Byline: SIMON HARRIS
MANY media and business commentators have said that we 'can't go back to business as usual' as the economic crisis has unfolded before our eyes, leading to the closure of many businesses and affecting millions of people.
This is an opportunity too good to waste for organisations such as the Wales Cooperative Centre. We're doing the right things at the right time - offering an ethical and viable alternative business model, while others seem insistent on taking us back to the depths of the Lehman Brothers collapse with an unquenchable thirst for commercial gain and corporate greed.
Social enterprises and co-operatives provide the perfect vehicle for responding to economic difficulties - they're mutually owned, consumer centred and socially responsible.
We need to show, through everything we do, that there is more than just one way of doing business. A mixed economy is more practical and conducive to sustainability.
The Wales Co-operative Centre is ideally placed to capitalise on the opportunities that the Welsh economy and other social and political agendas have presented to us.
Support and interest for social enterprise seems to be growing in Wales - but why? Perhaps it's because there is an awareness that the more recognised business form has contributed to the current state of the economy.
It's not that all business is bad or that profit maximisation is bad, but that there is a need to redress the balance within the economy and show that more socially responsible and socially owned, but viable, businesses are a good thing.
Something that is lacking though is a genuine understanding and awareness of the social enterprise sector in Wales - by people within the sector, those who procure public services, the general public and media.
Earlier this year, a piece of research that we commissioned through the University of Glamorgan showed that only 6% of people questioned associated the term 'social enterprise' with business - that has to change.
Consequently we are involved with partners, helping to set up a Welsh Social Enterprise Coalition which aims to act as both a voice for social enterprises and as a means of raising the awareness of them.
February 1-2 next year sees the UK conference on social enterprise 'VOICE 10' coming to Cardiff - the first time it is held outside of England and we are determined to help the event succeed and reach many who have not considered or heard of social enterprise.
We want to see development trusts, social firms, co-operatives and other communityled organisations having an impact. …