Category Archives: Social Enterprise

Social Innovation Strategy in UK Social Enterprises

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 research project, was realised through the joint intellectual energy of Dr. Maria Granados, a senior lecturer in Innovation in the School of Management & Marketing at the University of Westminster and Iraci João-Roland, an Assistant Professor at the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Discover more here…

You can discover the interim findings, Social Innovation Strategy in UK Social Enterprises, ahead of the full publication of an academic report, here.

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!

How to speak? We all know that…!

Update 15th November 2020

We really liked this analysis of Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule for business pitches. The original article, published by Amardeep Parmar in the Entrepreneurs Handbook, nicely captures a 10 point plan for pitching your business idea.

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!

Discover your convincing ten point plan here.


Original skills development content:

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…

Source: Originally published as part of the MIT OpenCourseWare programme.


How to write well and effectively?

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


Social Enterprise – the European context

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.

Get your copy here…(pdf)

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.

See more here: https://www.mrassociates.org/knowledge-base/specified-accommodation/cat-1-exempt-accommodation/tell-me-more-about-registered-societies


Forward to 2020

Looking for a bright future…

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…

Inspirational Beginnings

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…

View, print or download

Community Wealth Building 2019 is 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.

 

View, print or download…

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).
Spiky, yet endearing …excuse the pun!

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.

Revisiting our Social Business theory…

 

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.

SocEntEastMids and our clients, is a good example of this, as is our book business Books go Walkabout.

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.

Social Procurement?

‘We are such spendthrifts with our lives, the trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.’ ― Paul Newman : Actor

Sustainability, going green, recycling, food waste, ethical business, community, evironmentally friendly, food labelling, consumer responsibility – Google any keyword from the above and acres of electronic landscape will open up on your screen and tantalise you with calls for their individual priority.

But to make the world sustainable, right down to the house on the corner, or the single desk at your child’s school, we need a new narrative. One that is, effectively, a moderated form of capitalism…Social Enterprise is it.

Attempting to break completely the bio-rhythms of a capitalist system, arguably embedded in this country from 1750 and the start of the Industrial Revolution, is a very hard thing. To moderate behaviour, or flex direction of travel, is much easier.

If Social Enterprise is the deployment of business enterprise, not for gross personal profit, but to serve up a solution to a community need, then Social Procurement should be the keyword search to trump all others.

“Our entire system, in an economic sense, is based on restriction. Scarcity and inefficiency are the movers of money; the more there is of any resource the less you can charge for it. The more problems there are, the more opportunities there are to make money.

This reality is a social disease, for people can actually gain off the misery of others and the destruction of the environment. Efficiency, abundance and sustainability are enemies of our economic structure, for they are inverse to the mechanics required to perpetuate consumption.’ – Peter Joseph

Why Social Procurement?

Rebecca Dray in her recent article ‘What is Social Procurement‘ on the pages of Society Profits defines it thus…

‘Simply put, social procurement means buying regular goods and services directly or indirectly from social enterprises’.

In her article, Rebecca is rightly keen to focus on the high value SocEnt’s place on innovation and risk depletion. At the heart of a SocEnt lies not only care for community, not personal profit, but for also maximising community benefit .

This is the tipping point in the established supply chain, that can flex traditional corporate procurement policy and action to favour the SocEnt supplier.

In doing so, the vast corporate spend on Corporate Responsibility and Risk Mitigation can be resolved to a SocEnt procurement locus that presents the rationalisation and delivery of an agenda which guarantees ethical supply and community safety at a stroke.

As Dray would have it ‘…By nature of their social and environmental mission they also reduce environmental impact, avoid modern slavery, tackle water scarcity and so much more‘.

We can now, perhaps, slightly shade the Dray definition for Social Enterprise to read…

A social enterprise is a legal and social entity of moderated capitalism, that seeks through Social Procurement, to temper and dissolve the social ills of profit pursuit for damaging personal gain.

Not so fluid, perhaps, but effective none the less, we would argue.

The embrace of a telling argument and practical philosophy, Social Enterprise, must however be matched by the equally telling embrace of traditional business. To moderate or flex, as a goal, will always be more effective that outright revolution.

We also need to convince the non-SocEnt market of the need to join forces with our new movement.

Pat Villaceran, in a recent article on LinkedIn, entitled ‘5 Reasons Business Executives Stray Away From Social Movements‘, nicely frames the arguments corporate procurement specialists use to deflect social procurement innovation. Arguing, in the article, that the unwritten message from corporate institutions is that social entrepreneurship is somehow a less effective, minority and part-time project.

The Villaceran thesis debunks these arguments and presents evidence, very useful if you are pitching to a procurement team, just why the SocEnt supply decision is the right one. We recommend it to our readers.

The time for the ascension of SocEnt activity to be the catalyst for capitalist change is upon us. Indeed the very size of the SocEnt market place is staggering, as we have illustrated in a recent SocEntEastMids article.

Add your voice to the clamour, we know we are not alone….

“The great challenge of the twenty-first century is to raise people everywhere to a decent standard of living while preserving as much of the rest of life as possible.” ― Edward O. Wilson


Good Deals + Beyond Good Business

‘For the second year running, Pioneers Post and Hatch Enterprise, the organisations behind the Good Deals + Beyond Good Business conferences, bring you the leading event in social enterprise and impact investment in the UK’.

Good Delas + image and web link...
See more here…

Taking place on May 21st, 2019 at Mary Ward House in London, the organisers aim to delve ‘…into different practical support that can allow all organisations to progress towards a healthy and sustainable future, while also making sure that we don’t forget about our own well-being and the human behind the social entrepreneur‘.

Early bird tickets are just now available and you can see the range of ticket types available for this significant SocEnt event here.

You can see the key themes of this year’s conference, and review the speakers of note from last year’s event on the BGB web pages. See more: https://beyondgoodbusiness.co.uk/

Perhaps we’ll see you there?

Hatch Impact Accelerator

Hatch, a South London charity,  design their peer accelerator programme to ‘…facilitate learning experiences with successful social entrepreneurs (those who have come before), where they can share their wisdom, knowledge and network with those who need it next‘.

Designed for existing social enterprises, keen to grow, with a small number of staff, but who are aiming to seek social investment or crowdfunding resources in the next year or two.

Their programme of support centres around the following thematic deliveries…

  • Peer-to-peer learning environment
  • Pro-bono legal consulting
  • Procurement prospects
  • Financial coaching
  • Crowdfunding project
  • Funding opportunities

Here at SocEntEastMids we specialise in pro-bono support to the micro-enterprise or the nascent, yet to be connected, social entrepreneur.

However, we recognise that the Hatch Accelerator model offers professional and profound structural advancement for social entrepreneurs and social enterprises who are approaching critical mass.

You can discover the full details of this programme, and the fees and duration of the support here: https://www.impact.hatchenterprise.org/

Registration closes: 1 April 2019 – Programme starts: 12 April  2019

As places are limited to 15 delegates per annum, there is a short expression of interest questionnaire, helping Hatch advise you directly on your application to the programme.

See more here – and if you do, good luck with your application!

Funding Community Housing – a landscape view

Update: 5th August 2019

George Clarke is beginning a campaign to re-energise social housing. Join him here.

‘TV architect and Big Issue cover star George Clarke’s petition, aimed at persuading the government to build 100,000 council houses a year, wins massive approval on its first day…’ Source: Big Issue


Working in communities, for us, involves delivering free support and resources to the nascent individual social entrepreneur or the community group, incorporated or not, involved in the transition to an active community focused business.

The nature of developing community business, or individual entrepreneurship, often involves a wider dialogue about social policy and the quality of life for residents in the broadest terms. Housing is often part of that narrative.

SocEntEast Mids does not offer advice on matters concerning investment, banking or legality. We freely collaborate with community players to share our decades of aggregate experience in community development and enterprise engagement.

That said, as the conversation in the meeting room, or community centre eddies and swirls towards a conclusion, it is useful to be able to tender some broad signposting around themes of concern, as part of that engagement process.

The narratives, data and contacts below, all freely available in the public domain, are an attempt to provide such a signpost.


A really useful place to start is the Power to Change: Business in Community Hands pages. here you can find grants that ‘…support projects that build of refurbish affordable homes’.

Homes in Community Hands ‘…are focusing on community groups in the early stages of their community-led housing development to support feasibility and predevelopment work, leading up to submitting a planning application. Our research has shown that is where funds are needed most to get projects moving’.

Discover more here: https://www.powertochange.org.uk/get-support/programmes/community-housing/


Targeting Funding to Support Community-led Housing is a publication also from Power Change. Authored by Tom Archer, Anna Kear, Catherine Harrington – Power to Change August 2018.

Targeting funding - download image and web link...
Targeting funding – download here: pdf

This is an essential primer when thinking about engagement in any aspect of community led housing projects.

Development stages, funding stages and the current provision of the funding and financial support available are all clearly labelled here.

Also useful in the appendix of the publication is the advice given on how to do a SWOT analysis of funding need for your development stages.

 

 

 


Even more current is Helping Communities Build – A review of the Community Land Trust Funds and lessons for future support. Authors: Dr Tom Archer, Dr Stephen Green with Charlie Fisher | January 2019, this publication, was produced by Sheffield Hallam University and the Charities Aid Foundation.

Community-led housing schemes empower people, enrich local communities and improve the lives of residents. They can breathe new life into a village by offering affordable homes below market rate to families that are priced out of the area they live and work in.

The authors argue that CLT’s are a currently under deployed tool for community social enrichment, but non the less, this paper highlights the context of the mechanism and is, in our opinion, particularly honest and useful in making an assessment of obstacles and pinch points in any community housing scheme.

See more here…(pdf).

CAF and Power to Change also have a useful web article on a new source of funding available – Blended Finance Available for CLT’s. Authored by Anne-Helene Sinha, it is a new and pioneering offer in the marketplace.


CivilSociety.co.uk have a useful article by James Johnson – Should you invest in Social Housing?

Johnson’s argument is, essentially, that investors with a conscience can all help to alleviate the current housing crisis by investing in the sector. He is also strong on the weakness and re-directions  of central government in the housing mix over time…

…blame can be laid at the door of government. In 2009 (the last full year of Gordon Brown’s administration), Whitehall provided £11.4bn towards the cost of building homes. By 2015 (under David Cameron’s Conservative-led coalition), this had over halved to £5.3bn. More pertinently, perhaps, in terms of GDP, the fall is even more dramatic – it has dropped from 0.7 per cent to 0.2 per cent.

A depressing tale, well told with numbers to underscore the disparity of supply versus demand.


More useful links for data and context:

The Plan to End Homelessness, by Crisis, is also another salutory lesson in how housing and welfare policies have failed to work effectively, either with each other, or with the homeless to create sustainable and affordable solutions to the present crisis.

See the full report here

Big Society Capital also have data and information resources of Social Housing and Homelessness. You can see a sector snapshot and data from 2017 here… (pdf).

They also offer some useful case studies, in an article by their Investment Manager, Aman Johal, on the factoring of social investment to amplify housing and local facilities.

See more here: https://www.bigsocietycapital.com/about-us/previous-projects/housing-and-local-facilities


Editor’s Note:

SocEntEastMids does not offer banking, finance or legal advice. Our free resources and support is dedicated to sharing our decades of community enterprise experience collaboratively with the nascent social entrepreneur or ethical business minded community group.

We are happy to have a ‘social enterprise’ conversation at any time, and to donate free resources, to foster the aims of the sector.

First Steps in Social Enterprise in Nottingham & Derby

 

 

 

 

To Nottingham, on Friday 15th February 2019 – to attend the launch of a new programme of support for budding social entrepreneurs from OLMEC.

Olmec’s mission is ‘...race equality through economic and social justice‘, and we are delighted, at SocEntEastMids  to be able to support the work.

First Steps In Social Enterprise is free and open to existing and aspiring social entrepreneurs from BME (Black and Ethnic Minority) backgrounds – across the Nottingham and Derby area.

  • Are you a sole trader, or have a skill and want to develop a business that benefits the community?
  • Have a social enterprise idea / social enterprise at an early stage?
  • Want to develop a social enterprise model from an existing community organisation?
  • Are an entrepreneur that wants to develop a social enterprise?
  • Are a working and/or living in Nottingham or Derby?

‘The programme is designed to support aspiring social entrepreneurs’ ideas through a structured 12-week programme and 9 months online support including access to a moderated FaceBook group with online training.’ Source: OLMEC web pages

  • Applications Open February 15th
  • Applications close March 15th
  • Interviews March 19th to 21st
  • 3-month programme runs March 23rd to June 15th
  • Online support runs to March 31st 2020

You can view, print or download the application form and details below…

You can discover more of the collaborative work of OLMEC here.


Application form as a pdf            Application form as a Word/ODT document


About the event:

We convened in the performance space at New Art Exchange on Gregory Boulevard, an ideal setting for an entrepreneurial engagement. Inspirational speakers, good food and coffee and an opportunity to discuss early ideas in an encouraging and non-critical atmosphere.

We enjoyed it immensely. Discover the venue here – http://www.nae.org.uk/

The speakers also gave us an opportunity to discover new resources, pertinent to the equality and inclusion agenda…

Lilollo.com

‘Languages are for everyone! Enjoy learning two or more languages with our products, games and guides.

Lil’ollo is for young learners from birth onwards, whether you are speaking several languages fluently at home or just getting started. Join our free club to receive free products, guides and more’. (A beautifully designed resource…Ed.) See more here...

Windrushgame.co.uk

‘Created by family history historian, founder of Every Generation Media and Windrush Generation campaigner Patrick Vernon OBE, this storytelling board game is designed to keep the stories and history of the Windrush Generation alive. It helps families, friends and communities share their heritage, family history, identity and culture through the sharing of stories.’   See more here…  ( A great resource to keep oral history and family knowledge alive and resonant…Ed.)

A great day, a great community and an important programme for the early social business man or woman. Apply today, we recommend it!