After Business Link…Time for a change of tack?

So it was confirmed in the White Paper yesterday that Business Links will be gone by the end 2012.  All that will remain is a website, and perhaps a call centre.

So what will replace £154m per year of business information, advice and guidance?

Time for DIY support I think.

Time for businesses and the wider communities of which they are a part to help themselves on their own terms.

I am not talking about ‘local’  Chambers of Commerce or Enterprise Agencies winning contracts from the State to deliver outputs and targets in return for tax payers cash.  That will just recreate the problems of the old regime:

  • post code lotteries,
  • sectoral discrimination,
  • services designed to trigger funding payments and hit targets, rather than work in person centred ways to deliver just in time support to the people who are hungriest for it,
  • groupies who learn to lunch with the bureaucrats and help them to deliver the targets while some people who are the most hungry for support are denied it because they are not aiming to turnover £2m within 24 months, live in the wrong part of town, aren’t working in a priority sector and so on.

DIY culture can provide support that is:

  • more accessible,
  • more inclusive,
  • much less expensive and I suspect,
  • much, much more impactful in terms of creating economic, social and political progress than the current system.

Why, because it is convivial, inclusive, centred on people and relationships, not focussed on policy goals and targets, bureaucracy light, puts experts and expertise in the back seat rather than the driving seat (it is great to have them on board when we need them – but much of this stuff we can figure out for ourselves), dynamic and above all fun!

And I would ensure that everyone who wants it, who really wants to work on making progress, should have access to free, confidential and competent coaching, in the community, from a coach who is supported, and held accountable by local people.  This is both practical, sustainable and affordable with the potential for a tremendous return on investment in terms of business, culture, health and well-being, community development, skills development and so forth.

The radical secret to this is that the coach engages with and works on the clients agenda – not the agendas of the planners and policy makers.

Time to take ‘enterprise development’ out of the ghettos of ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘business support’ and to put it at the heart of our strategies for community development.

Because if we develop the people and the communities then they will build the economy.

I wonder if any of the new Local Enterprise Partnerships will have the courage, foresight and leadership to give it a go?


  1. This is real progress mike. I doubt lep’s will do anything different. It will be the same old same old. Driven by peoples undisclosed agendas, politics, targets and funding.

  2. chrisconder says:

    We can live in hope Mike, but BL will take some killing, the culture of tick boxes and targets is very powerful amongst the jobsworths. It just depends how switched on the new LEPs are, and how many dinosaurs in their ranks hold the power.

    • A combination of the great and the good from the private sector (by definition those with time on their hands) and a local authority. Can already see the new LEPs surveying their private sector pals to say ‘What is it you want? Finance and subsidised training? OK Leave it with us and we will see what we can wrangle out of government to push your way.’

      Of course it is more subtle than that. But not much.

      When it comes to supporting enterprise we seem to be an innovation free zone….

  3. Hi Mike
    In parallel with our Twitter exchange moments ago, picking up here on:
    “Time to take ‘enterprise development’ out of the ghettos of ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘business support’ and to put it at the heart of our strategies for community development.”

    Can I say for parents of children with disabilities: “Time to take ‘upbringing’ out of the ghettos of ‘schooling’ and ‘education’ and to put it at the heart of our strategies for parents and families”?

    It seems to me both require radical politics and cultural change – and both face entrenched and privileged interests.

    All the more reason for trying!


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