The contrast between the two worlds was very obvious this week with the publication of "Working Together for Older People in Rural Areas" by the Social Exclusion Task Force. Here was a report full of excellent analysis of the challenges faced by the growing population of older people in rural areas. The argument was compelling and the need to change obvious. But when it came to solutions, where were the social enterprises? It was the same tired approach that Government alone can solve problems.
Rural social enterprises know that this is not the only solution. They offer a way for older people to remain active in their communities long after the days of paid employment are over. The average village shop has a team of 70 volunteers helping to keep the shop, and the village, alive. Each of those volunteers is interacting with their community in a way that increases their health opportunities. Other enterprises will produce health outcomes, such as access to services which the mainstream has abandoned.
The SETF report is one of many that fail to show social enterprise as a valuable alternative to the options of public or mainstream business solutions. Some of the fault for this lies within the sector where we have presented ourselves as a problem on a long list of problems, rather than as a solution which can be more effective in some areas than the alternatives. As community after community is finding out, it is a solution which policy formers ignore at their peril and their cost.