Social Saturday gets its skates on

What's a cabinet minister doing on a skateboard? Helping to support an initiative aimed at heightening awareness of social enterprises with the public of course.

Minister for civil society Rob Wilson showed up to support the launch of this year’s Social Saturday event at London’s largest indoor skatepark this morning. Against a backdrop of skaters and bmxers nonchalantly waiting to parade their skills, Wilson said he was thrilled to support Social Saturday and applauded the ability of social enterprises to “get into those areas where governments really don’t work effectively”.

Social Saturday is an initiative by Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) to raise awareness amongst consumers of the opportunities to buy from social enterprises that support local communities or good causes around the world. 

Also attending the event was SEUK CEO Peter Holbrook. As he put it: “Social enterprises have continued to outperform mainstream businesses in growth, ambition, confidence and job creation. This in an incredible success story happening right across the UK and increasingly, the world. Yet the public still aren’t fully aware – as much as we would like them to be – of what social enterprise is all about.”

On Saturday 10th October, the public will be encouraged to spend at their local social venture, with 50 events around the country helping to promote that. It is also hoped that a social media storm will help raise awareness, with consumers posting shots of purchases on Instagram and Twitter users using the hashtag #socialsaturday2015. With that hashtag trending on Twitter after the launch, the early signs of the initative working are good. 

The setting for the launch was put forward as a good example of a social enterprise turning around a business that was failing. Holbrook described it as “a bankrupt facility that, through the power of social investment and social enterprise, has been rescued for the benefit of the local community in a poorer part of London”.

Holbrook also noted that the social enterprise GLL, who run the skatepark, had really thought about what might get people through the doors. “You don’t have to spend too much time around here to know that badminton isn’t necessarily the thing for the community,” he said. The skate park offers 900 square metres of ramps, ledges and bowls in which to show off skills. Users were enthusiastic, noting it as a safe environment that will only become more popular through the dark days of winter in the coming months.

From humble beginnings in 1993, GLL now has a turnover of nearly £200m. It was one of the first leisure spin outs from the public sector and also manages libraries. Holbrook said their success showed “that social enterprise is credible, is scaleable and plays a role in society that others simply cannot fulfil”.

To conclude his speech, Wilson said: “When you invest in a social enterprise, what you get is a double benefit: a benefit for the overall economy but you also get a wider benefit for society, just like we have here. It also proves that making money and doing good work are not at odds with each other.” 

To find out more about Social Saturday, click here.