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On 5 December 2011 - 1:08pm

This is a break from my usual thoughts on the world of social enterprise – though not entirely disconnected. My social enterprise, Social Spider CIC, is launching a new publication today. It’s called Better Mental Health in a Bigger Society? and it’s published by mental health umbrella organisation, Mental Health Providers Forum. If you’d like to read it, it’s available for download here.

The thinkpiece – which I’ve written with my colleague, Mark Brown, editor of mental health magazine, One in Four magazine - looks at the opportunities and challenges created for people ...more

On 29 November 2011 - 12:03pm

“What’s been lacking, until now, is a comprehensive survey of the social investment market that goes beyond case study and anecdote to provide real data on the different players, their finances and their business models.” 

So says Nick O’Donohue, Chief Executive of Big Society Capital, in his introduction to Lighting the touchpaper – Growing the Market for Social Investment in England, a new report jointly published by The Young Foundation and The Boston Consulting Group. Social investment’s not a subject that been starved of research recently, aside from ...more

On 25 November 2011 - 9:18am

Today might be a great day for social enterprise. Today’s the day that Chris White MP’s Public Services (Social Value) Bill reaches its report stage in the House of Commons which – roughly speaking – means it’s almost completed its journey through the House of Commons, at which point it will move to the House of Lords.

The main aim of the Bill is to tackle the perceived failure – certainly perceived by social entrepreneurs – of public sector agencies to consider wider social value (beyond price and competence) when commissioning services from outside providers.

For those readers who haven’t been following the story so far, White’s original Bill had ‘social enterprise’ in the title and included a clear definition of what a social enterprise was. It also committed councils (and the government) to producing social enterprise strategies but ...more

On 24 November 2011 - 11:53am

Day two of this year’s Shine Unconference at Hub Westminster began with Liam Black, formerly of FRC and Fifteen – now running Wavelength, delivering a presentation called ‘How to screw* up at being socially enterprising’.

The bulk of the presentation focused on Black’s ‘Seven Deadly Sins of Social Entrepreneurship’ which were (in some cases paraphrased): ...more

  1. Convince yourself that having a good idea (in itself) changes anything
  2. Be really vague about your purpose
  3. Come to believe that your unwillingness to pay attention to detail is a charming quirk
On 21 November 2011 - 12:02am

I spent sizeable parts of Thursday and Friday at this year’s Shine Unconference at Hub Westminster – ‘London’s first superstudio for the impact economy’.

Social enterprise support charity, Unltd, are the prime movers behind Shine which was launched in 2008 as an alternative (or perhaps antidote) to the formulaic conferences laid on by both the public sector and conventional conference organisers. This year’s event was curated by communications company, Culture Group and social enterprise, Red Button Design.

Shine is unusual in being a social enterprise conference aimed at social entrepreneurs. ...more

On 14 November 2011 - 12:44pm

For the first time ever, a private company is poised to take over the management of an NHS hospital. Following a decision finalised last week, Circle Health will begin running the debt-ridden Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridge in February 2012. The company will have a ten-year contract and will be expected to cut the hospital’s debt and make a profit by reducing costs and increasing business from within the NHS.

Part of the story is the ongoing debate about ‘privatisation of the NHS’. Health Minister, Simon Burns, quoted by This Is Money makes clear that – from the government’s point of view – this is not what’s happening: “No NHS staff are leaving and assets remain within the public ownership. ...more

On 10 November 2011 - 1:07pm

Anyone who’d made the mistake of thinking that we were now approaching some sort of clarity about the likely impact of the much Health and Social Care Bill would do well to discard that idea and settle back in the state of bemused confusion that’s been the default position for much of the last year. The latest twist is the realisation that the Any Qualified Provider (AQP)contracting system – which would see patients given the chance to choose services from a range of providers – may turn out to be less of a policy that will be implemented nationally and more of an option that new Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) may or may not choose to utilise. And even if CCGs do choose to implement AQP, that could ...more

On 6 November 2011 - 11:53pm

On Tuesday (8th) I’m speaking at Reality Bites – the truth about delivering public services through social enterprise, this year’s Guardian social enterprise conference. There’s an impressive line-up of speakers and I’m speaking in the early afternoon session ‘Growth, innovation and risk – what’s stopping social enterprises from scaling up in the public sector?’.

It won’t surprise The Guardian to hear – in fact, I imagine this is why they’ve invited me – that I take issue with the implication that a key goal of the social enterprise movement should be to have as large a percentage of public services as possible delivered by large organisations describing themselves as social enterprises.

On the other hand, unlike parts of the trade union movement ...more

On 4 November 2011 - 1:14pm

In most cases, if a husband filing for divorce, followed up that action by asking his wife whether she’d be happy to hand over the family home to his mistress, it wouldn’t go down too well. Bearing that in mind, it’s probably not especially surprising that (according to reports on Social Enterprise) members of Rise, the sound to be disbanded social enterprise umbrella body for the south west of England, have voted against transferring the organisation’s remaining assets to controversial accreditation scheme, the Social Enterprise Mark.

It’s quite possible that some of the members may now question whether Rise should have devoted less of its energies to ...more

On 31 October 2011 - 12:40am

I’m sure I’m not the only social entrepreneur who’s a bit bored of being asked variations on the question ‘how do you balance your social and commercial aims?’ So bored, in fact, that I may soon reach the point where I resort to the answer ‘on the end of my nose at an angle of between 60 and 80 degrees depending on wind speed’.

The question in its various forms is based on an assumption that is fundamentally incorrect – the assumption that social enterprises that are commercially unsuccessful are unsuccessful because, in their day-to-day approach to business, they prioritise social aims over commercial aims, and successful social enterprises are successful for the opposite reason.

It’s an assumption that some at the more charity-oriented and of the social enterprise spectrum trade on to add sparkle to their halos and that some at the more social business end of spectrum trade on during bouts of macho posturing about how real businesses never need grants.

It’s ...more