Category Archives: Economic Thought

Re-imagining the village as a socio-economic rural powerhouse?

The Reimagined Village cover image...
Get your copy here (.pdf)

The architects BroadwayMalyan have just published a new report, which looks at the historical context, and future, of the UK village.

It views the village in its historic landscape and looks forward to how the village might develop given the ‘right’ or ‘necessary’ infrastructure support.

View, print or download a copy of The Reimagined Village here (.pdf)

In the sixties the economist J.K. Galbraith came to see suburbs as a sort of camp, or island,  for the affluent. There is something of this perception in the BroadwayMalyan analysis.

‘However, existing villages do have their drawbacks. Villages are the most expensive places to live in the UK outside London…’

The report attempts to map existing constraints on village life, and overlay new opportunities, or issues, that might be grasped. For example…

• Rural villages, as bases of multi-faceted active economic output, have diminished capacity historically.

• UK villages tend to have an older, affluent demographic and this affects the utility of local village schools, for instance.

• As costs rise, and services need to adapt to new consumer demand, the village needs to be flexible and opportunist to take advantage of new markets. Many are not able without creative development thinking.

• The internet plays a key role in community and economic development, particularly post-Covid. The slow spread and lack of investment in high speed broadband hampers village development economically.

• Low density of population mitigates away from the delivery of core direct health and well- being support. Another factor hampered by the reach of the internet, as above.

• With older age cohorts in villages, the use of the car is a necessity to many, which contributes to poor distribution of joined up community transport and environmental harm, for example.

This document, The Reimagined Village from BroadwayMalyan, offers a number of new perceptions and objectives for a creative and effective socio-economic housing cluster – the UK village. Their view ahead is not all pessimistic…

‘If new villages are to become an effective antidote to
the housing crisis, they need to be reimagined to better accommodate the needs of modern society – both now and into the future – all while retaining the identity and charm that makes them an attractive prospect, and an integral part of Britain’s cultural fabric.’

Within the pages of the report lies an acknowledgement of difference and a recognition that each community, wherever it lies in the rural landscape, has a unique and particular tradition, and perhaps, a different view on the thorny political questions of economic development and new infrastructure.

It was comforting to see. Discover the work of BroadwayMalyan at their London office here.


Update: 19th May 2021

We subscribe to the Strong Towns Movement news-feed in the USA – they are currently publishing a set of articles on strategies and structures necessary for community development in the widest sense.

It is interesting, we think, how in the final analysis from the U.S./capitalist point of view, that public funding should be seen as the key catalyst for sustainable development in communities, of whatever size.

See the article The Modern Approach to Development Doesn’t Work for Local Communities

The Journal provides it’s readers with an eclectic mix of localism, community wealth building and enterprise creation that will not be unfamiliar to UK social enterprise readers.

Discover Strong Towns here..


 

The social entrepreneur skill landscape ahead?

The future, post-Covid and all the economic and social change that lies ahead, will need to bring with it a commitment to both training and re-skill for many, but also a distinct, hardy and tenacious set of practical and soft skills for the enduring entrepreneur.

Image, looking to the future
Looking to the future: Image by Benjamin Davies, Creative Commons, Unsplash

This is the message contained in a useful and perceptive series of articles to come from Pioneers Post. It is a landscape of compassion, certainly, given the context of the work, but also a landscape of uncertainty that will be managed through endurance, creativity and a survival ethos.

List of skills updated: 6th June 2021 – see below…

A heady cocktail of needs for the social entrepreneur looking to the future.

See the original article here: https://www.pioneerspost.com/business-school/20210331/how-no-regrets-skillset-can-arm-social-entrepreneurs-uncertain-future

‘Experts have warned that half the world’s employees will need to be reskilled by 2025. But with which skills? In our new series, Emerald Works’ Kevin Dunne and Social Enterprise Academy’s Claire Wilson set out seven critical, “no regrets” skills that social enterprise leaders will need to flourish in the post-Covid-19 landscape.’

The seven key skills, promoted by the authors of this thinking are sound and relevant  – especially if you are on the brink of leading your new SocEnt project up the enterprise foothills to sustainability.

We were worried, diving into the article, that this was a promotional pivot for a hardened, corporatist lean-into enterprise for good. We should not have worried. Vigorous commitment to the seven principles espoused can, we see, develop individuals with strong technical skills.

Skills that allied with the compassion that got them into the sector in the first place, may well be the key to all our survival.

Read the Pioneers Post article and see if you agree with the position? We do!


Update: 06.06.2021

Resilience, the first skill in the survival argument – see more https://www.pioneerspost.com/business-school/20210331/survival-skill-no-1-resilience

Adaptability – the second skill for survival – see more https://www.pioneerspost.com/business-school/20210512/survival-skill-no-2-adaptability

Creativity – the third skill for survival  – see more

https://www.pioneerspost.com/business-school/20210604/survival-skill-no-3-creativity


Rural Economy Toolkit

Rural economy Toolkit - cover image
View, print or download a copy here…

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.

You can discover more here – https://ied.co.uk/insights/the_rural_economy_toolkit/

We wish all our readers, clients and new friends in 2021 the very best of everything and a brighter, busier, more convivial context for their projects…


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!

HM Government Business Support – new web site

Developing our business idea…

Update: 25th Mar 2020 – Source: www.businesssupport.gov.uk  (Abstract of web page)

Coronavirus

‘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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): If you are looking for information on healthcare advice for employers and support for businesses please click here.’


Gov.uk now has a new Business Support cluster of web pages for the new or developing business. A basket of resources for new or just developing business across…

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.

if your business is both entrepreneurial and inventive, then the Intellectual Property cluster of links has useful links – from the always interesting British Library Business and IP Centre, to a useful On-line IP Health check.

You can also reach the Business Support Service on the phone, 0300 456 3565 – 9am to 6pm, or use the Chat Now service direct from their web pages.

Ideas image: Tirachard Kumtanom, Creative Commons, Pexels.com

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


Community Wealth Building Summit 2019

‘This June, join CLES for the second annual Community Wealth Building Summit!

CLES progressive economics - image and web link
Discover CLES thinking here…

 

UPDATE 17th June 2019

Due to demand the venue has changed. Now at…

The Florrie, (The Florence Institute), 377 Mill Street, Liverpool, L8 4RF


6 steps to build community wealth - booklet cover image and web link
Get your copy here…

Anna Birley and The Co-operative Party have produced a really useful guide to what Community Wealth Building is, in terms of definition, ideas for local action and how to campaign for effective local policy change.

You can view, print or download a .pdf copy of this booklet here

This CLES Summit is the UK’s only community wealth building event dedicated to celebrating successes, sharing ideas, exploring challenges and building the Community Wealth Building movement‘.

Source: CLES web pages       Get your ticket here

See new venue above!

The event will also feature the launch of the Community Wealth Building Centre for Excellence – a place to think about ownership, surplus distribution and the local economic flow in an entirely new way.

Who is the event for?

‘The Summit is for anyone who wants to build an economy that works for all. Over the last ten years, Community Wealth Building ideas have been taken up and applied by an ever-growing number of socially minded businesses and social and public sector organisations across the regions and countries of the UK.

This event will bring together people from across these sectors and places, from local authorities and credit unions to community owned football clubs and hospitals’.

We will be there? Will you? Make a long weekend of it and support the local economy in the North West too!

The SocEntEastMids team:

 

 

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?