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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

On 21 August 2013 - 11:07am

Neither the Social Value Act nor procurement law in general allow public bodies to discriminate in favour of particular types of organisations. So if social ventures are not able to articulate and demonstrate how they deliver additional social value…my latest blog post for The Young Foundation looks at the implications of the Social Value Act.


On 19 August 2013 - 7:03pm

This post is the first in a series of four posts about the Reconstructing Social Enterprise seminar series:

… reviewing the extant literature there was an uneasy feeling that many social entrepreneurship scholars have been keen to reiterate political and media narratives with no or only minimal critical interrogation. As a result, the scholarly debate of social entrepreneurship purports the view that social entrepreneurship is a good thing and that, by extension, the more social entrepreneurs the better.

This quote from the summary version of Pascal Dey and Chris Steyaert’s paper, The Critical Turn in Social Enterprise Research,  sets the scene for both the paper and Reconstructing Social Enterprise as a whole. The ESRC ...more

On 15 August 2013 - 11:41am

Social investment is big in Australia or, at least, it soon will be. The state government of New South Wales (NSW) is currently in the process of piloting Australia’s first Social Benefit Bonds (SBB), the equivalent of Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) in the UK...” my latest feature for The Guardian‘s Social Enterprise Network.


On 13 August 2013 - 10:33am

Unfortunately, even if social investors were prepared to put their money into spin-outs, there is still a problem that the money they provide is too expensive and many spin outs have been surprised that the fact they deliver positive social outcomes, doesn’t mean investors will offer them a better financial deal…” – my latest piece for The Guardian‘s Social Enterprise Network on the challenges facing spin outs and other social enterprises delivering health and social care services.


On 12 August 2013 - 12:47pm

In a recent opinion piece in The New York Times, Peter Buffett, musician, philanthropist and son of Warren Buffett, lays into what the headline writer calls ‘The Charitable-Industrial Complex’.

Buffett’s view is that as increasing numbers of very wealthy people decide to ‘give back’ some of their immense wealth, the US is seeing an ever-expanding ‘not-for-profit’ sector which is making those rich donors feel much better about themselves but also helping to sustain the economic structures that produce the social problems their donations are, in theory, designed to solve.

Buffett tells us that: ”Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $ ...more

On 5 August 2013 - 1:01pm

According to the Daily Mirror, a large provider of outsourced public services ‘has terminated 2,400 employees’ contracts and issued new ones – including 300 zero-hour agreements‘.

So far, so unsurprising. This is typical of the assault on the rights of low paid workers committed by unscrupulous private employers in the outsourced public service sector. In this case, the organisation responsible is a charity which claims to be a social enterprise.

Last year, Social Enterprise UK took a stand against this kind of behaviour with the publication of The Shadow State.

As that report ...more

On 2 August 2013 - 12:36pm

When the then leader of the opposition, David Cameron, launched The Big Society in his 2009 Hugo Young lecture it seemed like he (or, at least, his adviser Steve Hilton) had hit on a really good idea.

On the one hand, it was an attempt to slay the ghost of Margaret Thatcher’s much quoted assertion that there was ‘no such thing as society’, on the other it was a radical critique of the growth the state under New Labour.

Cameron key point was that while Blair and Brown had spent huge amounts of money, inequality had actually increased. His new improved Tories cared about growing poverty and inequality but offered a positive alternative to Labour’s approach of chucking just chucking money at the problem.

In his lecture Cameron rejected calls from ‘some on the centre-right’ for big spending cuts saying: “Our ...more

On 22 July 2013 - 4:14pm

Social enterprises are out-performing mainstream SMEs. That’s the headline message from The People’s Business, the latest Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) state of social enterprise report, which was launched earlier this month.

The People’s Business, like its predecessor Fightback Britain, is a serious piece of work that, while understandably accentuating the positive, provides lots of meaningful data on the experiences of social enterprise in the UK.

It ...more