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Growing an enterprising culture

26 May

Image[originally posted on SEUK website]

I’m looking forward very much to speaking at the forthcoming Evolve conference organised by NCVO and partners (including ourselves at SEUK). I’ll be leading a workshop on ‘Building a culture of enterprise‘ which, for me, is at the heart of building a sustainable, enterprising organisation. To put it simply, a legal structure or nice mission statement doesn’t guarantee you will deliver anything; or to quote the mighty Peter Drucker, guru of gurus, “culture eats strategy for breakfast

It’s also all too easy for those looking at social enterprise, whether they are starting up or starting out in the charity and public sectors, to view it in a very technical way: is it a trading arm? should we be a CIC CLG or CLS? can we TUPE the staff across? what board + governance will work best? And so on. Or the temptation (especially for start-ups) is to get obsessed with the business plan, with forecasts, with modelling and more – this ‘paralysis by paper’ was a not uncommon sight in my time at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, as people tried to get everything sorted before they started. Plans are important frameworks for overall direction and strategy – but, as the saying goes, no plan survives first contact with the customer…

So we are really talking about culture here: that people within an organisation feel the ability to spot, develop and pursue opportunities (in line with the mission), to take and be comfortable with risk (and reward), to be creative and problem-solve, to be flexible and responsive in their approach. I tend to think of culture as like an organisation’s ‘personality’ – like people, a culture can be rational and objective, shy and introverted, or outgoing and gregarious. Sometimes there are visible signs of this ‘personality’: how people dress, what the workspace feels like, mission and value statements. At other times, it is through actions and interactions that a culture becomes apparent: actions that say “this is the way we do things here“.

Over the last few years at SEUK, we have worked with lots of groups from the public sector spinning out as social enterprises, and many charities exploring a social enterprising approach: to all, the mantra has been that the culture is the important bit, not the technical process. At the same time, as an organisation ourselves, we have been undergoing a similar shift: the transition from having a large core government grant to being a real social enterprise ourselves with mixed, diverse income streams would not have been possible without a more enterprising culture – in every person, in every team. Many of our members have also likewise successfully developed a more enterprising culture – from 100+ year-old charities to 2000-employee spin-outs from the NHS.

How? Well, you’ll have to come to Evolve and the workshop to find out – but it involves strategies around challenge, validation, recognition and communication. And a surprising amount of repetition. And a surprising amount of repetition. And the willingness of great, committed, skilled people to come on the journey – fortunately there is no shortage of them in the charity and social enterprise world.

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Economics, equality and enterprise: recent reading + links

11 May

came_here_to_be_inspiredI’ve been struck recently how very significant trends and evidence seems to pass the social enterprise world: we’ve got our own voluminous waterfall of information, announcements, news, analysis and reports to cope with, so it can be difficult to get time to look at the contextual stuff too. And yet quite a bit of it is very interesting indeed – particularly how, at the same time as social enterprise continues to interrogate its relationship to mainstream capital (often through the vehicle of social investment), that same mainstream capital(ist) system is being questioned quite fundamentally by places like the FT and the IMF and the OECD, and other important initials. So there is a broad theme here of inequality, economics and their relationship to our world. And some other stuff I thought was interesting :0)

– Martin Wolf writes in the FT about how A more equal society will not hinder growth – he bases this on a note from the IMF (pdf) which, to quote Wolf, found that “societies that start off more unequal tend to redistribute more; lower net inequality (post- interventions) drives faster and more durable growth; and redistribution is generally benign in its impact on growth, with negative effects only when taken to extremes”. I think this (and Wolf’s further analysis) is fascinating – in a sense, at the heart of the social enterprise movement is a belief that business can reduce inequality, increase social justice, and help everyone prosper. The IMF might just be backing that up. And the analysis could not be more relevant in the UK where growth headlines don’t tell the full picture.

– There is more on inequality here (via @JeremyANicholls) on the Public Leaders Network: The 2014 budget fails to deal with the deeper issues of inequality in Britain which talks about the OECD pointing out that the austerity implemented may be having good overall economic effects in the short-term (as per growth headlines mentioned above) but be storing up trouble and cost in the medium to long-term.

– Stephen Miller, Senior Researcher at UnLtd, has been taking a look at neolilberalism and social enterprise on his blog. It explores the relationship of civil society and the social sector to business paradigms, and what effect the current financial / economic climate might have on social enterprise, social entrepreneurs, charities et al: “Is there a danger that good ideas are left on the roadside because they aren’t in vogue, or because they can’t generate substantial financial return?” and “There is an argument to be made that, actually, the retraction of the State from civil society just displaces dependence, rather than creating more independence”. Well worth reading part 1 too.

– More geekily / narrowly, I was interested to read David Ainsworth’s take in Civil Society on the new Social Investment Tax Relief and how it might play out – he points out that there might be some gift and loan scenarios that make it an exceptionally good deal for lenders….much more so than those getting the investment?

– There’s more good stuff from Martin Wolf on the Astra Zeneca-Pfizer smackdown: Astra Zeneca is more than the investors’ call He discusses how it creates questions about ownership, control and who should make decisions (newsflash: he thinks the employees might have a say….I wonder where that happens more currently? #socent) [via @JohnHitchin]

– Dan Corry’s RSA lecture on How do we drive productivity and innovation in the charity sector? also warrants a read. Some of it is fairly unsurprising ‘impact measurement organisation recommends impact measurement as important’ shocker, but there is some more interesting stuff there too even if (again) it assumes that importing private sector practice and theory is right (creative destruction etc). I think the part about feedback loops (which plays to why stakeholder involvement / accountability is so important) and how little collaboration we see is spot on – we’ve been involved in some really big collaborative projects of late. They are *hard* but also the most important things we are working on. Much else to agree and argue with here…

– Elsewhere, business leads government kicking and screaming into the future. As politicians tread water on the environmental challenges we face (across parties), business takes it seriously because they are thinking further than May 2015 (or indeed, 5 years after that). Latest example? Lloyd’s of London calling on insurers to take climate change into account (via M&S’ Mike Barry: @planamikebarry )

– Meanwhile, this wouldn’t be a blog about economics if it didn’t feature Piketty (review in the Telegraph of his book, Capital), who is so de rigeur as to already be a cliché. Piketty also argues that capitalism as it is leads to inequality, and that the evidence for this is overwhelming. The response from the right I’ve most enjoyed on this has been Janan Ganesh’s call for ‘rational optimism’ and the Conservatives introducing a property tax – an unlikely prospect, perhaps, but interesting reasoning on the way there.

– And then, today, Ha-Joon Chang (of 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism fame) returns to a theme he has covered previously: how students are demanding a more plural economics curriculum, and how we should resist anyone saying that economics is a ‘settled science’. And he challenges the ‘economics can analyse everything’ trend we have seen in recent years. Read more in After the crash we need a revolution in economics teaching

– And a final non-economics, non-equality one, but one that will undoubtedly be more useful than the rest, and usable tomorrow! – 7 rules for meeting up. I love these. Now if I could just stick to them….

Social enterprise and entrepreneurship links from September

21 Oct

[NB – this first appeared over on Social Enterprise UK’s blogs, but thought I’d re-post for anyone who missed it]

It’s that time of the month where I say “WHAT?! It’s OCTOBER already?!” and panic about the work that lies ahead. And then procrastinate from that work by putting together a blog post of the most interesting articles and pieces related to social enterprise that I’ve read in the past month…So here goes:

– Starting with social investment, the Big Lottery Fund’s research (by ClearlySo, NPC and others) on Investment Readiness in the UK is absolutely worth a read; and you can follow it up with Boston Consulting Group’s ‘The First Billion’ (pdf) which looks at the potential for the social investment in the years ahead (and how to get there); and then you can read the Cabinet Office’s useful round-up of all its various initiatives in the space too

– We’re fighting oligopolies and monopolies in the private and public sectors, and here’s another way to do so: buy Co-opoly the board game (I know, it might as well have “with all the fun taken out” on it, but there you go….)

– Rosabeth Moss Kanter is always an interesting thinker in this space, and she’s written a thought-provoking piece on Six Extras that Build Power and Leadership in Harvard Business Review; learn about ‘colleagueship’ and the importance of framing….

– From the people who brought you ‘nudge’ and ‘impact investing’ comes: How behavioral economics can catalyse more capital in impact investing [NB – this is significantly more interesting than it might first appear]; hat tip Paul Cheng

– Some use LinkedIn as an address book, others to advance their careers…but what about to build a better board for your organisation? Read about Using a Networked Approach to Building NonProfit Boards with LinkedIn’s new Board Connect tool

– I’m not sure we should have to be making the case for enterprise to unleash skills, attributes and potential in young people still, but maybe we do; here’s the RSA’s report on the Enterprise Generation (pdf) which does exactly that, and gave me some hope (of which there’s too little around)

– If enterprise isn’t the answer, maybe innovation is. NESTA certainly think so (I guess they have to), and put it front and centre in their Plan I report for how Britain can rise up from its current economic state…..

– Supply chains and procurement for social enterprise is a hot topic of late, and rightly so. Good article here from some of the OnPurpose crew on walking the walk (disclaimer: is peppered with some quotes from me)

– Did you know the Office of National Statistics have a guide to measuring social capital? No, me neither.

– What does the Social Value Act mean for councils? Decent-ish discussion on the topic on the Guardian Local Government network; see also our upcoming Social Value Conference for the most up-to-date and practical advice / info

– Eight Crowdfunding Sites for Social Entrepreneurs does what it says on the tin (although it is only US ones…UK ones have added themselves in the comments)

– These Demotivation Posters are magnificent (hat tip to Ben Metz), beautifully capturing how I feel about those constantly tweeted quotes on Twitter and elsewhere: “Motivational Posters Don’t Work…But Our Demotivator Posters Don’t Work EVEN BETTER!” My personal favourite is the one at the start of the post….

Social enterprise and entrepreneurship links round-up July 2012

20 Jul

As ever, I’ve been struggling to read all the things I would like to….so here’s a snapshot of the various pieces, articles and publications that I’ve been bookmarking and finding of most interest in the last few months. Hopefully, they are of interest to you too…

– Fascinating article by John Lanchester (whose Whoops! book on the financial crisis is highly recommended) on how finance is ‘postmodern’ and the concept of value has become increasingly blancmange-like: Melting Into Air [via Dan G]

– Widely covered but important reading: the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on poverty, employment and what the situation might be by 2020 – The Impact of Employment Changes on Poverty in 2020

– I’m always a sucker for anything interesting about China, having worked out there quite a bit in the field of social enterprise, and this is a decent round-up of recent + current activity: Pioneering social innovation in China

– Just an excellent one-page image of what non-profits should know about social media (pdf): Social Media Posting Strategy

– While we’re on the subject of social media, Beth Kanter is the go-to person on social media-meets-social enterprise + non-profits; so, for the geeky end of anyone reading, here’s her post on How to Get Insight from Data Visualisation which is significantly more interesting than the title makes it sound…

– Housing associations are commonly referred to as sleeping giants in the social enterprise world, but plenty of those giants have awakened and are doing some thought-through work in the space; see this article on Housing Associations and Social Investment for example

– Social investment is the most commonly-written about topic at the moment, and one area of interest is how charitable foundations think about utilising their endowment / investment policies to contribute to the growth; Dave Ainsworth from Third Sector magazine gives a good round-up on the subject here: Put the money where the mission is

– Impact investment and social investment require a different take on capital and markets; Panahpur’s video promo for their Return of Capital is a useful 5 minute introduction as to why this take on investment is growing; and has production values uncommon to the third sector to boot…worth a watch (and a read of the book)

– More practical in its focus and aim is the (rather hyperbolically-titled) The Ultimate Guide to Raising Finance for Social Enterprise which, rather prosaically, is a useful primer and introductory article on the subject. But useful nonetheless….

– Ashoka UK have a ‘Changemaker Toolbox‘ which is a list of organisations and websites (admittedly that sounds less exciting than Changemaker Toolbox); it’s a bit confused, with lots of overlap between sections and a little tricky to navigate by the headings, but it makes up for this in its sheer copiousness…

– And if that’s not enough reading for you, NCVO’s Karl Wilding has put together his traditional summer holiday reading list for us social sector types…see What’s on your summer holiday reading list? and add your own in the comments.

Cheers!

What the NFL can teach the Premier League about philanthropy

14 Nov

Amongst much else, I’m a big fan of two things: American Football and podcasts. So it should come as no surprise to find out that I listen to a number of podcasts about American Football (aka the National Football League or NFL). My favourite is the Rich Eisen podcast which interviews players, coaches, celebrities and fans to give a good and in-depth all round picture of the NFL in all its glory and madness. A few weeks back, Rich interviewed Namdi Asomugha, who is a cornerback for the Philadelphia Eagles (stick with me, non-NFL lovers) and one of the biggest names in the sport. And I was listening to the interview at the same time as the “Carlos Tevez refusing to play” incident happened in a game between Manchester City and Bayern Munich.

Asomugha signed a $60m five-year deal in the summer with the Eagles. Which is a huge amount. Almost as huge as the £230,000 a week Carlos Tevez gets (which amounts to around £12m per year, or £60m over five years). That is where the comparison starts to fall apart. Because while Tevez was refusing to play (after all, who would kick a ball around a field for a paltry quarter of a million a week?), I was listening to Asomugha talk about the Asomugha Foundation with intelligence and humility. I recommend taking a look at the site which is notable for a couple of things:

– the impressive set of programmes it runs
– the relative lack of any photos of the famous player behind it; rather, the website focuses on the work, the team, and the impact

And Asomugha is not a solitary example in the NFL. A few weeks later, Eisen was interviewing Adrian Peterson, another massive American Football star (running back for the Minnesota Vikings, since you asked), and he talked about his All Day Foundation, and how he is donating $5000 each time he scores a touchdown; a pledge which is being matched by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore each time. A couple of weeks back, the entire league supported the ‘Think Pink‘ campaign to raise awareness and funding for breast cancer: see the picture above to demonstrate the lengths to which players got involved. The recent poppy campaign for the British Legion is about as close as the Premier League has ever got; and it’s some way short of making the most of its potential.

Meanwhile, Premier League players do little by comparison. Some clubs have been pioneers in their community work (such as Charlton) but there is limited evidence of the players taking responsibility or showing behaviour suitable for role models: people like David James and Craig Bellamy are largely exceptions. [Carlos Tevez organises an annual charity golf tournament, which presumably raises significantly less than he was fined by Manchester City]  It was excellent to see the (fab) charity Street League supported in the most recent friendly, but there’s so much more that could be done. Manchester City recently put a call out via the sector trade press for two organisations to receive £50,000 each for a year. To put that in context, that’s about a day’s wages per organisation for Tevez. Or Yaya Toure. Indeed, if the entire Manchester City squad donated a day’s wages, I estimate that would be about £250,000 between them. (There was a partially successful attempt to do this in the past: see Footballers dig deep for nurses).

The biggest shame about this is that, particularly in the field of social enterprise, sport and football is a growing activity. Whether it’s FC United, AFC Wimbledon, Clyde or others who’ve benefited from the sterling work of Supporters’ Direct, there are a myriad number of community-based projects to get involved in. How refreshing would it be to see some Premier League footballers support some of these initiatives and invest some of their earnings in something completely in line with their own passion? How can we build the same culture of philanthropy and social action amongst the Premier League footballers so that, as with American footballers, it is expected?

And if they did? Well, maybe a great deal of good would be done, awareness raised, campaigns supported, and impact created. Including impact on the reputation of some of the footballers themselves. Or maybe some of those clubs would even follow in the footsteps of arguably the leading community-owned social enterprise team in the sporting world: the Green Bay Packers. Not only are the Packers the only community-owned team in the NFL, they are also the most successful in the league’s history. As they might say in Wisconsin, “Touchdown”.

Can information drive behaviour change?

8 Sep

Been wondering what to blog about after another hectic month or two. Then I was talking to someone this week about retrofitting social housing, and the need for this to be accompanied by behaviour change….and it occurred to me that the area where technology meets behaviour change was pretty pertinent at the moment. It was interesting to learn about the work going on in preparation for the Green Deal (which is what our conversation was about), and how the technical changes (eg. photovoltaic cells on roof, new boilers, new insulation, better glazed windows) need to be matched by behaviour change. Not much point changing all the windows if the resident opens a window rather than turn the heating down…which led to a further chat about whether some of the nudge-type techniques (including how much money neighbours have saved on utility bills, smart meters etc) would really work.

I love reading behavioural economics books like Nudge and they are very persuasive, but I have found myself questioning whether it isn’t just a way, from a policymaker’s point of view, of ducking difficult decisions. This post by Will Wilkinson, which I was alerted to on Twitter, takes that thought and expands upon it at length: Behavioural Economics: Ammo for Bullshitters. Well worth a read, especially because it deals exactly with the electricity bill example I mention above (“showing someone their neighbor’s bill is not the best way to get them to cut their own bill. The best way is to charge an amount that reflects the true cost of the electricity”).

That leads me on to SoCap 2011 which is a conference about the intersection between money and meaning, or more prosaically about all things social investment and impact investing in the US and beyond. I’ve watched a few of the sessions livestreamed, and the opening plenary had an interesting discussion which included Mathieu Senard of Alter Eco and Kevin Starr of the Mulago Foundation. They had an interesting conversation about whether they wanted their products to be judged purely on their place in the market (i.e. a bag bought because it’s a great bag, not because of any other reason…) or whether they wanted to utilise the stories behind the product to sell it (potentially at a premium). Is it enough to sell the products and have the associated social impact or does that waste the opportunity to utilise the products to create awareness and behaviour change (and potentially more impact)? That can be a chicken and egg type of conversation, as SoCap founder Kevin Jones pointed out: “Once you’ve changed the world, you’ll be able to sell way more bags…”.

Stories that hold the meaning proved crucial when doing my work in Beijing recently (running a learning programme with university students to enable them to run their community projects and potentially become social entrepreneurs). Case studies that had resonance to them brought them and the subject alive, so I was drawing on all the examples I knew of over the three days of the programme. And used videos liberally (of Catch 22, MyBnk, We Make A Change and many more)…. Inevitably with a cohort of 75 (!), some were more engaged than others, but I’m hopeful that some of the information and inspiration in those stories does lead to behaviour change in some small ways.

Finally, to tie all of that together (he says hopefully), I found a whole series of links from Beth Kanter on infographics and their use for charities and social enterprises (found because she sent them to me!). See Infographics for Non-Profits: the New Storytelling, this post on infographics and this post on video infographics. All worth a look for anyone who’s interested in this whole area of stories, information, meaning and changing behaviour. I’ll leave you with the best video I’ve seen of late (I think this may even be an infographic), which is an animated colour representation of Kiva’s loans over the last five years. I tried to spot my half a dozen loans, but no luck. Enjoy:

All that you leave behind

1 May

I’ve been finalising some pieces of work for my old employer, including the launch of their forthcoming evaluation. There’s lots in there, but the bit that has resonated with me over the last few days has been about the ‘ripple effect’ that individuals can have (in this case, social entrepreneurs): inspiring others, passing on experience + expertise, mobilising volunteers, employing locally and so on. Much of which is difficult to quantify, but extremely valuable.

Having been at one organisation for a long time, it’s also inevitable to think about my own personal impact there: projects overseen; strategies implemented; contributions made. There’s also a flipside with the life of the freelancer, who usually drops in to an organisation or project, makes a contribution, then leaves and moves on to the next thing. Is the contribution constructive, useful, implemented, practical? Does it move the project forward? Or, to put it another way, the question on both counts is “What did I leave behind?”

Which is why it was a pleasure to get a package through the post this week which took me back to the first organisation I’d ever worked at. I worked with a phenomenal social entrepreneur called Nicholas Albery. He started too many initiatives for me to list here; suffice to say it encompassed everything from learning poetry by heart to declaring a part of West London independent from the UK to ecologically-friendly funerals. One of the myriad things he started was a walking club, which was connected to a book he authored: the Time Out Book of Country Walks. You could do one of the 52 walks whenever you wanted, but if you did them on a particular weekend (according to the rota in the book), you would find yourself with the self-organised walking club.

It was (and is) a brilliant idea, combining many of Nicholas’ loves: walking, nature, health, community, togetherness. The strength of the idea is best illustrated by what happened when Nicholas tragically died in 2001. Members of the Walking Club he created wrote a new book of walks in his honour; I negotiated and co-ordinated with Time Out, drew the maps (!) and edited / proofed their excellent text…and this was ultimately printed as the Time Out Book of Country Walks vol. 2. A great testament to Nicholas, and a fitting tribute from the people he’d inspired and brought together.

Both the walking books have just been reprinted (all the proceeds from both still go to support charities that Nicholas set up), and those involved were kind enough to send me a couple of complimentary copies. They’ve been improved and updated (still by the members of the walking club, working with Time Out), and it was great to see that they are still going, still providing thousands of people with enjoyment each year, and still raising thousands of pounds for charity as well.

What an amazing legacy Nicholas left behind: the Walking Club + books are just one example…and he is an example too. I’d be happy to leave even a hundredth of the impact he did in the things I do.