Apprentices and Fellows

Still way behind on blogging a whole load of stuff. From the East Midlands SSE new SMART SE project to CIC caps and the SE 100 index. But most of all I wanted to blog about our previous Fellows seminar.

We're running a series of 'M' seminars (money, macro, management etc) for SSE Fellows (those who've completed an SSE programme over the past 10 years) at the moment, and the first, on money, involved the charismatic and passionate Tim Campbell (of Bright Ideas Trust) who had some good tips around negotiation, around what to invest in (and about how Bright Ideas are judging this), about the influence of his own upbringing on how he approaches money, and about how steep his learning curve was in some of the financial areas. Our Director of Learning Marcia did a great job in getting some good questions from everyone beforehand, so that everyone could make the most of his time (which we got more of than we asked for). Here's a clip of Tim, who's also a social enterprise ambassador, talking about Bright Ideas Trust in a video made by one of their beneficiaries:

Following a charismatic TV celebrity and leading entrepreneur, sadly for our Fellows, came yours truly. I was talking about some tools to work with in the recession / current economic climate, namely the legendary Mission-Money Matrix (and a new recession version) for decision making / prioritisation / strategy…and a further partnership spectrum, which I think is useful for those looking at collaborating / partnering in different ways (which will inevitably be happening more, IMHO). It seemed to go down fairly well. See what you make of the slideset (and credit me if you use…!):

We also took photos of those who attended (and printed them out with our nice new Canon Selphy printer: neat bit of kit!). So hello to Mobeen, David, Mark, Andrae, Kathy, Jen, Rosa, Oleander et al, but star of the show was definitely Juliet's son who not only earned money by bringing Fellows tea and coffee throughout the afternoon, but also had the best photo taken. Clearly, as the caption says (Year of Fellowship: 2021), Jaan is one for the future.


Share Button

Recession action plans

Well. It had been a busy week or ten days already, before today's announcement that SSE would be receiving a £500,000 investment as part of OTS's third sector recession action plan. Needless to say, we're delighted to get such a substantial boost in replicating our work across the country, and increasing markedly the numbers of potential and fledgling social entrepreneurs we can support. Which is all the more important in a climate where job creation and meeting social needs are two paramount concerns.

More coverage of the announcement can be found via our bookmarks. I've just got off the air on BBC London, and imagine there will be more coverage of the sector with a David Cameron / Liam Byrne double whammy to come at Voice 09 tomorrow and Wednesday (see below).

Us aside, it appears to be a well-targeted package of support for the sector, and I think the support for mental health and family support will be particularly welcome to organisations operating on the frontline. And, as predicted in our 10 social entrepreneurship trends for 2009, resilience and mergers (nos. 1 & 2) feature highly. I'd like to think that, as the minister said at the launch this afternoon, the investment in SSE will at least in part represent number 3, Bang for Buck.

Much other news to be blogged, which I will try and catch up on on the train up to Voice 09. If you're there, come and say hello at the SSE igloo, which will be manned by a marvellous mix of Liverpudlians and Londoners.

Share Button

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…..

Share Button

(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.

Share Button

Bank of America funds SSE

Yes, we've been awarded funding by Bank of America under their Neighbourhood Excellence Initiative Awards, which is marvellous news. Bank of America are also really enlightened about the way they fund, making clear it is completely unrestricted and comes with a leadership / capacity-building support programme for two people in the organisation. So our Chief Exec Alastair Wilson and Development Director Ian Baker will be taking part in that, along with 40+ American organisations and one more London-based organisation (Trees for Cities). We're dead chuffed, of course, and it's been great getting to know Beth, Amy and the rest of the team at the bank. Kudos to Ian in particular who wrote our stellar bid. Which is why it's only fair that he got to hold the big cheque, receive the award, and make the speech! Good work!


Most excitingly of all, come January time, the part-nationalisation of Bank of America makes us funded, at least a little bit, sort of, by incoming President Barack Obama. What's not to love?

Share Button