The Bubb enters the fray…

Just a quick note to say that Stephen Bubb, legendary CEO of ACEVO has entered the (non-profit) blogosphere, starting with a suitable low-key post with hardly a name dropped….oh, ok, maybe the odd minister or two…and the Queen. Couple of sideswipes at others, talk of a dog and we’re away.

Anyway, promises to be an interesting read, if it continues regularly and, more seriously, it’s good to have the organisation that represents leaders in the third sector showing a bit of leadership in this area……. Check it out here.

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Congratulations to 40+ new SSE Fellows

So another 40+ social entrepreneurs completed the SSE programme at the London School on Friday, and celebrated that fact at our largest ever Fellowship event at Coin Street’s fabulous new neighbourhood centre. With so many new Fellows, the event was split into two separate rooms, before coming back together for the customary drinks, food and networking. Each person is given three minutes for their powerpoint presentation (rigorously enforced…) to talk about themselves, their project/organisation, and (occasionally) a bit about how the year at SSE has been for them.

I only saw the ‘weekly’ programme presentations, but can honestly say that they were all superb, and feedback from those in the other room was that the ‘block’ programme was of a similar standard. Most valuably for me, it was a huge reminder to me why I sit in dry policy meetings or extended discussions with investors and councils and RDAs about expanding the SSE network: simply to give more people like this the opportunity to develop themselves and their idea to fruition. I was asked to provide some ‘unsung hero’ examples for an article the other day, and it is an easy task when faced with such a group of people.

I could have picked out any number of highlights, and I’ve listed all the new Fellows below (do check out their pages / sites), but here’s just three: Genevieve Dowokpor, who runs Youthology, and showed great poise and class in giving half of her time over to some of the people she works with (later, she would announce that she’d raised £28,000 per year for 3 years from a philanthopic fund); Esther Ofora, whose personality lit up the room and whose passion engaged everyone; finally, Will Rogers, who spoke powerfully from the heart and moved the audience with his emphasis on telling his true story (and helping others do so).

And that seems like an appropriate theme for the day: over 40 different true stories of change, of challenge, of (tough) choices. I look forward to seeing all of them continue to write and live those stories as SSE Fellows over the months and years to come.


Block Programme Fellows:  see here for all personal profiles or project websites linked below

Olukemi Akinruli – Nous Aussi
Mark Doughty – Living Well with Arthritis
Beth Barton – Healing Futures
Sule Elkatip – Talk Turkish CIC
Lucy Hooberman – Mentoring Worldwide
Jim Pope – PACT: Prisoners Academy for Creative Training
Sabrina Ben Salmi – The Mobile Single Parents Project
Duncan Law – Transition Town Brixton
Jacqui McIntosh – H. E. A. D. for Black Youth (heritage, education, aspiration, development)
Cerdic Hall – HeartSounds
Sarah Wang – Creative Intelligence Agency Ltd
Kate Ryan –
Amanda Roberts – Bud Umbrella
Zoella Freeman – Fun Edu Tainment
Andy Gibson – School of Everything
Lauren Craig – Thinking Flowers?
Andrzej Garus – Primus Personnel
Orode Faka – Infinite Arts and Media
Des Powell – Tracks Of Our Life / Youth Music Initiative
Andrae Palmer – Ground Up Development
Surya Turner – Suryaco Ltd: arts and personal development
Marian Spiers – The Photosynthesis Project
Andrew Walker – Southside Young Leaders Academy


Weekly Programme Fellows: all individual profiles, or click on links below where possible

Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa – Catch 22 Magazine
Winnie Williams – Halisi
Fatima Khasimi – SMILES
Jacqui Flynn – Raina’s World
William Rogers – True Story
Ike Onubogu – CLUE Academy / Generation Xchange
Micol Carmignani – training programme in radio broadcasting
Leon Pearson – VegZed
Puck Markham – Community Money CIC
Genevieve Dowokpor – Youthology
Moses Okello – Musa House
Rosa Goncalves – Kidbrooke CIC
Joan Ferguson – diabetes awareness  / support
Esther Ofora – ECHO Regeneration Consultancy
Rachel Nabudde – Learning Continues
Juliet Challenger – Living Works
Nnamdi Edauemi Dime – Positive Pastimes UK
Oleander William – Creative Lifestyle
Jo Dempster – Global Youth
Satwinder Singh – Renaissance Foundation

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Kids Company: Sex Pistols or the Clash?

Last summer, maverick Kids Company founder Camilla Batmanghelidjh launched a media campaign to achieve further government funding for her organisation. My post at the time ended with the words "Ultimately, we’ll see how it turns out; I’d imagine they will get
another 3-year government funding package, particularly given their
work hits one of the key priorities….But I wonder if
the long-term effects of this move might not be wholly positive".

Sure enough, last week it was announced that Kids Company was going to receive £12m over the next three years; one organisation amongst five sharing £27m (44% to Kids Co.). Which is no doubt good news for Kids Co and the other four organisations (if not the other 85 who submitted an expression of interest), and signals a real investment in delivering appropriate services to young people across the board. (It also means that Camilla’s threat to strip in Parliament won’t happen).The reason I’d written that "the long-term effects might not be positive" was because I felt that this was not a sustainable way of working for the sector: as someone put it at the time, should we all enlist Max Clifford, rather than fill out applications?

Interestingly, Craig Dearden-Phillips of Speaking Up (one of the other funded organisations) has written a blog post which reflects what I imagine to be a wider view from the youth sector: it’s titled "Why Kids Company Excite Me….But Scare Me Too", and gives a real insight into those views, so I’m going to quote a couple of chunks of it:

"While part of me rejoices at an exceptional character like Camilla
facing down Government, part of me is a bit unsettled by it too. Should
a talent for PR and platinum inside-connections get you this quite this
much money? A lot of people are privately spitting feathers. Yeah,
sure, some are jealous but others just feel this kind of largesse to a
small organisation serving a few hundred kids across a few postcodes to
be grossly unfair. And they do have a point: How, I wonder, does a
community group on a council estate in Hull closing its doors in April
feel when they see Camilla playing the government (and, indeed, the HM
Opposition) like a salmon?"

Craig goes on to tackle their approach to impact measurement, replication, funding and, of course (and related to all of these), founder syndrome:

"My final point is about how KC needs to redefine the role of Camilla.
KC is the creation of its brilliant founder who has unbounded
commitment and energy. To get out of the starting-blocks, the drive and
hands-on approach of someone like her is absolutely necessary. Beyond a
particular point, however, it is damaging. Once out of the baby phase,
leadership needs to be shared-out, the entrepreneur needs to step into
an outward-facing role and the `grown ups’ need to be allowed to get on
with the serious business of running an operationally and financially
sound organisation. Believe me on this point because I have got form!
As a Recovering Founder, I know the pitfalls of `Founderism’. From the
bits I have heard from people who have been at KC in the past, the
organisation shows all the signs of Chronic Founderism. If KC is to
grow and help more kids in more places, Camilla needs to start a Twelve
Step Programme for Founders – now. I can recommend a good one…"

I won’t add much to that, as I think it speaks strongly enough. We will see what happens in three years’ time and whether, as Craig puts it in his conclusion, Kids Company "do a Sex Pistols – and crash and burn in a self-indulgent heap. Or, like
the Clash, evolve into something incredibly special and lasting".

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UnLtd World: voyage of discovery?

As I mentioned recently, I attended the UnLtd World launch recently, which was held in a dingy nightclub in a road tunnel by London Bridge (if the intention was to make us feel slightly seedy / ‘underground’ on our way in, then it succeeded!). I was keen to attend, because I’ve been following its development ever since a very early meeting about the concept almost a year ago.

Certainly, in the rash of web 2.0 / third sector projects, I think it has as much chance of success as anything. Like most judgements, this is based for me on the product but, equally importantly, the person. Firstly, the site is very usable, pretty intuitive and with lots of useful features, specifically designed for use by social entrepreneurs (resources, relevant groups) or to be interesting to them (shoutbox microblogging, Q&A debates etc). It seems to be gathering momentum, although (and this is one caveat), it’s difficult to tell if you don’t add friends….(sounds like a dense point, but ways into the information other than through friends is crucial: I’m beginning to find some of these).

Generally, I feel positive about its chances, and the second reason for that is about the person leading it, Alberto Nardelli, who has insisted on its openness and usability by others from the start. Though ‘closed’ in that you have to register, it is open in terms of its structure (APIs, feeds etc) and that ethos is written through Alberto and the site like a stick of rock. I remember at the original discussion, someone said that it was not about being "King of the Hill" anymore, but building "the hill" (being it even) for others to use and interact with. Though at the moment (particularly given the name etc) it seems like more the former than the latter, I think we will see more interesting uses of this ‘hill’ moving forward. This is where it gets interesting for SSE, in that we can work with Alberto and his team to think about how we best interact with / use / pull from / feed into / re-brand the hill to our own (aka our students and Fellows’) purposes; I’m meeting him about this on his return from SXSW.

So I’m pretty positive and will hopefully have more to write about this soon. My solitary "But?" is a version of one that was rather brutally expressed in a comment on the Guardian blog’s piece on the site:

"More web 2.0 candyfloss. You could surely do more for your community by
getting up off your arse, getting out from behind the computer and just
doing a few hours community service."

Now obviously this sets up a rather unfair and untrue either/or scenario (either they’ll use UnLtdWorld, or they’ll do something in the real world), whereas most of the people signed up are already engaged in real-world projects in one way or another. But we do have to think about where resources are best expended to the furthering of social justice, of social change. I get as carried away by the new tech and geekery as anyone else, and don’t want to be Luddite, but I do think there is a rise of slacktivism and what might be called ‘hands-free philanthropy’.

This is a wider point than just UnLtdWorld. At the two most recent events I’ve been to, I’ve found out about three new web-based philanthropy / social networking / social entrepreneurship initiatives….and there is a real difference between an existing SSE Fellow or UnLtd Award-winner using these sites to further practical ends on the ground, and a whole load of well-meaning people putting shouts out to each other and debating their favourite films. Or clicking a couple of buttons and keeping a healthy distance from all that poverty and disadvantage. It must come down to impact (UnLtdWorld’s Research Lab (log in required) looks like an erstwhile attempt to pre-empt this) in the end, and the most effective way of using human and financial resources to achieve an organisation’s (or society’s) goals.

Ultimately, web 2.0 sites such as this are (incredibly powerful) tools to facilitate things to happen, for changes to be made; they are not the change themselves. At the risk of a bad extended metaphor in reference to the title of this post,  that’s what’s written at the top of my map whilst charting a course through the ever-changing, somewhat choppy waters of new technology on behalf of SSE. I hope UnLtdWorld proves a useful port of call.

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A ray of Sunlight

Ambassadors are starting to blog (hoorah), mostly with some introductory posts about who they are and what they do. Great post up today from Peter Holbrook from Sunlight Development Trust which gives a window into their world of diverse, community-based services and products. Here’s his abridged history of Sunlight’s growth and development:

"Our journey goes something like this (abridged):

1. Understand the problem and identify possible solutions
2. Build a common vision with others
3. Consult in a meaningful way – check your assumptions and revise your vision – ‘action research’  works well
4. Get money – we got ours from the lottery
5. Get more  – we got more trusts and government regeneration funding
6. Yep we’re still short – we’ll need twice as much as we thought we might need.
7. We grew our aspirations by working with partners – keep as many useful people and partners with you as possible.
8. Don’t be afraid to lose some people and partners along the way, especially if they’re nasty, unhelpful or miserable
Get lovely staff, volunteers and supporters – check us out – we do have
lovely staff and volunteers – probably the best in the whole wide world.
10. We got going – doing really good stuff – check out our website.
11. Crikey people like us!  We’re getting loads of awards.  The PM is coming to visit!!
12. Yikes we’re running out of money!
13. We need more money
14. What’s all this about social enterprise?
15. We’re doing social enterprise and making some money.
16. No one is telling us what to do with our earned money – much better and more liberating than boring old grants.
17. Goodness me… we’re still here (just) and err….growing."

Such a great (and realistic) view of how these things develop (particularly points 4, 5 and 6), though it obviously underplays the impressive work that Peter and his team do to make all this happen. Good honest stuff. Read the post (and the other posts) for more, and start commenting.

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