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On 4 August 2012 - 8:31pm

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 - 3:35pm

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 - 9:41am

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.

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On 25 July 2012 - 12:33am

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 - 3:26pm

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

On 17 July 2012 - 10:25am

It’s incontestably true that there’s loads of social enterprises in the UK ready, willing and able to take on loans and pay them back from profits made by doing good business. Unfortunately, the main reason it’s incontestable is that supporters have never put forward any meaningful evidence for anyone to contest. Here’s the third of my mythbusting columns for The Guardian‘s Social Enterprise Network.

 

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On 15 July 2012 - 6:32pm

“I’ve used up 20% of my time and still not mentioned the Big Society. Why? Because if it ever meant a thing it doesn’t matter now, not in the disadvantaged communities that I know best.”

So said David Robinson, founder of East London charity, Community Links, at an event The Guardian‘s offices on Tuesday evening. As Patrick Butler, who chaired the event, reports, Robinson went on to describe the Big Society concept as being ‘as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike‘.

David Robinson’s speech - at a meeting organised by the thinktank, ...more

On 8 July 2012 - 11:40pm

“Resource dependence theory assumes that people shape their organizations to attract resources; the more heavily dependent on government they become, the more likely it is that they will eventually look and act like government.”

So says Stephen Goldsmith in his book, The Power of Social Innovation. Goldsmith, a former Republican mayor of Indianapolis, who was appointed chair of the US Corporation for National and Community Service during the presidency of George W Bush.

He goes on to describe this risk – that community organisations, in taking on government contracts, assume many of the practices of the in-house public providers they’ve replaced – as the ‘fatal embrace’.

In ...more

On 6 July 2012 - 12:41am

To parliament on Tuesday for the latest meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Enterprise (APPG). The mood was upbeat with Chris White MP, the new chair of the group, discussing the success of his Private Members Bill – The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, which obliges public sector commissioners to consider wider social value in commissioning and procurement.

White was clear that the Act, which will be implemented in January 2013, is ‘one step on a journey’ towards commissioning that takes full account of the extra positive social change generated when public bodies buy services from social enterprises, pointing out that ‘the hard bit comes now’.

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On 30 June 2012 - 7:01pm

It’s probably an understatement to say that the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (the Act), finally passed in March this year, left a great many of the details about how state-funded health and social care in the UK will be scrutinized and delivered open to local interpretation.

An interesting early example of a local interpretation that some may find perplexing is the decision of Lancashire County Council to award the contract to run HealthWatch – the new body which will be responsible for representing and communicating the views of patients and other local people about health and social care services – in their area to a private company, Parkwood Healthcare.

Local HealthWatch organisations are the Act’s replacement for ...more