The year in social enterprise: 2010

Third Sector's finance reporter David Ainsworth reviews the main developments of the past year

The first big event of the year for social enterprise was Voice10, the Social Enterprise Coalition's annual conference. The coalition's newly appointed chief executive, Peter Holbrook, took to the stage to launch the Social Enterprise Mark, a kitemark for social enterprises.

But support for the mark was not universal, with the Scottish network for social entrepreneurs, Senscot, refusing to give the project its backing. Instead, Senscot proposed it would set up its own scheme, but eventually dropped the idea.

The coalition also supported plans to allow public sector bodies to spin out their services into independent social enterprises. The plan began with a Labour initiative, the right to request, which allowed NHS bodies to become independent.

Tory proposals to allow all public sector workers to form co-operatives were cautiously welcomed by the sector.

Proposals to make it mandatory to include "social clauses" in every government contract – asking bidders what social benefit they would create – also received the backing of the social enterprise sector. The bill passed its second reading and is likely to become law. Peter Holbrook, chief executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition, hailed it as "one of the most important pieces of legislation for our sector in a generation".

The social investment market saw significant changes with progress made on piloting the Social Impact Bond.

Elsewhere, social lenders said that supply of capital now exceeded the demand from investment-ready social enterprises, and the Charity Commission announced changes to make social investment easier for charities.

There was also debate about the size of the social enterprise sector. Research by Delta Economics found that many more businesses than official figures suggested had social goals. However, Third Sector Research Centre figures proposed that the sector was actually much smaller than the figures suggested.

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