Ethical business and business ethics…

Social ROI blog updates us on the progress of the RED campaign, the big one that sells specially branded products (phones, credit cards etc) in order to raise money for AIDS charities. Apparently, it has only raised $11 million in the past year. Obviously that is a substantial amount of money, but given the companies/celebrities involved, it’s not really much at all. Particularly given the amount of money committed to international work on AIDS worldwide (in the many billions). I wonder how much might have been raised if all those companies and stars had donated 1% of their annual income instead of putting it on the consumer…..probably a little bit more.

Meanwhile, the private equity storm continues. As mentioned here previously, there are a few links with the social enterprise world, via Permira and Ronald Cohen/Apax (who founded Bridges Community Ventures/Unclaimed Assets), for example, so it will be interesting to see how it all pans out. Interesting because the primary issue seems to be around transparency and accountability to stakeholders, which is what social enterprise is, at least partly, all about. And because the backlash could be seen as part of a wider consumer and user-led movement demanding greater accountability and ethical backbone in companies. It could, of course, also be seen as old-fashioned union-led action against the paymasters. Take your pick…

Finally, it’s been difficult to open a paper without Sainsbury’s or M&S banging their fairtrade credentials drum…..and M&S has started up an ethical investment fund, which surely puts to bed any remaining questions about their commitment to this area. They clearly believe, simply, that this is the way forward…how many more will follow?

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Social enterprise podcasts and downloads

Normally Friday tends to be "round-up" day on this blog, meaning I would cover such delights as new research on social enterprise governance, my interesting meeting with Eli Malinsky from the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI Toronto?), the Acumen Fund talking about where it gets its applications from, and even, if I was immodest, Rob Greenland praising us on the Social Business blog.

But today is podcast Friday, so I’m going to attempt to round up some of the listening I’ve been doing on my "length-of-the-Central-Line" commute, both general podcasts to subscribe to, and individual episodes to download:

– First up has to be Social Innovation Conversations, which I’ve mentioned here before. Though sometimes just recordings of speeches, these are unfailingly interesting, even when skewed to the US side of things. Good shows recently include Diversity in Fundraising and Introducing the Encore Career which traces the rise of the Purpose Prize in the US. One from some time ago features David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World.

– Social Enterprise Coalition in the UK have rolled out some podcasts (with the help of an SSE Fellow I think?) as well recently: see Social Enterprise Voices, and also the audio excerpts from the Voice conference. If I had to choose, I’d listen to Tim Smit which is at least entertaining and dynamic….

– Better than listening to conference speeches after the event, though, are properly produced interviews and shows; one I ran across recently was SmallBizPod which has a nice unpretentious feel to it, and a relaxed informality which is endearing. Normally it is commercial business, but the last episode focused on social enterprise, even interviewing the marvellous Colin Crooks of GreenWorks. It’s a good introduction, particularly because the host is clearly learning as well….I hope for more on social enterprise soon (Alex, give me a call….!)

– I had high hopes of a Demos podcast of an interview with Tim Drake who’d written a book on ‘making a difference’, but found it low on quality and insight, and high on babble….still, if you want to know if you too are a ‘difference deliverer’, then try it out… (NB – maybe try the book instead; it was all just a bit too self-help-y navel-gazing for me…)

–  On a more academic plane, the INSEAD Knowledgecasts are pretty good, if commercial business-focused. No.2 is quite interesting on that  old chestnut "are entrepreneurs born or made?" and a programme that focuses on the first 100 days…

– the BBC have also hotted up their available downloads; for me it’s all about Mark Kermode’s film reviews, but (focus on work….) the In Business programme has also started to make programmes available for download. Most recently, and of direct interest, is a programme about Anil Gupta and his grassroots innovation network, HoneyBee. Amazing man, amanazing story. They also recently did a story on social enterprise, but this is only available to stream at present, so I haven’t listened to it yet (the curse of the open plan office)

– finally, Nick Booth at Podnosh and its Grassroots Channel, are doing some interesting community-related stuff in Birmingham; good for keeping the feet on (and an ear to) the ground, and Nick is also a web 2.0 wizard, so also features interesting pieces on online widgets and development, like this one from Beth Kanter on fundraising via the internet…

Happy listening, and do let me know of any other relevant podcasts. SSE’s podcast bookmarks are also available for perusal….

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Yunus for President!

Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize winner and Grameen micro-credit legend, has announced that he will enter politics….with a new party entitled "Nagorik Shakti" which means, appropriately enough, Citizen Power. Read the Bangladesh Daily Star’s take on the announcement. It has long been speculated that he would eventually make the move from social entrepreneur to politician, particularly given the problems of corruption in the country and his own credibility and strong reputation. It will be interesting to see if the impact of his work at the grassroots can translate into a successful political movement….

It is interesting to see these stars of social entrepreneurship seek bigger challenges, and more direct ways to change things for the better (see John Bird as London Mayor also, and, as mentioned a few posts ago, Andrew Mawson going to the House of Lords); it will be interesting to see if it is a trend that continues as people seek figures from outside the mainstream political world who are perceived to have more credibility, more principles and have been seen to ‘do the job’. Or is it a reflection of the frustration of these individuals that they have been unable to make real systemic change from outside that same system?

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Can blogs boost your (triple) bottom line?

As another social networking site for entrepreneurs came to my attention, I got to thinking again about the effect of new technology on the organisation and its impact. I blogged previously about why social entrepreneurs and social enterprises should blog (or, indeed, shouldn’t) and Hugh at Gaping Void has got me thinking about it again.

His post about Using Blogs to Boost the Bottom Line has some gems in it, and some great recommendations of other blogs to read (several members of the blogerati, including Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble). A couple of points stood out for me:

"10. Blogs are a good way to make something happen indirectly….

11. Passion. Authority. Continuity. Without those three, you have nothing."

Both are absolutely spot on: already, some great connections (international, blog, sector) have been made as a result of this blog and hopefully will continue to do so. The latter says what I was trying to say in my post above, but much more succinctly. You could replace these three words with Energy. Credibility (or Knowledge). Commitment, but it all boils down to the same thing.

Hugh also makes some further points about the relationship between blogging and the bottom line (it’s not direct selling, it involves failure and experimentation, there’s no easy way to ‘sell’ it to your boss, and so on) which are well worth a read. All of which got me thinking about the relationship between blogging and the triple bottom line.

The same financial points apply as per Hugh’s post, but certainly the social mission can be furthered by easily, regularly communicating from inside an organisation, and providing a service and information of use to others. Raising the profile of your organisation, particularly when mission-driven, can have an effect in ways that are difficult to measure but no less real for that: for us, via those indirect connections, via recruitment, via credibility and so forth (welcome you new subscribers!).

As for environmental, well I guess it is greener to blog than send all these musings by post…but then much of it wouldn’t have been written without this technology being in place. And, as John Thackara reminds us over at Doors of Perception, "even virtual worlds have a carbon footprint". Apparently a Second Life avatar uses about as much energy as the average Brazilian (human)…..So if you don’t know what a Second Life avatar is, you’d better send a postcard and an SAE….

Finally, because they’re always worth including, here’s a Gaping Void cartoon of relevance to all you social entrepreneurs out there…. [click to expand]


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Arise Lord Mawson: real peer learning

Somehow in the post-Valentine’s haze, I managed to miss the fact that Andrew Mawson founder of the Bromley by Bow Centre and co-founder of the Community Action Network is one of six new non-party-political peers to be announced by the House of Lords Appointments Commission. Read the announcement here.

Presumably it’s faux-ermine for social entrepreneurs…. ;0)

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