Skoll Forum 2007: going international

Next week I have meetings here at SSE with organisations/individuals from China, Finland and Israel. Nothing revelatory in that, per se, but I think it’s symptomatic of a couple of things:

1) there is growing interest across the globe in social enterprise and entrepreneurship

2) the UK is at the forefront of this movement

OK, nothing revelatory in that either (!), but I think it’s worth dwelling on for a moment. Why? Well, the Skoll World Forum is coming up (see the Forum programme here), which provides a chance for international debate and discussion (and networking, of course) in the field, and to share knowledge and experiences with new people outside the UK scene.

The other point is that SSE will also be appearing on the fringe (the Orange programme) at Skoll, presenting on the long tail of social entrepreneurship. This basically discusses the need to scale up opportunities for social entrepreneurship involvement, as well as replicate ideas, scale individual organisations etc. I’ll post up a brief overview of where we’re coming from before we head to Oxford.

But what we’re hoping is that we can see how much of a UK-centric view this is, or how applicable it is to other countries. Is the support and finance available in the UK so far ahead of other countries that they would long (at this point) for star social entrepreneurs/enterprises like Muhammad Yunus or CafeDirect in order to promote the concept? Or does a grassroots, broad church approach appeal in terms of bringing wider benefits and tailored solutions? We’ll be looking for feedback to refine our thoughts and argument to have relevance beyond these shores…

The Forum this year focuses on social innovation, and features a whole range of speakers: from academics like Greg Dees to writers like Charles Handy, to practitioners like Yunus and Jim Fruchterman. Should be an event with a great buzz, and we’re already arranging meetings for when we’re there….If you’re coming along, then come and find SSE (and come along to our presentation on Wednesday morning); if you’re not, then we’ll endeavour to blog what we can from the event, as well as round-up afterwards….

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Friday round-up: microcredit, RED, leadership, Harvard et al

Friday round-up, and there’s a fair bit after inactivity this week:

– good Worldchanging post on microcredit and the ongoing debate about how effective it is; the argument seemed to be saying that entrepreneurship and enterprising people were needed to change things: access to finance alone was not enough (which is undoubtedly an argument we’d hold to over here as well); well worth a read, and a topic that is not likely to go away…

Intelligent Giving follow up on the RED campaign (after it got a kicking in the press); not sure I totally agree with their take, but difficult to disagree with: “If you like RED products, buy them, but don’t pretend you’re giving to charity. We’re talking pennies here…..” and they have some interesting information about the charity that benefits too….

– the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference has been happening; someone kindly rounded up those who were blogging from the event, though they did miss one or two other interesting posts. Both of which see progress or “the ball” moving forward….fake golden goose

– we attended the Third Sector Leadership Centre Provider Forum on Monday; we’re in their directory and they have an interesting interim report on action learning sets for third sector leaders (free registration needed); obviously we’ve been at that for a decade… ;0)

Yunus saves the world with yoghurt….

– …and We Are What We Do with a bag

On that bombshell, we bid you farewell for this week.

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Dragons don’t understand social enterprise

CNN visited the SSE this week, to learn more about social enterprise and entrepreneurship; they met several of our current students and sat in an expert witness session with social enterprise legend Colin Crooks of Green-Works. In discussing the sector, the movement, the history, the definitions (!) et al, we got right to the real water-cooler stuff as well: namely, that the Dragon’s Den five had totally rejected a “social enterprise” on the programme the night before, because “charity and business don’t mix”.

The episode in question is here, but sadly not the bit that includes the proposal in question (though you can submit a comment). A Senscot member has weighed in with his view on what happened. I confess to having missed the pitch through going to make a cup of tea, so it may have been unclear and sketchy and badly presented. But the reactions (which I did see) from the Dragons seemed to be that they simply could not grasp the idea of social purpose and business mixing. Which is bizarre, not to say near-backward: have five so-called cutting edge businesspeople not even heard of social enterprise? Not know who Jamie Oliver, John Bird and Tim Smit are? And their reaction was very strong, fake designer taschen kaufen as well….enough to make grown social enterpreneurs weep.

Anyway, a “dragon’s den” format is now de rigeur at all third sector conferences, but what the movement really wants is an equivalent on TV (I once suggested the Social Apprentice). Perhaps it would be too cute and fuzzy for good TV (bunnies rather than dragons?), but it also seems that the whole concept would need a massive amount of explaining. The mere concept of a social as well as financial return on investment might send them running down the stairs. Sustainability, pah! etc…

Or perhaps, once they were in a different mindset, it would be different. Duncan Bannatyne found no problem about giving money away on ITV’s Fortune programme, so perhaps he just needs to find a middle ground between the two?

Peter, Duncan, Theo, Richard, Deborah: love the programme, but get with ours.

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Fair trading, fair tracing

As a brutally strong coffee sits before me, I cannot let fairtrade fortnight pass without mention. There’ve been plenty of supplements and recipes and articles flying around the media this week. Most interesting for me was probably this morning’s interview with Penny Newman, the CEO of CafeDirect (in the Guardian). Interesting for the insight it gives into how the company has grown and evolved, and for their plans for diversification (international, new products, not-at-home market). This suggests that the direct retail in supermarkets is not where they see fast growth lying…although their new branding and products look more like Nestle and Kenco than the more aspirational, high-end brand of old (Machu Picchu and the rest). Like the logo though.

Penny also mentions towards the end of the article that she would like to mentor more social entrepreneurs. Certainly, the SSE Fellows mentored by her have benefited enormously from her experience, so we hope we can broker more such relationships in the future.

A final, related note on an idea that I ran across via the Doors of Perception conference taking place in Delhi: Fair tracing. The core of the concept is to use digital tracing technology to enhance the credibility fo the fair trade model. It’s a brief glimpse into the future of supply chains:

"At each stage of the product’s journey, information may be added and/or
edited and, if the information is stored digitally on the internet, may
be of various multimedia types. The ability to access this rich
information at the point-of-sale will empower the consumer to make an
informed comparison between competing products before finalising
his/her purchase."

[Worldchanging has commented on the idea as well, which is worth a read.]

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Wakefield caviar and caffeine fuel

It’s not often that social enterprise is mentioned in parliamentary questions so it seems only fair to mention it when it does. Here Ed Miliband responds to some questions from MPs, referring to the social enterprise action plan, Scaling New Heights. The reference to Wakefield caviar (which was surely a googlewhack till very recently) emerges because one of the MPs refers to a local environmental project in her area, with the Minister going on to say that

She is right about the great work that social enterprises do in
reaching out to the most excluded people in our society. The key is
that the state should replique montre continue to fund public services adequately, and
not use social enterprises as an excuse to abdicate its responsibility
in that regard.”

And this is followed by:

“Much of the income for the third sector comes from local government. The key thing is culture change on the ground, so that commissioners understand the role that social enterprises can play”

Which all seemed very relevant, having been beavering away on an Office of the Third Sector application which focused on diversity and change at the grassroots. This explains the reference to ‘caffeine fuel’, on which all those writing funding application survive till the deadline, and also explains why this blog has been deathly silent for most of the week….


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