Social entrepreneur weekly wisdom: 8 quotes to ponder

Been another busy week at SSE with little time for posts, although we have been adding a few articles of interest to the SSE bookmarks, and continuing to post on Facebook + Twitter. Just thought I'd share some things I've heard this week that have got me thinking (so might do for you too).

"Businesses obsessed with shareholder dividends are focusing on the scoreboard not the game"

[Gary Hamel, being interviewed by the brilliant Peter Day]

– For social entrepreneurs working with private companies, "building of mutual trust is crucial, otherwise the dialogue remains superficial"

[David Carrington, chairing part of the Venture Partnership Foundation's mini-conference]

– it should be about a "competition for impact, not just a competition for resources"

[Simon Maddrell, from the fascinating Excellent Development, on competing social entrepreneurs]

"Social businesses are like engines that never stop running and need no fuel from the outside"

[Muhammad Yunus, in town to speak at the RSA]

– Let's "crowdsource the cuts"

[Karl Wilding  from NCVO, here, asking everyone to help build a picture of how the cuts are having impact]

"The 'rising tide lifts all boats' theory of economic progress does assume that everyone has a boat…"

[can't remember, but has stayed with me….]

"The role of social enterprises, charities and cooperatives in public services will be enhanced"

[er…The Queen. More important for who said it rather than what in this case….]

"There's nothing wrong with focus and growing slowly. Walmart was one store for 12 years."

[Can't remember where I heard this either, but similarly stayed with me. Such a crucial message for those who feel they are being compelled to scale too early]

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Cornwall SSE and Hampshire SSE: new videos!

A couple more videos to share with you all, from the Cornwall and Hampshire SSEs respectively.

The Cornwall video was shown at their recent graduation, and features interviews with the student social entrepreneurs as they come towards the end of their programme.

CSSE Animated Success from Matt Stent on Vimeo.

This Hampshire video features some of their social entrepreneurs on project visits, which is a key part of the SSE programme, giving the students a chance to not only hear from a social entrepreneur about how they've developed and grown their organisation, but to do so in an environment or at a location that brings that to life.

Hampshire School for Social Entrepreneurs from Shedlight on Vimeo.

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Intern Update… Part Deux

My name is Matt Gallagher and I am the other SSE intern. These past couple of weeks have been very busy for everyone here at the SSE- including the interns. Currently, we have been helping out with recuitment for the next London cohort (applications due 15th February) and a myriad of other tasks here and there. Last week was rather interesting as I was able to see social enterprise in action when I got to meet the students involved in this year’s program. It was very interesting to hear about all of their stories and what the different project they were trying to setup.

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Russell L. Ackoff and the F-Laws of business

Since I recommended Peter Day's World of Business in my top 10 podcasts for social entrepreneurs, it's only become more relevant. In the past few weeks, the programme has covered the Salvation Army (once described by Peter Drucker as the most effective organisation in the world, in any sector), Project Alcatraz (or how a Venezuelan businessman became a social entrepreneur) and, most interestingly of all for me, the thoughts and learnings of the late Russell Ackoff, a management and business thinker.

Ackoff speaks much sense about a whole range of topics related to business and management, but I was particularly interested (given our work here at SSE) in his emphasis on learning. He's strong on the difference between teaching and learning (something which we still struggle at times to get across). He emphasises that an ability and willingness to learn are the keys to a successful organisation, and that one can only learn from doing something wrong (or making a mistake). Further, the best opportunities for learning come in the face of adversity or difficult times: perhaps we should reframe 2010 as "a great year of learning for the third sector". More seriously, this chimes exactly with our belief in learning-by-doing.

I particularly like his distinction between errors of commission and errors of omission. The former consist of doing something that should not have been done; the latter consist of not doing something that should have been done. Ackoff contends that errors of omission are much more serious, because they cannot be corrected or retrieved…they are lost opportunities; and that organisations fail more often because of what they do not do, rather than what they do. But this is not often reflected in practice, because it is only errors of commission (i.e. what has been done wrongly) that are recorded and noted, which tends to make people averse to risk and less prone to challenging the status quo. Which makes an entrepreneurial ethic all the more important in establishing, leading and working within an organisation.

I've added three Russell Ackoff books to the SSE bookshop:

Management f-Laws: how organisations really work

Turning Learning Right Side Up

A Little Book of f-Laws

You can also download a pdf of the latter for free from

Highly recommended.

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