Ask any beginning class of LIS students how many want to be managers and leaders in the field and you will be delighted if four or five respond affirmatively. This is largely a lack of interest coupled with a notion of managers being inherently evil. Alternately, and in my view even worse, some do not wish to admit publicly to ambition.
Then try to square this with the fact that graduates despair of a lack of management education and training and recognition that most professional jobs require at least some degree of management (not the least being self-management and self-awareness). On one executive board the joke was that in librarianship the “F-word” was “Finance”.
Perhaps social enterprise helps to recognize these two contradictory elements of our profession.
Chi Onwurah, the UK shadow minister with responsibility for social enterprise, describes the concept as follows for the Guardian:
“Social enterprise is, at its heart, a collective enterprise for the benefit of a community. It can be the best of both worlds—economic and social force fusing the dynamism of market forces with the social responsibility of public service.
“It should be about redressing the balance of power between vested interests and citizens, delivering true localism, community resilience and assets, employee rights and security while enabling the participatory reform of both the public and private sectors.”
She says that “social enterprises can play their part in making society fairer, improving responsibility in the private sector and empowering community driven economic regeneration.”
If libraries are about enhancing community assets (e.g. literacy) as well as helping to overcome liabilities (e.g., school readiness), then the elements of management (developing capacity and capability while allocating resources appropriately and with accountability) can enhance social justice and mobility.
Somehow, we need to develop leaders from the get-go and enable them to exercise leadership throughout the organization and at all levels of their career. We need people who can speak of returns on investment rather than entitlements, public value as well as a public good, and push organizations and institutions to be ever more effective.
Perhaps a focus on social enterprise (as well as “intrapreneurship”) can bridge some of this gap.