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Social enterprise listening…

2 Mar

listenLast week I was getting the rail miles in – Cardiff, Manchester, Exeter and Cambridge planning, discussing, representing and speaking about social enterprise. Apart from giving me an in-depth knowledge on the exciting topic of “which railway company’s wi-fi is worst?” and checking out which parts of the country are still underwater, it also meant I had the chance to listen to some podcasts I’ve been storing up for a while or which I haven’t got to on the commute. There’s a lot out there (they’ll let anyone have a go these days – see here). So here’s some recommendations from recent listens:

Peter Day‘s programmes are always worth listening to; one recent one on ‘disability in the workplace’ featured John Charles of social enterprise Catering2Order >> download here

– The magazine Monocle has always struck me as the paper equivalent of a Hoxton hipster with an asymmetric haircut, but it’s actually a decent read with interesting content. I recently discovered their Entrepreneurs podcast. Episode 73 (they are now on 124) was on social entrepreneurship, and featured the House of St Barnabas >> download here

– Analysis is always worth a listen, though requires a bit more concentration than some of the frothier radio out there. A recent episode that was more interesting than I thought it might be was ‘The Philosophy of Russell Brand’, looking at the philosophers and thinkers behind the Occupy movement and more >> download here

– While we’re still on Radio 4, the Bottom Line is still a winning format: 3 CEOs / leaders discussing a particular industry or area of business, hosted by Dragon’s Den / Today maestro Evan Davies. It remains an aspiration to get an episode renamed ‘The Triple Bottom Line’, but until that happens, I’ll have to enjoy episodes like the recent one on MBAs or something that I remain unmoved by and sceptical of, the ‘Sharing Economy’ >> download here

 

– I enjoyed the Freakonomics books, and I enjoy the podcast too – it’s still a bit superficial and I still occasionally find myself ranting at it, but it’s well-produced, takes different approaches to subjects, and gets me thinking. And that’ll do me. Recent episodes have looked the Pope dissing the free-market economy and a conversation about how to Fight Poverty with real evidence >> download here

 

– Social Good is a podcast from the Chronicle of Philanthropy which looks at social media for the social sector (broadly). It’s not bad, if completely US-focused, for a UK audience – still some good tips + nuggets of practical advice to take away in amongst the mutual congratulation. And occasional stand-out episodes like the recent one on big data >> download here

– Finally, of course, you have the ubiquitous TED talks. To be honest, these vary substantially in quality and level of insight, particularly with the rise of TedX. And I think there is something to recent critiques of boiling everything down to neat soundbites. Arguably you know something has reached peak hype when it gets a talk (for example…). But there’s some gold in them there hills too – recent highlights have included a talk on ‘how to make companies productive in an increasingly complex world‘ (ignore the fact that TED felt the need to add subtitles because the guy has a French accent speaking English!). You should also check out Michael Porter (on business / shared value) and Michael Sandel (on morals / markets) – Sandel wins, IMHO. But I’m a sucker for self-deprecation and unassuming big achievements, so here’s Paul Pholeros on, well, fixing homes to make people healthy:

 

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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.

Cheers!

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: