workshops, a big conference in September (watch this space for dates).
We hope you like the new website, and that you will continue to help us as we promote our sector and support you in your outstanding work to change the world.