Friday, 9 May 2014

3 powerful leadership lessons from Bobbie Cheema

Earlier this week, I watched the live stream of Bobbie Cheema QC being interviewed at The Leadership Conference at the Royal Albert Hall. Cheema grew up in a deprived area of Leeds and has risen to become the second woman to become Senior Treasury Counsel and became a QC in 2013. Being a Senior Treasury Counsel means that she deals with some our most difficult legal cases. Her specialism is in cases of homicide, terrorism, fraud and corruption.

In her interview she gave three very powerful leadership tips:
  1. Have clarity of thought: Cheema argued that leaders need to have clarity of thought and the ability to communicate their thinking well. I am learning more about this. One of the mistakes I've made in the past is to assume that clarity will happen as if by accident; it doesn't. I know I need to spend time working out what I think and how - when needed - I can explain it.
  2. Honour your people: It's really easy as people to take credit when things go well blame others when things go badly. Good leadership, Cheema argued, does the opposite - give people credit when things go well and take the blame when things go badly. I sometimes watch X Factor - the judges I warm to the most in any series are the ones who take responsibility when one of their act's performance doesn't go well but are the first to praise when they go well. Why do this? It brings the best out of people. As I wrote about last week, like us all, encouragement has unlocked my potential and makes me more corageous.
  3. Have courage: Martin Luther King Jr said "we must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear." He is right, without courage, our leadership is paralysed. Cheema reflected on the qualities of a courageous leader; fearlessness, sacrifcie and doing difficult tasks. 
I'm so grateful for leaders like Bobbie Cheema - not only because I can learn from her - but also because she is living a life of courage and protecting our country.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

5 lessons I learnt in my 20s

So... As friends have joked with me recently, I've finally come of middle age - last week I had my 30th birthday. This made me think, what have I learnt in my 20s - and the answer was a lot. Why? Because I've made lots of mistakes (how I learn most of my lessons) but also had a lot of fun.
  1. Failure is hard but learning from its lessons is priceless As I just said, I've made a lot of mistakes. In my early 20s, I led a youth group and it didn't go well - in fact it went so badly that I got asked to stop leading it and had to step down. This really hurt. However, it was through this process that I learnt vital lessons about what my strengths and weaknesses are.  
  2. I am not Superman but I can play to my strengths: Aged 20, I thought I could take on the world but aged 22 (partly because of the above experience), I questioned whether I could lead anything. This process really changed me. I realised that I had to focus on what I was good at and not fret about what I wasn't so good at. I learnt that my strengths are thinking strategically, winning others over, forward thinking and being positive. This book StrengthsFinder 2.0 really helped me.
  3. Face my fears: Worrying is often easy, whether it's about what people think of you or about life circumstances, sickness, finances etc. I have worried about all the above but none of my fears helped change a situation for the better. As the saying goes, "fear is the sand that clogs up the machinery of life". One of my life heroes, Nelson Mandela, said "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
  4. Spend time building true friendship: A great quote I read says "a true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognises your disabilities but emphasises your possibilities.” My 20s have included significant life change (such as getting married, becoming a dad and having cancer). Building strong friendships has helped me survive the hard times and enjoy the good times more.
  5. Encourage = In Courage: Encouragement literally means to put courage into someone. Other people's encouragements have certainly done that for me. Without encouragement, I wouldn't have got married, had a child or set up a business - and my life would have been a lot poorer.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

3 ways philanthropists can finance social innovation that works to scale

This blog is based on an article that I co-wrote with my Numbers4Good co-founder Bertrand Beghin in Philanthropy Impact Magazine.

Last week, I touched on how philanthropists can support social innovation. However, moving forwards, once innovations have been proven; they have historically struggled to attract the capital that enables them to scale up... So, what can be done?

With the advancing over the past few years of the social impact investing market, social enterprises have opportunities to scale and there are now tangible options for philanthropists can play a vital role in ensuring that the innovations can scale – and if they wish – make a financial return as well as creating a social impact. Options could include:
  1. Invest in social investment funds: There are an increasing number of philanthropists and foundations that are investing in social investment funds. Examples in the UK include Esmee Fairburn, and Pierre Omidyar’s – the founder of eBay – Omidyar Network and internationally include the Gates Foundation and the Gatsby Foundation. The funds that these foundations are investing in finances social innovations that require scale up capital in order to increase their impact ranging from UK social enterprises to international development organisations.
  2. Directly invest in social enterprises: With the introduction of the Social Investment Tax Relief, the opportunity for individuals to invest in social enterprises will soon have similar advantages than EIS/SEIS (in the UK), bringing a whole new source of capital into the scaling of social ventures. On a different point, sometimes investors struggle to invest in scaling social innovation, because of the risks associated, therefore, if philanthropists or foundations, could offer to take a first loss stake in certain types of innovations – or indeed funds – it would enable more capital to be leveraged from other types of investors and flow into scaling social innovation.
  3. Invest in social impact bonds: Social impact bonds are designed to improve the social outcomes of publicly funded services by making funding conditional on achieving results, often used as preventative interventions or to develop new innovative models. Investors pay for the project at the start, and then receive payments based on the results achieved by the project. With the announcement of the inclusion of social impact bonds in SITR, they will also enable philanthropists to invest for a social benefit efficiently.
Great ideas need money to be piloted and then to scale; without philanthropy this would not be possible. Philanthropists need to – and do – play a vital role in ensuring that life saving innovations don’t just remain ideas in people’s heads but are piloted and then transform the livelihoods of millions of people.

Monday, 14 April 2014

3 things philanthropists can do to support innovation

This blog is based on an article that I co-wrote with my Numbers4Good co-founder Bertrand Beghin in Philanthropy Impact Magazine.

Philanthropy is at an exciting place on the world stage; it is at the forefront of solving some of the world’s global issues, yet people are realising that individual governments, businesses and voluntary sector organisations – or philanthropists – don’t have the whole answer. Conversations at Davos earlier this year were peppered with the role of philanthropy in working with government, civil society and business and the World Economic Forum has recently created a Foundations Community. In 19th and 20th Century Britain, pioneering social innovations came to the fore such as the ragged school movement, new models of childcare developed by Barnado, social housing pioneered by Peabody and Joseph Rowntree transformed social care.

More recently – from the Teach First/Teach for All models to microfinance – social innovation has changed the lives of millions of people trapped in poverty around the world. However, with youth unemployment hitting pandemic levels globally and climate change racing out of control, there is a real need for innovations to come to the fore to tackle some of our world’s greatest challenges. So how can we ensure that innovations don’t just remain ideas but are piloted and have sustainable business models moving into the future?

Here are a few ways philanthropists can support social innovation:
  1. Run a challenge prize: Challenge prizes – financial awards for ideas that aim to solve specific challenges – have a long history; the Longitude Prize helped pioneer the chronometer 300 years ago to the more recent Ansari X Prize on space travel. Over the past decade, there has been an increased amount of challenge prizes in social innovation; ranging from the excellent work by Nesta and their Centre for Challenge Prizes to the Hult Prize and the D Prize.
  2. Support a social incubator: Social incubators are organisations that offer intense support to social enterprise start-ups. The UK Government has been very active in this space by providing match funding through the Social Incubator Fund. We are working with Healthbox and UCLB (UCL's spin out organisation) spin out  to set up an incubator in health. Other incubators include the Young Academy’s work on education, Social Incubator North and UnLtd-Wayra – a collaboration between UnLtd (the UK’s Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs) and Telefonica/O2’s technology innovation unit.
  3. Build a venture philanthropy fund: Venture philanthropy takes concepts and techniques from the venture capital sector, such as finance and business management strategies and applies them to achieving philanthropic goals. It works to build stronger social purpose organisations by providing them with both financial and non-financial support in order to increase their societal impact. Outstanding examples of venture philanthropy funds include Impetus-PEF focusing on education and employment. 
If you're interested in thinking through how to judge how powerful a social innovation could be, do check out my 8Ps of Powerful Social Innovation.

I'd love to know your thoughts on how philanthropy can support innovation. Do get in touch with any ideas!

Back to blogging

After a break, I've decided to start blogging again! A lot has happened to me since I was regularly blogging before. My son David is one and a half and Numbers4Good is roughly the same age.

This blog will be focused on helping other leaders, entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs on the journeys of starting and growing what they lead. As a result, I write on entrepreneurship, society and also the views of Millennials. Sometimes I write on topics that don't fit neatly into one of these categories.

Please do feedback on what I write, write comments and let me know your thoughts. I'm excited about the conversation!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Numbers4Good, UCLB and Healthbox launch Health Social Innovators’ Fund

I'm really excited that Numbers4Good has partnered with UCLB (UCL’s technology transfer organisation) and Healthbox (the leading global health accelerator) to create the Health Social Innovators’ Fund supporting some of the UK’s best health social entrepreneurs who are creating solutions helping some of UK’s most vulnerable people. The Cabinet Office have announced today that their Social Incubator Fund is cornerstoning the fund; with the rest of the funding coming from Trafford Housing Trust and Janssen Healthcare Innovations.

We will run two programmes, one in late 2014 and one in 2015 and will be looking for outstanding health social entrepreneurs to support. Numbers4Good will be focusing on helping social enterprises become investment and contract ready; supporting them in winning their first contracts and then raising the investment to scale.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

AchieveGood supports leading social investment organisations in expanding or getting investment from the US

Tomorrow, on behalf of United Kingdom Trade & Investment, AchieveGood is leading a trade mission to Washington DC and New York with the Cabinet Office, enabling social investment organisations to raise their profile overseas, gain inward investment and expand.

We have been working with United Kingdom Trade and Investment for over a year looking at how the trade mission model could support outstanding organisations in the social sector in expanding. Learning from what the private sector has done, we aim for these trade missions to help businesses expansion and the attraction of inward investment. Our mission includes expert masterclasses in doing business in the US, a reception at the British Embassy hosted by the Deputy Ambassador, sessions with US policy and foundation leaders and meeting a number of social investors and investment organisations. This is the first of our sector specific missions. Our Mission organisations are:
For regular updates, please follow #sim2us on Twitter.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Breaking News: AchieveGood's Social & Impact Investment Work joins forces with Bertrand Beghin to become Numbers4Good

Last week, AchieveGood merged its Social & Impact Investment Activity into a new organisation called Numbers4GoodAchieveGood will continue as a social innovation consultancy, supporting others in innovating to tackle social problems. Numbers4Good will be co-led by me and social investment expert Bertrand Beghin. I have come to know Bertrand well over the last 18 months and have worked with him on a couple of projects. I'm excited by the potential of us working together more and creating financial products that do social good!

Bertrand is a former Director at Deutsche Bank, who has been using his skills to support many charities and social enterprises with their investment strategies for a number of years. Numbers4Good's work will include:
  • The Bond for Hope: We're working with our friend, and youth employment and volunteering expert, Mary Jane Edwards and other partners to create a Youth Employment Bond that has been set up as a new Company Limited by Guarantee, The Bond for Hope Limited. Our design phase was recently funded by Big Lottery FundThe bond would help fund jobs in growing industries (such as the Creative and Technology Sectors) with training, mentoring and networking opportunities for the individuals concerned; enabling a return by tapping into UK Government payments such as the Work Programme, Youth Contract and Apprenticeships. Crucially the jobs created by the bond would be targeted at growth industries that can offer sustainable jobs. More about this in the next few weeks!
  • International Development Financing (Mutual Capitalism): We are developing financial products to enable global financial markets to fund sustainable development in the Developing World. Under the banner of Mutual Capitalism, we are designing financial products an innovative model of ownership that seeks to combine the advantages of employee and stakeholder ownership – long term commitment, community buy-in and sustainability in the business model – with the benefits of access to capital – growth, efficiency and scrutiny. It is called Mutual Capitalism because it aims to be mutually beneficial to capital markets and locally owned employees and communities; and combine the models of mutual ownership and capitalism.
  • Education: Numbers4Good is exploring a few potential social investment opportunities in the education space to enable new money to tackle educational disadvantage; this includes looking at sustainable school building in deprived areas and financing outstanding school charities to share their services with existing schools.
  • Health (Restorative Redress): The NHS spends nearly £1 billion a year on litigation. Restorative Redress aims to work alongside the NHS Litigation Authorities (NHSLA) to build a system that, for specific cases of litigation, would offer a process of reconciliation between a victim/family of a victim and a hospital trust as an alternative to legal proceedings. RR will offer those patients and families who wish to participate in new ways to find redress via mediations & discussions with their clinicians, focusing on compassion, mutual understanding and learning. These discussions will be facilitated by trained staff via a process that mixes on-line and face-to-face encounters. The result would not prohibit the victim/family of the victim from returning to a legal proceeding but if avoided, would hope to substantially reduce the costs of litigation cases, therefore reducing the overall NHS litigation budget.

We're both looking forward to it! If you want to learn more, do email

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Honesty is the best policy

Last week, I forgot that I hadn't bought a ticket that included Travelcard and had only bought a return to and from London. Somehow, I managed to get through the Underground ticket barriers at Kings Cross St Pancras. However, as I arrived at Covent Garden, I looked at my ticket and realised to my horror I didn't have the right ticket which meant I was eligible for a £40 fine.

I went up to the person responsible for the ticket barriers and explained my situation apologetically, he smiled and ushered me through the gates with not penalty!

It just shows, if you're in a bind, honesty is the best policy!

What's your best example of when you were in an awkward situation and honesty won the day?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Are you a Pioneer or a Developer?

I went to a fantastic conference over the weekend and attended a seminar called "Pioneers and Developers working together; leading forwards without blowing up". I've pasted a table from the seminar sheet. It got me thinking, how many people involved in social entrepreneurship are Pioneers and how many are Developers? Often, people are also a combination of the two. Getting the right type of people into an organisation is one of our 8Ps of Powerful Social Innovation.

As a Pioneer, I can relate to many of the characteristics in the first column but also I know that I need many of the qualities in the second column. I know that I need to run quickly and spot opportunities; however, if I don't have someone working with me who can spot the weaknesses and produce quality; staff and our clients are going to either burn out or blow up. Put simply, the impact that we want to have in transforming society won't happen. Pioneers can have a tendency to:
  • be impatient;
  • get bored and be inconsistent; and
  • leave a body count behind them!
Developers also need Pioneers though because they can have a tendency to:
  • want to stay in their comfort zone;
  • can be risk averse; and
  • can have a need to protect people (including themselves) too much.
Do we have a mix of Pioneers and Developers in our organisations? Do we have people who can take ground, but also people who can keep the ground we take? If we don't, our organisations probably won't grow sustainably and we won't have the impact we want; even worse, our organisations might blow up.