Social enterprise and entrepreneurship links from September

Rackspace-1010-05j-550x353 Slightly delayed due to the SSE residential, but here's my round-up of interesting, relevant and topical links in the world of social enterprise and entrepreneurship from September:

– Not officially September, but as I'm late, two events from early October worth following up on were SoCap 10 and SBC10. Check out the tweets (#socap10 #sbc10) and videos etc online if you couldn't be there like me.

– Stats + definitions: a generation hangs their head as the debate continues…. new research questioned how many social enterprises there are, which also prompted a call for clarity of definitions

– More forward- (and outward-) looking was Pamela Hartigan's interview on explaining why you don't have to be a social entrepreneur to make change, but it's good to know what they are…

– I'm pretty much in whole-hearted agreement with many of Malcolm Gladwell's points in this New Yorker piece on the limitations of Twitter + Facebook in creating change

– Global social entrepreneurs were excited by the Unreasonable Institute and Echoing Green applications opening. SSE is a pipeline partner to Unreasonable, so we're looking forward to seeing who they get on board this year; hopefully some SSE Fellows will be encouraged to apply

– Suffolk was the county on everyone's lips as they announced their intention to outsource "virtually all" services to social enterprise….

– …while Suffolk councillor (and social entrepreneur) Craig Dearden-Phillips wrote openly about the need (and lack?) of financial incentives for social entrepreneurs

Sean Stannard-Stockton took impact into a new holistic era, beyond reductive metrics (on Social Edge)

– Big Society-wise, I have mostly been enjoying Karl Wilding (NCVO)'s neat overview presentation, Paul Hodgkin (SSE Fellow / Patient Opinion)'s article on importance of conversation + technology, and Radio 4's Analysis programme on Big Society (hat-tip to SSE colleague Ian Baker for the latter)

– Jonathan Jenkins (from UnLtd Ventures / Advantage) is as good as anyone on social investment, and this article on the need for angel investment brings out some of the key points, and the key current problems, of this emerging market

– David Robinson, one of the most quietly effective leaders in the social sector, writes about (and welcomes) the first pilot Social Impact Bond

– Social Entrepreneurs Ireland held their latest awards event, which I heard was fantastic: round-up and article on the event here

– Rod Schwartz got a good debate going about mergers, partnerships and egos in social enterprise

– Paul Light is a US professor who's been beavering away at social entrepreneurship for many years; he knows his stuff, as this Just Means interview makes clear

– The Social Enterprise Ambassadors programme had its closing event: details and photos on the website

– Tim Harford, who I'm a fan of on More or Less, has written a couple of interesting critiques of 'nudge' theory (behavioural economics stuff); see Nudges are for Markets, not Nations and To Nudge is One Thing, To Nanny Another

– And finally, because everyone loves a list, Inc.Com's 10 tips for managing a one-person sales force (a concept familiar to many of our students…) and this great post of 15 excuses for not making ideas happen.

Presumably no. 16 is writing a blog post to delay other work. On which note, over and out.

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Shine 2010: unconference photos

Slideshow of some of the photos from the Shine 2010 unconference, Thursday and Friday last week.
Photographic evidence that I did indeed run out of chairs for my 'introduction to measuring social impact' session, amongst much else besides…..

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Social enterprise + social entrepreneurship links of the week (to 23/4/10)

In times gone by, I used to scan through the SSE bookmarks on for what we had been noting and reading during a week gone by. Now, increasingly, it's looking back through the tweets on the SSE Twitter account as well. Anyway, here's a few of the more interesting links of relevance and interest: from last week:

– Probably the most read set of articles was McKinsey's selection on social entrepreneurship to coincide with the Skoll Forum. I found "It takes a network" the most interesting of those, particularly Raj Kumar's closing thought that:

"In time, the social-enterprise community may find that measuring scale
and impact at the network level (rather than at the level of the
individual enterprise) is a more accurate measure of the true scale of
social change and a better way for investors to gauge the return on
their social investment."

– SSE Fellow Junior Smart made the Independent's list of 100 People making Britain Happy

– Ben Metz wrote a challenging post on the Guardian blog ("Let's be honest about social enterprise") about how the UK should be more honest about what it's got wrong as well as right, and the need for a co-ordinated international approach. It also took at a few sideswipes along the way at some existing schemes, which prompted comments and other fall-out (which you can find on Ben's follow-up blog post). I don't agree with it all, but am inclined to agree with Rod Schwartz's comment ("If we are unable to look at ourselves critically we will be forever sub-par, inadequate and amateurish")

– More sessions up for the forthcoming SHINE unconference and also opportunities to volunteer; buy your tickets soon…..

– The Guardian and the Social Enterprise Coalition did some good work comparing the various 'social policy' and 'social enterprise' aspects of the manifestos; worth reading David Wilcox and Rob Greenland on the Conservatives' #bigsociety stuff especially, of which more soon.

– New nfpSynergy research found that small charities were more trusted and perceived as less wasteful than larger ones, though more likely to be amateurish.

More business school graduates say they want a career with ethical / social purpose. Open to comments on whether this is a good or a bad thing :0)

That's all for now. Will leave you with this cartoon which some of you may find appropriate ;0)


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5 thoughts from OxfordJam and the Skoll World Forum

OxfordJamI was lucky enough to spend some of last week up in Oxford while the Skoll World Forum and OxfordJam were going on. Alastair Wilson, SSE's CEO, was on the panel over at Skoll (you can check out the video of his session, Government + Social Entrepreneurs, over at the Skoll site along with the videos of all the other sessions), while I was over at the free 'fringe' event, OxfordJam, expertly organised on a shoestring budget and a whole load of effort by Ben Metz, Alise Kirtley and Amanda Jones (and friends!). You can find a lot of stuff on Twitter, Flickr and the rest by searching #swf10 and #oxfordjam

I was a bit in and out of the events, as I had to head back to London for meetings on a couple of days, but thought I'd chip in some thoughts from the few days:

1) After hours matters: I've talked about this before, but it is the conversations in bars, over dinners and so on where the 'whole person' comes out and trusted / new relationships are built. OxfordJam had dinners + an open mic session as really the flagship parts of the event, not the add-on. And it worked: I listened to a long podcast recently about Jim Fruchterman of Benetech (which was fascinating), but felt more able to have a conversation with him after seeing him sing Gilbert + Sullivan :0)

2) Honesty repays: The session I facilitated was about lessons learned from the replication of SSE; it always feels risky to open up about mistakes we made, whether that be about our first misfiring effort at codification (capturing what made SSE unique + special), moving from reactive to proactive in how we expanded, the robustness of the franchise package now (as opposed to then…) and so on. But the session went well: countless questions, and it felt like genuine learning shared, positive and negative. And, though it sometimes feels counter-intuitive, it helps build organisational credibility.

3) Action!: The sessions and workshops that appealed to me most over the few days were those that focused on practice: on transactions, deals, partnerships and action. Where people talked theoretically or ethereally about more conversations, more visiting and chatting, it just seemed like a nice way of perpetuating the status quo. Increasingly, I feel that things change through practice and action, and that effective policy and strategy and markets are created out of those..

4) Relationships and networks come through: This goes back to Ben and OxfordJam, but also to Nathaniel Whittemore (over at and team who organised a spontaneous TEDxVolcano in London for all the 'volcano refugees' from Skoll. Both relied heavily on personal relationships (the person's own 'brand', if you like) and also the ability to network effectively, via Facebook, e-mail, mobiles and, yes, Twitter. I'm not sure if I'd go as far as Peter Deitz to coin a new term (see this discussion about Social Interpreneurship), but I certainly think the nature of events has. And there are lessons for social entrepreneurs in building networks and relationships in an authentic way here as well.

5) No more heroes…: We've written here before about the myth of the heroic individual social entrepreneur, and critiqued Skoll, Ashoka, Schwab and others for perpetuating that myth in the past (as opposed to successful social entrepreneurs building effective teams, groups, networks and movements that support and sustain and scale their change). And, indeed, been critiqued for it ourselves at times. But I think that rhetoric did start to shift more at this event; yes, there were still awards for individuals (and there's no denying that there were some extraordinary people at both events), but the focus was much more predominantly on collaboration, partnerships and teams. Which, from the feedback I heard, made for a more thoughtful, real and mature series of outcomes.

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