Friday round-up: flavours, Bill Clinton, social networking, and more.

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It’s that time again: Friday’s round-up of news and views…

– First off, nothing riled me more this week than this article in Third Sector magazine…if I had a pound for every time I read the phrase "Social enterprise is flavour of the month", then suffice to say we would have another revenue stream. Grrrr. You can see my rant underneath the article, but the end of it demonstrates the problem: what’s needed is to "provid[e] a clearer explanation of what exactly a social enterprise is
supposed to be and how third sector organisations can take up this model"
. First of all, we’ve spent years arguing over definitions…there is a government definition which is widely used, and an understanding that social enterprises trade and earn to a greater degree, utilise different legal structures (CIC, Coop, etc) and have differnet governance (often, not trustees). Secondly, social enterprises are part of the third sector: they are third sector organisations themselves. Thirdly, there are a spectrum of choices, structures and legal models for organisations to choose from (or develop into), so why phrase it in such ‘them’ and ‘us’ terms?  Cliched articles written from people who don’t understand the wider sector, or even the terms they’re using, are really not going to help in explaining things clearly, are they?

– OK, rant over, on to more interesting things; Bill Clinton’s been all over the news re. his philanthropic initiatives. Lucy Bernholz has probably given the best summaries: on Clinton Bookbay and Mycommitment.org . Check out this bit in the Guardian as well (on Clinton’s rich mates…)

– YouTube have launched a  Non-Profit channel (also related to Clinton Global Initiative).

Social enterprise: examples and links (US)

– Another potential revenue stream (see above) is the "if I had a pound for every time someone has told me about a new social networking site…." . All of them should read this article: Building a Social Networking Site is Not an Outreach Strategy. Go Laura at Idealware; I’m with you all the way.

– Too late for some, though: "What is Razoo? Social networking for changemakers…."

– Can’t find time to blog? [via Beth’s blog] Read How to blog without the time sink? (and use it as your back-up brain)

– UK-wise, Philanthropy UK have a new website, and it was good to stumble across Sal La Spada and the Institute for Philanthropy in an Observer supplement (a book on Money) recently.

– The Academy of Sustainable Communities have released their "Mind the Skills Gap" report about what skills are needed for sustainable communities. Worth a read.

– Heard of the World Entrepreneurship Summit? You have now.

Have a great weekend….

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Visiting SSE Liverpool at Blackburne House

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Our CEO Alastair and myself visited Liverpool SSE yesterday, to deliver a couple of sessions and attend a meeting or two. The students also gave presentations about their projects, which was an inspiring and enjoyable hour…lots of laughs, and lots of amazing people. [NB: my session introduced them to the SSE extranet, so their profiles should be up soon here ]. Areas they are working in range from a garden centre on derelict land to capacity-building Muslim women to angling for disaffected youth to improving school attendance….and many more; a really diverse mix from all over Liverpool. Already, the cohort has a great feel to it, and the bonds and friendships were clear to see.

Blackburne House, which runs the programme in Liverpool, is a fantastic venue for an SSE. And social enterprise and personal development run through its work like a stick of rock, making it a great partner and also a great source of inspiration for the students.

One little anecdote to illuminate the day, and the place. Our taxi to the station failed to turn up, and Sylvia (the programme manager) was trying to flag down a taxi. In the end, a local entrepreneur (who she didn’t know) called Steve offered to take us in his van, refusing any payment and giving us a concise summary about events in the city on the way. We made the train with time to spare, and in grateful return, here’s a plug for our impromptu cabbie’s business, Take A Flyer.

Chances of that happening in London? Slim to non-existent… :0)

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Risky (learning) business

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As the bus driver on the 94 was doing his Lewis Hamilton impersonation last night, my mind turned to the subject of risk, and how it connects to entrepreneurship/social entrepreneurship. Having survived the journey home, I opened my inbox to find an e-mail newsletter from the Future Innovators team at NESTA; and the subject? You guessed it: risk.

Of particular interest is the article by Bill Lucas, entitled "Learning is a risky business" which has interesting things to say about mistakes, learning and encouraging a culture of risk-taking. The latter is something which the UK is often viewed as being deficient in as compared to, say, the US, where failure is embraced (even celebrated) by entrepreneurs in all fields. Tim Smit of the Eden Project is often quoted as saying you should have at least three mistakes on your CV (except his word is rather stronger than ‘mistake’) but he’s a rare example of a British entrepreneur being open about risk, failure and learning.

I liked Dr Lucas’ three-step risk-taking: Ready (appraise courses of action by instinct & analysis); Go (give it a go) and Steady (learn / embed the lessons)….which bears some similarity to the action learning cycle which powers the SSE programme and other practical learning methodologies. He also talks about how to allow safe risks to be taken (in an educational context) which concentrates on role-modelling, peer support and learning. It’s also about confidence; as one article on entrepreneurs puts it, they should have "Enough self-confidence to take carefully calculated, moderate risks"

Googling ‘risk’ or ‘risk strategy’ will only take you into the frenzied world of near-professional board games, but there are some useful links and articles out there.

Risk is all: sample quote: "What risks can you not afford to take in your business? How will you ensure you actually increase the amount of risk you take?"

Risk in Entrepreneurship: "But even for the brave-of-heart, the reality of risk that comes with
that leap — when the last paycheck is left behind and life is reduced
to a single do-or-die mission — hits like ice water."

Low-risk entrepreneurship: "I do think that entrepreneurship is becoming exponentially easier over time alongside advances in technology."

Mindful Entrepreneur on Risk: "entrepreneurship should be part of everyone’s life in at least some way"

for Risk Assessment, you can see Business Link’s decent overview, or take the Risk Assessment Quiz!! (oh yes)

It’s an interesting topic to consider in the social sphere as well, given that (at times) there seems to be an inherent conflict at the heart of social enterprise….namely the quest for sustainability (aka less failure) alongside the need for more enterprise and innovation (aka more risk). A simplistic summary that might be, but one that could make for an interesting debate about how we measure "success" of the movement, and in creating a more inclusive and entrepreneurial UK.

Alternatively, if you want to think about risk on a bigger scale, here’s Stephen Petranek on 10 Ways the World Could End. Go careful….

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Friday round-up: non-profit web toolkit, bad (micro)credit, Hazel Blears, business plans…

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Before we head out for the weekend, the normal Friday round-up of relevant news and views, hints and links.

– ReadWriteWeb has a non-profits web toolkit; a touch US-centric, but useful nonetheless

– Hazel Blears gave a speech about ‘Confident Communities‘ at the recent DTA conference. Worth a read: she’s been a supporter of SSE ever since an early pilot in Salford, and has a genuine passion for local, community-led change

– The ever-reliably-readable Lucy Bernholz reports on why microfinance isn’t always good

Lots of blogged reaction to Anita Roddick’s life and work; see also this week’s issue of the Big Issue for more.

– Intelligent Giving cover the Northern Rock fallout, and how it might affect their charitable foundation / work

– A social enterprise trade association is being piloted in the South West….

– Socially Responsible Investment: if you don’t know what or how, this new website should help

– It has been a momentous (political) summer for the 3rd sector, according to one sector commentator

[also via VolResource] Big Lottery’s version of what is a business plan: useful intro; many more out there…

this American article from the SSIR newsletter (Stanford Social Innovation Review) acts as a useful adjunct / support for the Young Foundation report we discussed recently….all about creating "high impact non profits"

– [slightly offf-topic] in blog world, there’s what is technically known as a hoo-ha brewing, after some high-profile UK blogs were taken down by their ISP for things they’d written about Uzbekistan / one billionaire in particular….check out the huge amount of comment this has generated

–  Occasionally at SSE, we work with and support not social entrepreneurs, but serial social entrepreneurs; those who, according to this article on the Secrets of Serial Entrepreneurs, "ha[ve] a higher propensity for risk, innovation and achievement; [are]
less scared of failure. And they [are] more able to recover when they [do] fail.
"

Have a great weekend…..

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Guy Kawasaki and David Bornstein: social entrepreneurship

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Social entrepreneurship found its way being discussed in the blogosphere this week, largely via this interview between the widely-read blogger Guy Kawasaki (who’s always worth a read on general start-up stuff) and David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas. Although somewhat wedded to Ashoka / the star hero model, the book is an insightful and good read, and the interview is also well worth five minutes of your time.

For me, Bornstein makes a lot of sense on the core issues:

– social entrepreneurs differ utimately because of their primary motivation (aka the social mission)
metrics are more difficult in the social sphere, but reasoned, reliable judgements of organisations are possible based on a range of measurements (hard and soft) and the people involved
– that the movement is as much about wellbeing / change through organisations as in the activity/services they deliver
– there is increasing blurring and movement between sectors (I like his phrase here of people being increasingly "sector agnostic: they are seeking impact and looking for the best tools to do the job")
everyone can get involved: to take action; they just need to find their place in the scheme of things
– recruiting talented people and access to finance are primary, oft-recounted blockages
– social entrepreneurs, like entrepreneurs, come in all shapes and sizes…and so do their organisations
– social entrepreneurs are not heroic individuals, doing it all alone; as Bornstein puts it very well: "Entrepreneurs are successful only to the degree that they can bring
together other people with different talents and abilities who can, as
a team, build things they could never do apart. Entrepreneurs are hubs
or magnets: organizing forces. It takes many hands working together to
produce any significant change."

He’s also particularly eloquent on the potential wider impact of ‘the movement’, which resonates with our long tail stuff:

"There are many levels at which social entrepreneurship can and should
be encouraged. At its essence, the goal is to help build a society in
which many, many people have the confidence, skill and desire to solve
problems they see around them. The most important qualities in social
entrepreneurship are empathy, the ability to collaborate well with
others and the stubborn belief that it’s possible to make a
difference—which motivates and stimulates people to act."

Amen to that.

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