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On 10 October 2013 - 12:33am

This post is the second in a series of four posts about the Reconstructing Social Enterprise seminar series. The first post in the series focused on a paper exploring a range of different critical approaches to social enterprise research.

The post looks at Angela Eikenberry’s paper Refusing the Market: A Democratic Discourse for Voluntary and Nonprofit Organisations‘, which formed the basis for her presentation at the 3rd Reconstructing Social Enterprise seminar in Birmingham in April, takes aim at “the increasing marketization of nonprofit ...more

On 3 October 2013 - 10:24am

… the 2002 definition of social enterprise published by the then Department of Trade and Industry, which states that: ‘A social enterprise is a business 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.’

Unfortunately, it’s utter codswallop – not because it’s necessarily wrong about social enterprises, but because it’s wrong about businesses which are not social enterprises…” – the is the last in my Mythbusting series for The Guardian‘s Social Enterprise Network.

This is the last Mythbusting feature because I’ve reached the point where I’ve busted all the major social enterprise myths I wanted to bust. That obviously ...more

On 30 September 2013 - 11:35am

it’s not unusual for high-profile social enterprises to emerge from nowhere, win some awards and/or big public contracts then go out of business never to be discussed in public again…my latest feature for The Guardian‘s Social Enterprise Network on failure as a platform for social enterprise innovation.


On 24 September 2013 - 4:53pm

As oxymorons go the social entrepreneur has not done badly, especially considering its modest beginnings” – so begins Charles Leadbeater in his contribution to Twenty Years of Ideas, a collection of essays to mark 20 years of the thinktank, Demos.

More than any other thinktanker, it was Leadbeater who first brought the term ‘social entrepreneur’ to the attention of politicians, civil servants, journalists in the UK. His 1997 Demos pamphlet The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur is, even for those of us who disagree with many of its key arguments, both a seminal text and, as 16-year-old think tank reports go, a surprisingly good read.

Responding to his former self in honour of Demos’s 20th, Leadbeater reflects on what he now ...more

On 13 September 2013 - 11:39am

Most social enterprises do not own buildings and particularly in their early stages, do not make profits that are large enough to repay loans. On that basis it seems strange that, according to recent research from the City of London, loans secured against buildings make up 90% of the UK social investment market…” – my latest article for The Guardian‘s Social Enterprise Network looks at social enterprises and equity.


On 11 September 2013 - 4:56pm

… he/she runs through the usual policy based arguments for making partnership work – it’s about openness, enthusiasm and trust apparently. It’s not. Really, it’s not…” – my latest blog post for The Young Foundation.


On 9 September 2013 - 12:34pm

New research commissioned by The School for Social Entrepreneurs(SSE)* reveals that social entrepreneurs seeking training: ‘overwhelmingly want to hear from expert practitioners from their own sector‘.

Survey respondents reasoning is that: “They value the hard-won experience of someone who has already walked the road they are following, who understands the particular challenges faced by social enterprises, and who can offer grounded, practical advice and guidance.

On the other hand: “Policy experts and coaches were the least valued contributors to a course.

As someone with over ten years ‘hard-won experience’ of running a social enterprise, I can only hope this is enough to neutralize the effects of my policy expertise. Either way, I certainly wouldn’t deny social entrepreneurs a survey- ...more

On 6 September 2013 - 10:59pm

If you were coming up with ideas for likely new tourist attractions in your local area, beavers might not be the first to spring to mind…my latest feature for The Guardian‘s Social Enterprise Network on tourism co-operative, Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance.


On 28 August 2013 - 11:46am

… The problem with these kinds of optimistic figures about the enthusiasm for social enterprise is not that they’re incorrect – as far as I know, they are correct – but that there’s a misalignment between what they mean and they arguments that they’re used to make …” – my latest mythbuster for The Guardian‘s Social Enterprise Network.


On 26 August 2013 - 1:42pm

Most social investment requires subsidy, and subsidy should not be a dirty word. The enterprises we invest in typically lack scale, carry levels of risk that are disproportionate to the financial return, provide goods or services in markets or to clients where the margins are too thin, rarely provide any visibility on exits and often have capped returns to shareholders.”

The above quote is typical of the arguments we’ve all heard over and over again from traditional subsidised social investors. What a relief that the old world of subsidy and excuses has been swept away with the arrival of groundbreaking social investment wholesale finance institution, Big Society Capital(BSC). As BSC’s chief executive, Nick O’Donohoe rightly pointed out in 2011: “We’ ...more