SSE launches Sustainable Paths to Community Development report

SustainablepathsjpgSSE is launching a new report today, called Sustainable Paths to Community Development: Helping Deprived Communities to Help Themselves. It’s been authored by our chair of trustees, Charlotte Young and her husband Don, and makes a passionate and timely case for a radically different approach to tackling exclusion and regenerating deprived areas.

To boil down the report into some key points, it really argues that large, complex top-down governmental approaches to regeneration have not worked, and that providing learning and support to those creating change in communities from the bottom-up will have much more impact over the long-term.

It also looks at why government (national and local) focus on getting people to engage in the democratic process, and with political institutions, rather than actually giving them power and ownership to drive their own change. It also draws on national and international research to place the argument in a strong and coherent context.

I’ve found it a really interesting read (having proofed it several times!), and one that has far-reaching implications which stretch beyond the SSE and its work, and should interest policymakers across government (and opposition). It calls, as much as anything, for a shift of mindset: from teaching to learning, from top-down to bottom-up, from imported expertise to building capacity and (social) capital within communities and so on. As per this illustration from the report:


Obviously, this won’t be an easy shift; nor will it be short-term. But something radical is needed: a fresh approach to tackling exclusion and inequality that will endure and sustain. The monograph we’re publishing today doesn’t contain a panacea, but it does show how people-powered change, alongside place-based regeneration, investment in health + education and so on, can make a significant difference in reducing the ever-widening gap
between rich and poor.


[Download a sneak preview exec summary SustainablePathsSummary.pdf
; see also Social Enterprise Magazine’s take on it

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Tuesday round-up: Shirky, Scotland, Shoreditch

Much linkage to get involved with this morning….a bit of a mish-mash, but hopefully of some use:

Voice 2009 will be in Birmingham; for the flagship social enterprise event, another big venue: the Birmingham ICC. See picture left (CEOs of SEC and Advantage West Mids)

– Couple of interesting pieces about fairtrade (coffee) and online debates; see Ugandan coffee trade and Fairer than Fairtrade

Campbell Robb on the third sector and public service delivery in the Times, on removing the barrier to allow third sector orgs to deliver etc.

– Less enthusiastically, a piece in today’s Times Public Agenda discusses how devolution is still an ideal, not a practical reality, something which chimes with SSE Fellows’ experiences of local authorities (though it is a varied and patchy picture)

– What is citizen philanthropy? Perhaps not a question that’s keeping you awake at night, but this article is an interesting read: This Is What Philanthropy Looks Like

Matt Stevenson-Dodd posts on his fellow Ambassador Daniel Heery’s great work in Cumbria

Scottish social enterprise support is "fragmented, complex, uneven and inconsistent"; apart from that, all is well. More seriously, the report is worth reading, particularly in its call for support providers to talk to each other and work in a more joined-up (hate that phrase) manner. Lessons for England as well as Scotland, methinks.

– Clay Shirky is author of Here Comes Everybody, which is about ‘organising without organisations’: groups, networks and the effects of new technology. "Group action just got easier" is his five word thesis. Anyway, he spoke at Demos the other day, and you can download the hour-long podcast to listen in….

– Bilumi: stands for Buy It Like You Mean It, "an online community of people reviewing and rating the socially
responsible business practices of companies and their supply chains"; interesting Shirky-esque stuff

– The Shoreditch Grand Prix involves kids bicycles, leg-power, and fundraising for social entrepreneurs

– Finally, while I mostly turn to Bubb’s Blog for a smile in the morning (I will be picking out an appropriate tie and bottle of wine for my next meeting at ACEVO), Jeff Trexler’s reaction to the SEC video of social enterprise is pretty entertaining.

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Concept and practice: Charlie Leadbeater and Peter Holbrook

I’m never at my finest on Mondays, but today was a really stimulating and interesting one which revolved around two very different individuals: one more conceptual, and one very practical. [apologies for length of post]

First up was Charlie Leadbeater at the Hub for breakfast (two coffees necessary before I could form sentences, needless to say), talking about the ideas and issues which inform and underly his book, We-Think. Leadbeater has been an innovator and ideas pioneer for many years (in 1997, for example, he wrote ‘The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur’ at the same time as the SSE was being founded). We-Think is about the rise of mass, creative collaboration, and how this is changing society, employment, and traditional systems.

Some interesting tidbits I took from his talk this morning were the five themes in the book:

– the move from marginal to mainstream can happen much more quickly these days
– creativity is a social and collaborative process
– the world is cloud / swamp-like; organisations are box-like….
– a different approach to ownership and control is emerging (sharing animates the economy….)
– these are old systems re-emerging in new incarnations (peer-to-peer, the commons etc.)

He also posed two key questions about this movement: How do you make money from it? (the financial q) and Can we be trusted with this stuff? (the political q). The discussion was interesting, particularly for me around how to make best use of a distinctive piece of intellectual property (don’t keep it in a darkened room…think counter-intuitively), about  the importance of relationships (could we see SSE through a lens of creating relationships that motivate, support, trade and inspire?) and the three principles of (self) governance in this area, which again seemed very much related to what we do:

– the need for these connected networked communities to have leadership that leads by values/purpose and tends to come from within that community
– the community needs motivation to contribute and left options to decide why and how they will do so
peer-to-peer becomes much more important for accountability, review, resources, credibility and so on

Much food for thought.


I was then straight off, via a swift clear-up of my desk (we’ve moved around in the office), to visit Sunlight Development Trust in Gillingham. Peter Holbrook, who founded the trust (the building was an old Sunlight laundry factory that they got the funding to renovate), is a social enterprise ambassador, and it’s been a pleasure to meet and work with him on that programme.

Sunlight is an inspiring place, and is growing really fast: a network of cafes is stretching through the Medway Towns in Kent, and, most recently, they won the contract to provide all the catering in the new Medway Council building: so there is a social enterprise serving up all the lunches, coffees etc in the heart of the local authority. The original Gillingham site is also piloting a range of other initiatives, including a music studio, a radio station, parenting workshops, community gardening and so on…..

It’s hugely impressive and a good kick up the arse for those who become occasionally jaded and cynical (this is my arse I’m kicking) about what these types of organisation can achieve. Whilst Peter and I agree that it is about the people, leadership, quality of service, transparency of operation etc that brings success, the CIC model clearly has brought Sunlight benefits; with freer governance, but also the badging / recognition that it brings.

Peter himself is one of those genuinely inspiring blokes; not only because of his energy and enthusiasm, but also because he is fired up and passionate about Sunlight being the best it can be, and about making a difference in what is a hard, tough business. It is a professional outfit, but also remains passionate and personal(ised)…which is a great achievement. Though he made me feel like he’d done more that morning than I had done in the past two weeks, I left inspired: take the concepts and thoughts, and start to deliver.

Charlie Leadbeater referred to a headteacher friend of his who labelled himself a ‘pragmatopian’, in that he had kept his utopian ideal of the power of education, but had had to do inspite of (and weaving through) the national curriculum, Keystages, league tables etc. It’s a horrible neologism, but I think Peter is one too: pragmatic and entrepreneurial, but with values written through everything he does.

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Your Chance to Change the World launch

Just a brief note to say that I attended the launch of Craig Dearden-Phillips’ book, Your Chance to Change the World this lunchtime. In proper disclaimer fashion, I should say that SSE is formally endorsing the book as a good and practical guide for social entrepreneurs, particularly for those in the early stages. [SSE Fellows reading this: contact me for a negotiated discount!]

The reason we agreed to support the book is that, like SSE programmes (which are the antithesis of classroom-textbook-teacher approach), it is practitioner-led and peer-led, not just in terms of being authored by a person who walks the walk (Craig founded Speaking Up and has seen it through a fair rollercoaster ride to its current position), but also in terms of containing nuggets of advice and experience from other social entrepreneurs (including SSE Fellows Luljeta Nuzi, Roger Wilson-Hinds and Simon Fenton-Jones).

Simon was at the launch, along with more recent SSE Fellows Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa and Cerdic Hall, SSE champion / friend David Gold, and former SSE Director of Learning Matthew Thomson (now at LCRN). As that reunion went on in one corner, my eyes scanned the room, and it was a good turnout: Phil Hope said a few words after Craig and Debra Allcock Tyler (DSC‘s CEO), and there was good government representation from OTS, DCFS and others; + sector-heads Owen Jarvis (from Aspire UK), Bergin O’Malley (from SEC Ambassadors) etc….

All good stuff, and we wish DSC and Craig all the best with the book: Craig is a really good, and talented guy, and it’s nice to see someone nice have their day (and his mum looked chuffed too ;0).

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Friday round-up: Coin St, Clinton, Camberwell, Collaboration

SSE is still recovering from its residential in Devon which was a great success. Write-up/report to follow soon. Though here are a few photos that give a snapshot (click to enlarge):



So at least you know why we’re tired….anyway, the traditional Friday round-up:

Social Entrepreneur Show going on in Olympia today and tomorrow. Part of Business Start-Up show that’s run for quite a few years….

– Whilst we were in Dartington, CAN had their Scaling Up event. Third Sector reports on some of the findings, namely that the supported organisations’ turnover increased 20% in two years, with social impact increasing 40% (presumbaly with a wider range of measures..). I was interested by this as well: "A CAN spokeswoman said Permira had received no return on its investment
of £690,000 because, in CAN’s view, the social enterprise sector is
“not yet ready to give market-rate returns”."

Coin Street in the news with their ambitious South Bank plans….

– For all those who say the hype is out of control, check this report in the New York Sun: "A Bush-Clinton idea". The idea? Social entrepreneurship….Look forward to seeing George and Bill on our next programme.

– Chris Hill at Camberwell Project makes some good points in this article from the Yorkshire Post re. enterprise and deprivation.

– Interesting article in New York Times on the "right" places to learn entrepreneurship, which basically goes through lots of university-based courses. Then there’s a link to a different view, an article by George Gendron, who says "kids with passion are our next entrepreneurs", and that entrepreneurial life skills are needed by all…

– In the world where social networking meets non-profits, no-one understands/connects more than Beth Kanter: thoughts on Google Open Social et al in this post

– Also via Beth, Forces For Good: the Six Practices of High Impact Non-Profits is a new book out in the US. Read the authors’ essay on Stanford Social Innovation Review site: Creating High-Impact Non-Profits
The 6 practices, FYI, are:

  • serve and advocate (delivery not enough: policy to achieve big change)
  • make markets work (tap into self-interest / capitalism)
  • inspire evangelists (strong communities of supporters / emotional connections / involvement)
  • nurture non-profit networks (collaboration rather than competition)
  • master the art of adaptation (combining innovation, execution and learning)
  • share leadership (distribute amongst organisation / team)

Job done.

– Acumen Fund have a blog which occasionally has interesting gems. This post about Melinda Gates aiming to eradicate malaria is worth a read. I particularly enjoyed the following comment: "the experts are often expert in what has been, not what could be."


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