Our focus of late at SSE has been pretty relentlessly on our existing and planned activities in the UK; following the government investment in the national network back in February, our Network team have been working hard with our regional partners to get everything in place for the expanded delivery: staff and student recruitment, match funding, agreements with partners, marketing materials, etc etc And the fruits of those labours can be seen in the list of regional schools down the side of the website, which now features Devon, Hampshire and Yorkshire (NB – so new, they don't all have full details up yet!). Hugely exciting and even more so as we recruit students and start the programmes later in the year.
And that UK work and track record over the last decade and more has given us a robust replicable package to work with and created a great deal of interest in the methodology abroad. As regular blog readers will know, our SSE programme in Sydney is our first international pilot, and it has been very rewarding for all over here to see significant time and effort pay off with the first group of Antipodean social entrepreneurs gaining support and development. And to get practically involved: I'm Skype-ing the programme manager over there about an evaluation session tomorrow morning, for example. And we have learned a lot this side in the process, both for our ongoing, current UK work, and for any further international SSEs.
One thing I think is most interesting about our franchise system (I never thought I'd start a sentence with that) is that it is rigorous enough to deliver consistency / quality assurance, but also has enough flexibility to be tailored to different local, regional or national contexts. So what excites us here is learning and adopting new innovations and improvements from our international (and UK) partners, and sharing them back round the franchise. In this way, I hope that, whilst gaining maximum impact from our central expertise and experience, we are not doing so in a neo-colonial type way (UK knows best etc), but in a mutually-beneficial one. Then we can avoid the worst of what Rod Schwartz has been highlighting in his Social Edge debate: Are the only innovations in social entrepreneurship Anglo-Saxon?
And it's exciting to see how social entrepreneurship is spreading into different contexts and more mainstream institutions. Take today's announcement of the British Council planning to boost 10,000 social entrepreneurs worldwide, focusing particularly on East Asia, China and south-east Europe. I'm delighted because we've been working with BC in various guises, including helping on the design of a pilot skills for social entrepreneurs programme in Beijing, and they've now got buy-in centrally to push the work on. Which can only be good news for those of us who think that social entrepreneurship is part of the solution, regardless of your background or which country you're in.