Innovation triptych: Exchange, Awards, Habits

1) One of the side benefits of working at SSE is that you get invited to be involved in some interesting projects, discussions and (potentially) partnerships. A lot of recent chatter has been around innovation, as we’ve tracked over some time in various posts (see the Social Innovation post archives), and SSE finds itself in the unusual position of being involved in two ‘innovation exchanges’; one, the Social Innovation Exchange, is a global initiative powered by the Young Foundation (website currently under re-construction, but sign up here in the interim) which aims to collect, connect, network and disseminate social innovations, innovators and innovating organisations.

The other, on which I’m also a guest blogger, is a government-funded Innovation Exchange, run by the Innovation Unit, Headshift and ACEVO. Its approach involves offline and online networks (involving the supply and demand side, and the investors…) and a programme to support fledgling innovative projects on particular themes. [Read a much more coherent explanation on the site]. One of these is ‘Excluded Young People’ and I’ve been blogging a bit about that (see my posts here; log in required; excuse dreadful photo) and drawing on the work of SSE students and Fellows. The site is starting to get going, and is worth checking out.


2) At a slight tangent, SSE was also judging the CAF Companies and Communities Awards the other week, in the Innovation category (there’s the link). The discussions with my fellow judges were interesting, particularly as we wrestled with ‘innovation’ in this context (not novelty, as is sometimes the case) and how much emphasis should be placed on track record and impact measurement in comparison. What is certain is that there is much significant activity going on in this area, where private meets non-profit, and that it goes far beyond ‘charity of the year’ or ‘greenwash‘ CSR. The shortlist demonstrated that genuine, long-term partnerships can make a big difference to both parties.


3) Finally, I stumbled across a post today about the seven habits of highly innovative people, and was struck how many of them apply equally to (social) entrepreneurs….So, if you’re persistent, uninhibited, risk-taking, like to escape, write things down, find patterns (and create combinations), and curious, you tick all the boxes. Or think outside them.

Share Button

Death by PowerPoint

I was at a conference a while back where I sat through so many dreadful PowerPoint presentations, that I considered setting up a PowerPoint training social enterprise on the side. Not that mine are paragons of presentational virtue, but these were the lowest of the low. My recipe for death by powerpoint is achieved as follows:

– give out a handout of your presentation at the start (so everyone reads it before you start)
– include lots of text on every slide (so people read it and don’t listen to you…unless they’re still reading the handout)
read the text out word for word (the text that the audience have just read on the handout and/or on the slide before you started speaking)

Then stir in some additional ingredients (sound effects, animations, unreadable fonts, background images) and leave to simmer for absolutely ages….as the person has not rehearsed and has no idea that they won’t be able to do 54 slides in 30 minutes.

Ok, rant over. But presentations are an important part of social entrepreneurs’ work these days (indeed, lots of people’s…), and it’s worth addressing this. Powerpoint is not a teleprompter or a data dump (or a support mechanism for you being nervous), but a means to an end: to allow you to communicate and, yes, sell what you do with passion. If it’s getting in the way of you communicating, engaging, involving, enthusing, attracting attention for you/your organisation, then you shouldn’t use it (or start to use it differently). Many of the most powerful presentations at SSE graduation events have been by those who simply spoke without any slides, and, despite advice to the contrary, the less successful ones often use more features of PowerPoint than I knew existed. [for those present, the one that machine-gunned the letters across the slide will remain with them forever]

If you have written on the slide the words you want to say out loud, you can probably remove them and replace with a one word heading. If you haven’t thought about how it’s structured (and how it looks to someone from the outside), then you need to. If you haven’t rehearsed it, it almost certainly will take longer than you think it currently does. If you’ve used all the colours of the rainbow (my personal weakness), you should pick 2 or 3 and stick to them. If you love ClipArt, get over it and use some proper photos. If you love bullet points (another personal weakness), go "beyond bullets". If you love "those curly fonts", change them to Arial or Helvetica or something readable from a distance.

There’s a bunch of resources on how to avoid "evil" or "really bad" powerpoints (people get quite passionate about this stuff) in the SSE bookmarks / current reading. Feel free to send in your own, and any horror stories to share in the comments….

This presentation, by contrast, is absolute genius:

Share Button


And so, it came to pass. Happy Social Enterprise Day everyone. There’s a whole load of things happening today, as I wrote at the start of the week. Couple more links to add about the Youth Commission for Social Entrepreneurs launching today, and this survey from SEC about how the public views social enterprise services. They are on a bus today travelling around to various places, handing out chocolate and coffee as they go: get moving with social enterprise, people.

See more here and here and here as well….and here and here (I could go on).

SSE is hosting an event with Stan Thekaekara today, as well as doing various talks and attending various events throughout (I believe our CEO may be hitching a ride on the social enterprise bus for part of the day).

The SSE blog, meanwhile, is spending the day interviewing the first potential Ashoka Fellows in the UK. Which is exciting, interesting and exhausting…and appropriate activity for the day.

Share Button

Breakfast with Cameron on localism

SSE attended a breakfast event this morning organised by its ever-active landlords the Young Foundation here in wintry Bethnal Green. This blog doesn’t really function till its second cup of coffee but made the effort to hear David Cameron speak about local entrepreneurship and accountability.

Geoff Mulgan of YF introduced by describing Bethnal Green as "one of the most rich and fertile places on earth" and mentioned several Michael Young-inspired initiatives, including "schools for social entrepreneurs". That’s us, folks. He also noted in passing that, whereas most politicians are boosted by an election, David Cameron is one of the select few to be boosted by a non-election….He was followed by Sheikh Aliur Rahman of the Davenant Centre, who gave his reflections on the local area, and their programme working with young people, Future Leaders.

Cameron started off by saying that Michael Young stood for "enterprise for social progress" and that he was "an institution builder", and that institutions help "formalise relationships for social purpose". This point he linked to his recent promotion of co-operative schools (dynamic, democratic structures to complement more commercial alternatives). He then moved on to more familiar territory: how the centralist state should be dismantled and abandoned, because our culture has changed: we are moving, he said, "into the post-bureaucratic age", with technology (eg Google Earth) liberating us and giving us power over our own lives.

This he related to democracy + local action, and how he wanted to "open up democracy" and see "customised solutions to local problems" and an "invigoration of local democracy". He made the interesting point that "local control works nationally" because "diversity strengthens the whole". Or, for you Latin scholars out there, ‘e pluribus unum’. What this boiled down to in practice was deregulation and greater powers for local government (re. schools, hospitals, police etc.). He also raised the prospect of doing away with various quangos (Learning and Skills Council, RDAs, Housing Corporation etc) to devolve their powers locally.

Then came the new initiative: the "democratisation of council tax", which involves doing away with capping and instead allowing a referendum if local councils want to impose large increases. Though some might think this would involve more bureaucracy / admin rather than less, this is intended to improve accountability and devolve power to people at the grassroots. (see here for more).

The theme of devolution was key: he referred to "triple devolution", a concept we’ve bandied around and discussed here previously, which means devolving power beyond councils to other local, community-led institutions and organisations. This is something SSE is in favour of: that "empowering" local people should mean "giving them power", which means devolving money to them and the organisations they lead and run.

What was missing from David Cameron, if anything, was the practical ways in which this would happen. As he himself said, a culture change is needed at local government level to trust third sector organisations and bottom-up innovation. But when questioned on this (by, for example, London Civic Forum, BASSAC and DTA, who were all in attendance), he could only say that we "need trust in the third sector from local government" and that they needed to be "encouraged" and that the "Compact hadn’t really worked". There was little practically to try and create that culture change, which, in many people’s experience in this field, means that triple devolution is more likely to stop at local government level and not find its way further down: a problem that will become of acute importance if even more considerable powers are devolved to councils.

So, whilst welcoming the overarching vision (his call for a "flowering of local organisations beyond local councils" very much fits with SSE’s long tail, for example), it would be interesting to know what practical steps and policies the Conservatives would employ to ensure this triple devolution, this true empowerment, takes place in the future.

Share Button

Monday round-up to start your Enterprise Week

Yes, gird your loins people, it’s Enterprise Week, with Social Enterprise Day taking place on Thursday. And what better way to start the week than with the usual SSE round-up:

– Final word for now on SSE student Sabrina on Secret Millionaire; other Fellows (thanks Dave and Catherine) point out that you can get to the episode via Channel 4’s On Demand section, though it takes 15 mins or so to set up and register with C4.

Rob Greenland pointed me to Mike Chitty’s post about the Benefits of Slow Learning. For all those that think  one-day workshops are enough:

"I think that very few managers would be able to absorb all of this
content in one day and then to apply it successfully. It looks like it
has been put together more for the convenience of the trainer than the
learner…..[…]…Learning something, putting it into practice and becoming comfortable
with it is important before trying to learn and implement the next thing".

Rob G. relates this to much current practice in our field of entrepreneur support:

"Intervene, at a time that suits the support agency, and look for a
quick response. VAT registration, high-growth businesses, five staff
employed in twelve months, that kind of thing. Instead of a more
patient approach, which is less resource intensive, lets the
entrepreneur develop at the pace that’s right for them, and produces a
long-lasting impact."

Amen to that….

–  As part of Social Enterprise Day, the Youth Commission for Social Enterprise is being launched this week (featuring SSE student Satwinder Singh). Meanwhile, in a Global Young Social Entrepreneurs’ Competition, SSE Fellow Nathalie McDermott is one of the chosen 100. (Current Ambassador Matt Kepple is another). Check out the full global list.

– I mentioned the 6 practices of high impact non-profits the other day. Adrian from UnLtd points out that a couple of related audio versions are available via Social Innovation Conversations here and here.

– Would you like to go to the University of the Third Sector? I’ll wait till the student union is established…

– On to Enterprise Week, here’s a selection of stuff happening:

– And finally, Social Firms are behind a song, nay, a rap to promote Social Enterprise Day. See Single Released to Social Enterprise Day to download the single on Thursday. The SSE blog has heard a sneak preview of the song (and you can read the lyrics via the link above) but no longer feels young enough to comment with any authority on the quality.

However, it does raise the thought in my head of a kind of Anfield Rap of Social Enterprise, with, say, Tim Smit freestyling over some dubstep, before a full-on rap battle between John Bird and Tim Campbell; with a Minister as MC, perhaps……

Have a great week: we’ll try and keep track of media throughout the week on the blog.

Share Button