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.
‘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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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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‘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
‘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.
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.
‘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:
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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?
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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
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.
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…
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.
‘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...
‘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!
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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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