Two stories have really hit me in the last 12 months about the nature of real social enterprise in the UK.
The first was told to me by the people of Kintyre about the herring fishermen of Carradale. Apparently when the herring boats went out, finding the schoals of fish was a pretty hit and miss affair. Some boats would come back loaded – others would have nothing. This would mean that some families would eat and others would not. So instead the fisherman would wait for all of the boats to return at the end of the day and some of the days catch would be given to those boats that had not caught. Each boat was independently owned and run on a ‘for profit’ basis. But this was not altruism. It was recognised that although ‘I caught today; I may not catch tomorrow’ – so sharing the bounty was in everyones best interest. Not only did this serve a genuine economic purpose – the waiting on the harbour side ensured the development of bonding social capital over a wee dram a song and a story. I believe that there is no longer a commercial herring fishing operation in Carradale.
The second was told me by an old headmaster of mine who was reminiscing that back in the 1940s schools would organise ‘Harvest Camps’ where pupils would go to work with local (for profit) farmers in August and September to help them to bring in the harvest. A kind of early work experience that was essential if the whole community was to be fed through the winter.
Both of these examples show me how our communities used to recognise the value that entrepreneurs brought to the community – but also recognised that at time they needed help and support – and it was in everyones best interest to ensure that they got it.
Now in this day and age it is less ‘fishermen and farmers’ and more likely to be ‘graphic designers and financial advisers’ – but the enlightened community will recognise how it can best nurture and support the entrepreneurs that create real value.
It is my beleif that this deep understanding of how the wider community can support and foster good enterprise is still alive (if not that well) in many of our communities – however it needs re-inventing and re-invigorating for the 21st century.
What do you think?