The Malteser audit

The papers are full this morning with the story of the NHS trust which has asked nurses to count the number of gifts they receive to assess patient satisfaction. Or, as Metro neatly summarises it this morning, ‘Malteser audit fury’ (or something).

Now obviously the story does have an air of nonsense about it…even if, reading between the lines, it sounds like this is a pretty informal count-up, with no form-filling to take away from patient time. Indeed, the BBC article above says that a Devon hospital has been doing this for a while. But is it so absurd to want to count the compliments as well as the complaints?

Interesting because, during our most recent evaluation workshop with the New Economics Foundation, we discussed the need to choose the right ‘indicators’. One example of what might NOT be a good indicator is waiting lists….as it only measures one aspect of delivering healthcare. It could be one indicator in a suite (what is the collective noun?) of indicators, but there is a problem that it has become so central to how progress with regard to the NHS is judged. Waiting lists could be non-existent but the quality of healthcare might be dreadful.

And if you follow that thinking through, and think about what might indicate a good quality of healthcare, maybe the ‘Malteser audit’ isn’t as silly as it sounds. Nurses being given gifts could, at least, be an indicator of how well the nurses are doing their job…if of limited use.

Shame the papers paid rather less attention to the axing of 12 NHS Direct call centres and the loss of 1,000 jobs. Although NHS Direct has probably been, on the face of it, a successful social innovation, though whether one of the top 10 of the last century, I’m unsure….

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Adult Learners’ Week


For those of you who didn’t know, next week is Adult Learners’ Week (20th-26th May)

Adult Learners’ Week is the UK’s largest celebration of
learning. It promotes education and training for adults, provides access to
information and guidance, motivates more and different adults to participate in
learning and celebrates the learning achievements of adults.

by NIACE, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, the Week is
supported by the Department for Education and Skills and the European Social
Fund with additional support from learndirect and Ofcom.

Adult Learners’
Week is an opportunity for all organisations that offer any form of adult
learning activity to either present a special promotional activity, or to label
their existing learning activities as ‘Adult Learners Week’

The Adult Learners’ Week planning guide gives you all you
need to know about making your event a success, and can be downloaded from

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Edge Upstarts….and Enterprising Solutions

SSE was at the Edge Upstarts Awards in London last night. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees: an impressive line-up, and some very well-deserved recognition. You can see the full list of winners here. Big winners on the night were Training for Life which was ‘Social Enterprise of the Year’, and their Hoxton Apprentice restaurant was named ‘Social Enterprise Team of the Year’. Their chief executive Gordon D’Silva missed out on a clean sweep (the ‘Social Entrepreneur of the Year’ went to Safia Minney, the founder of fair trade fashion outfit, People Tree ) but, as I put it to him, in Oscar terms, Best Picture and Best Cast (OK, work with me here) was a good return, even if Best Director wasn’t forthcoming…

Ed Miliband also made his first appearance as Minister for the Third Sector, and spoke well, particularly (as he acknowledged), it was only his third full day in the job. Full marks also to the team from the Edge Foundation, several of whom were there last night. Not only were the Upstarts Awards a rousing success, but they have also backed London for the WorldSkills games in 2011, which has indeed been won for the capital (and announced in a front-page ad in the Guardian this morning). SSE left filled with optimism at their determination to promote practical learning and skills, which mirrors our own belief in the importance of action learning / learning-by-doing.

Finally, just to mention that, as we move from one set of awards to the next, the Enterprising Solutions Awards are now accepting nominations….

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Scaling your replicable pilot franchise

In the world of social enterprise, a consistent mantra is the need to replicate, franchise, scale up…which somewhat overlooks the fact that some social entrepreneur-led organisations and initiatives are fit to their particular sphere or community….and nowhere else. Some projects are best kept at a certain scale (a size or catchment they may have been shaped to) and, also, to a certain duration (has anyone thought through what happens if every new project is eternally sustainable?).

Couple of interesting things worth a look in this context.

– An online discussion about "Why you shouldn’t scale up", in relation to E. F. Schumacher’s seminal "Small is Beautiful" concept; particularly interesting is the concept of scaling up ‘strategies or ideas’, rather than necessarily scaling up organisations and organisational frameworks….

– CAN’s new Pilot toolkit, which "takes you through three key stages of planning, monitoring and evaluating, providing the room and space for all the key players in your organization to contribute to its success"; you can download the Guide here and the Project Map here (both pdfs). It’s an interesting tool which SSE fed into…and could be used in various ways. It came out of their Beanstalk programme, which was set up to focus on social franchising, but widened to more general replication…..

– Also see an article about a (UK) social franchise that failed in Stanford Social Innovation Review: An Enterprising Failure (pdf); [see here for a brief description of Paul Harrod, one of the founders of the social franchise, Aspire, running a seminar in Oxford recently]

This topic is of interest to SSE not only because we are a social franchise (for various reasons: to avoid re-inventing the wheel; to bring expertise and experience to bear; to create genuine partnerships with local and regional organisations; to avoid parachuting in people from outside the area; to create a strong and vibrant network etc.), but also because it is a question that many of our students and fellows face….how to have the greatest impact / be most effective? Lean and mean, large and powerful? Or small and beautiful….

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Mapping the impact

As our evaluation process goes on with NEF, we’ve also been looking at some other ways of (literally) mapping the impact of SSE and that of its Fellows….I’ve been playing around with Wayfaring which is a neat tool (Platial is similar). I’ve trialled it by doing a map of where there are (or have been) SSE programmes in the UK. Check out the map.

It’s quite an interesting tool, so I’m hopeful we can use it to do the same for Fellows / Students, so that we can see all the different places that a) they are based and b) they have an impact….

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