CIC Association

Serving Community Enterprise

Letter to Mr Byrne, Minister for the Cabinet Office

Dear Sir

I am writing to inform you of the formation of a CIC Association, which aims to represent its members and support the development of the CIC Legislation. I hope to receive an endorsement of support for what we’re trying to achieve, as Minister for the Cabinet Office your engagement would help us raise awareness of need amongst the existing support structures, and give a clear indication that the Legislation is valued and understood at the highest levels of Government. I appreciate your busy, but it’s vital we raise the profile of CICs and force ourselves onto some agendas.

Part of the wider discussion I’m hoping to have with you is how CICs can be put to better use helping solve some of the issues currently facing Social Enterprise in general, its what the legislation was put in place for! I’m convinced the legislation has a positive role to play in providing uplift to a raft of issues, from engaging the local community, attracting new investment into social enterprise, being a useful tool in reducing practical implementation costs on issues such as Right To Request, and provide a perfect pilot bed for issues such as developing a meaningful SROI barometer. I have had meetings with a lot of key stakeholders and whilst there is a plenty of anecdotal support, I feel we really need to make an impact at a higher level to be allowed to contribute to the debate. CIC has a lot to offer and I’m unsure as to why the legislation hasn’t had more focussed attention.

I feel it’s a worrying indictment on the existing support structures that in some regards we’re not even on their imagination radar, as a tool to provide some specific solutions and defined pathways to problem solving. Worse still is the inward looking opinion that the development of the opportunities the CIC Legislation offer fall outside of the higher cause of furthering Social Enterprise in general, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I also feel that the fact it has fell to me to take this forward is a sad testimony on what has happened in almost four years. We entrepreneurs absolutely love it and the potential it offers, but understanding and awareness levels are frighteningly low, and in a sense the opportunity is being missed.

Im happy to detail problems being encountered and opportunities being missed at local, regional and national level, and hope to be able to meet personally to discuss the issues more dynamically. I also think there are quite a lot of quick wins that can be achieved simply by improving communications and content. I set all this in context of the recent award from CapacityBuilders for the Social Enterprise Mark, which has recently received a second round of funding for a Mark that attracted 20 members with £500k initial funding, whilst we have 2500 companies incorporated (mostly start-ups) and not a penny of focussed development funding. Surely a legislation, with all its clear structural advantages of an Asset Lock and Regulator deserves at least the opportunity to be considered as a useable structure in policy and programme delivery?

If the SEC are throwing their weight behind the Mark, it could be a good thing for social enterprises that aren’t CICs, which is certainly an area that isn’t very well developed at the moment. I do however, see a fundamental strategic flaw in the Mark itself and its medium term potential, caution and discussion need to take place before anymore taxpayers money is committed. But what has the SEC achieved for Social Enterprises that have put their faith in the CIC legislation that was introduced under their watch?

I have attached the minutes of the first CIC Forum at SEC May08 Minutes.pdf, attended by 60 CIC practitioners. As you’ll see our needs are simple and progress against the issues raised at this meeting would provide a good barometer of how the legislation is currently being nurtured. The story regarding my multiple requests to have these types of questions answered is a sorry affair, and one which I hope doesn’t cloud the business of the day.

Its very important for us to understand what the Governments medium term strategies are and ensure CIC fits naturally within them, or not as the case may be. CIC should be seen as an opportunity and I believe the application opportunities of the legislation are being grossly under utilised.

There’s a general feeling amongst practitioners that things were moving a little too slowly in some aspects, and that we’re probably best placed to solve them ourselves. We have 80 members so far, with 50 in an active online development forum, and have the support of the Regulator. We plan to hard launch to all CICs in the summer, with a website and a defined growth strategy. We’re from across the regions and sectors, and hope to achieve a low cost online strategy to build central resources and communicate from. It’s all been very organic so far and I’m surprised this work hasn’t been done before now. It would be great to receive any advice from your office on whether any of the Government agencies might support some focussed development. Its vital CIC awareness and understanding levels are raised and hopefully we'll have some suggestions that you can take forward.

Your recent speech in Birmingham captures the mood perfectly, and I hope CICs can add value to the forthcoming New Opportunities white paper, and the Social Enterprise environment in general.

I’m available on 07956 980759 and 0203 262 3044 and am at your disposal. I look forward to your reply.

Very best regards

John Mulkerrin
IQ + EQ = CIC

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Comment by Stephen Hendry on August 18, 2010 at 18:54
Great letter john.

Really great actually;

" Its vital CIC awareness and understanding levels are raised"

Stephen.

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