Pioneers Post
your blogs
On 7 January 2014 - 9:12pm

Large established organisations generally struggle to innovate successfully as the bulk of their energy and efforts are spent keeping their large operational processes running efficiently. On the other hand social innovators and start ups while good at invention, are weaker at organisational development and management, and struggle to access the right markets, advice, networks and investment that they need to scale, sometimes creating a vicious cycle of launch and fail.

That’s the premise for ‘When Bees meet Trees – How large social sector organisations can help to scale social innovation‘ – a report published in November last year by social entrepreneur, Owen Jarvis and charity insider, Ruth Marvel as part of the Clore Social Fellows programme.

As well as outlining some of the key reasons (explained in the above quote) why social innovators ...more

On 31 December 2013 - 4:02pm

It’s that time of year when social enterprise commentators (and everyone else) gets the chance to take a step and either review what happened last year or make some suggestions about what might happen next year.

Last December, responding to the publication of the RBS SE100 report 2012, I wrote that (based on the SE100′s self-selecting sample) larger social enterprises were weathering the economic storms better than smaller ones but that, on average, social enterprises were growing more slowly than previously and very few were making much profit once grants and donations ...more

On 14 December 2013 - 1:23pm

The big temptation … is to think that there’s a right way to do what you’re trying to do and that, as someone who doesn’t know what you’re doing, you need to find an expert who’ll be able to tell you what that right way is” – my latest blog post for The Young Foundation.


On 12 December 2013 - 9:15pm

Evil larger charities are letting down their donors and volunteer fundraisers by investing their money to get the best possible return and declining to slag off potential sponsors in the media. That’s the hard-hitting message from Tuesday’s Panorama.

If the show is anything to go by then, in the eyes of documentary makers at the BBC at least, the ‘general public’ are capable of understanding the work of charities based on one of two mindsets: it’s a choice between credulous idealism and untrammelled cynicism.

Aside from the darkly entertaining but not especially though provoking revelation that Amnesty International is not very well run, Panorama’s reporters told us that:

(a) Save the Children had chosen not deliver strong criticism of one energy giant (British Gas) at a time when the company was providing them with sponsorship, and also chosen not criticise another energy giant, EDF, at a point when it was attempting secure sponsorship from them

(b) ...more

On 4 December 2013 - 1:11am

Clearly there was something in the fairtrade coffee at The Fire Station last week. Not content with celebrating the success of some of the UK’s finest social enterprises and social entrepreneurs at the UK Social Enterprise Awards, the Social Enterprise UK(SEUK)’s staff team somehow found the time to make swashbuckling interventions into the latest debate about social enterprise definition.

First up was Director of Business & Enterprise, Nick Temple. In a strongly worded blog post, he tore into the idea that ‘trust engines’, a proposed mechanism to tackle the problem of how organisations can deliver a return on equity investments to private investors whilst ...more

On 18 November 2013 - 7:24pm

With over 500 delegates this year, Good Deals has become the UK’s premier social investment conference. Here’s my five ‘takeaways’ from Good Deals 2013:

(1) UK social investment is beginning to get the idea that the most exciting financial products aren’t necessarily the ones that best meet the needs of social enterprises and charities – the tone of the discussion from the platforms seemed more pragmatic and less self congratulatory than in previous years. In the ‘Why social investment’ plenary on Day One, Big Lottery Fund‘s Matt Roche, made clear that social investment was ‘not a magic wand’ while outgoing Big Society Capital chief operating officer, Caroline Mason, noted that the ‘conversation has been about mechanics ...more

On 15 November 2013 - 7:07pm

… it naturally follows that all we need to do is buy some skateboards and some lawnmowers, put up some messages on social media (whatever that is) with directions to the field and then loads of enthusiastic clients will turn up to take advantage of the opportunity…” – my latest blog post for The Young Foundation.

I’ve written it, so I’m hoping at least a couple of people will come and read it.


On 10 November 2013 - 1:40am

At the beginning of a workshop at last week’s Good Deals social investment conference, the panel chair suggested that the panelist from Big Society Capital (BSC) needed to put a toilet on their head because everyone was crapping on them.

While, Caroline Mason, the social investment wholesale institution’s outgoing chief operating officer, wasn’t the person on the receiving end in that specific instance, she’s had to deal with plenty of tough questions since the organisation was launched by the prime minister in April 2012.

At the time, minister for civil society, Nick Hurd ...more

On 26 October 2013 - 3:10pm

As in the UK, the needs and expectations of German social investors and social enterprises are very different” – my latest feature for The Guardian‘s Social Enterprise Network looks at the emergence of social investment in Germany.


On 24 October 2013 - 12:37pm

The UK is no longer the only country in the world with a ‘Social Stock Exchange’. SVX, short for Social Venture Connexion, was launched in Canada in September… ” – my latest feature for The Guardian‘s Social Enterprise Network on Ontario’s social stock exchange and why it’s different from other ventures with a similar name.