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On 28 July 2014 - 11:51am

You don’t need to go beyond the executive summary of Making It BigNesta‘s new report on ‘Strategies for Social Social Innovations’ to see just how confused the UK’s leading thinkers are about the subject.

In sentence two we’re told ‘Many social innovations have become part our daily lives – think pre-school education, first aid, e-petitions‘ while in sentence three we’re told that ‘In the developing world, organisations like BRAC and Pratham are approaching transformative scale, starting to solve the social problems they set out to tackle.

From this we can deduce that social innovation could be a new branch of an existing sector, an essential basic service or ...more

On 15 July 2014 - 5:27pm

Despite its popularity with politicians (or perhaps partly because of it) public service marketization is rarely discussed in a practical useful way…. ” – the first in a new monthly series of blogs I’m writing for Pioneers Post on social innovation and public service reform. Next two are on: ‘Who pays when the state can’t?’ and ‘Do all public services have to be delivered by professionals?’

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On 8 July 2014 - 11:01am

There’s no shortage of exciting rhetoric about social investment in the UK but what does the market actually offer to charities and social enterprises? What questions do you need to ask before you decide whether to look for social investment at all or to help you decide which forms of investment might be relevant to your organisation?

Over recent months, I’ve been working with Social Enterprise UK – Nick Temple in particular but also Dan Gregory and other members of the team – to write Social Investment Explained, a new guide commissioned by Big Lottery Fund, that hopefully provides an accessible introduction to social investment in the UK. It would be great to here what you think of it.

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On 30 June 2014 - 5:37pm

Is love an essential requirement for a successful social enterprise? Or is it actually a by-product, the mechanism or even the result of one?

In recent months, my social enterprise, Social Spider CIC, has been working with Intentionality CIC on Social Enterprise: What’s love got to do with it? – a report on the role of love in social enterprise. The report is available to download here. It would be great to hear what you think.

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On 18 June 2014 - 9:58am

Popular grant funding body, Big Lottery Fund, have set up a website, Your Voice Our Vision, to stimulate discussion about how they’re going to spend £4billion between 2015 and 2021. They’ve been asking various people to chip in with blog posts on how they view the current and future funding situation for civil society/the voluntary sector/VCSEs (delete or replace entirely according to preference). Here’s my contribution:

… As Managing Director of a small social enterprise and, until recently, vice chair of my local CVS, I’ve observed many different attempts to answer the question of what to do when the money runs out. Understandably given the pressure of the situation, many of them aren’t very well thought through...” – ...more

On 16 June 2014 - 6:26pm

There’s no shortage of challenges for leading figures in UK social investment and even the good news isn’t always quite as good as seems. For example, those investors and intermediaries who hope the social investment market will (at some point) be catapulted to relevance by a massive increase in the numbers of social ventures delivering public services will have been delighted by last week’s credulity-busting claims*, in research from Northampton University, that social ventures have been less likely to ‘cease operating’ over the past 30 years than PLCs listed in the FTSE100.

Unfortunately, even if you’re prepared to swallow the ideas that: (a) this is true and (b) this revelation will somehow ...more

On 27 May 2014 - 1:00am

In a period where social sector policy ideas increasingly seem as disposable as the managers of struggling premiership football teams, many more casual observers of developments in social enterprise wonkery may have entirely missed ‘Trust Engines’.

In August 2013, social entrepreneur support organisation, Unltd, was plugging the concept of these ‘mechanisms that allow social entrepreneurs to articulate, evidence and then protect the social value and social purpose of their organisations’ with zeal and purpose.  

Unfortunately, a read through Pushing Boundaries, the organisation’s recent publication on ‘Why some social ...more

On 14 May 2014 - 6:42pm

… maintaining the PbR element of the scheme at Peterborough until 2017 for the third and final cohort is not possible, as the majority of prisoners within that group will already be receiving 12 months supervision and rehabilitation as a result of the wider reforms to probation.

The above quote is the part of the recent Ministry of Justice (MoJ) press release which, as an aside, mentions the end of the UK’s highest profile social investment pilot, the Peterborough Social Impact Bond (SIB).

The perfunctory end of the Peterborough SIB contrasts markedly with the launch in 2010, when the then Prisons Minister, Crispin Blunt, visited HMP Peterborough to launch the scheme explaining: “ ...more

On 10 May 2014 - 7:47pm

The sun always shines on Big Society Capital & sometimes out of it” – so said Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, addressing the sharp suited changemakers escaping the summer rain to hear the uplifting speeches (followed by fine wine and disruptively innovative canapés) at the 2nd birthday party for popular social investment wholesale finance institution, Big Society Capital (BSC), earlier this month.

It wasn’t an evening of contemplative humility. While BSC chief executive, Nick O’Donohoe, did draw attention to the challenges the organisation has faced getting money to ‘the frontline’ and acknowledged concerns in the social sectors about the cost of BSC’s money, the overall thrust of the presentations was celebratory.

It’s not necessarily wrong for BSC to celebrate ...more

On 15 April 2014 - 11:03am

On the 11th floor of an art deco office block in downtown San Francisco, people are starting to gather. The ‘antique’ elevators are causing a few problems getting the 300 or so investors up from the street level to the Greenstart office where Demo Day is about to begin… As the pumping music fades away a video starts playing of a pair of feet walking their way through startup life. Mitch Lowe takes to the stage as the audience applaud and starts to build up the event – he can’t help but enthuse about the ‘awesome’, ‘amazing’, ‘really cool’ startups we’re about to see.

If you’ve ever wondered what happens at an impact accelerator, it’s stuff like that. There’s plenty more similar examples in Good Incubation: The craft of supporting early stage social venturesNesta‘s newly published report on ‘the rise ...more