Tag Archive for 'social entrepreneurs'

(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.

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!

The vibe is: chilled and engaged

It must be the hottest and sunniest day of the year, and, in combination with the Premiership title decider , that means the crowd is smaller today. There is a lazy, Sunday vibe today….but still people from different walks of life, different backgrounds connecting, getting advice and taking part in a really wide range of sessions. Currently, there are sessions about partnership, about authenticity in social media, about marketing, and different 1:1 sessions on tax, business planning and so forth.

What always interests me are the unique points of view and preferences that everyone brings. I thrived on the energy of Friday / Saturday, but there are others finding today’s atmosphere more to their liking…interesting to think about how an event can try and cater to those different interests and emphases: a challenge for next year.

Day 2, people…..

So, with only a mild hangover and a desperate need of coffee, we begin day 2 of the inaugural Shine Unconference. As Nelly once memorably said, it’s hot in here: hoefully the beautiful weather will inspire people to come to the SouthBank, rather than head to the great outdoors…..

Already bumped into the impromptu social reporting team (Darragh, Ben, Dave) this morning; you can check out what they’re writing throughout the day here and at their own blogs (http://darraghdoyle.blogspot.com/ , http://puddingrelations.blogspot.com/ ); also met with Siobhan Edwards from Nesta, who are one of our kind, generous and pioneering sponsors. David McQueen has just welcomed everyone in the Marketplace, and people have now gone off to their various sessions in the snugs and nooks and crannies of this amazing building.

Do check out some of the video clips from yesterday (see link to the right), and watch out for the live twittering, posting etc from today’s day at Shine….

Being inspired by UnLtdWorld – Nicola

I’ve just attended a great presentation by Nicola and Alberto from UnLtdWorld.com. I’ll cover the presentation later but I took the opportunity to sit with Nicola in the wonderful Glastonbury themed garden (photos to follow) on the top floor of this building to find out more about the site.

(You can download the UnLtdWorld brochure in PDF format here)

Nicola is a communications assistant with UnLtd but is the evangelist for UnLtdWorld. She is the first friend that people have when they join and is an intrinsic part and personality of the site.

UnLtdWorld calls itself a

“Community of Socially-minded people, empowering members to generate greater social impact in the real world by enabling them to share, shape and build knowledge, markets and communities through social networks.”

So what does that actually mean? Is it just another social networking site, albeit for a great cause?

Since it opened in mid February 2008 the site has brought together all the UnLtd award winners and other social entrepreneurs in a well designed, functional and attractive community online.

From the UnLtd website:

UnLtd supports social entrepreneurs – people with vision, drive, commitment and passion who want to change the world for the better. We do this by providing a complete package of funding and support to help individuals make their ideas a reality.

Given that their member base consists of people who have actively sought funding for their projects already and won awards because of it, there’s a commitment and a hunger already there, but also a level of experience and expertise that people are willing to share and seek to learn from.

Nicola, who’s 24 and from Manchester (her profile is here) is a passionate, empathetic and inspiring person. She is an ideal representative for the site and a committed Community Manager whose expertise and appeal lies in her personal, professional approach to members and her openess to laughter, smiles and fun.

Her story and background matches the person in front of me – due to difficult personal circumstances at 17 she decided to start to make a difference. She describes a transformation from “typical selfish 17 year old” to someone who wants to make everything a bit more worthwhile. She moved to London for University and after a time with Goldman Sachs she “stumbled upon” UnLtd where she’s worked in a number of positions before assuming her present role. She finds the company very open to helping people work towards their own career progression, as well as being a fantastic place to work.

Nicola’s seems exactly the type of person you need as a community manager. Describing herself as still a novice to the world of social networking (which she doesn’t see as the be all and end all, just a tool to help people connect) she finds herself enthused by UnLtd’s members – everyone from the award winners to the people who have book clubs about inspiring books or those who paint a wall to make people feel better about their environment.

So, down to brass tacks. Does UnLtdWorld work?

110% says Nicola. From the first step of registration Nicola is added as a member’s contact, helping to make it easier for people still quite unsure about how it works. She’s delighted by how it’s helping people making links and getting connected. She tells me about the UnLtdWorld Scotland group which started with 3 people and is growing quickly with member connections, networking and discussions.

She also tells me of member Roger who is blind, and finds UnLtdWorld the only social network he can use because it’s configured for screen readers and he uses it to exercise and communicate his passion about making the world a better place. Then there’s Dwayne from Sense Magazine who is a key connector on the site and seeks out people to help facilitate introductions and conversation. All voluntary, all contributing to help make it work.

It also allows CEOs from major charities are accessible to fundraisers and start-up entrepreneurs looking for advice and help and contacts.

It’s these type of things, she says, that makes her job worthwhile.

Some of the impressive things that came from our chat for me were:

  • UnLtdWorld is communicating to a targeted audience, people who are already committed and passionate, helping members connect to the right people
  • It has a focus on people, on members and on supporting the UnLtd Award winners
  • Every member is equal. It doesn’t matter if you’re “just a person with an idea” or work for a charity with existing funding and structure in place – every member can contribute equal amounts

On a personal note, I’ve worked with many sites with admirable aspirations who pump loads of money and staff resource into their site, only to miss the fact that it’s about people and not functionality and that the programming and code is rarely as important as the content and engagement by people through the site. Those sites ultimately fail, in respect of what they could have achieved.

I was, therefore, surprised to learn that the total UnLtdWorld team is two developers, a part-time designer and then Alberto (the chief strategist), Nicola and Rachel, the Communications Manager. So why is it working – well this presentation goes into it but I’ll cover that in a later post. On an Irish perspective we have Ammado that seems to be striving to achieve what UnLtdWorld are doing already.

Nicola’s personal passions and aspirations? She hopes to help bring UnLtdWorld to everyone by making it as accessible as possible to everyone – not just those internet savvy but to everyone who wants to make a difference.

It’s about, she says, seeing someone develop their projects, making a difference and producing solutions to problems.

She also speaks movingly about being inspired by the staff and carers at St Francis Hospice in Manchester, a charity offering the families of very sick children a respite from their role as carers and gives the children a loving home from home. She also loves doing the annual Cancer Research run, raising funds for and supporting cancer sufferers and their families.

The UnLtdWorld advertisement I’m currently typing beside reads

Connect, join, find, share, trade, inspire, grow

With people behind it like Nicola, I can see how it helps people to do just that. I’ve signed up (my profile is here) and I look forward to learning a lot more.

I came to the Shine Conference hoping to be inspired. I definitely am.

Blogs, libraries and conversations

Nick being interviewed by smallbizpodOK, back in the zone: delivered my session on how and why to blog, which went well, with a good mix of established bloggers (step forward Dave Dawes and Rob Greenland), possible bloggers, and those who were coming not knowing a lot. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow and Sunday….no doubt it will improve.

In other news: had some good conversations in various snugs and nooks and crannies. Learnt about a project called BodyGossip, about what a ‘library of needs’ is (photo to follow), and with the ever engaging and knowledgable Jason Mollring from SE squared (South East Social Enterprise Networks). And my colleague Ian Baker has arrived from SSE…and arrived with coffee.

And, breaking news, just been interviewed by Alex Bellinger from SmallBizPod, who’s going to be putting up a podcast in a couple of weeks’ time, which is great: I know Alex has a big and loyal audience on iTunes, so that should help spread the word.

More soon.

The sun is Shine-ing

All set and ready to roll now for Shine 2008; tickets have been going like the proverbial hot cakesm, and I’m laden with technological equipment, only some of which I have any idea how to use.

Along with David Wilcox, Paul Henderson and others, we’ll be attempting to capture what’s happening at the event through video, blog posts etc. If you’re blogging or uploading photos in Flickr or whatever, just tag it with shine2008 (or #shine2008 on twitter) and you’ll join the conversation.

It’s a beautiful day: so let’s start the fun!

Twitter and shout

Shine logoFirst post on the new reporting space for the Shine Unconference and just to let everyone know that the key tag is shine2008 which you can use on flickr, delicious et al, as well as following updates on http://twitter.com/shine2008. See the Get Involved page to find out how you can contribute to this space.

We’ll also be finding the best ways to link across to the various Shine 2008 groups on different social networking sites….