Triodos Bank on growth – forget the numbers

Triodos have nailed the tone of this film, their mission is to make money work for positive social, environmental and cultural change and this couldn’t come across more. It’s not just about investing in the development of more products, more buildings, more companies for shareholder value but investing in smarter solutions that help create efficiency or social impact.

They call their approach old fashioned in their mission, it seems a pretty innovative financial approach to me.

Fikay – recycled fashion

Who’d have thought a cement bag could be turned into such mighty fine recycled accessories. This new range by Fikay Eco Fashion is produced by local villagers, they’re paid a fare wage, to support their communities. Fikay is run by socially minded Students (who are winning lots of awards while they’re at it). The company’s aim is to make a ‘positive, sustainable impact on communities in poverty by employing local producers’. Fikay Eco Fashion also donates Bricks to help build schools in the producing communities. People over profit.

Fair, Individual pieces that are Kind to the Environment, take social Action and say Yes

Generation generous – sharing through mentoring

generosityGeneration Generous is a about being a bit kinder, a bit more caring and captures the growing importance of ‘generosity’ as a leading societal and business mindset. It’s why I decided to do the On Purpose leadership programme this year, to explore social enterprise.

‘Everyone has transferable commodity-knowledge. Sharing your unique expertise and making introductions for someone creates a lasting legacy.’ Marsha Blackburn

One of the major benefits with On Purpose is the training we get every Friday and mentor and a coach. This is the most amount of personal development I’ve had my whole working career. Very generous. I’ve never had a mentor or coach, surely it’s mutually beneficial for employers (although it may cost them some money)?

The mentor I have is a good sounding board and check in. If you’re used to working in a larger team, it’s good to have this as a sanity check and to focus on the key areas and keep focussed.

I’ve also wanted to mentor for a while, to help someone starting out with my ‘transferable commodity knowledge’ and hopefully contacts that I’ve built up.

I applied to a Timebank project, called Engage, providing training to young people in Tower Hamlets, one of the most deprived boroughs in London, yet across the water is Canary Wharf, one of the most affluent.  The programme aims to help them develop new skills which will hopefully lead to employment something we all take for granted. The girl I’m mentoring is 19 and the primary carer for her mum, she’s setting up a community upcycling project, right up my street and wants to go to university to study communications.

Isn’t that what our experience and networks are for, to share generously?

If anyone has any tips for mentoring please do leave a comment and let me know!


3 months into On Purpose…

I’ve been freelancing for 5 years or so now, so I’m very used to working to contract lengths and deadlines. In fact I love working to contracts. So why is On Purpose any different?

We do two six month placements, April-Sept 2013 and Oct-April 2014. I have moments when it feels like a ticking time bomb. We’re encouraged to do feedback sessions with our placement, to check how we’re doing and help build the relationship. Have you ever done a feedback session? I don’t think I ever had before and in my head it felt a bit uncomfortable but it was actually an amazing experience. Perhaps I’m lucky with my placement.

So back to the ticking time bomb. At the end of September I want to see the impact I’ve made, on projects I’m solely running. I’m very used to working in a team of people as an Account Director with creatives, planners, other account handlers to support. Now it’s just me. This is the most accountable I’ve ever been. Oh shit. I hope I do a good job. They’ve said I am, so it’s pressure I’m putting on myself. And that’s the point, challenging yourself outside your comfort zone and taking a leap.

So instead of a ticking time bomb, I’ll think of it as a leap off a cliff, into a lovely sea with a few waves. But I’ll be fine because I love swimming.


Crowd impact: The World’s Largest Social Enterprise Pitch Event

Pitching ideasBen Goldhirsh is the co-founder and CEO of GOOD a community you should join and follow if you want to try to make a difference. They’re a global ‘community of, by and for pragmatic idealists working towards individual and collective progress ‘ = good.

Ben’s a judge for CROWDIMPACT the world’s largest Social Enterprise pitch event offering $100million in capital which is up for grabs.

Social Enterprises get to pitch their ideas in front of an audience of entrepreneurs and investors, dragon’s den style, to win a cash prize and also exposure to impact investment professionals.

GOOD feel what brings Social Enterprises to scale is communities coming together to ‘barn raise’ like this. This is why Crowdfunder has teamed up with GOOD, TED Fellows, X PRIZE Foundation, Social Enterprise Alliance, and many other partner communities for CROWD IMPACT.
The judges need help in deciding who the finalists will be and ultimately which ones will get funded. Here’s how GOOD say you can get involved:
  • Click here to find the social enterprises you believe in and want to support.
  • Click Follow Company on the top right of each company profile you support.
  • Click Share Company to spread the word and share to your social network.

Starting a career in social enterprise – the On Purpose leadership programme

I love the advice in this film, I’ve watched it 5 times (so far):
What makes you really itch?
What if money was no object?
How would you really like to spend your life?

For the last few years I’d been asking myself  ‘what do I desire’, really desire.
I’d been lucky to work in some great agencies and meet so many amazing people but I didn’t see it being my career forever.

I’d always, right from the start of my career, felt that business should have social value and give something back. It’s not just for stakeholders to profit from. Suddenly 10 years later everything is starting to piece together.

I started this blog as an exploration and went to a talk Escape the City were running with On Purpose:

‘We believe there is a better way of doing business that can help solve many of society’s most intractable problems. We find and work with the best professionals to develop the next generation of social enterprise leaders who have the commitment to tackle these problems by harnessing the power of business for social and environmental good.’

A few months later, after 4 stages of the rigorous interviews, I got offered a place on the On Purpose leadership programme. I start the placements in April.

I’d been considering doing a Masters but wanted to do something practical still. On Purpose is the perfect blend. You do two placements, at two different companies, for six months each (full time). They’re all leading organisations like Social Enterprise UK, Big Issue Invest, Deloitte CR and you’re given specific projects to run.

Every Friday you have training out of the office, with leading experts. You don’t get a certificate at the end or take exams (thank god) but it has a strong business focus, so it’s like an MBA.

Probably one of the biggest pro’s of the programme is the networking opportunities, meeting people doing so many inspiring things. I can’t wait.

As he advises in the video ‘forget the money…better to have a life full of doing what you want to be doing’.

On Purpose are recruiting for their October cohort at the moment. So if you believe business can be done a different way, maybe the programme’s for you

The social enterprise sector – beginners guide

I’ve just had a lovely weekend with my parents, with lots of nice chats in the garden. As a career in social enterprise is my future ambition, I found myself debating the sector with my dad. I assured him social enterprise is no fad and often they’re very viable and scalable businesses but how big is the sector? And what’s the history?

How big is the sector?
The best government data is the Annual Survey of Small Businesses UK from 2010. It estimates there are approximately 68,000 social enterprises in the UK and these contribute over £24bn to the economy, employing over 800,000 people. It’s a little larger than I thought, I should have reeled these stats off to my dad.

What’s the history of social enterprise?
In Rochdale in 1844 a workers’ co-operative, the Rochdale Pioneers, was set up. The workers decided to team together and open up a food store between them, selling affordable quality food (they couldn’t have otherwise). Over 150 years later and their set of principles called the Rochdale principles are the foundation on which co-ops around the world, base themselves on today. Ten years after these principles were first set up, the British co-operative movement had already grown to nearly 1,000 co-ops.

We’ve had a resurgence of social enterprise since the mid 1990s with Thatcher and the decline of state welfare and public funding. It created a shift and belief in some, that business should have social aims which can be measured, not just line our pockets and external shareholders.

The social enterprise sector offers exciting opportunities for charities to innovate and diversify their income. I’d be interested to guess the size of the industry from 68,000 in 5 years time?

Social enterprise in books: Better World Books

Better World BooksSince I’ve been researching the social enterprise sector, I’m constantly surprised and delighted when I stumble across a new example, in a sector which is sustainable and being scaled.

Better World Books is the online bookstore with a soul, founded by three college students in 2002. They sell new and used books online and help fund literacy programs worldwide with the proceeds – a bit like TOMS Shoes with their programme (it must be an American thing).

They’ve achieved impressive statistics: $8 million raised for literacy and libraries, 6.5 million books donated and over 92 million books reused or recycled but they’re got even more ambitious plans. I know 92 million books recycled!

By year-end they plan to have over 1,000 boxes in 50 cities. The drop boxes will improve their logistics infrastructure and also act as advertising, they have all bases covered. They’re also focusing more on online sales, initially they sold through Amazon but are increasingly selling more inventory through their own site (makes sense for a better margin).

It’s no wonder they’re a top 5000 fastest growing company for the 4th year running.

Social Enterprise Funding: £10million open for applications

A few weeks ago I went to a Global Net 21 event about micro-finance, which sounds a bit boring but was very interesting. Mike Baker from Big Issue Invest was a guest speaker, with Dr. Phyllis SantaMaria from Microfinance without Borders – both lovely people.

What became sadly very apparent is that social enterprises don’t have a proven track record and often have business models which don’t follow convention (the standard rules). They’re therefore a high risk and getting bank loans or incubator funding can be pretty impossible.

It’s good to see there’s a new fund, The Social Incubator Fund, which aims to encourage investment into early-stage social ventures.

It’s been introduced by the Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd. This new fund will allow incubators (organisations that offer funding and intensive mentoring to early-stage businesses) to apply for annual grants of up to £750,000 to invest in social enterprise start-ups. The incubators themselves could also receive between £50,000 and £250,000 per year to put towards operating costs, which seems a significant slice of the pie?

The Big Lottery Fund, Big Society Capital and The Social Investment Business will make decisions about applicants as part of the advisory board (which will be chaired by the Cabinet Office).

Successful applicants will be announced at the end of January 2013, with two subsequent rounds launching in 2013 and 2014. Applications can be made here.

Let’s hope this isn’t just a political manoeuvre and actually does a lot of good.

Social enterprise in sport: Olympics Legacy

We’ve all probably been surprised by just how much we’ve got into the Olympics? I know I can’t stop watching it and have shed a few tears.

Sport has always been a big part of my life, other than at university, where I had a slight dip. I love the quote from this documentary ‘football doesn’t make character, it reveals character’. The documentary is about a coach who helps a football team everyone else had given up on and makes them believe in themselves. Sport is so important for mental health, confidence and ‘anyone can be a champ’.

‘We have worst youth drink, drugs, obesity, crime rates in Europe. Get our kids fit, competitive and occupied. #OlympicLegacyPiers Morgan

I’ll be looking out for social enterprises in sport (and the effect of the Olympic Legacy). If you know of any doing amazing stuff with youth, please do leave a comment with the details, thank you.