Enterprise: A work in progress

April 01, 2002

NatWest, Barclays, Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB and Royal Bank of Scotland are among nine banks backing a new report promoting community development finance institutions as excellent opportunities to invest in social change and community renewal. The report, published by the UK Social Investment Forum on February 21, reviews the activities of CDFIs – financial services companies that specialise in lending to the voluntary sector, social enterprises and small businesses operating in underdeveloped neighbourhoods. It recommends a number of initiatives to boost the CDFI sector, including an investment tax credit (due to go before Parliament later in 2002), a CDFI association and programme-related investment by foundations. Contact Ros Boyle, UKSIF, on 020 7749 4880 (http://www.uksif.org)

Enterprise in the classroom is to be boosted, with primary school children encouraged to set up, run and profit from their own mini-companies, according to a new report, published on February 14. Commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the report calls on the government and business to allocate £56 million and £30 million respectively for the programme. The author, Howard Davies, chairman of the Financial Services Authority, proposes that every British pupil should be given five days’ experience of enterprise activity and the chance to develop links with local firms.

This approach reflects that of the government’s 14-19 Green Paper, published on February 12, which places greater emphasis on enterprise activities and vocational training in schools, including proposals for direct access and involvement in offices and factories for students studying new skills-based GCSEs. Contact DfES on 0870 000 2288 (http://www.dfes.gov.uk)

Guinness’ programme for young entrepreneurs in India, and BP Chemicals’ support of local enterprise in Hull, are just two of the 30 examples of business and community partnerships featured in a new publication from the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum. Published in February, The Business of Enterprise presents the business case for such partnerships, along with a roadmap for corporate action in local enterprise development, all backed up by extensive examples of successful business linkages around the world. Presented as a ‘sourcebook’, the report encourages companies to pursue business linkages, and to share resources and skills, with their host communities. Contact Frances House, IBLF, on 020 7467 3600 (http://www.iblf.org)

Shell LiveWIRE is to focus more on the creative industries in the future, following the discovery that nearly half (49%) of enquirers to the enterprise scheme in 2001 came from the arts and media sector. As part of this change of focus, Shell LiveWIRE is issuing 50,000 graduates with a booklet on selfemployment in May, with special emphasis on creative industries.

Meanwhile, the work of the Shellsponsored programme towards promoting youth entrepreneurship received a boost from the government?fs Small Business Service on February 28 in the form of a £345,000 grant over the next three years. Contact Jon Dennis, Shell Livewire, on 0191 261 5584 (http://www.shell-livewire.org)

KPMG and Barclays are to lead a preemployment support programme for homeless people, it was announced at the Business Action on Homelessness award ceremony on March 27. Among the other new initiatives announced is an online job bank for the homeless, which can be accessed from over 50 day centres, shelters and employment centres.

Marks & Spencer took top prize at the award ceremony for its work to date with homeless people, in addition to its commitment to provide 600 homeless people with two-week work placements over the next two years. Regional awards went to Freshfields Bruckhaus Derringer and Bristol & West. In total, BAOH has worked with 90 UK companies over the last year to provide over 250 homeless people with work placements through its Ready to Work scheme. Contact Jan Levy, BAOH, on 020 7566 8688 (http://www.readyforjobs.com)

Promoting fair competition and open, dynamic markets is central to the new Enterprise Bill, first presented to Parliament on March 26. The Bill includes measures to reduce the stigma of bankruptcy by giving entrepreneurs a second chance if they have failed through no fault of their own. Contact DTI on 020 7215 5000 (http://www.dti.gov.uk)

The RSA is issuing a report on entrepreneurship, based on interviews with over forty leading entreprenuers. Launched on January 30, the report raises questions for companies on their relationship with SMEs, corporate venturing activity and the management of employees by small companies. Contact Gerard Darby, RSA, on 020 7930 5115 (http://www.rsa.org.uk).

Abbey National celebrated its ten-year partnership with the Prince’s Trust with a high-profile event in London on March 5. Seventy young entrepreneurs have begun their own companies through the company’s support for the Trust’s Business Start-Up programme. Contact Ana Moreno, Abbey National, on 020 7563 7084 (http://www.abbeynational.co.uk).

Editorial Comment

In his guest editorial, Will Hutton makes a persuasive case that lack of attention to ‘soft’ employee issues damages corporate performance. The first wave of big employee sackings (despite the ‘our greatest asset’ mantra) came some 20 years ago. It’s no coincidence that BITC celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. In many ways, it was born in the crucible of the ‘enterprise movement’ – a response by the large companies paying off hundreds of workers in towns with no other major employers, hence the focus on self-employment and business start-up. The idea was companies would share their expertise, advice and mentoring, and boost the local economy through supply contracts. Today, enterprise is still running strongly as a theme, but it’s time to update the reality and redefine the ‘business case’.

Yes, outsourcing and extended supply chains are stronger than ever, but apart from some minor cleaning and catering contracts, the reality is they rarely impact small, local startups. Companies are looking for big cost savings, with contracts often placed overseas. If contracts are not going to regenerate local communities through start-ups, then let’s look instead to a more productive route – turning grant programmes into loans to social enterprises, helping to fuel the growing CDFI movement.

One driver of global outsourcing, apart from cost, is the dynamanism of the new economies – whether the new IT industry in Bangalore or the extraordinary changes going on in China. The tired old Western economies have a lot to learn about their ‘enterprise culture’ and individual initiative. Think about large companies busy trying to reinvent themselves, stripping out layers of executive decision-making to liberate front-line managers. Global companies could do no worse them embrace diversity and import some of this entrepreneurial energy from the developing world.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 63 – April, 2002