I know it seems improbable, but I began the week at the Gym; in the impressive Brixton Rec (run courtesy of the well known social enterprise Greenwich Leisure). At 60 it’s important to keep fit so, as well as my long bucolic rambles across the Cotswolds’ with the Hound at the weekends, I have a personal trainer who abuses me on a weekly basis. There are no photos available of this strange phenomenon I assure you!
Of course I probably spoilt it all with a dinner in the evening. This was a gathering of the key people involved in the social finance business. Ben Hughes (Community Development Finance Association) and I thought we ought to have an informal get together to discuss where social finance was, the opportunities for the future and potential for lobbying both in Europe and with the political parties as we lurch towards the next election.
Now that social finance is trendy, the politicians have latched onto it, but with improbably high expectations. How many times have you heard about “social impact bonds”? They clearly have a place. Indeed as we move forwards with PBR in public services we need new ways to capitalise our sector. But as I have blogged before, the key demand is for simple loans and not enough bodies are doing that at the moment. The process of developing Manifestos is already under way in the Parties. What role will they propose for our sector? If charities and social enterprises are to play a bigger role then access to capital is one way we can grow.
We had a lively discussion about the potential for growth in rehabilitation. I remain optimistic though there were plenty of voices outlining the problems. The spectre of the Work Programme hung over the soup.
So a good dinner and as I was Chairing it did not mean missing much of “Lewis" on the dear old BBC, though of course I did miss The Archers. Goodness, how old I must sound; wanting to rush home, put the slippers on and watch TV; but a good work life balance (much to be desired though not often achieved) is important. Anyway now I'm off to Cardiff and an assignation with the Welsh Government! I have members in Wales and we will be doing more work there...