Monday, 22 December 2014

New Personal Website

As many of you know, I've been homebound - and off work recently - due to a spinal injury and operation. As a result of the spare time, I've got round to creating a personal website,, It can also be accessed by the menu bar. I'd love to know your thoughts - comments welcome!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Why We Believe Innovative Partnerships Can Capture the Talent of Outstanding Entrepreneurs to Create Lasting Social Impact

This article first appeared on Huffington Post here.

Co-authored by Bertrand Beghin, Co-CEO, Numbers4Good

Over the next two years, at Health Social Innovators' Programme, we will be selecting 14 promising, early-stage social ventures across England in order to stimulate innovation and create positive change in healthcare. Investing £40,000 into each of the chosen outstanding entrepreneurs, Health Social Innovators will take them through a 16-week structured accelerator programme with access to mentors and connections tailored to their individual needs. This unique health accelerator is run by Healthbox, UCL Business (UCLB), and Numbers4Good in partnership with our funders the Cabinet Office's Social Incubator Fund, Trafford Housing Trust and Janssen Healthcare Innovation. We believe that addressing complex societal challenges necessitates new innovative approaches; long-term approaches that dovetail delivering sustainable impact for the bottom line as well as for society. This in turn requires access to financial and human capital, technology and extensive networks - resources that individual organisations struggle to harness alone. We believe that the Health Social Innovators's Programme is one possible solution to this problem delivering an (1) ecosystem, (2) enabling environment, and (3) seed funding, to accelerate the impact and rapidly extend the reach of our chosen ventures:
  1. We have put social innovation and impact at the heart of a partnership that brings together counterpart investors and delivery partners in a collaborative eco-system of social ventures, academia, NHS and industry partners. Focused on social ventures, that are predominantly health-technology or tech-enabled enterprises addressing a major healthcare challenge, individually and collectively our partners bring contrasting and complementary perspectives, sectoral insights and skill-sets that cover the spectrum of innovation, impact and healthcare.
  2. We're supporting early stage innovation through an accelerator programme that establishes an enabling environment within which exciting ventures can challenge and learn from each other and scale their reach and impact. Based in a co-working space and with opportunities for our ventures to pilot in the community, we along with our delivery partners - Healthbox, health technology accelerator innovators, and UCLB, a pioneer university technology transfer office for spinning out social enterprises - are seeking to create the building blocks for lasting change in the healthcare industry.
  3. We're providing initial seed funding for our ventures and preparing and steering them towards further development funding. Collectively, we're supporting the ventures to develop their strategic, financial and managerial capabilities and connecting them with suitable investors in order to raise further development funding and so deliver systemic social impact.
Perhaps you're a social entrepreneur with an idea or a technology, a potential customer of these ventures, an investor or you have a general interest in our Health Social Innovators' Programme. If so, we'd love to hear from you and hopefully work together to tackle some of this country's greatest health problems. For more information, please see:

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

How We Can Build on ALS: Generosity is good for us as well as others

This article first appeared on Huffington Post here.

If you're anything like me, your Facebook wall has been transformed into a stream of people soaking themselves with the Ice Bucket Challenge. We are all getting soaked with water and in the process raising money (in fact lots of money) for charity. We have also learnt about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and the devastating effects it has on those who suffer from it.

Now don't get me wrong, there are some valid criticisms of the Ice Bucket Challenge; Matt Damon by refusing to use clean water in his challenge raised the point that it is sparse in the developing world. Many in the U.S. have also pointed out that there is a significant drought -- particularly on the West Coast.

But despite all this, I'm loving the Ice Bucket Challenge. Why? Because people are having fun being generous and raising awareness of important issues and it's provoking me to be more generous with our words, our time and our money.

A survey done a few years ago by Mencap showed that 82 percent of children with learning disability in the UK are bullied, and 79 percent are scared to go out in case they are bullied. In the UK, we have also recently seen high profile cases of the disabled elderly being bullied in their care homes. These people are not just statistics, but are some of society's most vulnerable people. But, it's not just about these cases. If you believe as I do that evil prospers when good men do nothing, what does that mean for the way we can be generous with our words to those who are disabled and downtrodden. As Anthony Carbajal, an ALS sufferer says after heartbreakingly describing ALS "you have no idea how every single challenge makes me feel -- lifts my spirits, lifts every single ALS patient's spirits. You are really, truly making a difference and we are so, so, so grateful."

People are backing up their words with actions; they're not just posting videos online, they are giving millions of pounds. Admittedly, soon, people may be attracted to a different cause but organizations like Charity:Water have proved that social media can help drive much needed money to issues like giving clean water (as Matt Damon was promoting) over a sustained period of time. As a result of the $93m that they have raised, over 3.2m people have been given clean water -- phenomenal. Other companies, such as TOMS Shoes have put generosity into their business model: you buy a pair of shoes from TOMS and it also gives a child in need a pair of shoes too. Since its founding in 2006, TOMS has given more than 2 million pairs of shoes to children living in poverty in more than 51 countries. Where we spend our money can change lives.

But it's not only about words or money, it's also about the time. Some friends of mine have driven to the beach or to a lake, many have drenched themselves in their gardens but all have uploaded their videos on Facebook after -- I'd hope -- getting dry. Unscientifically, I reckon that each person who has done the ice bucket challenge has then spent an average of half an hour on it. Why have they spent so much time on it? Because it's fun! As a dad and an entrepreneur, time can often seem really tight for me, but counter-intuitively, when I spend time volunteering, my other time feels more productive. It's not just me who thinks this; a recent paper by professors Michael Norton and Cassie Mogilner actually proves it. It says that while we don't feel we have enough minutes and hours to do everything, volunteering some of our limited time actually INCREASES our sense of how much spare time we have. Numerous studies also show that being generous promotes trust, social connection and co-operation.

Every time I see the Ice Bucket Challenge on Facebook, and it's a lot, I'm provoked to be more generous. It's not only good for the marginalized in society, it's good for me too. Let's find ways of making this generosity last!

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.