Playing On: the reality of prison life + getting voices heard

It's one of the great privileges of working at SSE to keep in touch with and follow the progress (and be able to assist) the alumni of the programme (or SSE Fellows, as they are known). Recently at the residential down in Dartington, an SSE Fellow from our 2007-8 programme, Jim Pope, helped us out with the delivery of the event.

I hadn't seen Jim for a little while; when he was with us, he was piloting and testing out using drama and theatre in prisons to good effect. So it was great to hear that Jim has kept at it (persistence being a key attribute of an entrepreneur), and has now started a theatre company (with co-founder Philip Osment) called Playing On. Playing On is a theatre company but also has a social purpose: to create new, professional theatre through work with disenfranchised young people from a wide range of backgrounds and circumstances to tell the stories of those who are seldom heard.

And the first evidence of that can be seen at the Roundhouse Theatre in Camden from November 12th-27th with their first play, Inside. SSE will be going along, and would encourage you to as well if you can for what promises to be a really powerful work about prison life. More details/buy tickets here. Or watch the promo below to hear from Jim about the play.


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Residential report 2: inequality in depth

One of the features at the residential last week was the appearance of expert witnesses speaking on particular topics (strategic planning, partnerships, inequality etc). We thought it would be useful to share these on the blog both for those students (and Fellows) who couldn't be there, and to a wider audience that might be interested.

The set of slides below are by SSE Chair Charlotte Young, who was speaking on inequality and its impact. This gives an overview of the state of the UK, possible reasons for that current situation, and some thoughts about approaches and interventions that might help tackle it.

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Social enterprise and entrepreneurship links from September

Rackspace-1010-05j-550x353 Slightly delayed due to the SSE residential, but here's my round-up of interesting, relevant and topical links in the world of social enterprise and entrepreneurship from September:

– Not officially September, but as I'm late, two events from early October worth following up on were SoCap 10 and SBC10. Check out the tweets (#socap10 #sbc10) and videos etc online if you couldn't be there like me.

– Stats + definitions: a generation hangs their head as the debate continues…. new research questioned how many social enterprises there are, which also prompted a call for clarity of definitions

– More forward- (and outward-) looking was Pamela Hartigan's interview on explaining why you don't have to be a social entrepreneur to make change, but it's good to know what they are…

– I'm pretty much in whole-hearted agreement with many of Malcolm Gladwell's points in this New Yorker piece on the limitations of Twitter + Facebook in creating change

– Global social entrepreneurs were excited by the Unreasonable Institute and Echoing Green applications opening. SSE is a pipeline partner to Unreasonable, so we're looking forward to seeing who they get on board this year; hopefully some SSE Fellows will be encouraged to apply

– Suffolk was the county on everyone's lips as they announced their intention to outsource "virtually all" services to social enterprise….

– …while Suffolk councillor (and social entrepreneur) Craig Dearden-Phillips wrote openly about the need (and lack?) of financial incentives for social entrepreneurs

Sean Stannard-Stockton took impact into a new holistic era, beyond reductive metrics (on Social Edge)

– Big Society-wise, I have mostly been enjoying Karl Wilding (NCVO)'s neat overview presentation, Paul Hodgkin (SSE Fellow / Patient Opinion)'s article on importance of conversation + technology, and Radio 4's Analysis programme on Big Society (hat-tip to SSE colleague Ian Baker for the latter)

– Jonathan Jenkins (from UnLtd Ventures / Advantage) is as good as anyone on social investment, and this article on the need for angel investment brings out some of the key points, and the key current problems, of this emerging market

– David Robinson, one of the most quietly effective leaders in the social sector, writes about (and welcomes) the first pilot Social Impact Bond

– Social Entrepreneurs Ireland held their latest awards event, which I heard was fantastic: round-up and article on the event here

– Rod Schwartz got a good debate going about mergers, partnerships and egos in social enterprise

– Paul Light is a US professor who's been beavering away at social entrepreneurship for many years; he knows his stuff, as this Just Means interview makes clear

– The Social Enterprise Ambassadors programme had its closing event: details and photos on the website

– Tim Harford, who I'm a fan of on More or Less, has written a couple of interesting critiques of 'nudge' theory (behavioural economics stuff); see Nudges are for Markets, not Nations and To Nudge is One Thing, To Nanny Another

– And finally, because everyone loves a list, Inc.Com's 10 tips for managing a one-person sales force (a concept familiar to many of our students…) and this great post of 15 excuses for not making ideas happen.

Presumably no. 16 is writing a blog post to delay other work. On which note, over and out.

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Residential report 1: Dartonia, Social Enterprise City of the Future

So it's that time of year again where SSE has its residential; we are down in Dartington in Devon, which has a close connection to SSE as Michael Young (our founder) was integrally involved in Dartington, and because it is now the organisational home for the Devon SSE franchise.

Nearly 150 social entrepreneurs are here from around the UK: Fife, Liverpool, Wigan, Devon, Cornwall, London, Yorkshire…..with also visitors from SSE Suffolk and Australia staff and supporters….all descending on a tranquil part of the world for a three-day intensive learning experience, but also (hopefully) one full of useful networking, inspiration and enjoyment.

This year, the stakes have been upped. Participants were given a 'passport' as they entered, welcoming them to the Social Enterprise City of the Future: Dartonia. Apparently, the fictional Dartonia is a struggling and deprived area in need of help from teams of social entrepreneurs to address its various problems. And the government (a la Big Society) has thrown down the gauntlet. So there are four teams (red, blue, green, yellow) and five sector groups within those (arts, health, environment, crime, education), tasked with coming up with financially viable projects and strategies which are clear in their purpose (and communication) and clear on how the social benefit and impact will be measured and achieved.

Each team gets a budget (Dartonia Dollars) to spend on advice (evaluation, marketing, finance etc) or to speak to focus groups, or hear from experts on particular areas. And there's much more besides: press releases, financial forecasts, and a live Question Time (chaired by yours truly, Nick Dimbleby) featuring a representative from each team.

Thus far, it's going well; some accommodation disasters aside (far from ideal, but now thankfully sorted: the curse of events etc), everyone is cracking on with the challenge and very much entering into the spirit of things. It's a game, a challenge, but also one with a purpose: particularly a chance to experience (against very urgent and pressing deadlines) the difficulties of building / leading teams, and of partnership and collaboration.

And of course, there's also been much networking over drinks and dinner and, for a diverting couple of hours, karaoke. Highlights of the latter included a fearsome, full-bodied version of "She's a Maniac" from Flashdance, and an emotive "Another Day in Paradise". Combine the two and you get some sense of the event so far :0)

More photos, video and audio to follow over the next few days.

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A small and clear presentation about the Big Society

There's been much written and said about the Big Society but it's been sometimes difficult to get clarity on what it means, what's happening, and what the opportunities are. In some areas, that's still unclear (and will be until post October 20th, when government announces its spending plans in the Comprehensive Spending Review), but this presentation by Karl Wilding over at NCVO is as clear as it gets. Enjoy.



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