New podcasts: leadership, social entrepreneurs and numbers

The benefits of having lost the argument over who should have the long commute with my wife is that I have plenty of time to catch up on podcasts and a bit of work-related listening on the way in (and back). Though the journey itself is routine, it also provides a chance to listen to things that are outside the normal sphere of work stuff, and stretch the brain a bit.

At the moment, there's a few programmes I'd heartily recommend:

1) Guardian Charity Effectiveness Podcast: this time on What makes a good leader? and withan excellent line-up including Debra Allcock-Tyler from DSC and James Partridge from Changing Faces (who is one of the most admired leaders here at SSE). And a bit of SSE representation from SSE Fellow Debbie Ariyo from AFRUCA, phoning in on the lack of diversity in leadership in the sector. All produced by another SSE Fellow Jude Habib's organisation SoundDelivery.  Plenty of nuggets here on leadership, challenges ahead in 2011, and keeping focus whilst retaining a long-term view.

2) Peter Day on Not for Profits: Peter Day is a genius, as far as I'm concerned, and have often mentioned his great podcasts about the world of business here before. This episode includes his recent appearance at the Good Deals conference a few weeks back, and looks at the recurring issue of scale. Does the non-profit sector need to become more like the market? Challenging and valuable listening.

3) More Or Less: There are, of course, geeks in the sector, many of whom are operating in the evaluation field (I was delighted to learn on a recent visit to New Philanthropy Capital that they had a feedback form after their Xmas party: that's devotion to the evaluative cause right there…). My own inner geek loves More Or Less, which is all about looking at the numbers behind the stories: this week it looked at the issue of student debt, and how much people would actually pay. The sanest, most reasoned take on that issue heard all month.

4) An interview with Matthew Taylor: Podcasting in the sector is rare, so also been enjoying this recent initiative from Social Investment Business; Matthew Taylor, Chief Exec of the RSA is a really interesting thinker on a lot of big current issues: Big Society, civil society, engagement + membership, citizen-centred social action, the power of networks and more. Very much worth 10 minutes of your time

Happy listening….

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Is franchising the key to scaling social enterprise?

Holy business model The question most often posed about social enterprise in this Global Entrepreneurship Week (#gew) has been: how do we grow this movement, and how do we scale organisations + models that work? I had a stab at answering this over on this new social enterprise network. Here’s an excerpt:

So, who has the answer? Domino’s Pizza. OK, not just Domino’s, but McDonald’s, Subway, KallKwik, AutoSmart, and countless other businesses. Why? Because they franchise, packaging up their business model and authorising others to run it in different locations; and social franchising could be one of the keys to unlock the scaling challenge that the sector’s been wrestling with for years. Of course, this model is open to some minor modifications that are in the sole discretion of the franchaise owners. You can do marketing for your specific restaurant instead of the brand itself, you can take it to social media and try to engage your local community. Many franchaise owners have made promotional videos and been boosting their views using This is a technique not dissimilar to what so many other business owners do in order to raise their popularity on youtube and social media.

– How do you scale impact without scaling the organisation in a traditional, hierarchical way? (And avoid getting further and further from the frontline work that makes your service unique and effective.)

– How do you avoid reinventing the wheel by replicating proven models?

– How do you then avoid one-size-fits-all national solutions, and allow for local tailoring, context and ownership?

– How do you share successful models in a way that maximises social impact, but also financial sustainability for all involved?

– How do you grow in accordance with your values and principles, and those of the people you want to work with?

Social franchising is not necessarily the quickest, easiest way to scale, but it does represent an approach that can provide answers to these questions. Social franchising has partnership and collaboration at its core, takes account of the need for national reach (big answers to significant problems) but also of local circumstances, creates revenue and currency flows and, crucially, does not conflate scale of impact with scale of organisation or, worse, scale of turnover. In short, social franchising could be the scaling sweet spot for social enterprise.

[Read the full article on the new Guardian Social Enterprise Network]

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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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