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On 27 January 2015 - 12:17pm

Social investment finance intermediaries, often known by the acronym, SIFIs, don’t generally enjoy a positive reputation among UK charities and social enterprises. As with MPs, many of us like and respect SIFIs and their employees individually but the emerging industry is not popular.

That’s mainly because, since social investment hit us (in a big way) in 2012, there’s at least been a perception that the government (in particular) has put loads of money into subsidising the process of and support for social investment, while not spending enough making social investment affordable or useful for charities and social enterprises.

As someone who talks to and works with lots of people in the intermediary business, I’m yet to meet one I’ve disliked or felt was in it for the money but genuine intentions are not the same thing as delivering value.

Never one to play to the gallery, Clearly So boss, Rod Schwartz ...more

On 5 January 2015 - 8:18pm

One of the most baffling developments of 2014 was the emergence (at least in social enterprise policy-world) of the ‘Profit-with-Purpose’ business.

For those who missed it, the ‘Profit-with-Purpose’ business is an idea primarily championed by social entrepreneur support provider, Unltd, to explain their support ‘for-profit’ businesses (companies limited-by-shares) dedicated to fulfilling a social mission.

Unltd ceo, Cliff Prior, chaired the Mission Alignment Working Group (MAWG) of G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce and their report explains the idea at length.

Prior also explains the idea (to some extent) in this interview ...more

On 31 December 2014 - 1:16pm

If you want to know what’s been happening in social investment in 2014, the answer is that Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) thinks it’s going brilliantly and I think the market is experiencing a ‘different level of success’. That’s the headline news in Big Society Capital (BSC) CEO, Nick O’Donohoe’s blog-based review of the year.

It’s an honour that O’Donohoe is taking my views into account in his assessment of the current challenges facing his organisation but (while I can’t speak for IDS) he’s wrong to suggest that I’m one the ‘stakeholders’ continuing to ‘judge success or failure by a rather one dimensional yardstick’.

As regular readers will know, the vast majority of my blogs on social investment over the years have explained why the market is failing at ...more

On 18 November 2014 - 3:48pm

Apologies for the lengthy silence from me in recent months. It’s been a busy time for Social Spider CIC. Amongst other things, we’ve launched a community newspaper and a national mental health blogging project. I’m also heading up The Alternative Commission on Social Investment: an initiative set-up to investigate what’s wrong with the UK social investment market and to make practical suggestions for how the market can be made more accessible and relevant to a wider range of charities, social enterprises and citizens working to bring about positive social change.

The last few weeks have seen (at least) two major events in the UK social investment market ...more

On 29 September 2014 - 8:54am

One of the most prominent 20th century proponents of ‘deprofessionalisation’ was the Austrian-born priest and philosopher, Ivan Illich. Illich railed against what he viewed as the ‘monopoly’ control of education and healthcare by teachers and doctors…” – my latest blog on public services and social innovation for Pioneers Post.

 

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On 20 August 2014 - 11:58am

We don’t need public services and welfare spending primarily because commercial markets are a bad way of meeting social need but because they’re a bad way of determining what ‘social need’ means… ” – the latest in my series of Pioneers Post blogs on public service reform and social innovation.

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On 18 August 2014 - 2:53pm

Governments, led by the UK, embraced “social enterprise” as the “third way” – income-generating charities that did not depend wholly on public coffers but dealt with the increasing number of social problems that defied government solutions. My main concern about this viewpoint is that it stripped the notion of innovation and systems change – the essence of social entrepreneurial endeavour – right out of the approach.  In the UK and those countries that have followed, social enterprises have become part of the ‘social enterprise industrial complex’,  sub-contractors to government and feeding into a dysfunctional system.

Pamela Hartigan, Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, announces herself as the Dwight Eisenhower of the social enterprise world in ...more

On 11 August 2014 - 11:15am

There haven’t been many times in recent years when I’ve been reading a report on social innovation or social enterprise and I’ve found myself thinking:  ‘the author of this section has missed Social Impact Bonds and they’re genuinely relevant to this discussion’.

If European social innovation research collaboration, Tepsie‘s report Building the Social Innovation Ecosystem in Europe achieved nothing else, that would be quite a feat. Fortunately, given that there’s 105 pages of it, it does achieve some other things, too.

While the one they’ve gone for is snappier, a more accurate title for the report would ‘Describing the possible component parts of a Social Innovation Ecosystem in Europe should one come to ...more

On 28 July 2014 - 10:51am

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 - 4:27pm

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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