Friday round-up: entrepreneurs, ethiscores, e-stuff, etc

SSE is going on its residential this coming week: 90+ people descending from London, Liverpool, Fife, East Midlands, and Ireland to Dartington in Devon for a three-day learning session and networking. So don’t expect too much blogging before Thursday (although if I get a connection / time, I’ll try). Final swift run through news / links of interest…

– NESTA are running a series of articles from entrepreneurs (sponsored by BVCA: venture capitalists) which asks them that all important question, "what do you wish you’d known?" The first is from Peter Denyer (pdf).

– We often discuss scale on this blog, and the very few examples of successful scaling in this movement. So what happens to those ethical businesses who get taken over by the big players? Here’s an interesting article examining exactly that, and giving them an ‘ethiscore‘ for before and after takeover….

– More on technology and how online and offline need to work together: ‘Is the information society a community catalyst or community liability?’

– On the same subject: Netsquared UK might be in the offing (web 2.0 meets social innovation?), although what the "third sector is broken" means remains a mystery to me. Lots more written about this on the bloggers that Nick Booth links to….

– Apples are Square. Meaning, apparently, that leadership qualities have changed: from ‘control and compete’ to ‘service, humility, transparency, inclusiveness’. Check here for more.

– Much mention of the third sector in Parliament recently (my TheyWorkForYou alerts have been working overtime). VolNews points us to the debate about the third sector review, which apparently lasted 5 hours, and plucks out some highlights (Community Champions fund, or lack of therein, amongst them).

– Provocative title, shocking statistics, important debate: Philanthropy doesn’t care about black people

– And finally, the Times have an Enterprise Network...who will offer you advice and wisdom.

Have a great weekend…

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FOOTSEY 100: social enterprise in God’s country

"Welcome to God’s country", said one delegate to me over lunch, and I did feel welcome indeed. I’ve been meaning for a while to write down my reflections on the Footsey 100, officially the largest Social Enterprise Trade Fair in the UK. Held in York, at the racecourse, this was the 6th Footsey (the ‘sey’ of which stands for social enterprise yorkshire) and it has increased in profile and numbers each year. This year, over 100 organisations were represented, with nigh on 6-700 delegates depending on who you spoke to.

Generally, the event had a great dynamism to it. Whether this was because it emphasises the ‘trade fair’ rather than ‘conference’ aspect of the event, or simply because there is so much going on in the region, I can’t say. But the buzz was palpable, and it was great to see the range of organisations and ventures on view: social firms, student-led initiatives, local-authority backed projects, regional CDFIs, CICs, development trusts of all sorts, shapes and sizes. Practitioners far outnumbered support agencies, funders and policymakers, which makes a big difference (learning, perhaps, for other large scale social enterprise events who shall remain nameless)…and the focus was on business and networking, not lectures.

Highlights for me? The Dragon’s Den, which is now seemingly a feature of every social enterprise event, was done as well as I’ve ever seen it. Genuine cash on the table (from Adventure Capital Fund), heavy metal music to whip up the atmosphere, and a presenter/host who took great (almost unhealthy) pleasure in announcing "THE NEXT VICTIM" at many decibels. The panel grilled effectively, and the pitches were varied and interesting (a dog-walking social enterprise was a new one on me)….congratulations to Pit Stop, who won the day for their re-use/regeneration of a plot of land for their alternative educational activities.

I also enjoyed running into Mike Chitty  of the Progressive Manager’s Network, who’s doing some really interesting work at the Goodwin Development Trust (who’d won an Enterprising Solution award in London the evening before; amazing organisation simply getting things done). And Chris Hill and Kristy Swift at the Camberwell Project…I’d met their colleague Todd Hannula (and linked to his blog a few times), and it was great to hear about the building-related projects and activities they’re developing. And much more networking besides….

It was interesting to note that, despite the size of the event, no politicians were present (though Ed Miliband appeared through the power of video). But, in a sense, this was in keeping with the day: the event embodied a maturing, vibrant regional movement, and was a celebration and recognition of that. It needed no political figure to endow it with authority or credibility on the day.

Lowlights were few and far between, although the tannoy was capable of deafening a rhino at 50 paces at times, and lunch briefly threatened to turn into a scrum before the doors opened. But those were minor blips on a really encouraging, enlightening day. It provided a very different view, and refreshingly grounded contrast, to the awards the previous evening in London. This movement, though, encompasses and includes, in all regions of the UK, and is all the stronger for it.

Finally, big congratulations to the organisers, primarily New Start, and sponsors, who you can read about here. SSE will be back there next year: look forward to seeing you there.

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Wednesday round-up: patients, Plunkett, yoga and innovation.

Swift mid-week news round-up:

– SSE Fellow Paul Hodgkin’s organisation Patient Opinion (which we wrote about here) has won funding under NESTA’s Mental Health Innovation stream. Read more in William Heath’s post here.

– The Plunkett Foundation are running the 7th Rural Social Enterprise Conference…should be a good event: they are an organisation that shares a similar mindset to SSE on social entrepreneurship. Nov 28th-29th in Cambridgeshire

– The first CIC in Northern Ireland is a yoga provider; something you might not have seen on the front page….

– Gordon D’Silva, the social entrepreneur behind Training For Life, is on TV tonight, talking about saving a building in my old stomping ground of Brent in North-West London. BBC1, 7.30pm, Inside Out (viewable for 7 days after transmission online)

– The Innovation Exchange website has kicked off with some most, ahem, excellent guest bloggers.

Do we need leaders? Discuss….

– Here’s a great list of environmental blogs, if you are ecologically-inclined….


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I Am An Activist: Anita Roddick’s memorial

My boss and several other people from the movement are heading off this evening to a memorial event for Anita Roddick, which will involve a march and a celebration under the banner "I Am An Activist".

It’s an interesting word to choose, and very much in keeping with what she was about. As she famously said: "Do something. Anything." Got me thinking about the time when someone said to me that who I was describing sounded like a community activist, not a social entrepreneur; as if there were clear boundaries between the two, and well-defined archetypes of each. A great number of SSE students and Fellows are, at a fundamental level, activists. After all, a key characteristic of an entrepreneur is that they are prone to action rather than reflection: that they, basically, do stuff.

In this article related to the memorial event, Simon Fanshawe rails against those who claim to be doing their bit by clicking their mouse or going to a concert. And I have to agree largely. There’s a huge amount of  what is called "Slacktivism" going around, currently perpetuated by large scale events with the word Live in or by countless social networking sites. Facebook won’t solve social ills; nor will MySpace or Bebo or the next grand social networking site to come along. Nor will a big concert. What they might help do is connect, network and fund activists and social entrepreneurs who are doing things; not passively consuming them. I’m as much a lover of new technology as anyone, but let’s not kid ourselves that this blog, podcasts or groovy new web 2.0 sites are going to change anything without offline activities that inspire, identify and support activists committed to making change in the real world. People who really can say "I am an activist" and know it’s true.

"This is no dress rehearsal. You’ve got one life, so just lead it and try and be remarkable."
Anita Roddick

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Swearing reduces stress and builds the team

I’m a sucker for oddball bits of research that somehow get funded and then make their way through to the real world (check out previous Ig Nobel winners for some gems like "Sword Swallowing and its Side Effects" and "Why woodpeckers don’t get headaches"). Last week, a marvellous bit of leadership / workplace-related research came to light, with the title of "Swearing at work and permissive leadership culture: when anti-social becomes social and incivility is acceptable".

Basically, the research says that letting people swear can both reduce stress and also improve a sense of solidarity in the workplace. As this news item reported, the study stated that:

"Employees use swearing on a continuous basis, but not
necessarily in a negative, abusive manner. Swearing was [seen] as a social
phenomenon to reflect solidarity and enhance group cohesiveness, or as
a psychological phenomenon to release stress"

Obviously, this isn’t encouraged in front of customers (or, one might add, trustees / directors). As the Guardian adds somewhat needlessly, "But great care is needed. Swearing that is discriminatory is out.
Employers have a duty of care so that staff have a reasonable working

Needless to say, the SSE office is blasphemy and expletive-free.

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