Enterprising Solutions, cocktails and museums

A brief overview of the Enterprising Solutions awards which took place last Wednesday. Divine Chocolate was the overall winner (you can read about all the winners here on SEC’s website) with McSence, Haven, Women Like Us and Goodwin Development Trust also picking up prizes. Congratulations to all, and to the organisers for an impressively smoothly run event: no doubt their celebrations went on into the early hours (at least that looked where it was heading… :0).

The event was at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is an extraordinary venue….and not a little imposing. Nevertheless, there was a good buzz and an air of confidence about proceedings which meant that it didn’t overwhelm guests or overshadow the event. I’d spent the afternoon with the Ambassadors and they were pretty much all there, along with the new minister Phil Hope and all the usual suspects. I spent sometime chatting to Dave "Intelligent Giving" Pitchford and Cathy "Third Sector Research guru" Pharoah, who (combined) know more than most about the ins and outs of the charity world, particularly the funding and fundraising world. [Cathy actually came into our building last week to deliver a seminar on future sector trends, which I’ll try and write up soon]

Little else to report, really: I couldn’t possibly confirm the rumour that one prominent sector figure skipped the awards presentation and found him/her-self alone with all the booze; that would be scurrilous. Nor that the compere was far from being without compare… I can confirm that it was a successful event at a better venue (no popcorn at the iMax this year) which displayed the confidence of the movement, and that a good time was had by all….and no doubt many of you read further in the Observer supplement on Sunday. Of course, those of us who were going to York the next day (of which more soon) barely partook in any drinking at all….

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We are really spoiling you: ambassadors announced

As trailed at the end of last week: the Social Enterprise Ambassadors have been announced in full (check out the link). Great mix of people from across regions, sectors, stages of organisation etc….and some fantastic and inspiring people to promote the movement. Huge congrats to all those who’ve been selected…and also a hearty well done to all those who got through to the final 50: you were all great, and it was (as all judges say), an extraordinarily difficult task to whittle the numbers down.

Anyway, no doubt there will be more press and media to come (see here and here already), and the website has much more to come as well….but outstanding work by Tim + Claudia at Society Media to get it up and running so quickly. See SSE’s take on it here

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Friday round-up: Ferrero Rocher, Facebook, and Fellows

It’s Friday, it’s 6pm, it can mean only one thing: the weekly round-up of news….

– On Monday, the Ambassadors will be announced…watch this space for Ferrero Rochers etc.

– Here’s a big catalogue of measurement and evaluation tools and guides and kits and blah for the 3rd sector

– What are the top 12 nonprofit Facebook apps? These are. Now you can clutter your Facebook page with worthy stuff as well as pirates and zombies.

– If the entry before didn’t make sense, SSE Fellow Jude Habib is running a web 2.0 seminar (pdf) for third sector orgs…

– Apparently, there was some shenanigans in the world of politics this past week or two. Amongst the copycat and namecalling antics, the sector remained pretty much as was.

Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize, don’t you know…..

Good books and magazines for social entrepreneurs? Any suggestions? Happy to add to our SSE Links / Resources pages

– I missed this article about SSE Fellow Michelle Baharier’s Cooltan Arts project the other week. Great stuff.

– Inheritance tax isn’t the big property issue: estate agents’ (realtors, US readers) carbon footprint, that’s the issue. Which makes Pedal to Properties a work of genius.

On which note I bid you farewell and a happy weekend……

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Natural death for a new life; or why to walk your talk

No matter what interaction I have with SSE students, about evaluation, online stuff, replication, publications etc., only one thing seems to stand out for some of them: that I used to work at the Natural Death Centre. This did not, as one friend ‘jokingly’ introduced me at a party once, involve me "putting people down", but giving independent funeral advice to the public, particularly around ecologically-friendly funerals. It’s a wonderful, tiny organisation that deserves much more support; and it was a great experience working there.

I mention that because last week was the farewell / celebration drinks of a long-term volunteer at NDC, Billy. Farewell and celebration because, after over 5 years as a volunteer, he’s got a job at a funeral directors in Kilburn. Over the years, along with many others, Billy kept us going, sane, amused, caffeinated and, most of all, able to do what we did (as well as doing the majority of the crossword). What was great about the evening was also seeing three other volunteers who we’d taken on at the NDC: Jo, who is now a marketing executive at RNID; Paul, who works for HTEN in Hackney; and Mike, who now runs the NDC. All now fully employed in the third sector, along with Steph, my former colleague, who is now involved with an initiative called Bags Of Change (like a loyalty card crossed with a bag for life: check it out).

As I went home, it occurred to me anew that my old organisation embodied one argument we’ve been making about social enterprise/entrepreneurship: that it’s as much about the change that comes about through and within organisations as the change that is delivered by them to beneficiaries. Which is why scaling up social impact is not just about bigger organisations. The NDC, largely funded by sales of its own in-house publications, has helped thousands of people with independent advice and practical help over the years. But its impact has also been through its organisational values and culture: as Billy put it more eruditely than I could, "an empathy and understanding towards people" that extended inwards as well as outwards. And his journey (volunteer, publishing graduate, Helena Kennedy Foundation mentor, funeral assistant) is just one example of that.

We got a lot of things wrong at NDC (‘we’ meaning ‘I’) and learned a lot in the process, but one thing I do think we got right, and for which I claim no credit at all, is instilling a culture of support, of certain values, and of understanding, that remains to this day. Being sincere, genuine and authentic in the way you operate can bring benefits that are sometimes not instantly obvious; but sometimes, as at Billy’s drinks on Friday, they become all too apparent.

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Innovation Exchange launch

SSE was just at the Innovation Exchange launch (website launches for real on Friday) which was at NESTA. NESTA have decided to stump up £200k development cash for the InnovEx programme as well, which was announced at the event by their chief exec Jonathan Kestenbaum.

He was followed by Glenys Thornton, who talked of "relating ambition to the lived experience" and said many a thank you, as befitted her role as chair of the exchange.

Next up was Valerie Hannon, Director of the Innovation Unit (who, along with ACEVO and Headshift, are the three constituent partners). She explained the nuts and bolts of the approach and how it would work…namely 2 Innovation Networks (to start with) around particular themes (living independently and excluded young people) followed by 2 Next Practice Programmes to further develop ideas / projects. With a mix of investment, development, advice, challenge etc. One key point is the emphasis on the supply as well as the demand side (aka commissioners and funders). The two themes were selected because they were a) high up in public priorities b) had high innovation potential in the 3rd sector and c) had the potential for investment.

We then heard from 4 individual innovators.

Julie Dent talked about her work within and without the NHS (including, memorably, kimono-style gowns to ensure "old men’s bottoms" aren’t on full display). Her tips for success included the question of ownership and that more money may not be the answer.

Colin Crooks, of Green Works, discussed how they’d addressed market failure and how "accidental networking" had helped them achieve what they had. in classic entrepreneurial style, he also put a call out to invest in a new strand of work….

Hilary Simon, of the Southwark Pensioners Centre, emphasised the need for long-term planning and sustainability, and how a people-centred approach could help develop services from the bottom-up.

Then Neil McIntosh of CfBT explored the difficulties of remaining innovative whilst selling services to government. The answer? Being true to your mission (and, crucially, having the resources to allow you to stay true, scale up, be bold, and do research). He also had a direct message for government to get their people moving in the right direction…

Which led neatly on to Phil Hope, Minister for the Third Sector, who I found quite engaging (first time I’d seen him speak) and sound. He had a nice line about having spent the weekend delivering 6,000 leaflets, "somewhat unnecessarily as it turned out" to open, and then continued from there. Nothing revelatory, but detailed various policies and programmes (social investment bank, 3 yr contracts, full cost recovery) and drew attention to the 3rd sector’s history of innovation, which he put down to its independence of mind, value-driven purpose, and dogged optimism. He ended by saying that 3rd sector orgs could now choose to be a campaigner, a deliverer or an innovator….or a combination of all three.

It’s an exciting initiative, but everyone was keenly aware that everything seems exciting at this point…the devil will be in the detail of the delivery. It was a good turnout, with a good mix of people (government, funders, support agencies, second tier policy networks, think tanks etc), so join the website on Friday (no doubt a link will appear on the blog) and watch the space….

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