The SE Toolbelt is an online information platform aiming to provide social entrepreneurs with practical resources that have been developed by their peers. It boasts 1000 or so items of various shapes and sizes on its data base, and these are grouped broadly by business topics and sectors. From the School’s point of view, you can imagine an ideal scenario where someone with a fledgling project could find a precedent, capitalise on pre-existing market research and a functioning business model, and adapt them to a new enterprise. More developed organisations could research approaches to scaling best practice or SROI in a format that is, in principle, an extension of, or addition to, the peer learning process.
Thumbing through the available materials, however, I’m sceptical of the claim that SE Toolbelt “brings a grassroots practitioner perspective to the fore”. The site is a library of business school-esque articles on topics from Marketing and External Communications to Risk Management – interesting in themselves, but part of the top-down academic approach that the site is hoping to challenge. It is easier to see a way for a collection of case studies to find their way into the SSE programme, supplementing live witness sessions with further examples.
At the moment though, most studies are based in North America, or hot beds of social enterprise in the developing world, particularly India. There is relatively little based in, or coming from the UK, which means students will always be dealing with a different legal system, funding structure, cultural and social context etc. But this doesn’t stop entrepreneurs in the UK getting involved, and it may be that as the site grows it will become increasingly relevant. Like any online platform, Toolbelt will be useful if it’s used.
[Richard is currently interning with SSE, helping on a wide variety of projects. You can also follow @SEToolbelt on Twitter]