I said I would get round to responding to the Shaftesbury Partnership's response to my response to their post about system social entrepreneurs (as opposed to community social entrepreneurs). I think this helpfully elucidates what they mean by the differences here:
"A key prerequisite of what we term community entrepreneur is that they are people-orientated, and possess significant local political and social capital - enough for reforms and new ideas to really take route [sic] in their communities. This does not mean they cannot at the same time then build scaleable initiatives, but there is ultimately a localness about the community entrepreneur related to the number of people they can genuinely and personally influence"
"System social entrepreneurs, if you like, are somewhat opposite in temperament - their inclination is to really understand the systemic problems to be addressed and then identify the key solutions to them in a top down fashion, but aware that part of the solution must involve the inclusion of community entrepreneurs if the initiative is to succeed and culture change is to be brought about"
They go on to say that system social entrepreneurs are more likely to come from the City, business or government, and give some examples. There's some interesting thoughts here: I would agree that we need new entrants from all places and walks of life, and would also agree that we need to bring these diverse people together: that's when the strongest work emerges, in our experience. I would also agree strongly that top-down initiatives have often failed to connect with or give ownership to the grassroots/local frontline. The scaling up of local initiatives is one we have covered several times on this blog; suffice to say that it is a difficult process suitable for some, not all, and I would say the main problems tend to be not enough proof of concept, expansion before consolidation, and not enough risk assessment, rather than access to finance.
They also address the difference between social innovation and system social enterprise; basically saying that the former is 'solutions-oriented' and the latter is 'problems driven', and that innovation is inevitably more concerned with the new, and the 'light bulb' moments, rather than simply transplanting/honing/merging existing ideas, as a system social entrepreneur might.
"This incidentally, also puts a limit on the amount of system social enterprise that can take place, because the starting point is not necessarily the idea or innovation, but the problems within the system and the risks needing to be managed (using ideally social derivative thinking), and finding people who can quickly understand them and identify the community entrepreneurs who can help them shape and disseminate the solutions required"
I think there would be those in the social innovation world who might not agree with all of this (indeed, I think they are trying to move it away from innovation as newness or novelty, and make it more systematic, though it does inevitably have more freedom of thought associated with it). I think this is a helpful dialogue, which adds to our understanding, rather than simply dwelling on definitions (which I've railed against enough previously). They end with the nice phrase: "Less 'let a thousand flowers bloom' and more 'co-create the flower we need for the job' ", which I think helps sum up where they are coming from. It is a more strategic, holistic, planned approach to solving the problems that are there from within (and without) the existing systems. I look forward to perhaps bringing some of the planters of our thousand flowers to get involved in that co-creation process.