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(un)Question Time for social entrepreneurs

OK – first bit of live blogging. Am sitting in a session with a panel of four social entrepreneurs, chaired by our own David Dimbleby, Cliff Prior (CEO, UnLtd). The intention is to share learning, real experiences (successes and failures) and genuinely interrogate these practitioners.

First up is Ben Ramsden from Pants to Poverty, whose organisation started on the back of Make Poverty History and has grown from there. Interesting (already) that none of them are comfortable with being called “successful”. Sold 3,000 pairs of pants first up, and then went from there. [Shock news: Cliff owns some]

Second up is Davina Roberts of Punch and Juicy, who runs a healthy-living / drinks organisation. She has overcome homelessness, and chalenging illness, to do this work. She emphasised the importance of networking and “smiling while pushing business cards at people”. Punch and Juicy is a great name; + she has “juice masters” who make and create new drinks.

Third up is Annys Darkwa of Vision Housing which supports ex-offenders to access accommodation. Very interesting model (check the website)….and she felt that service user involvement and empowerment was at the heart of her success (alongside having the boxes ticked: policies and procedures).

Finally, Ben Matthews of Bright One, which provides PR to charities and social enterprises. I met Ben last year, and he is one of our excellent social reporters, and Bright One is cool. Going very well: too well, because they’ve had to put a stop to charities etc coming with more projects.

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Into the discussion, which is (I’m going to be honest here) sliding straight into definitions, much to a fair amount of tedium in the room…but Cliff has put a stop to it (through asking us to vote on whether social enterprise is charity 2.0 or business 2.0; most thought the latter, though I would say both….).

Now talking about how you can effectively marry your product with your social mission. Soc ents feel it is largely about relationships and interweaving them as much as possible.

Q: what skills do you need? Partners, partnerships (being able to identify the right partners) are key. Be clear about your core idea, and innovate within it. Communicate with wide range of people. Choose whatever structure is fit to your mission, finance and governance (not structure first). Also about characteristics and traits, not skills. Get them to learn by doing.

Q: Did you ever consider giving up? And what kept you going? Lack of holiday, lack of sleep, constant stream of e-mails, personal investment etc. all coming across as challenges. Career-changing a challenge. Need to stick at it (“survive enough until you get lucky” to paraphrase Kiva founder). Scale of ambition can depress you, but relationships sustain you through. Joy, passion, impact that work creates. + turn a challenge into an opportunity.

Q: We all go on a big learning journey? Who’s given you support….leading to ‘social entrepreneurs’ are most similar to offenders: “they see something and they go after it”; interesting answer from Davina; Cricklewood Homeless Concern, Brent Housing, Groundswell, Nigel Kershaw, Shine 09, Bright Ideas Trust, and weaving her way through the network….+ family! Quote of the session: “my gran said, ‘finally, you’ve got a good idea’”

Q: Question about plagiarism of your idea; all had some experience of it at different levels…or at least as they interpret it. One had competition set up, another had staff poached, etc. Importance of retaining core value. Need to take it as compliment + tools to protect yourself.

If I’m being honest, this session hasn’t really caught light for me. Nuggets of gold, and good honesty and openness, but crowd seem a little subdued. Maybe they are just taking it all in!

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Summary: synergy between social and business is key; learning and going, not teaching / formal learning; belief and motivation (support + thing that reminds you why); use your support network: easier to be brave in company; using the people who say no to you.

One line advice: take holidays; time for yourself; JFDI management (just ‘*!@ing do it!) and learn how to drive! Don’t wait till you’re ready. Recognition reminders.

On your marks

And let the chaos commence. Am posting partly to push that dreadful photo further down the page. And to say that all seems to be going well. Certainly here in the surgery area there’s probably about 50 or so social entrepreneurs getting 1:1 support from Lovells, UnLtd, Bridges Ventures, and others. Exactly what we want to see.

Meanwhile, next door, the DCLG head of third sector and social enterprise, Jackie Westlake, is providing a guide to navigating your way through government, and how to make it work. I was delighted to hear one participant come out and say, “she’s from government…but she’s actually listening”. Very much a mutually beneficial exchange it sounds like.

IN the basement suite of rooms, we have some investment readiness, a workshop with thinkPublic and London Rebuilding Society doing a session on funding.

Delighted to bump into a mix of current SSE students, SSE Fellows, including the esteemed Max Graef of RadioActive, who has set up a radio station here in the corner of the room.

Finding your way around Shine

Hello, Ben here.

We’re in a fantastic location here at King’s Place, with views over the canal and plenty of space to break out into sessions and meet new people.

But what if you get lost or don’t know which session to go to next?

Well, luckily there is a team of ‘unconsultants’ on hand to direct you to the right place and answer any questions you might have.

If you want to know what they look like, they’ll be wearing Shine Unconsultant t-shirts, as modelled here by Nic and Nick:

Lovely.

Morning, morning Shine 09

Coffee cupWell, it’s crept up on me, but Shine 2009 is suddenly here. It’s ridiculously early and I will need a gallon of coffee before I’m capable of speaking to anyone…but what an exciting line-up / participant list we have for today. Check the schedule / details out at www.shineunconference.com

We’ll be reporting all day here on http://shine.socialreporter.net and I will be accompanied by a ragbag assortment of people with much more expertise and knowledge than me (which is always helpful: first tip of the day: surround yourself with excellent people). Including David Wilcox (of this parish, social reporter.net), Steve Bridger (who I’m yet to meet in person) and other Shine 08 veterans (!) such as Dave Dawes of Entreprenurses, Ben Matthews of Bright One and the irrepressible Darragh Doyle over from Ireland.

There will, I hope, be blog posts to read, video to watch (both Qik and Flip for those of you for whom that means something), photos to admire, and tweets aplenty. The tag for the event is #shine09 so feel free to get involved if you’re coming today or tomorrow, or follow us virtually.

Feel free to come and say hello (SSE will be doing some evaluation 1:1s this afternoon, and acting as unconsultants throughout the day), or say hello in the comments below.

Now, off to find Kings Place, 300+ social entrepreneurs, and that coffee….

Reporting from SHINE09

We’ll be blogging, posting video and Twittering from SHINE09 May 15-16 … adding to the rich mix of content you can see here from last year’s event. Meanwhile, take a look at the blog on the main conference site where Lizzie offers tasters of the great sessions – and party – planned for the two days. Here’s how you can get involved.

Podcast about blogs from Shine is up

Dave Dawes, of Entreprenurses fame, has posted up his podcast of bloggers talking about blogging (and a bit about twittering) at Shine 2008. It features not only myself (the most incoherent / inaudible of all the participants) but also a range of other blogging advocates and sceptics, and covers, amongst many other things:

  • Meeting and networking with people via their blog
  • Making time for creating and following blogs
  • How blogs can raise the profile of your social enterprise
  • The role of blog comments and blog readership
  • Corporate vs personal/informal blogging styles
  • How to start blogging (typepad, wordpress, etc)
  • Check out and download the podcast here.

    Photos from Shine 2008

    Pictures from Shine have been posted on flickr and should be appearing above in a nice slideshow. If you took any pictures and want to share them on flickr, tag them shine2008 and we’ll show them here.

    Live blogging: final pitching event

    OK – final event here at Shine 2008, with 3 social entrepreneurs pitching to an esteemed panel for £5000…..MC’d by the ‘compere without compare’, Matt Kepple. I can see David Wilcox doing some video of the pitches, so I’ll aim at an edited highlights commentary.

    First up is Minnie from India, who wants to go round Devon doing workshops on climate change, based on things she has learned from her time at Schumacher College. The panel are being very nice about the pitch (which rambled a bit and lost me), but the kernel of the idea came through: a people-powered movement to locally inform and reach out. Questions were about the need for brand, about the need to differentiate, and about the possibility of sharing and working in partnership with others. Minnie gave pretty good answers to most of those.

    Second up is Alexia, who used to be the Social Enterprise Coalition membership officer, is pitching for a project….which aims to utilise yoga to tackle mental health issues / eating disorders etc. She wants the money to help inform and advocate the various stakeholder communities (care services, yoga practitioners, funders etc. and so forth), as well as deliver workshops herself. In the first instance, she wants to do some market research as the first stage of her journey. Good presentation, which was very clear and, to her credit, started with a clear outlining of her personal motivation. Questions are pondering the scope of ambition (too much?), planning effectively, and the barriers there may be: not least because it’s about working in the NHS. Good answers, particularly about not wanting to ‘own the space’, but ensure others can learn from her work.

    Third up is Ben, who is pitching for a third sector communications agency for those whose projects and organisations can’t afford big budget investment in this area; utilising volunteers (students, but also those with experience from different agencies). Is now explaining the business model, and the potential social impact. Probably the clearest pitch so far: pretty impressive: “at the start of the weekend, I wasn’t sure this was a good idea….but now I know it is”. Questions are around quality control (particularly if using volunteers), about the internship culture already existing (a suggestion around providing the training scheme to the existing big marketing agencies gets a decent response), uniqueness, method:purpose…..

    [I have to say, and I am aware that this might be the jaded, slightly tired grump in me, but why are people incapable of phrasing a succinct, concise and clear question? Hey ho....]

    And finally, the voting, people are holding up different coloured cards like a low-budget Apprentice:You’re Fired…. and the winner, with the blue cards holding sway….. is….Alexia.

    That’s a wrap, people!

    Talkaoke lite

    Saul Albert and his friends are running a version of their Talkaoke in the final stages of the Shine conference.

    This involves a roving microphone, plus a camera and computer throwing a mix of video and snippets of text on screen. I’m shooting some video on a phone, which you will find over here.

    Chats and conversations: David McQueen

    Just been chatting to David McQueen, who’s been helping us out here with some MCing and discussions around communication and presentation skills. David was telling me about how he does some group coaching every other Friday in a coffee shop and, by way of payment, the people coming along have to give him a book. So I interrupted him whilst updating his Amazon wishlist.

    Also chatting about creating your personal brand / identity, the importance of communication (and finding your right medium for doing so), and the importance of storytelling in this sphere. David has great presence and is really inspiring guy to speak to. Check out his various blogs…which I will now try to find links to.