I hope to see many friends and social enterprise colleagues from the UK, across Europe and beyond in Strasbourg at “Social Entrepreneurs Have your Say” event in January 2014 – if you haven’t booked, do so immediately! 
This event presents the opportunity to take stock of the progress so far on the Social Business Initiative (SBI) and to set out some ideas for future action. I have been asked back to help to produce the “declaration” resulting from the Conference. This will set the road map for the future. The Commission wish to make this a participative process and to engage as widely and deeply as possible. The event itself will include open space methodology and efforts will be made to“harvest ideas” from all those present. It will be proceeded by an online discussion forum. We need your ideas and participation.
The background to this is that in May 2011 I had the privilege of chairing a two-day meeting of European officials and experts that created the framework for the EU Social Business Initiative. Launched in October of the same year, the SBI has seen the development of a raft of new measures to boost social enterprise and social investment. These include: a new kind of regulated Social Entrepreneurship Fund (EuSEF), an €85 EU wide financial instrument to help establish new social investment funds and intermediaries, the promise of dedicated finance from the €250billion European Structural Funds, and positive changes to procurement and state aid rules. Steps are a foot to create a common framework for social impact measurement and a massive research exercise is underway to map the extent of social enterprise across Europe and the support systems (legal and financial) that can underpin the growth of social entrepreneurship.
“Europe” may not be regarded as relevant in some quarters, but I see what the Commission has been attempting to do in this area is genuinely useful for the future of social enterprise and could have a very significant impact. Together we have a very real opportunity to shape the future. The Strasbourg Declaration could set the tone and ideas for work under the new Commission after the European elections in 2014. The declaration will seek to emphasise the values of social entrepreneurship, comment on progress and collect ideas for moving this agenda forward. If you can I would urge to try and make it to Strasbourg and actively feed in your views and ideas to help shape the Declaration.