Edge Upstarts Awards 2007 winners

Social enterprises are now challenging and changing markets and industries as diverse as bottled wat

Community spirited, ethically minded and environmentally friendly are not terms automatically associated with commercial success, and yet with each year a growing number of entrepreneurs are proving this assumption wrong, placing a social purpose at the very heart of their businesses and making a profit.

From biodegradable bottles made from corn to high fashion created with recycled saris, the very best of social enterprise in the UK was celebrated on 10 May at the 2007 Edge Upstarts Awards ceremony. Held in the splendour of St James's Palace, finalists and guests took part in an evening of appreciation and praise for the sector in which they work.

Social enterprises combine public service with innovative and efficient practice. They are businesses with primarily social objectives that reinvest the bulk of their profits either back into the enterprise itself or into the community.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, the minister for the third sector, Ed Miliband, paid tribute to both the "can-doism and dynamism" of social entrepreneurs, saying there should be greater recognition of the valuable contribution such businesses make to society.

The social enterprise sector, and in particular the Edge Upstarts Awards finalists, also received high praise from the Duke of Kent, who presented the winners with their trophies.

The first award of the evening, the Social Enterprise Trainee of the Year, was presented to Craig Watson from the Prescot Oasis Centre. Craig overcame a difficult and disadvantaged beginning, leaving school with no qualifications. Through his hard work and determination he became one of the highest graded students to have completed the horticulture course at Myerscough College and is soon to become a trainee supervisor. On winning the award, Craig said: "It's my first time in London so it's mad to be at St James's Palace and get an award. I didn't ever think I would be here."

Trevor Lynn, founder and director of Mow and Grow, won the Social Enterprise Mentor of the Year award. Through his sustainable gardening service, Trevor has not only helped those who struggle to maintain their gardens, but has also motivated, inspired and trained over 30 volunteers, willingly sharing his expertise and encouraging his trainees to develop both life and job skills.

Setting up three environmental organisations by the age of 26 is an outstanding accomplishment by any standards and has earned Tom Savage the Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year award. Tom co-founded Blue Ventures, a social enterprise dedicated to marine conservation, set up Travel Roots, an ecotourism travel agency, and founded the website tiptheplanet.com, where visitors can find various tips on how to be kinder to both themselves and the environment.

The Social Entrepreneur of the Year award was presented to Sital Punja, whose company, Sari UK, aims to provide financial support for children's charities in developing countries. Sari UK creates couture clothing in a sustainable way by recycling traditional Indian clothing donated by thousands of Indian women in Britain.

Commenting on the evening, Sital said: "What I love about the people here is that we all want to put something back into society. Hopefully big multinational companies will take stock and fully realise their potential."

Continuing the theme of sustainability, the company Belu Water was awarded the Social Enterprise of the Year award. Belu Water, the first bottled water brand not to contribute to global warming, has brought the challenge of social purpose to the bottled water industry. Having designed the UK's first biodegradable bottle made from corn, and donating all profits to clean water projects across the world, Belu Water is helping both the environment and people in the developing world. A further achievement has been the creation of the "Penguin Approved" mark, which enables customers to identify carbon-neutral products.

The surprise of the evening was the presentation of the discretionary Edge Start-Up award, which was given to Ahmed Al-aagam. At 21 years of age and originally from Yemen, Ahmed's is a true success story and he is a worthy recipient of this prize. Ahmed has only lived in Britain for seven years, but within the first two of those he had mastered English, immersed himself in community projects and achieved 11 GCSEs. Now Ahmed is studying events management at Leeds Metropolitan University as well as setting up 3E Community Events. He aims to enhance community and neighbourhood relations by organising such events.

Chief executive of Social Enterprise London and a member of the judging panel, Allison Ogden-Newton, praised all who were nominated for an award saying: "It has been our strongest year ever and the great thing about the entrants is that they were much more entrepreneurial than in previous years."

Commendations were also given to Sartaj Zazai, Servane Mouazan and the social enterprise Galeri Caernarfon Cyf for determination, hard work and the significant contribution each has made to society.

With consumers increasingly demanding ethical practice and social responsibility from business, it is likely that the social enterprise sector will continue to grow from its present annual UK turnover of £27bn. Small start-ups are leading the way, showing multinationals that it is possible, desirable, as well as profitable, to successfully run a business with a social purpose.

Edge Upstarts is a New Statesman programme sponsored by Edge. For more information and photos of the winners please visit http://www.edgeupstarts.org

This article first appeared in the 21 May 2007 issue of the New Statesman, New Leader, New Danger

Ralph Steadman for the New Statesman.
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Tim Farron: Theresa May is "the prisoner of the Ukip wing of her party"

The Liberal Democrat leader on his faith, Blairism and his plan to replace Labour as the opposition. 

This is Tim Farron’s seventh general election. His first was in 1992, when his Tory opponent was a 36-year-old called Ther­esa May. He was just 21 and they were both unsuccessful candidates in the Labour fortress of North-West Durham. He recalls talking “to a bunch of ex-miners who weren’t best pleased to see either of us, some kid Liberal and some Tory”. Now he sees his former and current opponent as “the prisoner of the Ukip wing of her party . . . I think it has rendered Ukip almost pointless – she is Ukip now.”

May was elected to parliament in 1997, but it took Farron until 2005 to join her. She leads the dominant Conservatives while he heads a party of only nine Liberal Democrat MPs. Still, their reversal of fortunes gives him hope. “After the 1992 election, every­one said there’s no way for a non-Tory government, and it turned out there was. So let’s not assume it’s a given there’s a Tory government [for ever].”

In April, I accompanied Farron to Manchester Gorton, in the lead-up to a by-election that was cancelled by May’s decision to call a snap election on 8 June. Still, the 46-year-old’s party has been in campaign mode for months; Lib Dems spoke of using last December’s Richmond Park by-election to test their messaging. It clearly had an effect: the incumbent Conservative, Zac Goldsmith, lost to their candidate, Sarah Olney.

Brexit, to which the Liberal Democrats are vehemently opposed, will be a dominant theme of the election. Their party membership has just exceeded 100,000, close to an all-time high, and they have enjoyed much success in council by-elections, with more to come in the local elections of 4 May.

However, any feel-good factor swiftly evaporated when Farron appeared on Channel 4 News on 18 April. He was asked by the co-presenter Cathy Newman whether or not he believes that homosexuality is a sin, a question that he answered obliquely in 2015 by saying that Christianity started with acknowledging that “we’re all sinners”.

This time, he told Newman, he was “not in the position to make theological announcements over the next six weeks . . . as a Liberal, I’m passionate about equality”.

The Channel 4 interview divided opinion. One Liberal politician told me that Farron’s stance was “completely intolerable”. Stephen Pollard, the influential editor of the Jewish Chronicle, described it as
“a very liberal position: he holds certain personal views but does not wish to legislate around them”. Jennie Rigg, the acting chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, said it was “as plain as the nose on my face that Tim Farron is no homophobe”.

Farron declined the chance to clarify his views with us in a follow-up phone call, but told the BBC on 25 April: “I don’t believe that gay sex is a sin,” adding, “On reflection, it makes sense to actually answer this direct question since it’s become an issue.”

For his critics, Farron’s faith and politics are intertwined. He sees it differently, as he told Christian Today in 2015: “. . . the danger is sometimes that as a Christian in politics you think your job is to impose your morality on other people. It absolutely isn’t.”

Tim Farron joined the then Liberal Party at the age of 16 but didn’t become a Christian until he was 18. Between completing his A-levels in Lancashire and going to Newcastle University to read politics, he read the apologetics, a body of Christian writing that provides reasoned arguments for the gospel story. “I came to the conclusion that it was true,” he told me. “It wasn’t just a feel-good story.”

In speeches, Farron now takes on the mannerisms of a preacher, but he had a largely non-religious upbringing in Preston, Lancashire. “I don’t think I’d been to church once other than Christmas or the odd wedding,” he says. “I went once with my dad when I was 11, for all the good that did me.”

When we meet, it is Theresa May’s religion that is in the spotlight. She has condemned the National Trust for scrubbing the word “Easter” from its Easter egg hunt, a row it later emerged had been largely invented by the right-wing press in response to a press release from a religious-themed chocolate company.

“It’s worth observing there’s no mention of chocolate or bunny rabbits in the Bible,” Farron reminds me. “When people get cross about, in inverted commas, ‘us losing our Christian heritage’ they mean things which are safe and comfortable and nostalgic.” He pauses. “But the Christian message at Easter is shocking, actually, and very radical.”

British politics is tolerant of atheists (such as Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg) alongside those who, like David Cameron, are culturally Christian but whose faith is “a bit like the reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes”. But the reaction to Farron’s equivocation on homosexuality prompted many to wonder if a politician who talks openly about his faith is now seen as alarming. Nebulous wishes of peace and love at Christmas, yes; sincere discussions of the literal truth of the Resurrection? Hmm.

Tim Farron’s beliefs matter because he has a mission: to replace not only Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition but Theresa May in Downing Street. Over lassis at the MyLahore curry house in Manchester, he tells me that Britain is facing two calamities. “One is Brexit, indeed hard Brexit . . . and the other is a Tory government for 25 years. We have to present a genuine, progressive alternative that can not only replace Labour as an opposition, it can replace the Tories as a government.” This is ambitious talk for a party with nine MPs. “I understand the ridicule that will be thrown at me for saying those things: but if you don’t want to run the country, why are you in politics?” He pauses. “That’s a question I would ask most people leading the Labour Party at present.”

What does he think of May, his one-time opponent in North-West Durham? “She strikes me as being very professional, very straightforward, somebody who is very conservative in every sense of the word, in her thought processes, her politics, in her style.” He recalls her 2002 conference speech in which she warned Tory activists: “Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us: the nasty party.”

“In many ways, she was the trailblazer for Cameron in being a softer-focused Tory,” he says. “It now looks like she’s been trapped by the very people she was berating as the nasty party all those years ago. I like to think that isn’t really her. But that means she isn’t really in control of the Conservative Party.”

Voters, however, seem to disagree. In recent polls, support for the Conservatives has hovered between 40 and 50 per cent. Isn’t a progressive alliance the only way to stop her: Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru all working together to beat the Tories?

“Let’s be really blunt,” he says. “Had Jeremy Corbyn stood down for us in Richmond Park [where Labour stood Christian Wolmar], we would not have won. I could have written Zac Goldsmith’s leaflets for you: Corbyn-backed Liberal Democrats.

“I’m a pluralist,” he adds. “But any progressive alliance has got to be at least equal to the sum of its parts. At the moment, it would be less than the sum of its parts. The only way the Tories are losing their majority is us gaining seats in Hazel Grove –” he ticks them off with his fingers, “– in Cheadle, in the West Country and west London. There’s no chance of us gaining those seats if we have a kind of arrangement with the current Labour Party in its current form.”

What about the SNP? “Most sensible people would look at that SNP manifesto and agree with 99 per cent of it,” Farron says. “But it’s that one thing: they want to wreck the country! How can you do a deal with people who want to wreck the country?”

There’s no other alternative, he says. Someone needs to step up and offer “something that can appeal to progressive younger voters, pro-Europeans and, you know, moderate-thinking Middle England”. He wants to champion a market economy, strong public services, action on climate change, internationalism and free trade.

That sounds like Blairism. “I’m a liberal, and I don’t think Blair was a liberal,” he replies. “But I admire Blair because he was somebody who was able to win elections . . . Iraq aside, my criticisms of Blair are what he didn’t do, rather than what he did do.”

Turning around the Tory tide – let alone with just nine MPs, and from third place – is one hell of a job. But Farron takes heart from the Liberal Party in Canada, where Justin Trudeau did just that. “I’m not Trudeau,” he concedes, “He was better-looking, and his dad was prime minister.”

There is a reason for his optimism. “I use the analogy of being in a maze,” he says, “You can’t see a way out of it, for a progressive party to form a majority against the Tories. But in every maze, there is a way out. We just haven’t found it yet.” 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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