Two revolutions


Occasionally I get to go on some fun days out for work. Yesterday Virgin Media Business invited me to help them think about the future of social enterprise for the morning. The spin was that we were going to do it on the London Eye — six of us in a pod with an hour (twice round) to think through how social business might change over the next 30 years and then explain our thinking to Richard Branson.

From where we are now, it looks like social enterprise/ventures/business will be a much bigger thing in 2044. There’s been a rapid growth in finance available which shows no sign of slowing down and a generational shift towards more people wanting to start or work for organisations that have a positive social or environmental impact. Add to that growing customer demand for more ethical information about the products and services they buy and governments looking for help in solving the big social issues they face and it feels like something big is starting to emerge.

What we hoped as a group was that social business wouldn’t be a ‘sector’ in 30 years time — it would be what all businesses do. Almost all businesses would be created with both social and financial goals in mind, all businesses would have to live up to high ethical and moral standards and all finance would have at least a ‘do no harm’ approach if not a more pro-social or environmental goal.

We also talked through what role technology will play. We now know it’s not universally positive — left to their own devices, technology companies and creators don’t always have society’s best interests at heart. You won’t be surprised to know that I think we should focus on tech that matters, directing technological innovation and application towards important problems rather than just daily annoyances. That’s something the tech industry is only just waking up to but hopefully in 30 years time will be the norm.