In a world gone mad…

There are days when it would appear the world has gone mad; days when you find out Maria Sharapova is a stamp collector, pin-striped city folk have marched on the Home Office and two Bulgarian prisoners have stitched their mouths up to protest at not being able to see the World Cup (but left a little bit unstitched so they can still smoke!).

Anyway, I’ve weaved my way through the morass, and found a few Friday links of interest to the world of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship…:

Recycle Bank, an inventive-based recylcing social enterprise in the US

Social Entrepreneur winning mainstream Entrepreneur of the Year award (also US)

– the Charity Sleuths blog of the Intelligent Giving organisation (run by an SSE Fellow), who are reporting all their findings from poring over charity accounts….

Bridges Community Ventures has raised £33million to invest…venture capital with a social mission

USA Today on the need for entrepreneurship education

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Public Service Delivery: Future Services Network

Lots of stuff to link to, following the government’s shedload of announcements at the Future Services Network event last week. PM + four (count them) ministers in attendance, all bigging up the voluntary sector, and the role it can play in public service reform. Which is welcome (with caveats…see below).

Tony Blair said the government wants "to harness the energy, and potential, and creativity of the sector", and said it was a priority, pointing to Ed Miliband (not literally) as a sign of this commitment. See press notice and Q&A for more.

Obviously this got covered everywhere. Society Guardian gave a good overview and the trade mags will weigh in next week, methinks. Of particular interest to social entrepreneurs may be Ed Miliband’s speech about a public service innovation team (speech here), and the (formal) announcement of the setting up of the DoH’s Social Enterprise Unit to encourage "entrepreneurialism and innovation" in health and social care.

There was also representation from DCLG (previously ODPM!) about strengthening the sector’s relationship with local government.

And that’s the main beef/caveat really. That worthy words from ministers don’t translate into action at local level (in the commissioning and procurement process, for example). Hopefully, such a high profile event will filter down to help make that happen….

[with thanks to the mighty VolResource for several links]

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Living Values, Being Bold

SSE attended the Living Values conference, organised by Community Links (and supported by Esmee Fairbairn Foundation). It launched a report, based on a collaborative enquiry, about the importance of values to the third sector, and how they are central to our work and thinking. The set of values the report says are common to 3rd sector organisations are:

– empowering people
– pursuing equality
– making voices heard
– transforming lives
– being responsible
– finding fulfilment
– doing a good job
– generating public wealth

In addition to these (which few people would find much to argue with, or indeed not be able to place their organisation within), the report says that these values are not unique to the sector, but the combination and prioritisation of them is.

A further key message was that values are not an abstract set of nouns at the top of a piece of paper, but are the basis for all activities, underpinning everything an organisation does. As David Robinson said in the final session, “Values are not separate from everything else we do; they underpin it all”.

It was an interesting day, particularly relevant to the world of social enterprise…because social entrepreneurs tend to face the mission drift challenge consistently, given their opportunistic nature and will to act. Understanding and communicating and measuring things against a clear set of values then becomes of increasing importance. If you are drifting or being pragmatic in the short term to achieve a longer term goal, at least know that that is what you are doing.

There was also some interesting discussion about how the founding entrepreneurs (who may be closest to the original values) can effectively capture those repliche orologi di lusso and communicate them to those who follow on from them. Something, incidentally, which I singularly failed to do at my previous organisation….

The other message was BE BOLD: make your values explicit in what you do….on the basis that those organisations that do so are most successful in the long run. It is about, as Matthew Smerdon put it, “being able to demonstrate our legitimacy” as a sector, showing our governance and activity is grounded in values. And to learn confidence from the public sector, not being timid or diffident.

Also much discussion around government contracts / commissioning processes, and how to influence those BEFORE the tenders emerge. And how, as it were, to put a value on our values (and how government tenders can provide space/opportunity for this to happen)….which seems key to me. As Craig Dearden-Phillips put it, ” we need to measure the added value that flows from our values”.

I could write more (on ethical dilemmas, value-led approaches to including users), but the report, which should be available via Community Links’ website soon, will cover much of this and more. No matter where your organisation is at, it makes important reading.

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Social enterprise makes the honours list

Congratulations from all at SSE to Adele Blakebrough, Chief Executive of Community Action Network, on being awarded an MBE, no less, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Well-deserved recognition for her personal role in promoting and supporting social enterprise. CAN continues to expand its dizzying array of activities, particularly focusing on the CAN Mezzanine Co-Location model, which has proved such a success at London Bridge.

In other Queen/award-related news, we are similarly delighted that Shpresa, the organisation of SSE Fellow and Trustee Luljeta Nuzi, has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2006; for "enabling the Albanian speaking
  community in UK to settle and fully participate in society".
Read an account of Luljeta’s amazing personal journey on the SSE website.

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Lucca Leadership

Interesting meeting with Tim Munden of Lucca Leadership today. They are an international organisation which runs week-long transformational leadership courses…

“…which enable young people of all nationalities and backgrounds to
discover their purpose, clarify their vision and develop the skills
needed to make change happen for the benefit of their communities,
nations and, ultimately, humanity itself”

Read more about their vision/approach, and their different programmes.

What struck me in our conversation was the common ground between their work and ours at the SSE. Using a project as a vehicle for learning, recruitment on the basis of values/qualities/life experience, diversity of intake, and the importance of reflection and dialogue. All makes me wonder whether programmes for social entrepreneurs (who could equally be called community leaders, or entrepreneurial leaders) would benefit from a greater emphasis on a transformational leadership
process. As the Lucca website puts it,

“It is an approach to leadership that creates sustainable solutions,
and avoids solutions that benefit some at the expense of others.”

Which could, in some cases, be a way of defining social entrepreneurship as well.

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