Why Great Britain Needs Social Enterprise to Succeed Spectacularly

Why Great Britain Needs Social Enterprise to Succeed Spectacularly

News of this week's launch of The UK Social Economy Alliance could be one of the greatest business stories in our modern history. That's no exaggeration, and in the words of Peter Holbrook, a spokesman for the alliance, "The social economy that is thriving in this country, from the bottom up, must be understood and advanced by all political parties."

Since leaving the corporate world and founding Kauzala, I have passionately believed that the value systems and the beating heart of the social economy need to be transplanted into the broader business community to make a real difference to country and society. I will explain why I believe Great Britain - and indeed most other nations - need to go back in history and learn from our past to help our future generations move forward, and why our politicians and community leaders need to make this a national priority.

For the majority of human existence - including for much of our modern history - most of our ancestors have subsisted by helping themselves, and others. They had to feed and clothe their own families, as well as provide for their own healthcare and education. A focus on the community was equally important with our forefathers contributing as much to, as deriving benefit from various forms of localised public service.

This was of course over a number of eras when there was little government involvement in day-to-day life, and people were forced to fend for themselves and, crucially, each other. With Britain's metamorphosis into a wealthy nation state, what was once a defining characteristic of self-sufficiency and service for most people is now more often viewed as a unique spirit identified in some.

As it happens, I am an optimist and witness heartening examples of community focus throughout our great country. However, we are all acutely aware that there is a gargantuan problem with what is at best a lack of regard and at worst a categorical disregard for community and country that in my opinion, lies at the heart of our most pressing challenges as a nation. We could debate endlessly as to the causes of this reality, but that is not the purpose of this article. Instead, pointing to a broad set of solutions is.

The first solution is to fundamentally reverse our dependence on the state for the fulfilment of so many facets of our day-to-day existence. Ours is a developed and civilised nation, and it is a matter of pride that we contribute to a support system that protects the most vulnerable people in society. Long may that continue. This safety net, however, should never have been allowed to become the insidious monster that it is today that, manipulated and abused as it has been - more by politicians than by anyone else - has the potential to bring our nation to its knees in more ways than one.

If we can bring ourselves to ignore the financial time bomb awaiting the nation, an even greater catastrophe is how the benefits culture has changed attitudes, expectations and even the basic outlook to life in vast swathes of our country. In the process, it has made us less capable, less self-sufficient and less community-focussed than Britain needs us to be in these increasingly difficult times. Whilst the need for welfare reform is broadly accepted by both the government and the opposition, political considerations are preventing the radical changes that are urgently required from taking place quickly enough, and far greater political courage is needed to tackle this issue head on.

The second and more urgently required solution to the conjoined problems of imbalanced national finances and destructive attitudes - and one that is directly linked to the first solution - is to painstakingly rebuild value systems throughout the country. Value systems that encourage hard work and providing for oneself and one's family, not aggressively avoiding taxes out of choice, as well as placing community and country at the centre of one's own life journey.

Learned culture and values are infinitely more powerful than legislation or dictat, and crucially, this value system needs to be ingrained not only into the minds and hearts of unemployed youth or benefits claimants who are often disparagingly dismissed as the source of our problems, but instead into our current and future generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs, who have the power to do almost inexhaustibly more for the country than the public sector.

Wealth creators have always been core agents in shaping national prosperity and providing social impact, and influencing the way in which they cogitate and operate can transform the fortunes of an entire nation. If a foundational focus on voluntarily sharing wealth (rather than having it re-distributed by government), paying taxes (rather than shamelessly avoiding them and subsequently blaming it on an 'international tax regime') and serving community were at the heart of most businesses and matched the rightful and unquestionable motive to earn wealth, our nation's ability to see itself through its social and financial predicaments would be infinitely stronger.

To achieve this, we need to ensure that Britain's burgeoning social economy succeeds spectacularly - both financially and in terms of social impact - and creates a culture of enterprise which inspires endless others to place service at the heart of their consciousness and endeavours. Socially-focussed business activity (as opposed to the often disingenuous afterthought that 'CSR' has become) needs to be as alluring within our national psyche and individual ambition as the sometimes crassly one-dimensional celebration of making 'loadsa money'.

The education of men and women in pin-striped suits - not only of boys in hoodies - and the celebration of a new breed of entrepreneurial role model should therefore be at the centre of an effort to reassert the primacy of a private sector ethos which places the concerns of community and country at its core, as much as those of revenue and profit. The ultimate aim should be to take Great Britain back to a future where we look after each other a lot more than we currently do, and crucially, because we want to - not because we are forced to.

David Cameron once pledged to deal with the nation's economic and social predicaments on a war footing. What he may have failed to realise is that it is more likely to be the inculcation of an intrinsic private sector ethos - and not the imposition of public sector edict - that will shape Britain's next finest hour. However well-intended our Prime Minister's austerity measures, his G8 tax regime agenda or his banking reforms may be, it is a Churchillian ability to communicate with the nation and an old fashioned evocation of community-centric value systems that will bring the real changes and economic justice that so many of us seek in our country.

Abhaey Singh is the Chairman of Kauzala, and the President of the Indian Debating Union. He is best known for his popular rap video 'Talk It Out - Debaters' Rhapsody' which promotes civilised debate.

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