Social Enterprise is the way forward
Before attending this conference, I have been struggling to bring together the current need I have for a job with my passion for a resilient oil-independent future. I felt that transition could be seen as using up valuable job-hunting time but then get depressed when the only positions available are in unsustainable industries that are trashing the planet!
After the conference, I feel a lot different. I see now that there is another option, and look forward to pursuing it.
At the conference, it seemed there was a general consensus that social enterprise is the way forward for transition, and for healthy sustainable communities in general. At the first session I went to, I heard about successful projects in Dunbar, Scotland and 9 Carrots in Birmingham. It was clear that some groups had developed their small projects, which relied heavily on volunteer labour, into fully-fledged business which not only earn enough to pay their staff, but can feed some profits back into a local investment fund.
Then the Scaling Up fishbowl session became a continuation of this conversation for me, and highlighted the importance of creating business models that regenerate their local communities rather than just draw from them (either in time or money). There was a lot of talk about creating livelihoods, rather than "jobs", and making transition a collaborative effort by partnering with the council, schools, established community groups and local businesses.
On Sunday afternoon there was a long workshop which gave me more insight into how this can be done, and came back to some of the great projects which have already happened. One great example was Eldonian Group Ltd from Liverpool, a community owned company whose subsidiaries have become immensely successful businesses, whilst regenerating the local area and providing clean local energy. They reinvest all of their profits in new regeneration projects, not being afraid to try something new, but making sure they are economically sustainable too.
If you want to become part of this conversation in Norwich, join our Economics and Livelihoods googlegroup. It's a discussion group, so we'd all love to hear your take on the role of Social Enterprise in local communities. You'll also get the latest updates on Economics and Livelihoods Theme meetings in Norwich.
Images and videos: The Economics, Business and Social Enterprise session at Transition Network Conference 2011; An emerging social enterprise in Finsbury Park, London put up their sign; Jonathan Melhuish speaks about 9carrots.org.