Research engine

Increasingly in my role here at SSE I am tracking bits of research and policy that are flowing from different outfits and areas (and countries). And, while I haven’t had much time to pore over them of late, here are a couple that I thought were of particular interest:

The Social Intrapreneur: A Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers (pdf at end of article); It’s from Sustainability, whose stuff is usually leaning towards the corporate / US / big business version of social entrepreneurship, and I guess this report is a logical extension of this. Their stuff is always very good and thought-provoking though, so this makes it worth a read. We’ve often played round with the idea of social intrapreneurship here, although as much in a ‘large non-profit’ as a multinational….but, either way, entrepreneurial individuals within organisations setting up new initiatives and projects for social benefit. Different challenges to starting from scratch, different benefits….but also much that is shared. An area to revisit, I think.

Hitting the Target, Missing the Point: How government regeneration targets fail deprived areas is from the New Economics Foundation, and seems incredibly timely to me. Indeed, no sooner had I written something like "DCLG should aim to learn from previous / current regeneration initiatives such as LEGI" in a policy document than this lands in my inbox. Looks very interesting, particularly as it is rooted in practical work in the St Helens area (which has LEGI money: the Local Enterprise Growth Initiative).

I’ve yet to read it in full, but the general message seems to be that concentrating on outputs like job nos., enterprises started etc doesn’t capture the full benefits of such initiatives. It’s not a surprise to hear NEF calling for more sophisticated, thought-through measurement…but this one could have a big influence at at time when DCLG is looking at its regeneration objectives and infrastructure closely. Certainly, SSE has found that its outcomes and impact range far and wide: yes, jobs created, organisations established…but also increased political engagement, decreased isolation, greater community cohesion, improved relationships (!) etc…..

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Shine unconference: a 2.0 event

Many moons ago, I wrote in an application that I was going to do live blogging from an event for grassroots social entrepreneurs, and create a publication (possibly online) out of the presentations / narratives emerging. And now, in the form of the Shine unconference (why haven’t you bought your tickets yet?), it’s coming back at me, in quite an exciting way.

I’ve been talking to a few of those in the know (David Wilcox, Simon Berry, Alberto Nardelli) about the best ways of utilising all the new tech available in as coherent as way as possible. We’re probably going to look at something similar to what Collaborate 2008 did: a simple platform that allows various technologies (twitter, qik video, slideshare, blog posts,, flickr et al) to be aggregrated and connected. It’s not about an owned space, but about a light framework to facilitate all the connections, and provide a way through the information.

We’ll also be using shared tags: a new one for me, but if you tag anything with shine2008 in any of the places above, then it should work nicely in bringing us all together [via Simon B’s advice, I’ve also discovered using hashtags and twitter to create a miniblog, which was a new on me]. The twitter to follow, incidentally, is and we’ll also be cross-linking with the various Shine groups on Facebook and UnLtdWorld.

Like the event itself, the hope is that this will help make the event as participative, interactive and user-shaped as possible. As well as sharing and disseminating news / info / opinions of interest to as many as possible.

More on this soon….

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What is social enterprise? animation

Just a brief animation to end the week, courtesy of SEC and Inside Job productions (itself a division of Media For Development, established and run by SSE Fellow James Greenshields). Enjoy:

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Your Chance to Change the World launch

Just a brief note to say that I attended the launch of Craig Dearden-Phillips’ book, Your Chance to Change the World this lunchtime. In proper disclaimer fashion, I should say that SSE is formally endorsing the book as a good and practical guide for social entrepreneurs, particularly for those in the early stages. [SSE Fellows reading this: contact me for a negotiated discount!]

The reason we agreed to support the book is that, like SSE programmes (which are the antithesis of classroom-textbook-teacher approach), it is practitioner-led and peer-led, not just in terms of being authored by a person who walks the walk (Craig founded Speaking Up and has seen it through a fair rollercoaster ride to its current position), but also in terms of containing nuggets of advice and experience from other social entrepreneurs (including SSE Fellows Luljeta Nuzi, Roger Wilson-Hinds and Simon Fenton-Jones).

Simon was at the launch, along with more recent SSE Fellows Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa and Cerdic Hall, SSE champion / friend David Gold, and former SSE Director of Learning Matthew Thomson (now at LCRN). As that reunion went on in one corner, my eyes scanned the room, and it was a good turnout: Phil Hope said a few words after Craig and Debra Allcock Tyler (DSC‘s CEO), and there was good government representation from OTS, DCFS and others; + sector-heads Owen Jarvis (from Aspire UK), Bergin O’Malley (from SEC Ambassadors) etc….

All good stuff, and we wish DSC and Craig all the best with the book: Craig is a really good, and talented guy, and it’s nice to see someone nice have their day (and his mum looked chuffed too ;0).

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Storytelling in the modern world

Storytelling seems to be a crucial part of how social entrepreneurs operate, develop and communicate, so I’ve been meaning to write up this session from the Skoll World Forum for a while (that I posted about before), but haven’t been best to decide how to do so; looking at my notes is just a bunch of quotes…but then I thought, maybe that will provide some sort of narrative. Here goes, with all due apologies for paraphrasing and bad note-taking. The people speaking, hereon shortened to initials, were:

  • Ken Brecher, Executive Director, Sundance Institute
  • Cara Mertes, Director, Documentary Film, Sundance Institute
  • Walter Mosley, Author, The Thingitself Inc.   
  • James Orbinski, Ph.D., of Medecins Sans Frontieres / Rwanda
  • Annie Sundberg, Filmmaker and Writer, Break Thru Films
  • Bill Strickland, President and Chief Executive Officer, Manchester Bidwell Corporation

KB: "storytelling is a way of thinking about things, about the meaning of things, not the value of things; storytelling is a seach engine; it is a form of disguise and dialogue; stories are a way of finding what the questions are, not giving answers"

BS: "use storytelling to communicate and opportunity…and a possibility"

WM: "if somebody knows something is true, they will take an action….; all stories told are fictionalised (edited, changed) but truth is not the same as ‘facts’ "

AS: "always interested in the story behind the work, the personal story….again, not about a ‘factual’ truth, but one with emotional resonance; always thinking: ‘what journey do you want to take people on?’

BS: "It’s the passion behind the words that gets it sold"

CM: how to "move from telling a story to becoming a story"

JO: (quoting Hannah Arendt): "the first political act is to speak, so stories matter"

WM: "the problem of making heroes in stories so large…that people don’t associate with them"

BS: "you don’t have to be anointed to do this work….but have an awareness and an obligation to act upon it"

JO: "there is a real problem: the risk of heroisation"; views "responsibility as the ability to respond", not in terms of obligation

WM:….and "the story is how you understand that responsibility"

AS:….and getting responses: "continually wanting to invite someone in…and giving them space to do so"

BS: using "art as a language, a vocabulary to communicate: a balance sheet doesn’t get it done"

WM: "a lot of stories fail; most work, most art, is a failure"

BS: "we have no special privilege to be raised up or celebrated: it’s about how I celebrate others"

AS: important to "get rid of the heroics"; humour has an important role

KB: [great anecdote about how his father-in-law worked on the Burma railway and said that ‘you survived if you kept your sense of humour….the Dutch perished’]

WM: "winning is a notion that doesn’t belong in this kind of work"

JO: "what we do matters, and you can only do if you live….and I’m going to die living"

[responding to questions now]

WM: "the mistake of wanting to talk about the hero…best to understand the point of view opposite from you, [which gives] much more chance of resolving the issue"

CM: no perfect solution; "carrying the burden of having to fix it will paralyse you"

JO: "don’t get trapped in these utopian narratives….these are lies; but do engage as a human being and as a citizen"

WM (on measuring impact of stories): "as soon as someone says ‘I can measure that’, you’re in trouble"; "fiction is always closer to truth than non-fiction"

KB, quoting JO: "stories: we find ourselves in themm make ourselves in them, choose ourselves in them….we’d better choose them well"


There was lots more here, and lots to pick out: about heroisation and the risk of utopian narratives (which I’d connect to various other discussions about transparency, authenticity, superhero myths and so on), about the power of stories and passion to further what you do, about the relationship between truth and facts, about responsibility (response-ability), about humour and enjoyment, about stories as journeys (of questions), and about humanity.

The above might seem a lot of words, a lot of sentiment, but it was absolutely compelling and relevant. For me, James Orbinski was an extraordinary communicator, and his words carried great weight, whilst Walter Mosley seemed to slice through to the key parts of the topic. I hope that, from some of the above (and maybe watching the video via the link at the start of this post), you might find what Walter Mosley called "the nuggets, the glimmers of hope" to keep telling your story.

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