Social Entrepreneurship Monitor

New research out this week from the Global Entrepreneurship Consortium (no, me neither), namely the Social Entrepreneurship Monitor. It’s basically a subset of the London Business School’s more general research into entrepreneurship (based on surveys of the general adult UK population) but it has some interesting findings worth pulling out. The data occasionally appears very, well, general, and the definitions of entrepreneurship arguable, but here goes:

– rural locations may be more socially entrepreneurial than urban regions

– women are proportionately more likely to be social than ‘mainstream’ entrepreneurs

– those who are labour market inactive are more likely to be social entrepreneurs than mainstream entrepreneurs

– social entrepreneurs can become more disillusioned/disheartened as time goes on, leading the report to suggest that "policy needs to focus on maintaining and developing the strenght of attitudes amongst the population of social entrepreneurs, if the population of social enterprises is to continue"

– social entrepreneurs are ‘community-centric’ and rely heavily on networks and support structures for their work

– over half of (established) social enterprises are charities, with a third "not for profit", and small percentages of co-operatives and limited liability partnerships (are they not "not for profit"?)

– financing remains the central issue…

There’s more in the report, but some interesting stuff here, particularly around which groups are more likely to be socially entrepreneurial, and the importance of support to maintain attitude and motivation, as well as deliver knowledge and skills.

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Activist or Entrepreneur: the dual identity of social entrepreneurs

Paul Light’s ongoing research into social entrepreneurs (or, the chapters appearing on the blog) provides much of interest for those in the sector. The latest post discusses the dual identity of social entrepreneurs, which a US paper divides into "entrepreneur" or "activist" (Simms/Robinson 2005)

Their theory is that, although these two identities (and possibly others) co-exist in social entrepreneurs, they must decide which of them comes first. The hypothesis is then that those who choose the "activist" to be primary will end up creating non-profit organisations, while those who choose the "entrepreneur" to be primary are more likely to create for-profit organisations. This seems a bit simplistic (is it really a simple choice between "profiting from a problem or contributing to a solution"?) and it might be argued that there is perhaps more of a continuum with activist at one end and entrepreneur at the other….(which would dovetail with our view of social entrepreneurs operating across various sectors).

What is curious to me is that the authors of the paper, and Light himself, separate out social impact and financial independence:

"The perceptions of benefits and risk [for social entrepreneurs] are driven by very different
goals—i.e., income and financial independence or social impact and

Well, yes and no (on a day to day/short term basis) but the amount of social impact to be had will be directly related to the sustainability/ongoing financing of the organisation. So financial independence is directly related to social impact (the goals are twinned), and to separate the two in this way seems slightly simplistic. Ultimately, what is being talked about is the old mission matrix which has CORE MISSION to FAR FROM MISSION along one axis, and £LOW to £HIGH on the other axis. You then plot different activities/projects/opportunities against it, taking current situations into account.

The activist-entrepreneur continuum is an interesting way to think about that combination of social mission and financial independence, though…..

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Demos, Orange and Working Progress

DemosIt’s not often I find myself at the same event as Digby Jones, Director General of the CBI, but such was the case this morning at the launch of the Orange-sponsored Demos report, Working Progress, part of their Organisational Literacy programme. The research focuses on how young people and organisations (workplaces) can be reconnected, arguing that, currently, there is a significant and damaging disconnect between them.

While some of the findings might not seem revelatory to those working in learning and people development, there are some interesting findings and recommendations that are relevant to both the support and training for social entrepreneurs (who are often future employers and/or employees) and to the importance of values-led business in the 21st century.

– 88% of British employees think it is important that the organisation they work for is committed to living its values; only 45% believe that their employer does

– creativity and innovation are the skills that most business people think will be most important in 2010, followed by flexibility/multitasking, communication (of ideas), and problem-solving

– in 1983, 35% of people judged an organisation primarily by the quality of its products, while 15% judged it by its honesty and integrity; in 2006, the respective figures were 19% (quality product) and 21% (honesty/integrity) [NB – worth noting that profitability rose from 11% to 18% in the same period]

– organisations should recognise work-life balance as a skill (or set of skills) to be taught, and performance against that skill to be monitored as with other areas

– that peer-to-peer support and networks are increasingly important for current and future employees

– the Government should introduce a "skills portfolio" to help capture some of the learning, skills and aptitudes that are often not reflected in traditional qualifications

In social entrepreneurship terms, for example, we can point to our focus on making a practical project the focus/vehicle for learning (achieving those skills that employers want), on our emphasis on peer support and peer-learning networks, on our measurement of work-life balance as a skill that people need, and on the relevance and timeliness of values-led, more-than-profit organisations. The SSE, indeed, features as a case study in the research for its pioneering work with peer-led action learning and mentoring.

Demos/Orange were looking at this very much in terms of young people but, as was pointed out in the discussion, learning now takes place at all ages and in all areas, many of which are outside traditional educational institutions. So there are interesting lessons, perhaps, for learning providers considering how well we are supporting/training people not only to deliver on their own goals and establish their own initiatives, but also how well we are preparing them for the wider world at work.

Judging from this report, and our own experience, the answer would seem to be "pretty well". When one considers that employers will be seeking values-led, flexible, innovative, problem-solving, multitasking individuals, social entrepreneurs should have a rosy future, be they within or without larger organisations.

As for the event, Digby Jones inevitably caused a stir by banging on about numeracy and literacy, the need for efficiency in the public sector, and what the private sector can bring to the public and voluntary sector (without recognising the vice versa); his unanswered question was, with reference to work-life balance, "can we have it all?" The other speakers, including Kevin Steele, chief exec of Enterprise Insight [who had some big, hairy questions as well: What is education for? (discuss the elephant in the room!) and Does education take too long?] and Wes Streeting (VP of NUS), were inevitably somewhat overshadowed but the whole report made for valuable discussion and, at least on one table, pretty heated debate.

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Social Innovation Conversations

For the MP3-friendly amongst you: Social Innovation Conversations,
a collaboration between the Center for Social Innovation at the
Stanford Graduate
School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz School of
Business, and the Pittsburgh Social Innovation Accelerator. They’ve
launched with a re-broadcast of some Globeshakers conversations hosted
by Tim Zak, including David Bornstein and Jed Emerson.

It’s a podcasting channel for what they call
"cross-sector and multidisciplinary learning for social change", which you might call "conversations with social entrepreneurs". You
can read their full mission on the site, but it’s basically about dissemination and promotion of social innovations, knowledge, skills and models employed by social entrepreneurs etc. All of which is to be encouraged.

Sign up as suits you, and join the conversation.

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Entrepreneurs are born, not made? Second born maybe

According to US-UK research, our genes determine whether we are more likely to be entrepreneurial / likely to become self-employed. About half of an individual’s propensity to become self-employed is apparently from genetic factors, with the other half being made up of chance events or random meetings (though presumably there are people more likely to seize opportunities and take those chances?).

How did they find this out? By using identical twins as a means of research:

"researchers looked at whether one twin being an entrepreneur increased the chance of their co-twin becoming an entrepreneur.By comparing the difference in similarity rates between
identical and non-identical twins they are able to establish the
importance of genetic and environmental factors.
The similarity rate within the identical twins group was
greater than for the non-identical twin group which suggests that genes
are important."

The professor behind the research, Tim Spector, said that ""The research is important for business schools and
employers who in the future could identify ways of selecting those who
were most likely to succeed." The SSE already recruits on the basis of entrepreneurial characteristics, personal qualities, life experience and ‘knowing the market’ (aka being engaged with/understanding the community they are aiming to serve), so perhaps we are heading this way already. DNA testing probably a little way off, though….

Oh, and lest we forget, if you are a second-born, you might be more likely to be a better entrepreneur: check out this article which interviews Ben Dattner, who has a doctorate in organisational and industrial  psychology. Snippet:

"Second-borns have a lot of the classic entrepreneur personality traits: they’re creative, risk-taking, flexible, and more likely to embrace new paradigms than first-borns are. They’re also more relationship-focused, more concerned about fairness and justice, less academic and more interested in the international scene than their older siblings"


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