Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Social enterprise: Stop focusing on definitions and just do it!

Following the #futureofsocent hashtag on Twitter tonight, there's all the usual talk of definitions and how social enterprise needs to go mainstream. While those subjects generate debate, they also slow the sector down. Too much is focused on talking whereas what we need to do is act!

In my day job I run The Pitch, a pitching competition for small businesses. Today I discussed some of the entries with our judges and one of them has potentially huge benefits for the NHS. I can't go into detail as we've not yet revealed the shortlist publicly but the company in question isn't a social enterprise; it's a business. A business out to make the world a better place. That's what matters.

So while all the chat about 'what is social enterprise?' and 'when will social enterprise go mainstream?' generate pages and pages of copy for us bloggers, we need to move on and (excuse my French) just bloody do it!

Monday, 15 April 2013

A child reads for the first time: Goose bump moment from an African project [VIDEO]

Can you remember your parents' reaction when you first learnt to read? I'm sure they were delighted.

But I'm sure they weren't as delighted as the residents of one African village when a small boy read by himself for the first time.

The video of that moment, shown below, was played at last week's Skoll World Forum and when I saw it, I got goose bumps.

The young chap was a recipient of support from the Community Empowerment Program, an initiative of not-for-profit Senegal-based organisation Tostan. The scheme encourages parents and other community members to create an environment for children’s development in a country where research has shown that certain social norms and traditional practices can hinder the brain development of infants.

Teaching a child to read is a simple but hugely powerful achievement. It opens up a world of possibilities and the community's delight in the video below illustrates that.

Wonderful stuff.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Skoll World Forum 2013: Live video and blog

In association with (yes, I also run that site!), here's a live video stream and blog from the Skoll World Forum in Oxford which runs until Friday (12 April).

The schedule is:

April 11
14:00 - 15:00: From per capita to pro capita: Launch of the Social Progress Imperative
17:30 - 19:00: Awards ceremony

April 12
09:00 - 10:45: BBC Global Business: Financing social entrepreneurship
12:30 - 14:15: Developing the development model: Re-engineering aid for the 21st century
15:00 - 16:30: Closing plenary

Monday, 23 July 2012

That Social Enterprise Mark 'genuine' tweet: The Mark's Anne Mountjoy responds

Last week, I blogged about a tweet from the Social Enterprise Mark which seemed to suggest that getting the accreditation is the only way to prove a social enterprise is genuine. Anne Mountjoy, who runs the Social Enterprise Mark Twitter account, responds in this exclusive guest post.

So, about the Social Enterprise Mark tweet that was interpreted as alienating social entrepreneur,  that was not my intention. Let me explain…

I’m Anne Mountjoy and I work as Marketing and Comms Manager for the Social Enterprise Mark. I’ve worked in the social enterprise sector since 2004 and before that I worked for an environmental charity. I’ve also been a director of a community recycling enterprise. I’m a member of Co-operative SW and buy co-op products and services whenever possible.  I’ve got many friends working in social enterprise – having the Mark is not a consideration of that. I don’t discriminate or exclude anyone. 

I’m passionate about my job and I believe we are working to make a positive difference to society. Everyone I work with feels this way. 

The Mark Company is a social enterprise itself; working towards achieving the Mark.  Our social aim is to increase recognition and the size of the sector. Profits are reinvested into the business, to help us run more campaigns, like 50in250 (which has directly positively impacted on the sales of social enterprises).  We’re planning more campaigns to help social enterprises become more widely understood, recognised and bought from.

I believe there’s a way where fair trade can be replicated to help people choose to buy from social enterprises. So how are the mechanics of such a device developed? The Mark worked with the sector to agree and develop criteria that social enterprises could be benchmarked against. That’s where the Mark came from and it is constantly in development. I understand that not everyone will agree on the criteria, but the tide for social enterprise is turning and we’re travelling in the right direction. Who knows how the sector will evolve – and the Mark in response to it?

If people understand social enterprise because of the Mark, that’s got to be a good thing. The Mark is not about excluding social enterprises – the criteria are as inclusive as they can be when a benchmark is set.  And the Mark encourages new entrants by accepting new starts.  The reason the Mark is important is because private business is starting to see social enterprise as a business opportunity – I quoted A4E as the example in my tweet. In addition, social enterprise as ‘bid candy’ is a relatively new but becoming a common term. Personally, I think the private sector will always exist – and it has a part to play, but social enterprises deserve to be recognised for the extra they deliver. 

I understand that there are many different ways social entrepreneurs work – some in social enterprises and some not. We’re giving social enterprises a tool to differentiate themselves from less scrupulous businesses hijacking the social enterprise agenda. The more social enterprises stand together – the bigger the impact will be. Let’s think positively about how much the sector can gain by standing on the same side – even if we don’t all agree.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

How to alienate social entrepreneurs with one tweet: A lesson from the Social Enterprise Mark

I’ve just spotted what I think is a pretty outrageous tweet from the Social Enterprise Mark:

Who on earth decided that such a statement was a good idea? In one fell swoop, the Mark has alienated a large section of the UK’s social enterprise community.

Suggesting that paying for an endorsement is the only way for an entrepreneur to be considered genuine is ridiculous. Yes, the Mark works for many but several social enterprise owners have complained that they don’t fit the organisation’s criteria.

I’ve previously made my thoughts clear about the Mark and I’m yet to be convinced otherwise. There are thousands of social enterprises out there who are not endorsed but are definitely genuine social businesses.

Is the Mark really suggesting that all those thousands of businesses are not genuine and misleading their customers and supporters?

UPDATE (20/07/12):

Anne Montjoy who runs the Social Enterprise Mark Twitter account has got in touch with me. She said her intention with the tweet was to not alienate social entrepreneurs but was actually trying to say that the Mark prevents companies like A4e describing themselves as a social enterprise. I have invited Anne to write a guest post which I will publish on this blog.