Amongst all the hullabaloo and fall-out from the launch of the Social Enterprise Mark (see previous post for our take), most commentators missed what I think could be a much more important announcement made at Voice 10 last week: that O2 are committing to providing services and raising awareness of social enterprise to its customers and staff. Or, as they put it, "this is the age of social enterprise, and O2 is welcoming it with open arms". See the page on their website for more.
Obviously for this to be more than just standard CSR verbiage, O2 will need to follow through on that commitment, but I'm encouraged by what I've heard about the number of practical offers and initiatives to follow in the coming months, and the fact that the conversations are with the core business team, not the CSR department; the proof will be in the eating, as ever. The exciting thing is that, rather than looking inwardly at percentages of traded income and dividend levels, this is an example of getting the word out externally to a much bigger audience: through high street retail outlets, a website with reach far beyond any in this sector, and to staff (c. 30,000) and customers (nigh on 20 million) in huge numbers. A massive opportunity for the movement, potentially.
The Social Enterprise Ambassadors programme has often been criticised, sometimes rightly, sometimes (I've felt, admittedly as a partner in its delivery: disclaimer!) inaccurately. But its original brief was to get the word out and raise awareness to new audiences: young people, commissioners, and the commercial business sector. This is a great example, led by Sam Conniff of Livity, of just that kind of work. Alongside the job swaps being organised between ambassadors and leading corporate executives (working with organisations such as Google, Disney, Tribal, Coutts, Rok and more), and speaking engagements across the country, and the current mentoring competition, real progress is being made.