A few weeks ago I read a fascinating Guardian article about how attitudes change when people are paid by results. The writer particularly focused on England's terrible Rubgy World Cup performance and how the causes behind that illfated campaign could be projected onto the National Health Service, should market forces be introduced.
A clever comparision that really got me thinking. What if it's not just our healthcare system that could be at stake should money becomes a core motivator, but the social sector as a whole?
One of the best things about working for a social enterprise is the passion and generosity of the people – both here at RIO, but also in the partners and other organisations we come across. We help each other in very open ways.
This kind of honest support and information sharing is not giving up a competitive advantage – despite what a purely private sector standpoint would tell you – instead it is about the collective good; working together to make a bigger social and environmental impact, which as social enterprises we all need to deliver against, as part of our triple bottom lines.
Althought the opening up of new, free markets in the social sector offers opportunities to social enterprises and private businesses alike, it brings with it increased risk. By introducing the market norms of tendering and commissioning into the social sectors processes it's possible - and some would say likely - that we all inexorably become more closed and less generous with each other, in order to secure the deal and take work.
I certainly hope this won't be the case, but we need to do more than hope. We need to safeguard against this eventuality at all costs.
Here at RIO, we are involved in some rewarding and powerful partnerships with other social enterprises and voluntary sector organisations that demonstrate a form this safeguarding can take. Together we have managed to wade through and learn from commissioning cycles on The Work Programme, skills funding, and, most recently, a large ESF Families contract – and we are now having some success.
Our experience together proves it is possible, with a bit of imagination and openness, to devise structures and ways of working that recognise the competitive nature of these processes, but at the same time allow new partnerships to form and build for the benefit of all.
Which means that most importantly, profit doesn't take precedence and the person or community which needs the help in the first place, still gets what they need.
Now if they could only find a way of making this team thinking work for rugby...