Selby Centre – a model for Social Enterprise

Firstly apologies as this post is out of time sequence as Social Enterprise Day was last Thursday – but social enterprise is such an important component of the power shift that will come about in the next few years that I wanted to note it here.

Nick Hurd – Minister for Civil Society – who is leading on Social Enterprise and the Voluntary Sector’s transformation into the Big Society asked ministers to go out on Thursday to visit a local Social Enterprise.

So – naturally – I visited the Selby Centre. This is an amazing model of how this new Big Society might work. Sona Mahtani – who is the amazing woman who runs the whole thing (and injects her energy and enthusiasm tirelessly) – had gathered various of the enterprises who operate from the Selby Centre so that they could all tell me what they do and what their vision was for the future of their social enterprise.

What an impressive group. There was Gareth – who had started a school for young ones because he wanted young black children to achieve. They all go on to other schools ultimately where there results have been staggering – and he is now thinking about perhaps going the Free School route. There was a recycling wood enterprise and coming in I saw one of their products – a bench and table – of such beauty and skill you can’t imagine. They skill young people – several of whom are ex-offenders – and then they are able to seek work. There was a group who support people with disabilities into work. There was another that helped with language and basic IT skills – training to work – and much more. Selby is host to around 1500 people each day who come there to the various activities that go on there.

I was so impressed with what was going on I actually spoke to Nick Hurd the very next day about coming to visit the Selby Centre if possible (I’m sure everyone will want him to come to their operation) but I hear so often the refrain that the Big Society will be alright in middle-class areas where the chattering classes will know how to do it – but poorer areas will be left out. The Selby Centre absolutely contradicts this. In fact – it’s the direct opposite  – where people have come together to make things happen for themselves in this area of high diversity and relative disadvantage. I was blown away by the commitment and determination in that room.

Thanks to everyone who gave up their time to meet me and demonstrate so clearly – that the Big Society already exists – it just needs more encouragement and support. Funding is the key issue – and in the two years between now and the Big Society Bank taking off – there is a transition fund of £100million (but that is for sums of £50,000 and upwards). Elizabeth Henry (the CEO of Race on the Agenda) who is on the Board of Selby raised the fact that there is a community fund being created for smaller sums. There is also a £1.4billion regional fund and the govenrment has commissioned work to reduce the amount of bureaucracy involved for these small social enterprises to cut down on red tape.

This is just the beginning.

0 thoughts on “Selby Centre – a model for Social Enterprise

  1. It must have slipped your mind to mention that the Selby Centre is part-funded and supported by Haringey Council, running from former Harringey School premises on a 25-year lease for example. The centre was also supported by Bernie Grant, MP. And, of course, the various groups which use the centre are constantly fundraising. The Big Society isn’t a cashless society, however much you try to pretend otherwise – so what are are you actually going to do to secure the future of something so worthwhile?

  2. I’m not really sure what is meant by ‘The Big Society’ but my best guess from listening to David Cameron is that people use their spare time to help with community work. And it all makes for one Big (Happy) Society.

    But there seems to be a Big Problem with the Big Society – by everyone doing all this unpaid work we make it easier to sack the people who were once employed to do the work. So instead of the Big Society being for the public good, in effect, we all end up unemployed and with even more free time on our hands to help enlarge the Big Society but, of course, with no money to spend on food or housing or heating or anything else.

    Is there something I’m missing?

  3. Hope you saw the anger on the faces of the students today.
    If you lie to the electorate, you have to face the consequences.