Social Media Exchange and Black in Bangladesh

Just a couple of quick notices before the weekend:

– SSE Fellow Jude Habib is running the Social Media Exchange next Monday (26th), and it's got an increasingly great-looking line-up; if I could go, I would be, what with the following lined up to speak: Steve Bridger, Nick Booth, Nathalie McDermott (SSE Fellow), and people from Google, Guardian Unlimited, BBC, Cancer Research, Christian Aid and many more. Should be a great event. If your Monday is free, and you want to know more about that world of blogging, twittering, podcasting etc, this is the one for you.

– also, just a quick note to point to Liam Black's piece on Social Enterprise Magazine's website about his trip to Bangladesh. Much to enjoy, including a visit to Grameen Danone, the Barefoot College, and several near-death driving experiences.


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Transparency: funding tips for social entrepreneurs (and politicians)

After watching the Obama inauguration (flicking between various online video streams before ending up with the trusty BBC) earlier this week, I attended a Teach First Ambassadors event, at which SSE Fellow Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa was speaking. I won't eulogise Tokunbo and the work of his organisation, Catch 22: he gets enough of that these days, being a social enterprise ambassador and all.

I did, however, want to share some of his useful funding tips to the prospective social entrepreneurs / teachers and former teachers present, as there was some useful stuff. He pointed to some key areas:

research: the criteria, the grants / investments previously given, the size of organisations they were given to (to help gauge what you should go for)

relationships: use the "could you spare me 15 minutes of your time?" rule to get time with individuals at a funding organisation: the higher-up the better, but all staff can give you a feel for the culture / approach; nurture the relationships, and keep them up-to-date with progress; seek ways in; never submit a blind application without talking to someone

realism: about what you will get; about what you can deliver (the old "underpromise, overdeliver" rule); about the challenges you face; about the mission-money decisions (particularly in current climate)

transparency: (if only it began with 'R') be honest and open in your dealings with people; about your promises; and about the success (or lack of) of your projects; transparent reporting and accountability builds trust, and trust builds credibility…and credibility leads to more funding…

I'd add a couple of things to that (Tokunbo had more as well): one is don't take it personally, or think it's (necessarily) about the quality of the funding bid / project. It can be about the level of competition, very subjective trustee opinions or bad timing as much as about what you have written / your idea. The other thing is to be "always on" and don't silo fundraising into one person: everyone in the organisation can spot opportunities, build relationships and develop networks.

On the subject of transparency, worth noting that Obama emphasised it in his speech. Simultaneously, our politicians were trying to become less transparent by hiding away details of their expenses. Thanks to a great campaign co-ordinated by techie social entrepreneur Tom Steinberg and MySociety, this plan was reversed the day before it was meant to go through. Great congratulations to those campaigning, and to those who wrote to their MPs, joined groups, made calls etc. Shame it took such a campaign to make our politicians realise (as Obama does) that transparency builds trust which builds credibility…..

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(Social) Networking 101

It has been such a privilege to spend the last two weeks working here as an intern at SSE. I had an interesting conversation with Alastair Wilson, the chief executive officer at SSE yesterday afternoon, focusing on how to effectively network. According to Alastair, most often, the key to successful networking is to create a deep connection with the individual who you are working towards building a relationship with. He finds that he is most successful making connections with others when he works to create a safe environment in which they feel comfortable engage in open conversation. That dialogue can take the shape of finding common interests and hobbies, or sharing hopes and fears. By creating a safe and comfortable space, you can effectively open up meaningful dialogue and understand one another’s motivations and aspirations as well as identify your similarities. It is valuable to ask meaningful and probing questions, and then engage in active listening. Often you can glean new pieces of information through hints as subtle as someone’s tone of voice or body language.

Simply through our conversation, I gained a sense of the energy, excitement, and satisfaction that Alastair drew from his work. His stories about individual entrepreneurs and the language he uses makes it easy to connect with what he is saying on a personal level. His excitement is contagious. I think that it is natural for us to want to be a part of a movement that provides us with an opportunity to stretch our selves and explore new ways to collaborate with others. Another important aspect of networking is the ability to bring in the human element. All too often the emotive response that binds us together as humans is lost behind professional walls of rationalism and pragmatism. When building a relationship with someone it is vital too see past these walls, and attempt to connect on a more fundamental level.

One of the joys that Ali finds, particularly working in the social sector and advocating on behalf of social entrepreneurs, is that nearly everyone can identify with the need for social entrepreneurs. The current social and political climate has created conditions that require more and more people to think and act creatively in order to address the needs and growing disparities in communities. Often times people will have personal stories, whether it was a friend or a family member who suffered significant financial or social loss, or experienced abuse, neglect, or illness, and they can identify a need that filled by a social organization. Networking involves inviting others to reflect on the role they play in their professional, communal, and personal lives and creating opportunities to find new and innovative means of engagement and collaboration.

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How to be a social entrepreneur poster

Liked this: Mach 3 with your hair on fire!

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Monday round-up: Wilcox, web 2.0, Wal-Mart, whisky

Back in the swing of things on the blog front: two meetings cancelled / postponed today, and time therefore for a brief post rounding up some recent links and news of interest. Hope you like the recession/Obama cartoon (from gapingvoid, as ever). Roll on the inauguration. And kudos to intern Hannah, who has been blogging so proficiently that I got complimented for it….

– On that subject, interesting-ish article about whether non-profits should use volunteers / interns on their social media; comments are as interesting as the piece.

– Third Sector Minister Kevin Brennan in the Times on the opportunities for social enterprise in the current economic climate: Chance for social enterprise to be more enterprising

– Arch genius of social media / non-profits (or the godfather of social reporting, as I read recently) David Wilcox twittered (yes, I know..) today about this categorisation of conversations and dialogues and tools. If you facilitate or run workshops, this is interesting.

– Nat over at is bang on the money again: Investing in People Not Ideas

The Paradox of Choice, also via David Wilcox; why more is, ultimately, less; to apply this policy in the world of web 2.0, read Beth Kanter's tips on How Non-Profits Can Use Social Media Efficiently

Top 10 Green Books of 2008: another list for the list

– Two new posts from social enterprise ambassador Peter Holbrook: Losses and Life in 2009, and Enterprising Solutions; both worth reading.

– Are you going to Voice 09? SSE will be there. Word on the street is that there were some bursaries available…..though these may have gone by now

Turkish Social Entrepreneur of the Year list

– The top 5 articles in Stanford Social Innovation Review from last year are pretty interesting; on performance, impact, social innovation…and Wal-Mart amongst others.

– And from the same magazine, what better way to start the year than with 10 Ways to Become a Better NonProfit Leader in 2009

– I've just reviewed Forces for Good for Social Enterprise Magazine; I'm lining up the Charismatic Organization next (subtitle: eight ways to grow a nonprofit that builds buzz, delights donors, and energizes employees; oh yes)

Social Silicon Valleys: in Spain article from the Guardian. I've met

– Finally, and fairly randomly, enjoyed this article about how whisky is having to be rationed because the Chinese are drinking so much. On an overland train from Xian to Shanghai a year ago, I had a conversation with a Chinese guy where he recommended 'baijio' ("Chinese whisky"; aka hugely strong alcohol schnapps-y type thing, best mixed with snake's gall-bladder apparently) and asked what I'd recommend. My recommendation was Bruichladdich, which my new friend faithfully wrote down on his newspaper. I'd like to think, therefore, that I'm at least partly responsible for this Chinese whisky frenzy…..

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