Guardian entrepreneurs

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Another piece in the Guardian on Saturday about social entrepreneurs, one of which is current SSE student (soon to be Fellow) Simon Fenton-Jones (see StreetShine.com). SSE gets a mention but, as is legendarily the case with the Grauniad, they got our name wrong (+ reduced our scope), so we became "London’s School for Social Enterprise", rather than the UK’s School for Social Entrepreneurs.

Hey ho. Fortunately, we are the top result in Google for ‘School for Social Enterprise’ as well, so hopefully those who are interested will find us….

The omnipresent David Cameron also provides his support for social entrepreneurship in the latter half of the article.

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Entrepreneurial leadership: leadership as relationship

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Social Enterprise Magazine features a piece by the Chair of SSE, Charlotte Young, on the emotional dynamics of leadership, specifically ‘entrepreneurial leadership’. Some interesting points about how entrepreneurs work, what drives them, how they can be assisted and supported, and so forth.

One key statement is that "leadership [is] better thought of as an active and purposeful
relationship, supported by the activities which enhanced levels of
motivation and focused direction so as to mobilise the enterprise’s
supporters towards a goal"
.

Leadership as relationship also reminds me of David Robinson’s book, Unconditional Leadership, which is a worthwhile read for any budding social entrepreneur (or leader in any context).

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Unlimited social entrepreneurship

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So the big news on the social entrepreneurship front is the launch today of the Guardian/UnLtd awards scheme (see The Guardian Social Entrepreneurship Awards) which provides welcome media coverage and promotion for social entrepreneurs. Someone obviously had a eureka moment and made the link between the Guardian website’s name (Guardian UNLIMITED) and the name of the erstwhile Foundation of Social Entrepreneurs (UnLtd*)…

Obviously the naysayers/whingers will say that it’s just a rebranding of UnLtd’s existing UK awards scheme, or that a link up with the Guardian will only attract/reach bleeding-heart, cappucino-sipping liberals on the left, or that it is misleading to have it promoted as a competition to win £500,000 (as it is on the GU homepage today) but they would be missing a couple of important facts. One is that any consistent media promotion of social entrepreneurship is welcome for all organisations working in the field, and the second is that the Guardian website actually attracts a far more diverse range of people than the newspaper, being the 263rd most looked at site in the world (ish), and the 24th most looked at site in the UK.

Certainly at SSE, as one of the founding partners of UnLtd*, and with many of their award-winners seeking out our year-long programmes of tailored support and development, we’re all in favour.

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Immigration and (social) entrepreneurship

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A Nation Built on Immigrant Genes is an article by John Gartner in the Washington Post which argues that (in the case of the US, and beyond)  immigrants are far more than simply a source of cheap, unskilled labour. Rather, they are natural entrepreneurs and, as Gartner puts it, "the original venture capitalists, risking their human
capital — their lives — on a dangerous and arduous voyage into the
unknown."

He goes on to discuss how immigrants are, as a result of this entrepreneurial spirit, self-employed at a higher rate than native-born people (though the difficulty of breaking into traditional job markets must also play a part here?). And, most interestingly perhaps, says that "the rate of entrepreneurial activity in a nation is correlated with the number of immigrants it absorbs". He then extrapolates from that (via new business creation as a predictor of GDP) to the mighty claim that "Immigrants equal national wealth".

It served as a reminder to me of conversations we have had at SSE about the number of refugees/immigrants who have the drive and initiative to set up social enterprises against significant odds. People like Luljeta Nuzi and Rahma Abdalla, whose stories (and journeys) demonstrate their entrepreneurial characteristics (risk-taking, courage, prone to action) from the start, and how these entrepreneurial traits can then be blended effectively with a social conscience, or a commitment to helping others.

[Useful links:

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Supporting social entrepreneurs: views and counterviews

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Excellent thought-provoking piece by Craig Dearden-Phillips on his blog, titled "The Way We Let Down Young Social Entrepreneurs". A few quotes/interesting points:

– three things are a barrier to success: funding, expert support, and personal development (aka "looking after yourself")

– "becoming a social entrepreneur means half the pay, twice the hours and
a lot less prestige than if you take a job at SEC, Unltd*, Business
Link, Scarman, CAN or whoever"

– "The social enterprise support structure is diverting investment away from real entrepreneurs and has become self-serving"

– "I haven’t yet met anybody
from the [social enterprise development] scene who has set the world on fire with their own social
enterprise"

You can see my reply below the post, but to summarise, I think Craig has some fair points…and ones I agree with less. Craig’s critique centres around the need for investment (different and more numerous forms of), but also points out the need for expert support (from people who understand what it is to set up something themselves, and who understand the sector) and the need for the individual to have personal support; to look after themselves, and not be isolated.

I don’t really disagree with any of that. I question whether more investment would solve ongoing problems of isolation, personal development and expert support…and that programmes that address all of these are needed to help the entrepreneur and their enterprise flourish and make lasting change….

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