Contemporary Christianity hosted a fascinating conversation on the theme of the Social Economy back at the end of September.
Maurice Kinkead has spent the last 25 or so years developing and managing not-for-profit organisations, initially in faith based organisations and more recently with an inter-sectoral partnership. He is Chief Executive of East Belfast Partnership and has responsibility for two subsidiary companies, both leading social enterprises in Belfast.
During his talk titled The Social Economy: voluntary sector operating with private sector values? he spoke about his experience as a practitioner, learning at least as much from mistakes as from success, the positive aspects of initiatives like ‘Making Belfast Work’ that were subsequently lost in red tape, “people have values and ethics, not sectors”, described the social economy sector as “businesses that happen to be owned by charitable organisations, are (hopefully) profitable but non-profit distributing, and often employ and train people”.
Describing some of the issues that face the social economy sector, he suggested that “sometimes private sector values are good values” and went on to explain that the gap between who is paying and who is receiving a service sometimes leads to a drop in service quality in the social economy sector. He also advised that if a business wouldn’t be prepared to take its clients to court, then it shouldn’t be in a client-focussed industry – after all “running a social economy or charitable organisation doesn’t make you soft in the heart or soft in the head”. He suggested that bonus schemes could still be applicable in the social economy sector to improve motivation.
Last week, Contemporary Christianity had a follow-up event that again looked at the Social Economy, this times through the eyes and faith of Dublin-based Sean Mullan. He’s the initiator of Third Space, a new social business initiative to create social hubs in the redeveloping parts of Dublin city. In November Third Space will be opening its first meeting and eating place in the Smithfield area of Dublin City Centre. Might be worth a listen too.