Poverty and economic and social exclusion can often be invisible in rural areas, we would argue. The trees are no less green, the landscape no less bucolic, if the individual residents or communities are economically and socially disenfranchised.
During 2020 and our following of the thrashing dragon’s tail that is Covid, the media is full of economic data, socio-economic opinion and, perhaps the newest media feature, the ubiquitous graph.
How many of us, we wonder, fully understand the context of the data we are being asked to support or accept. How many of our communities can use data to successfully mount the argument that their’s is the community that needs to be refreshed and supported too?
There is a new toolkit on the block in 2020.
The Institute of Economic Development (IED) and the Rural Services Network (RSN) have devised a new practitioner-focused toolkit which is intended as a guide for “anyone seeking to raise rural relevance in the economic agenda”.
This pivotal report looks at the current policy drivers and meta-trends governing the development of the rural economy.
There is a strong section on the collection and analysis of data to establish the needs and desired outcomes for a given community of interest.
Finally, the document looks at best practice in the rural environment, ranging across coping with ageing in communities, wealth creation and digital expansion, or the need for it.
There is nothing in the toolkit that will be radical for the dedicated, urban social entrepreneur. What the toolkit does is to translate ambitions into a rural context, helping the players in communities to shape and define their developmental argument.
The toolkit also offers, we think, very sound thinking in its data analysis sections on how deep to drill for data, how to manage and structure what you find and finally, what the output should look like.
All skills and limitations that any or all researched arguments for economic development can use. Be they rural or devoutly urbanist in approach.
Our partnership was pleased to make a contribution to a research project recently, which sought to define what and how Social Innovation practices improve the social innovation culture of UK Social Enterprises.
The core assumptive definition of Social Innovation for the project was that of ”...a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals”. (Source: Phills et al., 2008, p. 36)
Some of the key findings of interest to us clearly reflected our experience of SocEnt development and community business/community development processes in the past.
Community is the source of the innovative process…
Design thinking stimulates the search for solutions through experimentation and quick action, is iterative, is based on collaborative work and facilitate the involvement of users (beneficiaries), who are the centre of the innovative process.
The agile method facilitates the communication and integration between several actors involved in the innovation process by dividing the project into stages.
Using the knowledge, competency, partners and relationships that already exist in the SE is a viable option to encourage innovative activities.
(This latter implication is in fact the basis of our project delivery at SocEntEastMids – we share the knowledge and expertise for free at the point of engagement…Ed.)
Alignment between employees’ personal interest / belief and social enterprise mission and dual role of client and employee are a powerful booster for intra-preneurship.
(For us, again, culture and mission are irrevocably intertwined…Ed).
Finally, we were both delighted and surprised to see the modest size of the innovatory organisations included and the durability of their projects. Fourteen years of age was the average.
We understand the research team are still open to engagement from the UK SocEnt sector regarding the process of social innovation. (See contact details in the report above.)
Long, may the innovation last!
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Originally framed for corporate tech entrepreneurs, don’t be put off. The concepts can also hold good for social enterprises thinking of pivoting all or part of their business to reflect new circumstances. New community businesses responding to the request ‘…come and tell us about your project/business idea‘ will find the simple brevity useful, we would argue. Particularly if you are having a ‘where do we start’ moment!
This is a film about the art of the presentation. It can help you to acquire the skill in assembling your knowledge, the making of a telling argument to convince your audience about your community project, your funding renewal or your pending impact investment, amongst many possible goals.
Delivered last year (2019) by the late Professor Patrick Winston at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology(MIT), it is ostensibly for would be academic scientists. But there is much to discover about your own existing skill set, your preconceived ideas about your audience and it also delivers challenging ways to maximise your effectiveness.
We watched it in the office, as part of an exercise to think about refreshing the ways we use to pitch, for a new project we have coming up.
We winced as we realised we had delivered ‘death by PowerPoint’ sessions in the past, and some of us had allowed our purple prose to even cross the whiteboard, cross the meeting room and exit out into the car park.
Professor Winston was sharing a life time of thought. We think everyone will find something in it…
This filmed lecture, from the University of Chicago by Larry McEnerney, is about writing for the real world. It is delivered in accessible language and the key ideas have real relevance for writing in the Social Enterprise/Social Impact sector.
For McEnerney ‘writing in the real world’ can involve the use of jargon, being able to identify your readers, clarity of purpose and the use of the written word ‘to change the world’. He also has some interesting takes on the process of being paid to write.
Practical examples of the techniques and the understanding of your text start at around the 20 minute mark.
Speak well, write well, pitch well – improve the reach of your project, your idea or your community ambitions.
Source: First publ. 2015, as part of the UChicago Social Sciences Leadership Lab programme
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By far the most numerous query we get, both for sources of information, or for direct advice and guidance, is around the governance, formation and change relating to Community Interest Companies.
Below are links to the latest forms, examples and formal guidance notes on Gov.uk – if we can help with your changes, formally or informally, do just ask – our services are free. (Sourced: August 2020)
Formal Note‘When applying to form a community interest company (CIC), this form should be submitted to the CIC Regulator alongside the appropriate Companies House forms, memorandum of association, articles of association and payment’.
Formal Note ‘When applying to transfer assets of a community interest company (CIC), consent should be submitted to the CIC Regulator signed by a director of the company, detailing assets, value and actual consideration received’.
Formal Note ‘There are 2 types of community interest company (CIC) report: detailed and simplified. The majority of CICs complete the simplified report.
The detailed report is reserved for CICs that have more complex financial arrangements. If you complete this type of report, you might need to get professional advice in relation to the financial information sections.
CIC reports are placed on the public register and made available for the public, which provides an opportunity to showcase your CIC’s activities and the benefits provided for the community over the last year. Your report does not have to be especially detailed, but you should identify highlights’.
Formal Note ‘When applying to convert a company to a community interest company (CIC), this form should be submitted to the CIC Regulator alongside the appropriate Companies House forms, memorandum of association, articles of association and payment’.
Formal Note – The community interest statement
‘…a statement of the steps that have been taken to bring the proposed alteration to the notice of people affected by the company’s activities (signed by each of the company’s directors).
When applying to alter the objects of a community interest company (CIC), this form should be submitted to the CIC Regulator alongside:
Companies House form CC04 – to notify the change of the company’s objects a signed copy of the special resolution to alter the objects of the company a copy of the articles of association, as altered’.
‘The Government is supporting businesses and their employees through a package of measures during this period of unprecedented disruption. This website helps you find the right support, advice and information to help with the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) on your business. The Government is doing its best to stand behind businesses and is asking businesses to do their best to stand behind their workers.
Although ostensibly for mainstream business development and entrepreneurship, there are still elements of the site which will have useful content for social business or community enterprise, we would argue.
Under the Finance tab are resources on business funding alternatives, dealing with payments and marketing.
The Leadership collection of resources has an interesting range of support links for women in business, both networking and geographically, women in rural business, for example.
A new edition of Social Enterprises and their Eco-systems in Europe is now available on the Europa web pages.
This cross-national look at social enterprise is a profoundly useful narrative for individuals, or community actors, who are interested in exploring, not only the deployment of governance forms, but also to understand the philosophical approach to social enterprise development, across time and geography.
You can download the UK analysis here. It provides the diligent reader with definitions of a SocEnt, and the governance forms currently used by UK enterprises with a social mission.
The work is strong on the historical context of SocEnt development in the UK, as well as offering a critique of the fiscal, governance and research frameworks that do, and will, affect the development of community focused enterprise in the future.
The document also contains a useful set of appendices, that offer insights into stakeholders at national level, a governance form comparison and quick reference guide, as well as a set of references for the text that are an ideal for ‘more reading’.
This ‘Country Document’ from Europa.eu is written by Fergus Lyon, Bianca Stumbitz and Ian Vickers. It deserves to be in your SocEnt development tool kit, we think.
MRA Associates, in their freely available knowledge base, have an interesting and informing article about registered societies, which those exploring new governance forms for social business may find useful.
In our last post we reflected on time passed and have turned our attention to the future, thinking about organisational development in our social business for 2020.
We read a post on Medium recently, from an executive guru which decried, as a management technique, the announcing of your plans…lest you stumble and they all come to nought. (All business is risk, even a ‘social’ one!…Ed)
We have thought about this too, and have come to the decision, given the ubiquity of the internet and new media, that laying out plans, even those not fully ready for complex delivery yet, is a sound way to make contact with like-minded community actors and organisations. Our own motives and action plan are below…
We have attended this year ((2019) a number of events organised by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), in both Liverpool and London. Designed to create awareness of, and engagement with, the Community Wealth Building (CWB) agenda. In this aim Neil McInroy and his highly skilled team, have been highly effective.
This engagement has started us thinking about how CWB can be energised to reach the micro and small community facing social businesses or organisations across our region.
It is clear from the recently published documents below, that this community mercantile sector is clearly woven into the multivariate practice, target segments and policy focus of the CWB change matrix.
Key Documents for Strategic Development
CLES have recently published both Community Wealth Building 2019 – theory practice and next steps, as well as a Manifesto for Local Economies. you can view, print or download both these key documents below…
Community Wealth Building 2019is a profoundly important document in contextualising local action, policy change and in illuminating the tried and tested, as well as emerging methodologies of change in CWB practice.
Whilst recognising that the new (CLES) Centre for Excellence, funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, has a primary focus on Local Authority/governmental policy issues for securing the largest change and development ‘hit’ possible, we think that the same concepts of CWB and the intellectual change mechanisms involved can equally be applied to the small marginalised communities and, importantly, rural England.
The Manifesto for Local Economies contains the building blocks of an exciting new CWB landscape. We do not see any of its elements as revolutionary, but rather see the policy and delivery skein exposed in the document as a progressive, moral and inclusive agenda for the individual, the company/charity, the region and government to embrace.
What The Manifesto calls for is an inclusive, fair and ownership diverting programme of change. It does not decry or deny capital, the market or the organisation – it refocuses them to broad community benefit.
We subscribe to the vision.
The action plan – the micro-contribution
To maintain and continue to consolidate activity with our clients for SocEntEastMids in the six counties region of its published focus – free delivery of support, advice and resources for the creation of socially useful enterprise.
A new brand and energy for change
To create a new brand/web site of focus and delivery mechanism, based in Cambridge UK, to engage with rural communities in England around some key elements of the CWB agenda.
To scope and deliver this rural enterprise support across The Midlands, East Anglia, Lincolnshire etc., where rural enterprise is, arguably, remote from the national policy debate and one to one encouragement is thinly spread.
To develop a programme of work, addressing community facing organisations – developing focused CWB agenda items to the unique, particular and social landscapes of our chosen geography.
To develop a cost recovery mechanism for external speakers and critical advice, event attendance etc., whilst still delivering our core elements of free advice, web and communication services – with any surplus created directed to support our sister delivery at SocEntEastMids, as is normal for our Partnership. To help maintain the sustainability of the programme.
To focus our Muntjac energy initially on a Enterprise Change Hub, development of Community Banking networks, and Employee Ownership advice and change support. This latter may well spill over into help in creating partnerships, employee owned businesses, co-operatives, measuring impacts for baseline and business plans etc.
To make Cambridge a ‘go to’ place for CWB in the rural environment. (We have large car parks…Ed).
The Muntjac is a persistent, pervasive and spiky creature in the rural environment. We like them.
Our strategy and delivery for the CWB programme, although modest, will hopefully develop the same profile.
If you would like to be part of a new CWB initiative in the rural East, do use our site contact facilities and have an opening conversation with Tim.
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SDCVS is a local charity ...registered in England & Wales as a charity (number 1101450) working to improve the quality of life for people in South Derbyshire. They do it by providing services to individuals and families in need, as well as helping voluntary groups and communities to become self-supporting.
We are delighted to support their good work this festive season. Any amount you can give will be used to directly benefit the charities users, at a time of year that often brings especial difficulty. If you do donate, thank you very much!
The SocEntEastMIds Team
‘This year we will provide around 1,000 emergency food parcels to individuals and families in need in South Derbyshire. The festive season can be particularly difficult for people experiencing financial hardship – so our help and support is crucial at this time.
That’s why we’re appealing for financial donations to help feed families across South Derbyshire who are struggling. This can be for all kinds of reasons – ill-health, job loss, bereavement, homelessness or other changes in personal circumstances.
Big or small, a gift from you will help us make sure no-one in South Derbyshire goes hungry this Christmas’. Source: SDCVS web site…
This is a great volume on Community Wealth Building, newly available from Polity Press. Inspired thinking – drivers for action.
Joe Guinan and Martin O’Neill make the case that ‘…a new model of economic development is emerging in our cities and communities. Offering real, on the ground solutions to localities and regions battered by successive waves of disinvestment, de-industrialisation, displacement and dis-empowerment…(new) approaches capable of producing more sustainable, lasting and equitable economic outcomes’. (Source The Case for CWB, p.1)
Yunus Social Business – humanising the enterprise…
We have attended a number of events and meetings recently, across the six counties of the East Midlands, where the nature of our business has been, occasionally, in focus. We have returned and sought to reflect on our engagement with clients, partners and our own team.
We define our core Partnership in Cambridge as a Social Business, and cleave to the seven principles delineated in the book Building Social Business – the prime mover for us is to try and do things ‘…with joy’. (We also underscore the Nolan Principles in our work too…Ed.)
Of course, there are more significant enterprise impacting elements to the theories of Professor Muhammad Yunus, whose book defines our work. For our Partners the energy we expend is not for creating vast personal wealth – we use, we believe, enterprise skills and good governance to foster enough revenue to maintain our infrastructure, our tool-kits, human and technical, and then seek to deploy any surpluses to fund the delivery of pro-bono support to individuals and community organisations and actors where we can.
What has struck us is how our conversations have changed so little in the last twenty years or so. We talk in the office still of humanity, warmth, empathy, understanding and transparent process – all emotional responses to business propositions perhaps, but never forgetting that it is the business process and back office that fosters and provides for the projects that seek to develop our Social Business aims and achievements. No matter how modest they may be in the grand scheme of things.
The short video above, from Yunus socialbusiness, is, in effect, a declaration for system change and the humanising of the enterprise, we believe. A moderation of raw capitalism that is perhaps seeing the emergence of ‘its time’. It is not isolated by geography or place, the same principles should apply in a remote rural area or the heart of a city, whatever the continent.
Whether we define it as emergent social enterprise, social business, a co-operative or a genuinely employee owned business – the Yunus principles should all be in play, within this context of understanding and change.
We were challenged recently, in our twitter feed, by a member of the ‘twitterati’ that our position was hopelessly idealistic. Perhaps this is true, but as is made clear in the video exposition above, it is better to aspire to selflessness than to selfishness we would argue.
I was elected recently to join the Board of a regional charity, and was able to accept the onerous duty with delight. As part of the process I attended a staff workshop on Loneliness and Isolation. The stats indicating the demand for this service were challenging.
None the less, part of the group tasks were to develop an understanding of ‘the five ways to well-being’. They are Connect | Be Active | Take Notice | Keep Learning | Give.
Not a bad five point mantra for socio-economic change actors in communities too – we thought. Hopelessly idealistic or not…
This article is a personal reflection by Tim Smith MA, FRSA – A Managing Partner at SmithMartin LLP, custodian of SocEntEastMids interests.
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Social Enterprise East MIdlands is a UK registered Limited Company Company No: 10862936 Our mission is to foster grass-roots interest in the Social Economy - supporting community enterprise development in our six counties region.
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