Monday, January 28, 2008

The emmaus community, and social entrepreneurship

Talked recently with the founder of Emmaus Cambridge, who has just been awarded a CBE. Emmaus is a community that offers work and accommodation for single men. Many of them are people who, otherwise, would be washed in and out of the Magistrates' Courts as regularly as if carried on the tides.

1.When Emmaus was being set up, apparently a junior planner was handling the application and made a long list of every planning reason why it should be turned down: they proposed to handle scrap metal on the site. It was on the flight path of Cambridge airport. A senior planner, however, apparently took the case over and was determined to use planning law positively and find every reason why it could be allowed. The plans were passed by a single vote.

2. Emmaus Cambridge cost £2m to set up but careful research has suggested it saves the government £600,000 a year.

3. Government is extremely weak at letting social entrepreneurs experiment with government cash. Only Northern Rock directors get to do that, and they took it all. Otherwise, perhaps, there could be an Emmaus in every town.

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