Should social entrepreneurs and social enterprises blog?

Have been collecting a few pages recently about why blogging (and Web 2.0 type-stuff generally) is good/useful for (some) non-profits / social entrepreneurs / social enterprises….and I promise this isn’t just to get the boss off my back ;0)

1) TechSoup (a great resource in itself) has an interesting article with four non-profits giving their background to becoming bloggers….relevant points include:

– figuring out how blogs will add value to your clients/constituents (organisational needs must drive the technological ones; these are means to an end)
– they are an easy way to keep  content fresh and relevant….but only if the blogger(s) keeps content fresh and relevant, which is one of the main challenges
– it can be therapeutic (!) to share and relate experiences, but it also helps if you have a reason to blog (debate and advocacy as well as information)
– they can build a sense of community (and reach new audiences)
– travel and event blogging are two proven uses of the technology
– not just a tool for organisational promotion / informatio provision, but also can be used (privately) as an archiving or minuting tool…

2) 10 Ways Non-Profits can use Blogs by Britt Bravo is a good introduction as well, which adds to what I’ve pulled out above. Some of her points include:

– it can be a good way to involve staff and volunteers (particularly ‘virtual’ volunteers)
– it can provide a place for resources and information FROM constituents, as well as to them (i.e. we write about SSE Fellows and their work, as well as information about social entrepreneurship….)
– a place for the community/stakeholders to voice their opinion
– and, of course, to reach potential donors / investors

3) Beth’s blog has lots of useful information; just scroll down the left-hand side of her blog for lots of useful links / introductions / explanations of, RSS feeds, blog-starting etc…well worth a look. One post I found from her links was Weblog Strategies for Non-Profits which has some good generic stuff and advice, and how (adventurous) organisations might want to take it to the next level (eg. give weblogs to trainees and teach them how to self-document)

4) 12 reasons why UK businesses don’t blog argues against each of those reasons in turn, thus giving you 12 reasons why businesses should, including

– blogging = SEO (search engine optimisation); i.e. it will bring more traffic to ALL your IT (public website etc); aka "Google loves weblogs"
– it is not just a US thing (even if they’re further ahead…as with all the links above)
– they are EASY to set up….why not trial? and so on…

5) Blogs are not the only fruit is an excellent article not only about blogs, but about why other web 2.0 stuff is useful. Posted by the Headshift people, who created the new Demos website. Although written a while ago (almost two years), it is still relevant and gives a good overview of where we are at, and what you might consider.

6) Also from Techsoup, Marnie Webb details 10 reasons why your organisation should start a blog. Much of which we’ve covered above, but further points include:

– you can become a trusted information source in a particular area
– a more personal voice that can engage people "on a more human level"
– you can use a variety of media very easily (even more the case now with Flickr / You Tube, Delicious et al around)

7) Marnie also points to an ‘old’ article (2003 is old, people) from NonProfit Quarterly entitled "What’s a blog and why should non-profits care?" It’s slightly dated but a good starting point if you’re beginning from scratch. Another simple overview is provided by Nancy Schwartz: Should your non-profit blog?

8) David Wilcox’s Designing for Civil Society is a great resource and a blog worth reading on this subject (he’s recently been writing about going beyond blogging to buzzing); check out his non-profit category which covers much in this area, and sign up to his feed for thinking at the forefront of social networking, knowledge and tech-design + partnerships…..

9) Another TechSoup article (yes, the US are ahead of us, although NCVO’s ICT Foresight project are trying to catch up a bit, as is the ICT Hub….+ the Media Trust), this one on the wider phenomenon of these people-centred web tools: What is Web 2.0 anyway?

10) Finally, ending on a podcasting note, check out this page for nonprofits considering their own podcasts (they whys and hows), also available as a podcast.

There’s plenty more around, often from links from the articles above, but these should give a fairly good introduction. All of the above bring out key points: blogs, podcasts and the rest are just tools, new ways to communicate, so don’t just get on board for hype; understand why you are doing it and how it fits with your overall marketing and communication objectives. On the flipside, if you do think it can make a difference to your organisation, and have thought through how and why, it is easy to set up and start writing. What is more difficult it to keep that commitment going forward, and meet the challenge of posting relevant, interesting, informative, entertaining material on a regular(ish) basis…If used effectively, though they have to be tools that social entrepreneurs and social enterprises should take into consideration, no matter how focused they are on running their organisation and project delivery. Focus on communication is also crucial.

Ultimately, what is good for businesses is good for social entrepreneur-led organisations of all types as well and, in some areas, more so given the different groups of stakeholders that third sector organisations answer to.

Next time, 10 reasons why we love lists ;0)

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Dartington, Eden and round-up

Have just returned from the annual SSE residential in Dartington, an extraordinarily beautiful place which has many ties to our history, as Michael Young spent many of his formative years there, honed his entrepreneurial skills, and remained involved for many years afterwards. Dartington also has under its auspices several different enterprises on site (see the home page above under Departments), including Research in Practice and the Schumacher College, which makes it a unique place for social entrepreneurs to network, learn information, and get inspiration and encouragement.

The students from various SSE schools in the network also went to the Eden Project for a witness session from Tim Smit, and a visit round the project itself. Inspirational stuff from the entertaining and charismatic Mr Smit, drawing out lessons from his successes (and failures) that are applicable no matter the size of the enterprise involved. The Tinkerbell Theory (if you get enough people to believe in something, it will happen) is a favourite, as is the "accept every third inivitation" rule: building a network outside your normal world….and allowing serendipity to find you.

Vaughan Lindsay, the CEO of Dartington Hall, also spoke about strategy to the current SSE cohorts, and had much to communicate around strategic thinking, the importance of a unifying vision, and how to turn around an ailing or troubled organisation. He also had interesting things to say about how organisations which never have to be entrepreneurial themselves (which was the case at Dartington when the Elmhirsts were throwing money at it: $1 billion in today’s terms; or an economic atom bomb, as Vaughan described it) becoming unfocused, less driven and wasteful.

All good stuff and, most importantly, the different social entrepreneurs from across the country coming together to discuss, inspire, share, and build closer relationships for the future.

As I’ve been away, a few things to mention in a round-up, too:

– UnLtd are going away on an International Learning Journey; two SSE Fellows, Michelle Baharier and Nathalie McDermott are amongst the awardees heading away, along with some external people and 4 UnLtd staff……hope they’re offsetting the carbon ;0) UnLtd’s own Richard Alderson will be leading the blogging as they go….

– Social Enterprise London has some new guides

– There is a free health-related create a social enterprise event on December 1st in Manchester

– An interesting podcast on the social entrepreneurship landscape in the US, but of relevance to us all (via Social Innovation Conversations)

– Also from the US, an update about what will be an interesting article (by Jim Fruchterman and Jed Emerson amongst others), entitled "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Risk-Taking Expansion Capital for Social Enterprise"

– Finally, Steve Bridger recommends non-profits have a ‘buzz director’; am changing the business cards now….

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There’s a (vaguely) interesting debate about CICs going on at the moment, in the pages of Regeneration & Renewal + Social Enterprise Magazine (forthcoming)….basically, some picking over some of the clauses in the memorandum and articles of the CIC structure, namely:

1) The requirement that the chair have a second vote in the case of
hung decisions

2) The requirement that ‘a director who is an alternative director
shall be entitled in the absence of his appointer to a separate vote
on behalf of his appointer in additional to his own vote

The point being that these clauses could, in order, 1) raise questions over the co-operative, solidarity nature of social enterprise and 2) a risk to good governance/self-responsibility [NB – I’m summarising heavily: see Adrian Ashton’s full piece on Social Catalyst’s blog]. The CIC regulator’s response (pdf) can be boiled down pretty much to "that’s not really that big an issue, but you’re not the only person to raise it and, seeing as they’re not really used or consequential (particularly the alternative director one), we’re going to recommend that the DTI consider removing those requirements". Again, this is heavily summarised, but you can get the whole story from the pdf.

Personally, I’m with Todd on this one (don’t obsess, move forward); as I said in a recent post, "the less time spent debating these (minor) internal issues and the more spent delivering on the promises the better."

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SSE Fellow activity: website launch and No. 10 dialogue

Massive backlog of things to post about at the moment (a backblog, maybe?), but here’s a couple of pieces of news from an SSE Fellow and a current student.

– SSE Fellow Dave Pitchford‘s web-based initiative, Intelligent Giving, launches today; congrats from all here, and make sure you check out the site, which is a new, independent guide to charities for the donor….should stir up things in the VCS potentially…

– Sahra Digale, who is part of the current London cohort, has been mixing in some interesting political circles. Earlier in the year, she attended a No. 10 Dialogue event (photos here) with the PM on the subject of engaging with muslim women. A report based on the dialogue is now available, and has started some interesting thinking  around Muslim women and social enterprise….See the report and the feedback (pdf) at the Women and Equality Unit site, and the Women and Work Commission report as well…

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