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In a recent social enterprise debate at the House of Lords, Baroness Scott of Needham Market talked about the support the sector needs. The “dedication and enthusiasm will carry [social entrepreneurs] a very long way, but professional support in finance and business planning, legal frameworks and so on is key, and this is where the school comes in. The Ipswich school [SSE Suffolk] is great, but we need more of this sort of thing right across the country. We also need social enterprises which themselves help other social enterprises”.
In tabling the debate, Baroness Andrews described how “some years ago I had the enormous privilege to work with Lord Young of Dartington, probably the greatest social entrepreneur of the previous century, when he was creating the School for Social Entrepreneurs. That was a hugely prophetic idea and one which has not only had great success in this country but has been replicated in other countries. The school and the growth of social businesses in general across the country show how innovation, skills, jobs, enterprise and social solutions can grow modestly but effectively in local circumstances, and sometimes in very unpromising circumstances”.
In the wide ranging debate, Baroness Andrews went on to describe the £13m annual impact that SSE's fellows create, 70% of which is in the 20% most deprived communities. The debate quoted the new Social Enterprise UK State of the Sector research, Fightback Britain, which supports SSE’s experience that in many areas social enterprises are proving more resilient in the current economic environment.
"organisations in the sample were 20% more likely to survive for five years than the average UK business, had very high average growth rates (17% annually) and reported continuous growth even during the recession. This is similar to previous studies, including the 2009 Social Enterprise Coalition study that showed that 56% of social enterprises reported an increase in turnover during the recession compared to 62% of charities who reported reductions in funding"
SSE launches its new impact evaluation report this evening (watch out for the press release and a further post here tomorrow to see and download the report). New Philanthropy Capital, who SSE commissioned to undertake the evaluation, have a blog post up today which looks at one of the SSE Fellow case studies, Steve Garrett:
"Steve had a bunch of problems he wanted to solve. The Riverside estate he lived on in Cardiff struggled to attract businesses and lacked jobs. A number of people in the area were eating a bad diet, and as a result their health was suffering. And on top of that lots of the food local people were buying came from the other side of the world, which meant their weekly shop had a big carbon footprint. Twelve years ago he came up with an idea that would address all these problems—run a farmers market, using it to generate jobs and encourage people to eat healthy, local produce. The Riverside Community Market Association (RCMA) was born."
Heartily recommended: read on here at the NPC blog
It has often been the subject of conversation at SSE about how what the organisation does, and what the effect is on social entrepreneurs, is best communicated through their stories, their journeys and their words. Fortunately, with thanks to a great Media Trust initiative and the amazing production skills and efforts of the team at Project Monster, we were able to make a new promotional video which goes some way to doing just that; via Andre, Junior, Tom, Charles and more.
The video will be shown on the Community Channel tonight (April 12th) at 6.30pm; or you can watch it now below :0)
For the social entrepreneur and social enterprise aficionado, there are two main event seasons: the cluster around October / November (Good Deals, Social Business, Global Entrepreneurship Week etc), and the end of March extravaganza of the Skoll World Forum, its fringe Oxford Jam and (this year), Voice 11. A few reflections on the events of last week, then…
Voice 11 came first, and marked something of a step-up in ambition for the sector, being held at the O2 and (I think) having delegates in four figures for the first time. It had a decent ministerial line-up (even if Cameron appeared only on video) to represent their policy reach, but more importantly the tiered pricing and programme created much more of a buzz of business than previous years. Stands were busy, sessions were well-attended, and the networking area was full of good conversations and deals being done.
Announcements included (*minimum*) £10m more for the Social Enterprise Investment Fund from the Department of Health: good news for the waves of right-to-request spin-outs, and prompting some to wonder what the split of the £10m will be (in terms of grants and loans). The Big Society Bank was also the source of much debate and conflab, with a start date now of summer 2011, though many fear it will be significantly later than that. It was also interesting to hear Vince Cable say there were “40,000” CICs, which was about 10x what I’d thought there were…
The only gripe people had was that it was cold (the third bottom line would have been swiftly dropped for a well-placed patio heater); but this is a hardy sector, and good humour overcame the chills. And that good humour was much in evidence at the awards in the evening (congrats to all winners: especially the NI contingent), with Alexander Armstrong arguably upstaged by Ed Miliband’s range of “I get mixed up with David” jokes…
Up in Oxford, the glamour was more international. Where else but the Skoll World Forum could you find Desmond Tutu and Jude Law at the same event? Skoll takes a TED-type approach, in that the event is pretty exclusive, but much of the content is made available online. From the tweets / conversations I followed, the megatrends, neuroscience and deep leadership sessions are particularly worth tracking down. [click on the previous link for access to videos, blogs and more...]
Oxford Jam is now firmly ensconced as the Skoll World Forum fringe, and Amanda Jones, Ben Metz and Jonny Mallinson (and helpers) did a fab job of pulling it together on shoestrings and enthusiasm. The vibe was great, the dialogue open and challenging, attendance free / on donation, and the drinks were multiple.
Highlights included Paul Cheng from Venturesome (“we’re not far off the social enterprise world’s first Bernie Madoff”), Jonathan Jenkins from UnLtd launching their Big Venture Challenge (“Why are we doing this? Because I’m bored. Bored of having the same conversation about the ‘missing middle’ ”) and Geoff Burnand / Caroline Mason’s (from Investing for Good / Charity Bank) excellent social enterprise quiz over dinner. Long may the Jam (and the late-night cabaret) continue.
It’s a big commitment of time, energy and expense, but I returned with mind opened, networks expanded, and motivation renewed. Can’t say fairer than that.
[Nick Temple is now also blogging at www.NickTemple.org]
Just a quick note to say that the SSE London graduation is today for the Block and Weekly Groups, with around 40 social entrepreneurs joining the ever-growing SSE Fellowship. You can see the formal press release here, along with links to the relevant social entrepreneurs.
Or, for the glossy full print experience, download the pdf of the graduation booklet:
Stories of Change 2010-11 (large pdf)
Arguably the most exciting news is that the entrepreneurs today will be congratulated by Peter Day, Radio 4 and podcasting legend who many consider one of the wisest and most insightful commentators on business in all its aspects.
I’ve been fortunate enough over the last few months to design, recruit and deliver a social franchising programme for SSE, called Scaling to Success. It was aimed at social entrepreneurs and social enterprise leaders who had a proven model and were seeking to replicate it: and looking at a franchise-type approach to that replication. It was not “franchise is the answer” but more “a practical look at replication through the lens of franchising”; and the outcomes will hopefully also be very practical and implementable.
The programme was built around SSE principles (action learning, cohort of peers, practitioner-based content, diverse group etc), and we were fortunate to have some fascinating people and organisations take part, with people attending from right across the country: London, yes, but also Devon, Stoke, Yorkshire, Birmingham, Kent and Ireland (kudos to Dara for flying over…).
And we also got a great mix of people to come and speak and participate: from the worlds of funding (Big Lottery Fund, Esmee Fairbairn, Big Issue Invest), the charity sector (one great panel involved Tony Hawkhead of Groundwork, Paul Farmer of Mind, and Simon Blake of Brook), social entrepreneurs with franchising experience (Owen Jarvis, Colin Crooks, Simon McNeill Ritchie), and from the commercial world (Linklaters, Barclaycard, Tie Rack / Le Pain Quotidien, The Plant, and more). Many thanks to all who gave their time.
As the programme progressed, we worked as a group to try and extract as much learning as possible, and create a bit of ‘group memory’ for people to refer back to. I referred to this as ‘nuggets of learning’ in our first session and, given our franchising focus, the group had somewhat inevitably renamed this ‘McNuggets’ by the final day. There were countless such pieces of practical learning over the course of the programme, but here are five McNuggets that stood out to me:
The differences are manifold between social and commercial franchising (incentives for good performance, sharing:protecting IP, types of franchisees, appropriate finance, etc) but I retain the belief that it is underused in the field. Providing as it does that balance between the social (propensity to share and partner) and the enterprising (a business that grows and trades and innovates).
And during the course of the programme, I think we found our strapline too.
Social franchising: growing the business of people, not pizza.
[Nick Temple can now also be found blogging at NickTemple.org]
It is a time of significant change in the world of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship, where markets shift, cuts take hold, and new opportunities beckon from the horizon. And as available finance becomes constrained, so the focus rightly becomes cost effectiveness. Sadly, in the case of many local authorities, the emphasis has been on the ‘cost’ (and offloading those that are easiest) rather than the ‘effectiveness’ part of the proposition. Matthew Pike makes this point in a recent Guardian article, citing the short-term view of local authorities and the problems this is storing up for the future.
The constrained finance and focus on cost effectiveness is also creating some interesting formal partnerships and mergers, and more informal clustering and networking alongside them. Examples include the Locality merger of BASSAC and DTA, and the Guardian’s recent purchase of UnLtdWorld. The former is an example of a trusted partnership built over time (and through practical collaboration) that became formalised by merger; externally, at least, it seems like an object lesson in how to merge minimising ego and pain, and maximising impact and effectiveness. Something that will be tested by their recent win to deliver the government’s Community Organisers programme…
The Guardian / UnLtdWorld deal has happened more rapidly, and is more about a clustering or joining up of networks, recognising that there aren’t necessarily the room for several of these in the current market conditions; and that more can potentially be achieved together. It could well be a very interesting mix of Guardian content + UnLtdWorld’s people/networks, of theory and practice, and I’m sure will be an interesting place to watch and engage with in the coming months for social entrepreneurs.
The organisations that are a step-ahead in this context are those that have cultivated a network mindset. By which I mean those that have always looked to share, collaborate, partner and empower; genuine trusted relationships (the foundation of successful partnerships; for more, see here) can’t be built in a day. For every successful partnership I’ve heard about recently, there is one that has fallen through or not worked.
Finally, it is also those who relentlessly focus on the impact and the mission who can see beyond organisational boundaries to the greater good. This is more difficult when times are hard, but even more necessary. Now more than ever for social entrepreneurs, it is a time to get the head up, take stock, be real with yourself and ask how you could be more effective in your work; and who you might want (and need) to collaborate with to make that happen.
[Nick Temple can now also be found blogging at NickTemple.org]
It has been a busy start to the year, and it seems like that is the case for everyone. Certainly everyone I bump into seems to be working very hard indeed, as the end of March 2011 looms large....No different here at SSE (lots of work across the network, graduations, launches, new programmes and more). Which is partly by way of explanation for why blogging has been a bit infrequent (many thanks to current intern Ryan for filling in), and why this is the first round-up for a couple of months. Anyway, here are the most interesting and (hopefully) relevant links from the last month or so:
- My favourite post of the month was from Craig Dearden-Phillips, on how social enterprise is like religion: Losing my religion? The theology of social enterprise
- My favourite iPhone app of the month? The new one from Smarta
- Been interesting finding out more about Right to Request, and about the reality of where social enterprise meets public sector meets unions. David Floyd delves deeper into the unions / social enterprise issue
- Interested in what happens to our forestry and waterways? Then Ben Metz's piece advocating for community ownership is a must-read (and just the start of a debate we will hear much more about)
- This doesn't strike me as anything particularly new, but apparently if becomes more interesting if different people (read mainstream business gurus) are saying it. So here's Michael Porter / Mark Kramer on 'creating shared value' (a new future for business). You can also check out the Peter Day interview with Porter for more detail.
- I was inspired by the quiet effectiveness of the Aspire Foundation (Owen Jarvis and Paul Funnell) and their work in Tower Hamlets.
- Also internationally, British Columbia's government have established an Advisory Council on Social Entrepreneurship; marking exciting developments in Canada
- Liam Black guest-posts on Allison Ogden-Newton's blog: entertaining and relevant as ever on social enterprise and the dangers of the public service delivery agenda:
"under Labour – which let us not forget kick started the social enterprise sector which the coalition wants to co-opt. – there was plenty of money about. Intermediary bodies sprouted up everywhere and much horse shit and awful service poured forth!"
- A note on humble leadership fro the IoD: "The best CEOs are the ones you've never heard of"
- Ralph Lewis' article on relationships, belonging and servant leadership in the context of Big Society is fascinating
- Paul Harrod talks about his experience as a social entrepreneur and coming back from adversity
- And finally, I spent a bit of time between Xmas and New Year collating all the various videos by SSE schools and involving SSE students and Fellows. Check out the SSE Vimeo Channel and the SSE YouTube channel