Nice to see this column by Lucy Siegle in the Observer magazine asking if social entrepreneurs can be green. Of course, many social entrepreneurs do work to a triple bottom line of financial, social and environmental. And a fair number of our latest SSE Fellows from Liverpool SSE all do so; sadly I couldn't be at their graduation, but this video by SSE Fellow org Brava Design, is the next best thing. Enjoy:
The question most often posed about social enterprise in this Global Entrepreneurship Week (#gew) has been: how do we grow this movement, and how do we scale organisations + models that work? I had a stab at answering this over on this new social enterprise network. Here's an excerpt:
So, who has the answer? Domino's Pizza. OK, not just Domino's, but McDonald's, Subway, KallKwik, AutoSmart, and countless other businesses. Why? Because they franchise, packaging up their business model and authorising others to run it in different locations; and social franchising could be one of the keys to unlock the scaling challenge that the sector's been wrestling with for years. For inside that challenge lie several tough questions:
– How do you scale impact without scaling the organisation in a traditional, hierarchical way? (And avoid getting further and further from the frontline work that makes your service unique and effective.)
– How do you avoid reinventing the wheel by replicating proven models?
– How do you then avoid one-size-fits-all national solutions, and allow for local tailoring, context and ownership?
– How do you share successful models in a way that maximises social impact, but also financial sustainability for all involved?
– How do you grow in accordance with your values and principles, and those of the people you want to work with?
Social franchising is not necessarily the quickest, easiest way to scale, but it does represent an approach that can provide answers to these questions. Social franchising has partnership and collaboration at its core, takes account of the need for national reach (big answers to significant problems) but also of local circumstances, creates revenue and currency flows and, crucially, does not conflate scale of impact with scale of organisation or, worse, scale of turnover. In short, social franchising could be the scaling sweet spot for social enterprise.
I've tried to work out where you can track SSE down all week, so here is a brief #GEW schedule, along with a few other recommended events.
-This Monday evening, our CEO Alastair Wilson will be chairing a panel as part of the JP Morgan Speaker Series, including social entrepreneurs Kresse Wesling (Elvis + Kresse) + Duncan Goose (Global Ethics / One Water). We also hope to pop along to the evening session at Good Deals. This morning, we were in attendance at the GEW launch at Google towers, and at the ResPublica launch of a new report on community assets they've written with the DTA
– Tuesday is primarily the Guardian Social Enterprise conference for SSE, where Alastair will be on one of the main panels, and I'll be running a 'clinic' dispensing some prescriptions on social impact measurement. Others will be at Good Deals for its second day….
You can also check out the Guardian's brand new social enterprise network which launched an hour ago, and has this fascinating (disclaimer: I wrote it) post on social franchising and much more good content besides
– Thursday is the biggie, obviously; Social Enterprise Day (#socentday for twitter fans), coming just after birthday but ahead of Xmas in priorities….schedule is a little interesting, to say the least, but SSE will be at Is the Big Society Working? for breakfast (with Nick Hurd MP, Steve Moore of Big Society Network and more), acting as a 'human #socent library' at DCLG over lunch / early afternoon, dipping into the UnLtdSocial event, before attempting to moderate a panel at the end of the day in front of LBS + HBS alumni (with Jonathan Jenkins, Liam Black and Chris Southworth from BIS: should be fun!) and much more across the country.
SSE will also be supporting SEC's efforts on the day to lobby and advocate for the social enterprise bill, which is teetering on the edge of being put into legislation. Go along and join in if you can, or attend the All Party-Parliamentary Group….
–Friday is far from the day after the night before, as we have not one but two SSE graduations happening that day, in Liverpool and Hampshire. Do get in touch with either school if you would like to come along….as we celebrate and recognise more social entrepreneurs joining the SSE Fellowship. Should be a fantastic way to end a busy Global Entrepreneurship Week.
Hope to see you around for real, or on social media…
Couple of new videos from our Hampshire franchise which are great at getting under the skin of social entrepreneurship in general, and the SSE programme (and its action learning approach) in particular. Thanks to all who feature, and especially to Peter @ Shedlight and Conroy at HSSE.
It feels like such a busy and fast-moving time at the moment, that it's been difficult to take time and reflect, and get the head up to look around, meerkat-like. Which has got me thinking about balance, and the different areas that social entrepreneurs need to balance.
1) Passion and pragmatism: I was speaking at an UpRising event recently, along with Young Foundation Director Geoff Mulgan, about the Big Society and how to react to it. There were some passionate reactions in the room, and those encouraging direct action and activism rather than engaging with the movement. I made the point that engagement with policymakers was about understanding their perspective, holding true to your values / principles / opinions, and seeking a constructive way forward. Sometimes a constructive way forward requires disagreement (and constructive criticism), but when that blurs into anger or aggression, the dialogue isn't there…and any opportunities dwindle. That line between passion and pragmatism is always key.
2) Self and organisation: The balance that gets talked about most in this context is work-life balance, which tends to ignore that for many social entrepreneurs (indeed, entrepreneurs of all types), work and life are not that easily divisible. It might be that this is more about ensuring time is portioned off for non-work, for friends and family, for rest and reflection. Inevitably, it's at the busiest times when this gets squeezed, and it's at those times when it is most valuable. Focus requires concentration and good health; somehow it's never easy to drink more water, sleep enough, eat well and do a bit of exercise. But we all know it works. And we also know that people need to earn a living, even if it's a job they've created themselves.
3) Mission and money: Very much the core of social enterprise + social entrepreneurship, the balance between mission and money is crucial: especially for decision-making. Some now talk about it as "impact-first" and "finance-first" (particularly in the realm of finance), but even just having that level of awareness about different choices is important. Some opportunities might bring in money that allow you to cross-subsidise activities that would have more impact in line with mission. It's the awareness of where the decision lies and why it's being taken. [see slides 9 + 10 in this powerpoint which has a mission-money matrix + the same matrix in tough economic times]
4) Attention to detail and big picture: I find this a tough one, personally. It's easy to get bogged down in the detail of things that aren't really important (as with the cartoon above) or to get very focused (rightly) on delivering to the highest quality; but sometimes that comes at the expense of looking a little long-term and thinking strategically. That's particularly true right now, when the climate is forcing people to act hand-to-mouth and day-to-day. But those who can think about thriving in 2-3 years as well as surviving the next 6 months, will be in an advantageous position. Having said that, I also have huge admiration for those people who in the midst of intense periods of activity, still remember to reply to a (less important) e-mail, write a letter of congratulation, or make an introduction they think might be useful. Well, I did say it was tough….
5) Objectivity and subjectivity: This takes me back to the Big Society and that debate, and also a little to the line between self and organisation. It's about judgement, and trying to take the 'personal' out if it. Thinking about the organisation's best interests and taking out personal feelings and interests as far as possible. Not easy when your contract or grant has been cut, or someone else wins the contract over you; and not easy when that organisation is "your baby", but important. To be ready for the next opportunity, to be on the front foot (not dwelling on what's just happened), to maintain relationships, to think about the intentions of those making the decisions, and to put things in context. Judgement isn't just about what to do and when to do it, but about what you say, how you communicate, and your ability to empathise. Which gets tougher at tough times.
So what's the advice? Take time to reflect; be a bit selfish (otherwise it won't happen); have people near who put things in perspective; keep money + mission at the forefront at all times; look ahead. Which is all a lot easier to write than do.