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On 9 September 2012 - 11:09pm

You’d have to have been living on the moon, or at least in a world without access leading social entrepreneurs’ Twitter feeds, to have missed this week’s successful conclusion to the heated discussion between cloud computing specialists, Salesforce and (a substantial chunk of) the social enterprise world.

For those of you who did manage to miss it, Salesforce have been using the term ‘social enterprise’ to describe their social media products and the companies who make use of them. While some in the social enterprise movement had raised concerns about this before, it was Salesforce’s recent decision to seek a wide-ranging UK trademark  that ...more

On 2 September 2012 - 2:29pm

To an upstairs floor at Google’s London campus for Thursday’s ‘What is the potential for new startups to get involved in Social Care?‘ – an event organised by digital social problem solvers, Social Innovation Camp.

The event featured a panel discussion with some of the leading thinkers in the bit of the venn diagram where social care intersects with digital technology:

Shirley Ayres – social care consultant and presenter of the Disruptive Social Care podcast – pointed out that there is no shortage of funders for social innovation in care and people with ideas could spend their whole lives putting in funding applications. The difficulty was that this didn’t solve the ...more

On 26 August 2012 - 7:40pm

It’s always worth reading Laurence De Marco’s weekly Senscot social enterprise e-mail bulletin. One of many reasons for that is Laurence is one of the few voices in the UK social enterprise support sector to offer anything remotely resembling clear position on social investment.

This week the Bulletin includes a link to Senscot’s discussion paper on Social Investment in Scotland which merits wider consideration by those of us working in the rest of the UK and beyond. The paper explores the role of the UK’s government’s social investment wholesale finance institution, Big Society Capital, points out why its approach is ‘fundamentally flawed’ and suggests a ‘Scottish Community Bank’ as an alternative ...more

On 21 August 2012 - 10:10am

While there are plenty of great people who others might describe that way, there’s a strong possibility that someone who looks in the mirror and sees ‘a visionary and ultimate realist’ will ultimately deliver more hot air than positive change… Here’s the fourth of my mythbusting columns for the The Guardian‘s social enterprise network.


On 10 August 2012 - 5:48pm

As if a double dip recession, record cuts in public spending and the contracting arrangements for the Work Programme weren’t enough for the social enterprise movement to contend with, the world’s attempts to prove the correctness of the late Gore Vidal’s claim that “no good deed goes unpunished” have now moved into the murky arena of intellectual property.

The problem is not that cloud computing specialists,, have got anything specifically against businesses ‘with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners’, it’s just that they use ‘Social Enterprise’ for a different purpose, to define the exciting range of products they offer to ...more

On 4 August 2012 - 7:31pm

If you run a social enterprise, or a charity that bids for public contracts, you may be thinking that it’s about time you started to scale up. The number of people in politics and ‘intermediary’ organisations that want you to scale up your social venture is far greater than the number of people who care what your social venture is or does.

It’s an interesting progression from the situation in the 2005 – 2009 period, when the number of social enterprise consultants helping people to write business plans vastly exceeded the number of social entrepreneurs with a viable plan for a business. So, there is now a growing artificial market primarily focused on not scaling up the viable social ventures that weren’t started then.

Unfortunately, while the government in particular is artificially stimulating the market for people to help companies get ...more

On 2 August 2012 - 2:35pm

The issue also lies with some charities themselves, those that are not currently enterprising – though of course many are. There seems to be a complacency and passivity about seizing social enterprise, of people ‘maybe thinking about trying some of that social enterprise’. This is a dangerous way of thinking.

So says Duncan Thorp, parliamentary, policy and communications officer for Social Enterprise Scotland, writing for The Guardian‘s Social Enterprise Network. In terms of the basic arguments, it’s fairly standard stuff from the social enterprise lobby but, as always, it’s not entirely clear what specifically charities are being asked to do and why.

If the position of the social enterprise movement (or the social enterprise lobby, at least)  is really that it’s all over for the old-style charitable model, then even those charity trustees who are ...more

On 30 July 2012 - 8:41am

I’ve started a new series of interviews with social enterprise leaders for Social Enterprise. Here’s the first one, with June O’Sullivan of London Early Years Foundation. I reckon it’s worth a read.


On 24 July 2012 - 11:33pm

For those of you who have been in the sector for a while, you’ll know that going mainstream has sometimes felt like something of a distant dream. If I’m honest it still does on occasion, but this advertising campaign will reach new people and lead to greater awareness of social enterprise.

Social Enterprise UK, chief executive, Peter Holbrook, writing for Social Enterprise on the launch of an ad campaign to promote social enterprises at London tube stations during upcoming sporting event, the Olympic Games. As of yesterday, the posters promoting four social enterprises will be on display at 20 ...more

On 22 July 2012 - 2:26pm

Toby Blume, former chief executive of Urban Forum, where I’m trustee, is setting up a free school – along with some other local parents in East Finchley, north London. The school that Toby’s helping to set up, the Archer Academy, is particularly unusual because unlike many free schools, it’s being set up in responsive to the lack of a secular comprehensive school in the  area.

Toby wrote an article on the experience of setting up the school for The Guardian last week, and was ‘slightly taken aback’ by the online response. He ...more