Category Archives: Community Economics

Are you funding enough or are we asking for too little?

Humentum is the leading global nonprofit working with humanitarian and development organisations to improve how they operate and to make the sector more equitable, accountable, and resilient. Funders for Real Cost, Real Change (FRC), a collaborative of private foundations, commissioned this research and report to gather evidence on the extent to which international donor funding covers the real administration costs of national NGOs…”

Thought provoking ideas from Humentum…external link.

This provocative and challenging report, from the organisation Humentum, makes a strong case for a continued imbalance in the allocation of funding, the imposition of power structures and the seeming immutable nature of the funder and funded relationship.

Download the report here: https://humentum.org/policy/administration-costs-research-project/

Although focused on the international/NGO sector, some of the key research findings, and recommendations by Humentum, could equally apply to the most modest community projects at home. Are we understanding our own detailed cost needs as a project, are we asking our funder for the full cost recovery amount and is our funder advancing enough funding, which is unrestricted, to best flexibly serve both delivery and sustainability of our project/cause over time?

The Humentum report quests for a funding context, where funders need to realign their relationships, making them more equitable, and that all parties become more accountable inside that interactional relationship.

It argues cogently from the NGO voices heard that what is needed is…

• a stronger long-term partnership approach that directly addresses the challenge of the unequal power dynamic inherent in the funding relationship.

• longer-term funding agreements with a significant component of general operating support to enable NGOs to become more sustainable, including building up unrestricted reserves.

• better cost coverage of all the administration costs associated with projects, including items such as start-up and closure costs, with less reluctance to fund salary costs.

These deficits in relationships and sweep in grant making result, for Humentum, in the starvation cycle. Humentum argue that for grantees to break out of this constricting and distorting cycle, then funders need to apply a change of approach. Namely, to offer…

a) full cost coverage

b) means by which grantees can contribute to unrestricted reserves

c) support to strengthen grantees’ cost recovery capabilities.

There is to us, thinking again about the local project context, an irony in the application of a grant, which may result in great creative, expertise and community development lift for a local project, which at the same time, because of traditional funding methodologies, powers the deliverer of the grant aided umbrella project into an inability to work for sustainability, skills uplift and cost recovery management to ensure that ‘starvation’ does not occur.

In conclusion, the Humentum paper makes three key recommendations…

  1. Funders should commit to consistently covering a full and fair share of all associated administration costs.
  2. Funders should directly fund grantees to strengthen their financial management, cost recovery and fundraising capabilities, and provide unrestricted funding to build reserves.
  3. Funders should systematically collect data on the extent of adequate cost coverage. This data should be used to drive internal accountability and motivate funders to provide their full and fair share of administration costs in restricted funding agreements.

Could the Humentum research transform the funding landscape, wherever the context? It’s a provocative paper…

Discover the full report and research information here: https://humentum.org/policy/administration-costs-research-project/


Re-building the economy, the feminist way?

The organisation, UN Women, has just published a new report arguing for economic development in a new era, the purpose of which is to ‘…support the survival and flourishing of life, in all its forms’.

The quotation above comes from a web article by Jayati Ghosh, on the web pages of Social Europe, in which Ghosh argues that the world economy needs to rotate 180 degrees and become focused away from the notion of market forces. Forces which can bring riches or disaster according to some unseen lottery of life.

If we live in an economic and deterministic world all we need, Ghosh argues, is the will to restructure institutional forms into better, more humane and democratic models.

Feminist plan for sustainability and social justice cover image
A resonant new model…download a copy here…

It is a telling argument, well supported by the UN document – Feminist Plan for Sustainability and Social Justice. (.pdf)

The chapters in the report are challenging and an informative read, providing not only argument, but examples of how economic change can be restructured in the post-Covid landscape.

The report is not, in itself, a social enterprise driven map for the future.

Rather, we would argue, that social business and community enterprise can play their full part in re-modelling of local and national economic agendas, in the feminist mirror the UN paper holds up to us all.

Post-Covid, the illustrations and challenges of the report are already the common currency of ideas in the re-build agenda. Ideas and directions of travel that will already be familiar to the SocEnt community.

  • Economics that support the livelihoods of women.
  • Putting Care, note the capital C, at the heart of economic and community change.
  • Making the instruments of finance and economics gender-just.
  • Creating a new feminist global politics for the post-Covid era.

We recommend it as a formative read this winter.

Discover the article by Jayati Ghosh here.

Discover UN Women on the web here, global champions for gender equality.

 

 

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..


 

Social Marketing – training event, on-line

Social markets…

Social Marketing for Small Enterprise – Business events – University of Derby

 

If you’d like to create an innovative, cost-effective marketing strategy for your small business, sustainable company, or social enterprise, then this session is for you. Learn how social marketing is quickly becoming a driving force for positive change.
Source: www.derby.ac.uk

Event on-line: Tuesday, 22 March 2022, 11.30 hrs – 13.00 hrs.
Sign up for this useful short event:
”Why Social Marketing?
It is an approach used to encourage social change by promoting a behaviour rather than selling a product or service. It can be a powerful, cost-effective tool for small businesses – particularly those with an environmental or social focus – helping guide clients and partners towards more sustainable and charitable behaviours.
What will I learn in the session?

During this session, you will learn how social marketing techniques can help your organisation achieve consumer and employee support, whilst influencing behavioural change. You will also have an opportunity to share your communication or marketing challenge with our experts, who will apply their knowledge of social marketing and work with you to develop the best solution.”  Source: University of Derby

City of Derby montage: source – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derby


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…


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

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.