Divine, not Ferrero Rocher….

As Thor mentions in his farewell post, the SSE hosted the Ambassadors programme yesterday. Always good to see all these amazing people: such a diverse bunch with diverse opinions, ideas, interests and organisations. I won’t repeat what Thor says in terms of what the day was about, but was a good day with a positive vibe. Clearly the programme is already having an effect on the profile of those involved, and gaining them access / giving them influence to promote the movement.

I had the graveyard slot, introducing the blogging (and why we’re using them on this programme), and thought the powerpoint I used might be  interesting. Having done a session with our students recently about how to avoid death by powerpoint (which started with the laptop not working), I tried to listen to my own advice. Here’s the presentation, as inspired by GapingVoid and 10 ways to a killer blog:

Also, finally, a huge thanks and sad farewell to our intern Thor, who’s been with us for a month that has flown by. Thor now heads back (via home in Norway) to St Olaf College in Minnesota, hopefully having enjoyed the experience here at SSE, and full of ideas for what could happen over there. We’re really hopeful that the links both with Thor and St Olaf will continue and develop over the months and years.

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Ambassadors day and goodbye

The last days have been quite busy here at SSE. The Ambassadors came to Bethnal Green yesterday for the second gathering of the group since the programme kicked off this fall. SSE hosted the session and Alastair did a bit about how people can learn from the Ambassadors’ journeys, and how peer learning can be embedded in the programme. Later in the day Nick introduced the nuts and bolts about blogging. From the view of the audience, it seemed that the group enjoyed learning about our philosophy and it really hit base with some. And for those of you who have seen Ali and Nick in action before, you know they can be quite enjoyable to learn from!       

?WhatIf! was also present and James Baderman adeptly handled the co-creation bit, while nef introduced the evaluation part of the day. The day seems to have sat well with the whole group and they all seemed to leave in high spirits and positive about the coming months! This day was sort of the apex of my internship, as today is my final day with SSE.

After a month here in the Young Foundation complex, I think both SSE and I part ways on a positive note. Now I will go back to Minnesota and St. Olaf College to further research how to embed social entrepreneurship into an academic institution, without losing the value of "learning by doing". It will be interesting to see how different the US sector is from the UK, but I look forward to these new challenges that surely will present themselves in this process. What I first and foremost will take from SSE is the importance of the grassroots social entrepreneurs – their efforts slowly push society on a grander scale towards progress. These people may not always scale up or be famous or get honoured by awards, but they are still real and they still cause real change. How this matches with the strong individualistic culture in the US will be interesting to find out, but it’s a crucial question, I think. 

For now, adios.

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Friday round-up: Gates, Cotton, Black, and Schwartz.

Few more items to round-up from another exciting week in the world of social entrepreneurship….

– I’d been meaning to blog about the Economist’s supplement on CSR this week (which I’ll try and come back to), but then it was superseded by this piece on social entrepreneurs. Well worth a read: related, as it is, to the Schwab forum in Davos about the movement, and to the book Pamela Hartigan and John Elkington have written on the subject: The Power of Unreasonable People.

SSE were represented in Zurich (not by this blog, sadly :0) ), and were happy to see Ann Cotton, SSE Fellow, get one of Schwab’s five World Social Entrepreneur awards. Congratulations to Ann and, as she would say, the entire team at CAMFED. Read more here.

– At the big daddy version of Davos (the World Economic Forum), the big news was Bill Gates talking about his concept of ‘creative capitalism’; you can read the whole article in the Wall Street Journal: my summary version is "companies should create businesses that focus on building products and services for the poor, thinking innovatively about the poorest and bottom billion".

– Closer to home, we must report that Liam Black, one of the foremost social entrepreneurs of his generation, has left Fifteen. Non-acrimonious according to reports, and the sector will no doubt be paying attention to what he does next: a book and a new business idea are on the horizon….

– Rod Schwartz has a good post about corporates and ethical purchasing on the Catalyst Fund Blog.

– Somehow, I missed this before: the first Office of Social Entrepreneurship opens in the US, in Louisiana. See also "America Forward", pushing the movement to the various presidential candidates…

– Voice 08, I think I mentioned before….looking like it will be the biggest and (hopefully) the best Voice conference so far. See if you can spot the Coalition’s promotion of it on their website ;0) SSE will be well represented, including our Liverpool SSE staff and students….hope to see some of you there.

CAN Mezzanines have got their 100th customer, and a potential fourth venue…congrats all round

– Scotland has mirrored England’s Office of the Third Sector by merging its charities and social enterprise teams. It made sense here…I think it makes sense there too.

– The OTS themselves are seeking organisations who’ve actually used a Social Return On Investment methodology to measure their impact. See here for more details and who to contact.

– SSE welcomes all the Ambassadors next week, and we’ll blog about all of that and how it goes: an amazing bunch of people to bring together….

– And finally, this made me chuckle: for those of you with little desk space; the collapsible home office

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Dartington, Second Voice, Internet-Free Day and Steve Lawrence!

Four weeks of immersion into the world of social entrepreneurs go quickly, especially here in Bethnal Green. Just when I’ve gotten used to the tube rush in the morning, the tea routine at SSE, meeting new and brilliant social entrepreneurs virtually every day, then the month is almost over.

I do still have a  week left here, but it will surely go by fast with the SE Ambassadors coming in next week for a training session, the block program having their monthly classes, and finishing up the work I’ve been helping out with here. In the past week I had the chance to go down to Dartington Hall and see the place where Michael Young first found much of his inspiration for his great work. I would highly recommend taking a trip down there, magnificent place!

Another interesting event I was able to attend was Tom Donaldson’s presentation for the Young Foundation staff about his Second Voice device. Although not yet completely off the ground, something tells me we’ll hear more about this product in the coming years.

As a side note, keep an eye out for Nick Temple on BBC World today, where he will be representing the Global Ideas Bank about Internet-Free Day.

Last, but not least, we’re fortunate to have a visitor here at SSE this week. All the way from Australia, Steve Lawrence has come to study the school’s concept first-hand in order to get a real sense of how SSE works.Steve, a veteran in the sector and very much a social entrepreneur himself, founded Work Ventures about 28 years ago. Do check out their site: an amazing organisation. During his time here so far, Steve has sat in on a few witness sessions, met students and staff, and is very optimistic about the prospects for the SSE methodology overseas.

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The Mawson Chronicles (part 2)

Recently, I mentioned in a post the article in the Guardian which featured an excerpt from Andrew Mawson’s new book, The Social Entrepreneur. He critiqued New Labour pretty strongly, and this prompted a response the following week in the same paper’s Society pages, both from the current Minister for the Third Sector, Phil Hope (see here) and in a response from Lynsey Hanley, who is the recent author of a book on Estates.

The minister largely rebutted the critique of government, and detailed some of their activities in the field of social enterprise, saying they were constructive rather than destructive. Hanley’s response trained its sights more on social entrepreneurship itself, and had a sideswipe at the Bromley-By-Bow-Centre on the way. The crux of her argument is in the following two paragraphs:

"It will take an avalanche of involvement, commitment and money to
convince people living in places like Bromley-by-Bow that their lives
will change. No matter how many new enterprises "the social
entrepreneur" gets off the ground, such an approach is piecemeal. A
landscape gardening business, for instance, is not going to become a
major local employer; neither is a dance studio or a hairdresser’s.

not expected in wider society that everyone should want to set up their
own pottery business, so why should it be used as a model for
transforming poor people’s lives? The idea of social entrepreneurship,
while appearing to generate a third way between the state and the
market, is no better than a charity-sector version of Dragons’ Den if
it is presented to entire communities as "the only way" to do things."

It’s an interesting debate, and I found myself agreeing both with parts of what Mawson wrote and with Hanley’s response. I think both found themselves at extremes in order to make their point, with Mawson giving off a slightly top-down arrogance (this is the way to do it, government doesn’t understand) and Hanley throwing out the baby with the bathwater (social entrepreneurship won’t solve much; physical regeneration is the key).

My response ended up in the Guardian letters page yesterday, so here’s what I wrote:

"Lynsey Hanley is undoubtedly right to point out that social
entrepreneurship is not the right approach for all regeneration, nor a
panacea for all community problems (Comment, January 16), but she risks
throwing out the baby with the bath water. Social entrepreneurship
should not be construed as something "exclusive", or something imposed.
Indeed, it should provide an opportunity for people from all
backgrounds in all areas to contribute to a wider change.

experience demonstrates that, in tandem with interventions from
government and physical regeneration agencies, social entrepreneurship
can help transform communities through job creation, increasing skills
and confidence, and meeting unmet needs. Not a cure-all, agreed, but
more than a spangly sticking plaster."

So there you go. Hope to review Lord Mawson’s book at some point, when things settle down a bit here (aka never).


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