For those with ambitions in poltics of any hue, getting involved in social enterprise can be considered a good move.
Being involved in a movement where business operates for social benefit, one might imagine, goes hand in hand with the need to maintain high ethical standards. Yet as we know, Margaret Moran, former chair of the APPG on S ocial Enterprise has been suspended from her party and is too ill to face up to the rigours of a court appearance over charges of abusing her expenses as an MP.
I wonder if she’d have been able to face up to the pressures we’d been under as a social enterprise.
In my recent account of obstacles to social enterprise in Ukraine, I note that it was Lord Mandelson who in 2009 chaired the Social Enterprise Summit and described to the press how his business department was going to help firm who help others. That wasn’t the case, in our efforts to tackle a crisis in institutional childcare. As EU trade minister Lord Mandelson became an advocate for Ukraine’s efforts to gain access to EU markets. As we’d seen in the example of Bulgaria earlier it was only after gaining entry to the EU that the deplorable neglect of Bulgarian children in care was revealed.
It was Tony Blair’s government whch had made social enterprise government policy in 2002. When he showed up in Ukraine however, it wasn’t to support social enterprise, but to establish a Faith Foundation with oligarch Viktor Pinchuk. Pinchuk had been identified in our research as one of those most resposible for Ukraine’s social crisis.
Though not directly involved in social enterprise, there was also the British Ukrainian Society, an NGO with Lords Risby and Oxford as directors who became very reluctant to help us raise awareness of insttitutions where children would often die of manutrition. Might that have been influenced by their partnership with a Ukrainian airline?
For us, given the vulnerablity of any organisation challenging corruption overseas, it was necessary to be scrupulous honest in our affairs. Yet the British Council had no qualms about pushing our efforts aside to create their own project in which corporations were expected to make a financial contribution. buying their way into social responsibilty skirted around the more difficult human rights issues.
At the head of the British Council at the time was former Labour Party Leader Lord Kinnock.