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07 January, 2013

 

Social enterprises, while just emerging, are the way of the future. This was the view of three panellists at a Greencoat Forum in the London centre of Initiatives of Change on 6 November.

by Lavanya Kala

Tony Bradley
Tony Bradley
Tony Bradley, the Director of the SEED Centre (Social and Ethical Enterprise Development Centre) at Liverpool Hope University, who was the first panellist, provided the context. There are a huge range of social enterprises, business models and ethical businesses, which aim to adopt principles and practices to prosper in an increasingly volatile economic climate. They aim to create ways to promote a sustainable future. Lily Lapenna, founder and CEO of MyBnk, and Joe Swann, founder and CEO of My Social Innovation (MySI), discussed the need to nurture young people to ensure they make enterprising choices to build their own entrepreneurial endeavours.

Joe Swann
Joe Swann
Tony Bradley described social enterprises as the ‘furry animals’ growing up at the feet of dinosaur corporations. In his view we haven’t reached the end of Dinosaur-Capitalism. He said that capital has been squandered by the Government, banks and through frivolous spending. Bradley stated that ‘dino-capitalism’ as opposed to ‘evolved-capitalism’ is the reason why the United Kingdom has slipped into a double dip recession. He believed the UK has reached the end of GDP growth. He continued that while part time jobs are up, manufacturing jobs are down, and while consumer goods output is up, so are high street retail closures. The very real impact of a stunted economy and its subsequent ramifications are all too apparent.

Lily Lapenna
Lily Lapenna
Joe Swann and Lily Lapenna are prime examples of successful, pioneering social entrepreneurs. Swann’s social enterprise enables young people, aged 13 to 25, to set up and sustain their own social enterprises. MySI endeavours to ‘create a generation of young social entrepreneurs in the UK’. They especially engage with disadvantage in local communities by delivering economic and civic value. Swann said that every day MySI comes across young people who have a genuine thirst to do some good but don’t have the resources to do it.

Swann introduced three young people who spoke of the social enterprises they had developed with the help of MySI. MySI allows them to achieve these goals by pinpointing their natural aptitude or skill and nurturing that talent. Social enterprises create and sustain ethical business to ensure good financial practices and ultimately build a stable economy for the future generations. Swann quoted W B Yeats’ poem, ‘He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven’: ‘Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.’

Young entrepreneur
Young entrepreneur
‘And every day, everywhere, our young people spread their dreams beneath our feet,’ said Swann, paraphrasing Sir Ken Robinson, a remark which resonated with the audience and the theme of the forum.

Lily Lapenna’s MyBnk is an East London-based social enterprise, which works solely with young people. Inspired by BRAC in Bangladesh, in providing micro-credit, MyBnk’s aim is to build the younger generation’s knowledge, skills and confidence to effectively manage their money so as to make enterprising choices throughout their lives. Lapenna told how she spent the day with an interesting group of young bankers, stating that, ‘Saving from a young age is crucial but can also be fun.’ She spoke about Clarissa, who was described by her teachers as ‘academically disengaged.’ However, the team at MyBnk decided to trust her with money and her peer’s money. Clarissa made a

Young entrepreneurs
Young entrepreneurs
statement that really affected Lapenna: ‘Running this bank is the best thing I’ve ever done and I wish for all my friends at Mount Carmel [High School] to save with us every week so they don’t make a mess of their money, like our parents did.’ Lapenna was visibly affected whilst repeating Clarissa’s declaration, as were others at the forum. Social enterprises, such as MyBnk, allow young people to make enterprising choices for the future and this may stem the flow of unsustainable financial practices.

A participant at the forum raised the question that whilst educating young people is a brilliant initiative towards change, shouldn’t there be a focus on educating parents, as the current economic climate has been brought on by the

Audience discussion
Audience discussion
older generation? Lapenna and Swann responded that as they deal mainly with young people, their current approach is the right one. Both agreed that trying to discuss social enterprises with parents would be difficult, as some may not understand. Ultimately it is the younger generation that are going to be the solution to issues such as widening social inequalities, which are causing disenchantment. Swann spoke passionately about the need to effectively equip young people so that they are able to meet their growing social responsibilities.

Photos by Ibrahim Adwan

Lavanya Kala is a graduate in Communications from Australia. She worked with the Communications Team of IofC UK.

Watch a video of the event on YouTube:

 

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