After three decades of working in a range of small but extraordinary non-profits, I am joining a social enterprise next month whose role is precisely to support those organisations. Its name is Pilotlight.
As CEO of the New Economics Foundation, I fell in love with the insight of ‘small is beautiful’ – a vital corrective to a mindset that big is best and so only growth matters. Instead you have to have the right scale for what you do; and for care and community, we should value the weave of small business and small charities.
As Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, I fell in love with the way that participation can unlock talent. Over time, the co-op sector has been an extraordinary business accelerator for learning and in particular for working class talent.
Pilotlight is a young charity that sells an innovative service to business, which is to help develop and fulfil their staff talent through programmes that set them to work to benefit leaders in the charity and social enterprise sector.
By matching the two, the charities benefit from outstanding support through carefully curated programmes starting from their needs and the businesses benefit from a widening of skills and a deepening of motivation for their staff team.
Those involved, the pilotlighters, become members of the organisation, building a community of purpose for social action.
Under the leadership of Gillian Murray, Pilotlight has broadened the programme and partnership offer around this innovative core. As the latest Impact Report sets out, one thousand charities and social enterprises have now benefited over time. Pilotlight has a rare and precious multiplier effect on civil society.
The context for the work of Pilotlight could not be more compelling. In the crisis of the pandemic, the social sector, as Andy Haldane has put it, has proved itself to be the “institutional immune system” at times of risk.
And yet, as the #nevermoreneeded, #SaveourSocEnts campaigns and the Small Charities Coalition have shown, the sector faces collapsing resources at precisely the same time as there are rocketing needs.
Pilotlight itself has continued its work, supporting forty two charities over the lockdown period.
The challenge ahead for the nation is whether we can learn from the best of what we have seen in the crisis, to build back better.
What we need is nothing less than an upgraded model of wealth creation in which we decide to:
1. value what sustains us in an era of complexity and multiple risk
2. affirm new forms of co-operation and partnership to nurture that and
3. step up action to limit our wider system risks around public health and the natural environment.
And what else?