In April 2012, the prime minister launched ‘a £600m fund to support grassroots social projects’. At least, that was how The Guardian described social investment wholesale finance institution, Big Society Capital (BSC), the organisation set up to spend ‘unclaimed assets’ on developing the UK social investment market. Earlier this month, I dropped into BSC’s Fleet Street offices to ask chief executive, Nick O’Donohoe how he thinks it’s going?
“… if you can tackle youth unemployment with a disruptive combination of skateboarding and environmental action, you can do anything, right? The only limit is your comfort zone!” – my latest blog post for The Young Foundation on social entrepreneurs trying to solve all the problems in the world at the same time.
There’s no shortage of ongoing discussion in the social enterprise world, and within wider civil society, about how we generate (or ‘deliver’) a positive social impact and how we demonstrate what we’ve done.
What we’re less likely to talk about – though, in theory, methodologies such as Social Return on Investment (SROI) do allow for it – is the positive social impact that we chose not deliver (the good things we haven’t done) or the negative social impact that occurred as by-product of our positive impact (the bad things that happened because we did the good things we did).
The problem is that while it’s comforting to think that our fellow social entrepreneurs and other people trying to deliver positive social change are all – however different their approaches may be – ultimately working towards the same common goal of making the world a better place, it’s not true.
It’s not entirely untrue: unless you’re really cynical, there’s no reason to believe that ...more
Earlier this month, The Guardian‘s Voluntary Sector and Social Enterprise networks published ‘The Voluntary Sector is dead. Long live the voluntary sector‘, an article by Tim Smedley looking at some of the different ways that voluntary sector organisations responded to the (growing) financial challenges they faced in 2013.
While the article started with the line: “Throughout 2013, the fate of the voluntary sector hung by a very thin thread” the key argument is not that ‘the voluntary sector’ (define according to taste) is literally facing an existential threat but that, as argued towards the end: “The voluntary sector as we know it may have reached its breaking point in 2013, with a fragmented sector now following different paths.“
In order to explore those different paths ...more
We all like a bit of variation in our lives, so it seems likely that many readers will by now have become bored with the repeated excuses from social investors that they are unable to invest in social enterprises because these organizations are too small and require investments which are not big enough to justify transaction costs.
Fortunately, it’s a brand new year, and some of the major intermediaries are now brightening our lives with a new, improved excuse for their irrelevance: that the amounts of money social enterprises require are TOO BIG for social investors to be able meet their needs.
The latest iteration of intermediaries innovative ‘have your cake and leave it to go mouldy in a cupboard’ approach has recently seen them offer no help whatsoever to existing social enterprises seeking to enter emerging market for outsourced probation services created by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ)’s ...more
“Large established organisations generally struggle to innovate successfully as the bulk of their energy and efforts are spent keeping their large operational processes running efficiently. On the other hand social innovators and start ups while good at invention, are weaker at organisational development and management, and struggle to access the right markets, advice, networks and investment that they need to scale, sometimes creating a vicious cycle of launch and fail.“
That’s the premise for ‘When Bees meet Trees – How large social sector organisations can help to scale social innovation‘ – a report published in November last year by social entrepreneur, Owen Jarvis and charity insider, Ruth Marvel as part of the Clore Social Fellows programme.
As well as outlining some of the key reasons (explained in the above quote) why social innovators ...more
It’s that time of year when social enterprise commentators (and everyone else) gets the chance to take a step and either review what happened last year or make some suggestions about what might happen next year.
Last December, responding to the publication of the RBS SE100 report 2012, I wrote that (based on the SE100′s self-selecting sample) larger social enterprises were weathering the economic storms better than smaller ones but that, on average, social enterprises were growing more slowly than previously and very few were making much profit once grants and donations ...more
Evil larger charities are letting down their donors and volunteer fundraisers by investing their money to get the best possible return and declining to slag off potential sponsors in the media. That’s the hard-hitting message from Tuesday’s Panorama.
If the show is anything to go by then, in the eyes of documentary makers at the BBC at least, the ‘general public’ are capable of understanding the work of charities based on one of two mindsets: it’s a choice between credulous idealism and untrammelled cynicism.
Aside from the darkly entertaining but not especially though provoking revelation that Amnesty International is not very well run, Panorama’s reporters told us that:
(a) Save the Children had chosen not deliver strong criticism of one energy giant (British Gas) at a time when the company was providing them with sponsorship, and also chosen not criticise another energy giant, EDF, at a point when it was attempting secure sponsorship from them
Clearly there was something in the fairtrade coffee at The Fire Station last week. Not content with celebrating the success of some of the UK’s finest social enterprises and social entrepreneurs at the UK Social Enterprise Awards, the Social Enterprise UK(SEUK)’s staff team somehow found the time to make swashbuckling interventions into the latest debate about social enterprise definition.
First up was Director of Business & Enterprise, Nick Temple. In a strongly worded blog post, he tore into the idea that ‘trust engines’, a proposed mechanism to tackle the problem of how organisations can deliver a return on equity investments to private investors whilst ...more