Thursday round-up: 2gether, 2 winners, 2-pennorth

Quick round-up; am in Belfast tomorrow at SSEI so won’t be an end-of-the-week trawl.

– Enjoyed my one day at 2gether08; mixed feedback, but then that’s what you get with a mixed crowd, I guess…and a mixed line-up; networking was great, even if the social media-meets-social good crowd is a realtively small and incestuous one. Do check out the site for video of the sessions and speakers: there was a lot there….include myself and Cliff from UnLtd now in full technicolour video apparently….

– At the event last night, they announced the New Statesman New Media Award winners. Check out the list here, including two SSE Fellow-led/involved organisations, Patient Opinion and School of Everything. Congratulations to Paul Hodgkin and Andy Gibson (and the rest of Everything), as well as all the other nominees, which included SSE Fellow Nathalie McDermott for the excellent SavvyChavvy

– Am not avoiding talking about this, but easier to check out previous posts, or my comments on Rob’s blog for my two-pence worth of views….

Doing very nicely by doing good: the Economist’s take on microfinance making macro profits

– Room to Read founder John Wood featured in the Sunday Times; interesting feature on an amazing organisation

– Lots on social enterprises in the health sphere and pensions….check it out on Third Sector et al. You’ll be glad to know you can TUPE yourself over. For nurse-led stuff, you’d do well to check out Entreprenurses (and their recent 5-part podcast), the fount of all knowledge and expertise on the subject

– Finally, self-referential link news: this blog got picked up by New Start (who also have a decent article on ‘accidental social entrepreneurs‘) and, halcyon days indeed, Social Enterprise Coalition‘s Media Monitor….

Share Button

We’re in it 2gether…

Currently at 2gether 08, a Channel 4-backed technology-meets-social purpose type event here in East London (about 10 minutes walk, handily, from the SSE office). I’m helping out Cliff Prior from UnLtd (as I mentioned to someone earlier, the Debbie McGee to his Paul Daniels) in his mapping social entrepreneurship session(s).

The event has a nice vibe: wristbands a la festival, different spaces, plenty of coffee. I’ve only been in the session I was being scribe in, but feedback would seem to be mixed on the session content. The techies and geeks and philosophers seem to have plenty to ponder / debate / discuss; the (social) entrepreneurs seem to have less in terms of action-focused stuff or content that can help move their organisation forward….beyond the networking, which is where most value from these things come, as ever. Nice to remake connections with the social reporting team from Shine: Paul Henderson, Darragh Doyle, Ben Matthews et al

Where the event is great is the amount of interaction / material online, powered and co-ordinated by social reporter-extraordinaire David Wilcox, so would encourage you to take a look at all of that….including video etc. I’m retiring to a quiet corner to do some work before the next session…………….

Share Button

Is mission drift better for your bottom line?

One of SSE’s strengths over the past decade or more has been its adherence to both a central mission (supporting and developing social entrepreneurs in order to etc etc) and a central product (long-term action learning, practitioner-led, and peer-networked programmes, involving a variety of different interventions). This has given the organisation clarity of focus, and a well-refined, improved and robust product offering: a proven methodology that is replicating around the UK (am just back from Penzance!).

But the flipside to that clarity and focus is that it can affect flexibility, the ability to change with the times and, to an extent, the ability to seize a varied range of opportunities. This isn’t totally the case with SSE, as our work has, if anything, become more and more relevant over time….and the programme appeals to a wide range of audiences. Nevertheless, I have been frustrated recently looking at other organisations who, seemingly, go for anything vaguely in this sector….decisions that are clearly powered by pound signs, not purpose.

When doing Myers-Briggs or Belbin-type team analysis, a key person is the ‘values holder’…the person(s) who is principled and helps keep an organisation focused on its mission. The person who will discuss and debate with those who are pushing for a more diversified / entrepreneurial route. Ideally, those debates end up at a healthy central position between the two. But there are a few organisations for whom the values holders seem to have (literally) left the building. Or whose lack of clarity about their product / specialism is actually beneficial because it means they can shape themselves (or a work programme) to fit any tender, application or proposal. And this is, arguably, particularly the case in the social enterprise / entrepreneurship world where the primacy of the financial and social missions is less evident.

I’m not normally a fan of management tools and frameworks, but I am a fan of the old mission-money matrix. The one below comes from Fieldstone Alliance’s Tools You Can Use:


I particularly like the imagery here….obviously the ideal is everything falls in the ‘star’ category, but the reality is often activities dotted in all three (heart, star, cash) categories. If you’re doing anything that loses you money and has nothing to do with your mission, then please stop now, as the sign suggests.

What’s important in using this simple tool to evaluate business development choices is to have clarity of mission first and, ideally, clarity about how you’re measuring that impact. Otherwise, financial sustainability can naturally become the pre-eminent force, and you end up with organisations sustaining themselves in order to….well… sustain, rather than in order to achieve the social impact / mission that prompted their establishment.

Of course, this is a balance, as I’ve discussed before. And money remains of utmost importance…….but importance as a means to achieving social change, not in and of itself. And, ultimately, drifting off mission will have medium-to-long term effects: staff leaving, internal disputes, diminution of credibility in any one field/area, reputational damage from competition at all costs and so forth. Drifting starts with rapid movement and a swirl of activity….but soon forms into a frozen, stationary mass.

Share Button