Wednesday 18 May 2016
Beware the Tomb Raiders.
Having helped set it up I take a proprietal interest in the work of the Office of Civil Society. Of course with public spending constrained the OCS could not be immune but you would think that with such reduced resources they would be concentrating on the job which is our sector. But no, in an somewhat under key announcement last week they said they were establishing a task force on "Mission Led Business". In other words, the commercial sector, usually the realm of the Business Department.
So what is going on? No one, least of all me, would object to moves to encourage CSR. But the signs are this is about an attempt to subvert the use of social finance by leeching resources from the third, non-profit sector into the private sector.
And those who use the term are fond of claiming the boundaries between the private sector and our own are blurring. The problem they have is that a business may be mission driven today but gone tomorrow - taking their assets with them. How many examples of good business with a social purpose then taken over by equity firms or others do we need to demonstrate the dangers. You can't escape the fact that the real business of commerce is to make profit for shareholders.
I made this point strongly at the Board meeting of Big Society Trust yesterday. I'm sure the real purpose of this task force is to pave the way for a blurring of the mission of Big Society Capital so that social fiance is available to the commercial sector. The work in OCS is indeed being led by the social finance team.
Well, let's be clear about Big Society Capital; the legislation prevents investments in commercial bodies. We have to beware any attempt to get under the radar and find ways around that mission to drive up access to capital for our sector. There is a good piece on this by Social Enterprise UK. See here. We will be united on the BST board in watching any attempts to move off mission. BSC must remain mission driven. And that's about social finance for the third sector.