I think I last picked up a copy of The Sun about fifteen years ago. In it, there was a feature called ‘White Van Man’ in which they’d interview a man in a white van about some of the week’s pressing issues: questions like ‘who should win Pop Idol, Gareth Gates or Will Young?’, or ‘what do you think of the news that David Beckham has a new tattoo?’. From memory, the column was accompanied by a picture of bloke leaning cheerfully with one arm out the window.
Why am I telling you this? Because our chief executive Ali is taking four months off work to drive around Europe in a Campervan. So I thought it was the perfect time to “interview” “him” for his views on some of the key issues.
No newsletter next week, I’ll be in Majorca. Call me old fashioned by I’ll be staying a house. I’ve always preferred sleeping in an object whose primary purpose is living in, rather than transportation.
Hi Ali, thanks for giving up your time to speak to Have I Got Social Enterprise News For You. Last August, there were a number of nights in Spain when the night time temperature did not fall below 31.0°C. You will be in what is essentially a tin box. What will you do in the absence of sleep?
Well, Dave, you’ll know that all Scots are uniquely adapted to cope with warm weather. I plan on sitting in an ice bath with a hanky on my head and working my way through this excellent list of useful resources for social entrepreneurs put together by BQ. It’s hot stuff.
What’s the motivation behind the trip? There are rumours in the SSE office that you’re actually a fugitive from the law and that this is all an elaborate cover-up.
I’ve heard those rumours and I will continue to deny them. My alternative reason? Well, we’ve just published the biggest-ever evaluation of our work: CLES’s evaluation of the first five years of the Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs Programme, in partnership with SSE and jointly funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. So the time seemed right your honour.
What will you miss most while you are away?
Beyond proper walls, access to plumbing and a reliable source of electricity I’d probably say my colleagues, who are a daily source of inspiration to me. What will they be working on while I’m gone? Well, we’ve just launched a Health and Wellbeing Trade Up Programme for projects that benefit communities in Southwark and Lambeth so that will probably keep them busy.
Are you looking forward to meeting new people?
I’m am, yes. It’s just a shame I won’t be around to attend SSE London’s How to Network Successfully workshop next Friday. It would have been great to have fine tuned my elevator pitch before heading to St Tropez.
You’re going to be on the road a lot. Any tips for staying alert while driving?
Red Bull. Love the stuff. It’s the drink for every occasion. Did you know that Red Bull are fans of social enterprise too? They are currently looking for trail-blazers and innovators who are passionate about driving positive change in their community to take part in the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy 2019. It takes place in Bradford from 28 September to 6 October 2019. Borrow my Campervan if you need somewhere to stay.
Are you concerned about fluctuating exchange rates making it difficult to forecast the cost of the trip?
No. I went to the money exchange at the Oxford Street brank of Halifax so I’m well prepared. Conincidentally, I picked up a flyer while there and it seems SSE Fellow Cemal Ezel will be speaking at the very same branch of Halifax on June 12th about what it takes to set up a social enterprise. He’ll be talking about how his company Change Please has expanded to the success it is today and where he got help along the way. According to the flyer, you can book your space here.
That is a remarkable coincidence. Next you’ll be telling me that you considered crowdfunding the trip but could have seen it in action before taking the plunge.
That’s exactly what I was going to say next. How spooky. I think if I had been to The Funding Network’s live crowdfunding event in London on June 12th and watched four inspiring non-profits pitch for funds I’d feel a lot more confident about the whole thing.
If you had to spend the time in the UK instead of Europe, where would you go?
Another great question Dave. This has been such a good interview so far, you more than deserve a payrise. I’d go to three places:
Mile End. I’ve always wanted to visit Queen Mary University and find out more about their QConsult Summer programme. From what I understand, QConsult Summer works in partnership with City University of London & University of East London to place students into mini consultancy projects with London-based organisations and they are looking for businesses, social enterprises, charities and start ups who are interested in hiring interns.
Next stop would be Manchester, took take a look at the work being done by SSE fellow Adele Jordan. She’s is part of a collective mission to eradicate food poverty in Greater Manchester. Over 100 organisations & individuals are intent on addressing the causes as much as the symptoms. To achieve their goals they need unwanted cooking & growing equipment, and they’ve also created a food poverty action plan that local organisations can sign up to.
My final stopping point would be Cornwall, where I’d congratulate the team at SSE Cornwall on being nominated as a finalist in the Cornwall Business Awards in the Ambassador or the Year category.
Finally Ali; technology moves pretty swiftly these days. Are you worried that while you are away your job will be replaced
By a marshmallow?
No, by a robot.
It’s a constant worry. So it’s good to know that BFB labs, a tech-for-good company developing products to improve mental health in young people, are currently in the process of recruiting for 2 roles – product manager and UX designer and researcher.