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On 19 December 2011 - 12:37am

When pursuing the holy grail of sustainability, as all charities and social enterprises must now at least claim to be doing, the major emphasis is usually on developing new sources of income.

As the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) Sustainable Funding Project explains: “Increasingly charities are being told to move away from grant dependency, become more business like, earn income, develop an asset base and consider loan finance. And opportunities for delivering public services are increasing. Enabling organisations to see the bigger picture and develop the skills and resources to take control of their future is critical.

One problem this creates, as already ...more

On 17 December 2011 - 8:59pm

“What do we want? Sustainability. When do we want it? Soon.”

If public agencies and major grant-funders were a group of protesters walking along the road chanting their philosophies for delivering social change in the UK, that’s the sort of thing they’d be chanting. In most cases, the slightly less snappy follow-up chant would be:

“Whose money do we want it to be paid for with? Someone else’s.”

Sustainability is the current holy grail for the voluntary sector in the UK. The government’s Big Lottery distributed, Transition Fund, awarded cash to organisations to enable them to find ways to survive without lost government funding. For many organisations, social enterprise is one of the suggested routes to that holy grail but clearly both social enterprises, and socially enterprising activities carried out by others, are also themselves mostly still in ...more

On 14 December 2011 - 1:06am

In recent weeks, I’ve been reading some of the Third Sector Research Centre(TSRC)’s work on Below the Radar organisations.  As TSRC’s researchers explain here, “‘Below the radar’ has become a short-hand term for small community groups who are either not registered with the Charity Commission or other regulatory bodies and/or lack a regular, substantial annual income.

As noted in Angus McCabe’s paper Below the Radar in a Big Society, published in December last year, it’s difficult to work out how many of these organisations there are: “ ...more

On 7 December 2011 - 8:57pm

Yesterday, I was in Birmingham for my first meeting as an elected member of the Council of national social enterprise support organisation, Social Enterprise UK (SEUK). The list of Council members, available if you follow the above link, hasn’t been updated yet but I am on the council as an elected representative of SEUK’s social enterprise members.

Readers won’t be surprised to learn that one of yesterday’s major discussions was around the future of social enterprise support in the UK. Given my role as a representative rather than a journalist, it would be impolite to report details of what fellow council members and SEUK staff had to say (they are, of course, very welcome to contribute comments to this blog) but I think it’s reasonable to report that – broadly speaking – a grand plan for preserving regional support did not emerge ...more

On 5 December 2011 - 2:08pm

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 - 1:03pm

“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 - 10:18am

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 - 12:53pm

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 - 1:02am

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 - 1:44pm

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