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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.


Focus: and the myth of multitasking

21 Oct

So I’m two and a half weeks into a new job, which is exciting: mostly because the organisation has lots of opportunities to have (more) impact, and has great, committed people to achieve that. Going back into a full-time job in an organisation has got me thinking about my approach / working methods, as well. I think freelancing helped improve my discipline (clarity on objectives, effective meetings, hit deadlines, invoice!), and I don’t want to lose that impetus and focus on delivery.

Such thoughts took me back to a recent visit (thanks to Liam Black and the Wavelength team) to the BBC, at which we heard from Ralph Rivera, who heads up all their online / digital work (Director of BBC Future Media, to be precise). There were plenty of nuggets from Ralph, but one I wrote down during the morning session was:

Focus on a few things / do them well (in the long-term) / get great at them / (kill the rest)

I hasten to add that those were my notes and not exactly Ralph’s words, and that the ‘kill the rest’ was very much tongue in cheek. But the point holds: the BBC could do any number of things in connection to digital, but that would mean distraction, a potential drop in quality, and scattered activity.

Someone else was pointing out to me that this is connected to the “myth of multitasking“; research increasingly shows that multitasking is not productive, that it just spreads activity across the surface of several things, rather than making substantive progress on one at a time. There is even some research that says that multitasking could actually be harmful to mental health, particularly where technology is concerned.

Which meant that this image below, via Kevin Jones, resonated strongly (comes from here). Now I just need to follow it, focus, do stuff well, and do it in the long-term…

Translated, recorded, reported: recent work

16 Jun

I’m in a constant state of “ok, so this freelancing seems to be going OK, but surely at some point it’s going to go quiet….” at the moment, but it’s been full-throttle the last few weeks. Here’s some recent links to some aspects of that work:

– I’m helping UnLtd with their Product Review, which is both inward-facing (can UnLtd add to, amend, improve its services?) and also externally-facing (what do social entrepreneurs need that isn’t currently being provided?). Here’s a write-up of an event that started to answer those questions on the Guardian Social Enterprise Network: Support for social entrepreneurs needs fresh ideas

– I worked with School for Social Entrepreneurs to edit and publish their new impact evaluation report by New Philanthropy Capital (a bit of work I’d commissioned / overseen while I was at SSE); you can check out the exec summary + full report via the SSE website. I’d particularly recommend checking out the additional case studies document, which I think is excellent

– POPse! the pop-up social enterprise think-tank I was a part of has ‘gone dark’, but we are working away on doing an overall publication of some sort; in the meantime, the 100 social enterprise truths I wrote as part of POPse! week continue to gradually make their way round the UK + overseas, featuring most recently in the Society Guardian daily, on the CSI Toronto blog (am a huge fan of what they do) and being translated into French by Simon at Hub Lausanne

– I helped out with the early stages of this introductory guide Social Enterprise Explained (pdf) from the Social Enterprise Coalition, which I think is a really good starting point for anyone.

– Last but by no means least, I was interviewed by the marvellous Nicola Jones at the Social Investment Business as part of their “An Interview With…” podcast series. Here it is:

Social franchising: the what, why, when and how

20 Apr

So one of the things I’ve been working on of late has been a series of pieces of work on social franchising for the Social Enterprise Coalition. I’ve been interested in this method of replication since running the School for Social Entrepreneurs franchise (and helping develop the central systems and processes), going on to design a learning programme for other organisations seeking to use a similar methodology, and directly advising frontline social enterprises.

You can read a couple of my previous pieces on the subject via the Writing section of this site, and recently on the SSE blog.

Today the Coalition launched the social franchising manual and made it available online, along with my audit of all the current research, tools and support available on the subject. You can download the manual, read it in chapters, and read the research in the social franchising section of their website.

I hope it proves a useful addition to the literature on the subject, but that it is primarily useful as a practical introduction; franchising is just one of a spectrum of replication options, and we need more case studies to add to those included in this guide: as ever, in this space, we learn best by doing. And we need more to be doing more of what they do at a greater scale. Whichever methodology and approach they choose.