London’s Olympics can create a showcase for social enterprise. This was the message delivered by ClearlySo CEO Rodney Schwartz at yesterday’s ‘London 2012 – Generating a Lasting Legacy’ Conference. Organised by Social Enterprise London and The Cabinet Office with support from Renaisi, the aim of the event was to identify the role social enterprise could play in delivering the legacy aspect of London’s Olympic strategy. You can hear a recording of the full speech here.
It comes as we mark 500 days until the opening ceremony. The countdown has begun and, whisper it quietly, the omens so far look good. Stadiums are nearing completion, deadlines are being met, and tickets have now gone on sale.
Only in the question of legacy is there lingering cause for concern, where plans still appear ill defined. London 2012 has one of the most ambitious legacy goals of any Olympics in history. However, if it is to fulfil them it has work to do.
Social enterprise, Schwartz argued, could prove integral in delivering workable partnerships with corporations and businesses. However these, he said, should be based only on a realistic idea of what the sector could achieve.
“We can’t grow our sector fast enough to do the things that some of the businesses can do,” he explained. “They understand bidding, they understand commissioning, and large project delivery. But we can deliver social, ethical and environmental benefits – they don’t. We understand how to work with the communities. We can demonstrate, deliver and measure these things and deliver a side to these games that the corporate sector cannot.”
As such, social enterprise could prove essential to the successful delivery of a workable ‘legacy’ for the Games. But the benefits flow both ways. With high profile social enterprises such as HCT already having secured contracts, there is growing hope that they could provide a welcome catalyst to the development of the social business and enterprise space. Some have gone so far as to suggest it could become ‘the social enterprise games’. That might be over ambitious, but they do offer an opportunity to act as a showcase.
“We can showcase social business, enterprise and investment as the new economic model,” Schwartz continued. “It’s a model for sustainable economic development; a model for real and prolonged economic recovery; and a model in which the UK is a leader. The UK has been a global leader in the development of the social investment and social enterprise marketplace and it can showcase its ideas leadership at these games.”
Perhaps, he added, the best dichotomy for the games was represented by what he described as ‘a tale of two cities’ which is now developing in the Lee valley.
“We have on the one hand Canary Wharf – glistening, fortress like, arrogant, successful and confident,” he added. “A few javelin throws away we have the London 2012 games. This is very exciting. We can either make the games about vast profits, unsustainable economic models or something different.”
Promises of regeneration, volunteerism, sustainability and inclusiveness imbue London’s games with a ground breaking sense of socialness. It proposes a much different vision of doing business and one social enterprise can help bring to fruition