Blog post by Philippa Mellish, SOLACE Policy Manager
I’ve just arrived back to the office from a roundtable discussion, jointly hosted by SOLACE and BDO, on how local government can harness social investment for social goals. The seminar is part of a joint research project which will lead to the publication of a report, to be launched at the Summit. The conversation was lively and extremely thought provoking with input from representatives across local government, the Cabinet Office and organisations which fund, broker, and deliver social investment. Here are some of the key points/questions/provocations made during the discussion to fuel your thinking ahead of the Summit, where we will be exploring many of these ideas in more depth.
- Can local authorities be investors themselves without posing a barrier to market investment? Some are moving in this direction, cf. http://westminster.the-hub.net/public/ and Lambeth’s “Cooperative Council”.
- Investors need some political stability; there is a risk of a “systemic failure of politics that ensures social investors stay away”.
- What does social investment mean for the future role of Councillors? Is there a need to rethink and rebrand what being a local politician is all about – i.e. it’s about being a social entrepreneur?!
- Perhaps this time we really do need to fundamentally rethink the role of local government – what is it that councils are really there to do? Councils are not providers or direct deliverers, nor are they necessarily buyers; rather, they are enablers, enabling organisations to access capital. The Council as a platform for innovation.
- There is a dichotomy between the move towards national commissioning in some areas and community based commissioning in others. Procurement is also extremely challenging yet critical to success.
- “Markets that stick around are markets that grow organically” – but organic growth is slow growth – so how can local authorities speed it up?
- Alternative models of Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) could make the community payback aspect some kind of community engagement, such as free membership.
- Could local authorities use their assets to provide some second tier guarantee to underpin the market? I.e. sweating an asset harder rather than changing its use – but who’s asset is it, the community’s or the council’s?
What do you think…?