Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas

I've been lucky - having had a crazy end to November and a very hectic December - to have had the last week off. Apologies for the lack of blogging recently; hope you have a very Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Move Fast, Break Things but Transform Society

Last night, I watched Emily Maitlis's fascinating interview with Mark Zuckerberg; how he has transformed a college prank into one of the world's largest companies is extraordinary. I love how Facebook has fought to maintain a start-up culture in what is a company of over 3,000 employees. Zuckerberg is famous for having said "move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough"; a poster like the one on the right adorns many of the Facebook office walls.

Recent research showed that in the UK a quarter of the working population believes there are good opportunies to start up new businesses where they live but a fear of failure could prevent one in three workers from starting up on their own. If only 1% of these UK workers overcame their fear and seized the opportunity to start-up in their local area, the UK economy could receive a boost of over £33 million, if each individual made a profit of £1,000. If 5% overcame their fear and took a leap into entrepreneurialism, then the injection would be £163 million, and if all of them took the leap, the benefit would be £3.25 billion.

That's a sobering thought for the economy, but what about society? Are we stuck with the status quo because we are scared of making mistakes and innovating? We live in a country with over 1 million young people unemployed, with educational underachievement across the country and 850,000 people living in workless households (a child born into a workless household has about a 50% chance of being in poverty). Isn't it time we released ourselves from the fear of taking a risk? We will make mistakes but as Einstein said, "if you have never made a mistake before then you haven't done anything new"and society needs some new solutions!

Here's a Zuckerberg clip on how he generates innovation.

Friday, 2 December 2011

On The Guardian's Social Enterprise Network: How we can usher in the age of the global social entrepreneur

Apologies for the lack of blogging this week! The Guardian's Social Enterprise Network has published an article today that I wrote on global social entrepreneurship and the trade missions programme that I'm running:
Imagine farming in the developing world without fair trade… microfinance without Grameen… cosmetic testing without the Body Shop… teaching in deprived areas without Teach First. Without these social innovations, the world would be a poorer place, literally. 
I'm fascinated by the problem of how social innovation can spread internationally, accessing social investment along the way. Market forces enable great businesses to scale, but to date there haven't been the same drivers in the social sector. Ashoka, through its Globalizer programme, is aiming to link initiatives ready for global scale to the support they require to go global. The Young Foundation has set up a Global Innovation Academy, leveraging its expertise and global networks, to skill people in social innovation across the world 
The UK is currently attracting interest from around the world for the work that it is doing in social innovation, entrepreneurship and investment. It is estimated that one in five businesses in the UK have a primary social goal – contributing a total of £97bn to GDP; 1.7m people are involved in leading social sector organisations in the UK today – 2.8% of population and 238,000 people are trying to set up social enterprises, with one in three start-ups currently being primarily socially motivated. 
The question, however, is how do we leverage this interest to see our brightest and best social enterprises and business scale? We have seen some UK- based social innovation scale internationally, including social impact bonds – Social Finance having created a United States sister organisation that has opened an office in Boston, Massachusetts. The Hub concept has spread from London to 26 cities across five continents.Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Restaurants have opened abroad. But, I think – with many social entrepreneurs struggling to scale internationally – it is fair to say global social entrepreneurship is not yet here. 
Part of the answer – I believe – is to learn from what the private sector has done through trade missions to help businesses expand and replicate it; taking a group of sector-specific social enterprises and businesses abroad and helping them build partnerships, meet social investors and expand. Since the five trade missions that Oli Barrett and others have run with partners including United Kingdom Trade & Investment, participant companies have raised over $160m, over 50 major US partnerships have been formed and over 20% of companies have now set up subsidiaries in the US. 
I've been working with Big Society Network and United Kingdom Trade & Investment (UKTI) to create and lead a programme of trade missions, running over the course of the next year, to support social innovators and entrepreneurs to expand internationally. The first mission will take place in Washington DC in March 2012, focusing on social innovation and entrepreneurship in the public sector which is where there is specific interest from the US federal government and other agencies around this area. 
This will be followed very soon after by a mission supporting technology-based social entrepreneurs to the US as part of the South by South West Interactive Festival. The final 2012 mission we are planning is to support social investors and social innovation creators to provide services in the Far East where there is particular interest around how ecosystems to support and finance social enterprise are created. 
My hope is that these trade missions can be an answer to the problem of social innovation not spreading internationally, helping facilitate bottom-up global social entrepreneurship in the process.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

3 qualities needed for great partnerships

I was recently at a British Council event that was looking at how great partnerships can be built. I believe that strong partnerships is a key to growing a successful organisation, as I wrote in my blog on the 8Ps of Powerful Social Innovation. I've spent a lot of time building partnerships between different organisations; charitable foundations, corporates, governments, charities and social enterprises. I recently wrote about the time I'd spent in Kenya working with a water well drilling social enterprise. A partnership that I'm really proud of is the one I helped broker between Johnson & Johnson and Nurse First which was profiled at last week's Good Deals Conference. I'm also working to support social entrepreneurs build international partnerships through the trade missions that I'm running with United Kingdom Trade & Investment and Big Society Network. The conclusions at the British Council event were that three qualities were needed for a great partnership to work:
  • Trust: Building a relationship of trust between the people leading and working on the partnership is key. When you're not working within the same organisation, you need to rely on the other person to do what they say. As importantly, being sure that they act in a way that you are comfortable with when dealing with external and internal stakeholders is key!
  • A support for each other's objectives: This was really clearly articulated by the Nurse First project leader, Dave Dawes; he said the future of corporate responsible was "social enterprises & large corporates achieving objectives together not just giving out excess profits. Mark Lloyd Davies, Senior Director, UK & Ireland at Johnson and Johnson stated that he believed that "social enterprises and corporates will increasingly collaborate to meet both their companies' objectives". Without a recognition that partnership is a two-way street, one party will undoubtedly feel let down;
  • Mutual respect of abilities and values: One of the key reasons that the Johnson & Johnson and Nurse First partnership is working so well is that there is a strong mutual respect between the two partners in terms of their abilities and values. Both organisations believe in what the other is trying to do socially AND commercially.

Friday, 25 November 2011


We celebrated Thanksgiving this week with some American friends. What struck me most was not the gravy made with ginger snaps or the very sweet sweet potato dish that we eat with the turkey, but the fact that after the meal everyone round the table listed something that they were thankful for - it was powerful stuff; new jobs, babies, 40 years of marriage, the best year of marriage so far, work, friends etc were all mentioned. Not only did it create a sense of joy, it also helped me to remember to be more thankful. A large amount of recent work has suggested that people who are more grateful have higher levels of well-being. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships. Thankfulness also doesn't just help your wellbeing; Adam Smith, better known for his economic treatise The Wealth of Nations, also wrote extensively on thankfulness; he believed that gratitude was essential for society, motivating reciprocation of aid when no other legal or economic incentive encouraged its repayment.

It's time I was more thankful.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Don't mind the gap, stand in it - what Yunus inspires us to do

I was fortunate to hear Muhammad Yunus speak yesterday; in terms of global social entrepreneurship, there really isn't an equal. He is the founder of the Grameen Bank, an institution that provides microcredit (small loans to poor people possessing no collateral). Grameen helps its clients establish creditworthiness and be financially self-sufficient; the total amount of money loaned to the poor by Grameen since its inception, is Tk 684.13 billion (US $ 11.35 billion). Out of this, Tk 610.81 billion (US $ 10.11 billion) has been repaid.

Yunus spoke powerfully yesterday of the moment he realised that he needed to challenge the status quo in finance through meeting Sufia Begum - who he says taught the economics professor real-life economics. Everyday, Begum crafted beautiful stools made of bamboo that could have been sold for a significant profit. However, Begum, couldn't afford to make the stools out of her own pocket so she borrowed money from a lender every week; the problem was the lender only lent her the money on conidtion that she sold him the product at the end of each week for a fixed price well below market rate. Begum in reality was not an entrepreneur but an employee trapped in poverty earning 2 pennies a day.

After taking a week to interview everyone in Begum's village in Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus learned that 42 families could be saved from abject poverty with a total (low interest) investment of $27. So, Yunus reached into his pocket and providing the $27. He was surprised when everyone went out of their way to pay him back - it was the start of microcredit; the banks wouldn't lend so he did.

Yunus's message, like that of many social entrepreneurs such as Wendy Kopp at Teach for America/Teach for All who is challenging the status quo of teaching in inner city schools and John Bird at The Big Issue which gives homeless people the dignity of work, could be summed up simply:

Don't mind the gap, stand in it.

If only more of us followed their examples. Below is a video of Yunus outlining the Grameen model

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

I was the 4,761,051,371th person on this Earth, what number are you?

From the BBC:
The world's population has hit 7 billion. After growing very slowly for most of human history, the number of people on Earth has more than doubled in the last 50 years. Where do you fit into this story of human life? What number are you? Find out here.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

So you've got an idea and want to set up an organisation, project or social enterprise, what next? Writing the two/three page summary!

Recently, I decided that I wanted to set up a new social enterprise; after having an idea, I'd spoken to a few people about it informally, I'd got feedback and I decided to take the plunge. What next? I wrote a three page summary; why? I wanted to crystalise the thoughts in my head and write the concept on paper, I wanted to enable more constructive feedback and also I wanted to promote the idea more effectively to enable me to raise funding for a develoment phase. Here's what my two page summary included:
  1. Introduction: A brief summary of what you are wanting to do and why it needs doing;
  2. Description of the Problem: A couple of paragraphs (with some bullet points) outlining the problem you are wanting to help solve and why it needs to be solved;
  3. Proposed Solution: Describe what you are wanting to create, what you want it to achieve, why you think it will work and who you are working with; 
  4. What's needed to take the idea further: Outline the team roles that you would like to recruit, the next steps you want to take and the time this will take you (e.g. 3-6 months);
  5. Cost: Include a budget outlining the costs for either a pilot or a development phase (depending on what your idea needs);
  6. What this will achieve: Outline what you will have achieved in the time phase stated in Section 4 above.
 Hope this helps, is there anything you would add?

Monday, 21 November 2011

Believe in the future by creating it first... action triumphs everything

"Believe in the future by creating it first... action triumphs everything", were the words that entrepreneurial thought leader Len Schlesinger spoke at a conference I was at recently. At present, as Schlesinger commented; we have:
  • 2 million people live on less than $2 a day;
  • An educational system that is totally inadequate;
  • A world where our food distribution system where we have more food than we need, but we can’t get it to the people that need it;
  • A world in which the millennial generation is looking forward to a future of a lesser standard than the previous generation;
  • Political processes are completely inadequate to meet the needs of our country.
If we're honest, we don't know what the future is going to look like, but we know that it needs to look better than today. I fear that we spend too much time worrying about whether our solution is going to work as opposed to creating the future ourselves. With apologies to Nike, let's just create it!

11:55 update: @_garrilla just replied to me, we don't really know what 'better' is, we should check if it works, if so keep, if not do differently and repeat adinfitum. I agree, and not's let worrying about whether it will be 'better' stop us from trying it out.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Why diversity is important and why Sepp Blatter clearly doesn't get it

Over the past 48 hours, Sepp Blatter has caused global outrage - including from football stars such as Rio Ferdinand - for his comments on racism (watch them below). Not only has he failed to show an understanding of a problem that is rife in football, he has also spectacularly missed an open goal of an opportunity to promote the value that diversity brings to teams, organisations and society. I’ve seen why diversity is important in organisations – especially those working with the vulnerable – through when it has worked well and through when it hasn’t. In my experience, diversity is vital for 4 main reasons:
  • Helps address issues more effectively: People from different races, religions and cultures often have different ways of addressing issues enabling a more open and in depth conversation about how the issues can be resolved;
  • Facilitates brainstorming: Diversity can contribute to problem-solving as people view situations from their own unique backgrounds and brainstorm ideas that may have never been considered;
  • Enhances decision making and policy: Diversity means different experiences and perspectives are made available when decisions are made, leading to more effective and better decision-making and policy;
  • Enables stakeholder buy-in: If you include people affected by decisions in the decision making process, they are more likely to feel ownership of the decision that is made.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

If it's not on a list, it doesn't exist

At uni, I became really good friends with probably one of the most organised people I think it's ever possible to meet, the type of person who thrives on creating order out of chaos; putting in place process, management and structure. He taught me a simple truth that I try and live by; that if, in a world of many priorities, you don't write down what you need to do, it probably won't happen. Or, in his own words "if it's not on a list, it doesn't exist."

Not only has this helped me be more effective, I also worry less about what needs doing. A simple but - for me at least - a highly effective truth. Now, what do I need to do today?

What helps you be more organised?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Could half of our fines go to community groups, charities and social enterprises?

A recent news article suggested that HMRC (the UK's tax collecting agency) pocketed £150m in fines from people filing late tax returns alone. I don't how much money we are contributing to public sector coffers through these, parking and speeding tickets, court fines and other penalty charges;  it must be in the £billions. A friend told me yesterday of how some American cities allow their speeding and parking fine perpetrators to give a tax-deductible donation to charity instead of giving the money to enlarge the government purse. A quick internet search led me to this story about San Francisco. This made me think; imagine if the UK Government - and devolved administrations - committed at least half of our fines would benefit community groups, charities and social enterprises:
  • Fines for our late tax returns could contribute to economic development through supporting the employment of the vulnerable and long-term unemployed;
  • Speeding tickets could support charities and social enterprises promoting a low carbon economy;
  • Court fines could help fund voluntary projects - on a Matching Fund (e.g. matching time with money) basis - in our communities supporting projects that reverse the causes of crime in the first place.
Why should this happen? Because the money could be really effectively used to benefit civil society at large. In order to manage the process well, why don't Government agencies give the money they accrue to the many excellent Community Foundations across the country? This would allow them to spend the money on funding some of the most effective projects and organisations that are transforming our society for the better today - work Community Foundations already do brilliantly.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

6 ways to find a social enterprise or business idea

Yesterday, I wrote about 5 reality checks I've used to test whether I'm ready to start a social enterprise, charity or business; but, what if you don't have an idea of what you want your organisation to do? Here are 6 things that have helped me think of ideas:
  • Skills: What skills do you have? What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? If you know the answers to these questions, these are the foundations to you finding an idea;
  • Gaps: Is there a gap in the market in what you are currently doing or a sector you have been looking at? Could you fill that gap?
  • News: Newspapers are full of problems that need solving; virtually every page is talking about a problem in society or the economy at the moment. Is there a solution you could think of to tackle one of society's great problems? My friend, Dominic Campbell, sketched out the design for Patchwork HQ - a safeguarding app - after watching the story of Baby Peter unfold on the news;
  • Pain:  If you've asked yourself the question "if only someone did this", my life would be so much easier, or you've heard other people ask that; is there a solution you could think of to help tackle that pain? Aaron Patzer found it painful to manage his finances online; he created Mint to solve this pain;
  • Talk: Conversations are often the best way to solve problems and think of new ideas. Going out there and talking to people about the types of problems they are wanting solved and seeing if you can create a solution is a great way to find an idea;
  • Test: Before going further, test in your head whether the idea could work. Is there a way it could be a viable business model? If it's an idea for a social enterprise or business, you may find the 8Ps of Powerful Social Innovation helpful.
How do you think of business ideas? Is there anything I should add to this list?

Monday, 14 November 2011

5 reality checks to test whether you're ready to set up a social enterprise or business

I love it when people set up social enterprises and businesses, it's an exciting time full of opportunity but also one of a few threats. In setting up my social enterprise at the moment, here are 5 reality checks that I used to test whether I was ready to take the plunge:
  1. Financial security: This is a big one for most people setting up a business. As I am setting up my social enterprise at the moment, I have lost the regularity of earning a regular salary. This can be especially hard if you have a family. Are you willing to forsake going on holidays away? Are you willing to invest personal savings? How much money are you willing to invest in your business?
  2. Lack of company perks: In a normal job, you get "perks" such as holiday pay, pensions contributions and sick pay. When you are setting up your organisation, you may lose this at first.
  3. Support of family & friends: Do you have the support of your family and friends who can support you during what can be a very stressful time. Deliberately use people you trust as a sounding board and for their objectivity.
  4. Network of peers: Is there a network of peers in your sector that you can tap into? Developing a network of business peers who you can also talk to regularly will help you feel that you're part of a larger support network.
  5. Personal sacrifice: Last but my no means least! Are you prepared to put in the long hours and the hard work? If you have a great idea, it'll be worth it in the end!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembering by building peace

This morning at 11:00, along with millions around the country, many of us will be taking took part in 2 minutes silence to remember those who have lost their lives fighting to protect the country they loved. With Sir Winston Churchill's words of "never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" ringing in my ears I will remember those who have fallen over the past century, defending the rights that many of us enjoy.

Remembering and honouring the lost heroes with silence is fitting; at the same time, I was wondering yesterday evening, how I could go further to honour those who have given so much for the peace and happiness that I enjoy? 27 years ago, five people – including my great-great-uncle Tony Berry – were tragically killed in the Brighton Bomb. Five lives and many other livelihoods were destroyed or damaged in a moment of hatred; the murdered and those who were injured were fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and friends to so many. Over the past 12 years, Tony Berry’s daughter, Jo, has built a relationship with Patrick Magee, the Brighton bomber. This has not been without controversy, but they now stand on platforms together speaking of hope and peace for Northern Ireland. Some have praised her work, others have criticised it. The path of forgiveness – especially where there has been such pain caused by an act of such hatred – is so emotive and I'm not going judge people as to whether they walk that path or not.

As the Vicar of Baghdad, Canon Andrew White has been kidnapped, robbed, hijacked, and has received countless death threats over the years. A Brit with Multiple Sclerosis, Andrew lives amid the sectarian violence I only read about, and calls leading Shiite, Sunni, and other Iraqi leaders his close friends in the struggle to end the conflict. For over 15 years, he has dedicated his life to reconciliation in the Middle East by focusing on the positive role we can play in resolving conflicts. Living in constant danger, he negotiates the release of hostages, builds relationships with key religious leaders, fosters peace agreements, and provides desperately needed food, hospital treatment and shelter to victims of violence.

What would happen if as well as honouring the dead with silence, I honoured their legacy by being a peacemaker, both in the way I forgave others and in the way I helped build peace amongst my friends and communities? In the words of Desmond Tutu "without forgiveness, there's no future".

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Are we suffering enough heartbreak?

"When was the last time I spent time with the poor?" I asked myself that question earlier today. So often, we can get trapped as social entrepreneurs/charity leaders in our own bubble without actually building relationships with the people we are trying to help and understanding what makes them tick.

I know this can cause pain but I wonder whether sometimes our hearts do need breaking again; to re-connect with what we feel passionate about and enabling us to show value, compassion and love to people when they need it most. Am I suffering enough heartbreak? No I'm probably not.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A health check on our social enterprises' & charities' business models

In times likes this, it can be hard to stay afloat. I'm currently designing the business model for my new social enterprise - more about that another time - but conversations over the last few weeks about organisations staying afloat made me think; how can we ensure that our business models work? Here are 6 tests that I use:
  1. Making sure our cash cycle is ok: How are we day-to-day with finances? Do we have enough regular income to stay in the black - or not to go too far in the red?
  2. Keeping costs to acquire customers as low as possible: Are our costs to acquire customers affordable in comparison to the work we currently have and the work we are bidding for?
  3. Ensuring our sales cycle is not too long: How long are we waiting until we close a deal with an individual, organisation or government body? Are we waiting too long and investing too much time in the deal at the expense of our organisations? Business is all about selling and not pitching at the end of the day... 
  4. Making sure we get money quickly through our door after a sale: Can we ensure that we receive moneys owed from the sale quickly?
  5. Are our contribution margins are enough to cover the fixed cost structure: What do I mean by this? Our fixed costs (rent, rates, salaries etc) have got to be covered by the margin we make on everything we sell
  6. Make sure that our revenue can carry the business as a whole!
What tests do you use to look at your financial model?

    Tuesday, 8 November 2011

    Hiring excellent staff, ethically

    Recruitment can sometimes be seen as slightly shady, but it does not have to be. How do we recruit the best talent and do it ethically? A friend asked me this last week; as social enterprises/businesses or charities, we want our hiring to reflect our values. Here are my 10 thoughts:
    1. Talk to existing staff first: It is so easy to hire someone without asking or informing your existing staff but it will harm staff morale and possibly lead to relationship problems between existing staff and the new recruit;
    2. Decide the type of person you need: Make a list of what this job entails (duties, responsibilities, amount of authority it carries etc.) Decide what qualifications, core competencies and personal strengths you want the candidate to have;
    3. Plan your search of candidates: Assess whether there is someone in your company who may be right for the job first. If not, spreading the job byword of mouth can be brilliant, but be careful as this can mean that the job only gets spread through certain networks and not others. Also look at whether anyone suitable has previously applied to your company;
    4. Decide how to recruit: Are you going to use a recruitment agency - if so do they have a reputation for treating candidates well? Also have a look at industry websites, social media (such as Twitter and LinkedIn) and press as well as your local media;
    5. Write a great advert: Don't only include the typical summary of a people spec and job description but sell your company. Explain why your organisation would be a great place to work;
    6. Decide on a shortlist & reply to candidates: Involve your other key staff - if you have them - in this process. Being gracious to the applicants who have failed is vital; I have seen people be rude to those they consider "nobodies". Not only is it rude but also these "nobodies" have a knack of becoming important "somebodies";
    7. Keep your promises: If you say to candidates that you will contact them by XX/XX/XX, contact them by then, even if you have to apologise for a delay;
    8. Create an outstanding interview and assessment process: Think about what the job entails, and design interview questions - and if necessary aptitude tests - to assess the people against the necessary core competencies. Bring in other people to interview with you - their feedback will be invaluable; there is no need to play "good cop" "bad cop", the candidate will feel enough pressure. Treat them fairly and you will earn their respect. Get the right person to coordinate the interview and assessment process; if you are not an brilliant administrator, allow someone who is to run the logistics of the day - it will make the candidates and you much less stressed!
    9. Give balanced and detailed feedback to those who have just missed out if they want it: Offer the opportunity for the interview candidates who missed out on the job to receive feedback. In the feedback, praise them as well as giving them constructive reasons as to why they didn't get the job;
    10. Congratulate your future employee: Ring them personally and if they are employed at the time, help them leave their current job well.

    Monday, 7 November 2011

    What I - a Chelsea fan - have learnt from Sir Alex Ferguson on leadership

    On Saturday Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in British football, celebrated 25 years at the helm of Manchester United. Throughout his managerial career he has won 48 trophies, 37 of them at Manchester United. I'm not a Manchester United supporter but I can't help but admire what he has done. Often I try to look at leaders to learn from their example. Here are 5 things I have learnt from Sir Alex Ferguson:
    1. Have vision: When Ferguson arrived at Manchester United, Liverpool were by far the most successful English football team. Ferguson is quoted as saying "my greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment, my greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their ******* perch”. To us now, this seams obvious as Liverpool have only won 2 league titles whereas United have won 12, but before he joined United, Liverpool had won 16 titles and United had only won 6. Sir Alex knew that without vision, his leadership was directionless and pointless;
    2. Build great teams: For Sir Alex, it is all about getting the team to play football; he has let go of superstars like David Beckham to ensure that the team comes first at Manchester United. Sir Alex recognises that in football there are often egos, but no ego in his mind can become bigger than the team;
    3. Always plan for succession: Sir Alex has successfully evolved the Manchester United team four or five times during his time there, ensuring that when players leave Manchester United or retire, there are players of a high enough calibre to replace them. This season is a case in point where he has brought through Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck into the first team. Ferguson has stated in the past “go and make your mistakes in the first team. You'll learn more in a month in the first team than you will in two years in the reserves”;
    4. Hard work always pays off: The one thing players, coaches and executives comment on at Manchester United is Sir Alex's work ethic. Nearly aged 70, he is the first one at the training ground and the last one home. Ryan Giggs, referring to Ferguson, said "the best piece of advice he's given me? To work hard... And he leads by example, of course. He’s always first in at the training ground and last to leave, and he wants to see that kind of mentality from his players as well."
    5. Ensure fathering is a key component of leadership: While Sir Alex is reputed to be a disciplinarian, many of Manchester United's stars, including Paul Scholes and David Beckham, have commented on how he has been a father figure to them. According to Scholes "Alex Ferguson has always been a father figure to me — and to the rest of the lads who have come through the Old Trafford ranks." In the past few days, David Beckham has commented “he wanted to kill me at times, I’m sure, but he was a father figure to me and he was also the man who gave me the chance of playing for my dream club." Sir Alex has always tried to be supportive of his players, setting guidelines but instilling an unwavering belief in them that they can be successful.

    Friday, 4 November 2011

    Recruiting excellent trustees

    It's Trustees' Week this week (30th October - 6th November 2011). On Wednesday, I wrote on five reasons to be a trustee and as I mentioned, a 2009 report by New Philanthropy Capital quoted research showing that 48% of charities have at least one vacancy on their board of trustees. So, how do we recruit excellent trustees for our boards? Having recruited trustees, I know it's not always the easiest thing to do. But here are five questions I ask when thinking about recruit trustees:
    1. Have we discussed the recruitment process with our current board?: It's crucial to check whether the board is ready new members to the board. . This is so that new board members need to feel welcomed and valued as first impressions really are important;
    2. What expertise is (and isn't) on our board?: I've always found that if trustees have a broad variety of fields of expertise (e.g. marketing, HR, finance) and if they are drawn from across the spectrum of private sector, public sector and the voluntary sector, it increases the board's effectiveness in making wise decisions;
    3. How diverse is our board?: Diversity is vital, not just because it is sensible to include people affected by decisions or policy but also because it means different experiences and perspectives are made, leading to better decision making;
    4. How are we describing our charity and the role of being a trustee?: Being clear about the type of people you want to recruit, the skills they should have and what their role will entail is really important. The way you describe your charity will also help you in recruiting the right people. Are you clear about what your vision and mission are? When I've been clear about this, it's been easier to recruit people;
    5. Do our recruitment methods match the type of people we want to recruit?: Different recruitment methods have their pros and cons. The New Philanthropy Capital report Board Matters (mentioned above) usefully lists some advantages and disadvantages of different ways to recruit trustees. This includes word of mouth, advertising, using a recruitment firm and - ever increasingly - social media. But, if you are trying to recruit a specific type of person, does your method of recruitment match what they are going to see? For example, recruiting a 50 year old through social media might be quite difficult, but using it as part of your strategy to attract someone under the age of 30 could work quite well.
    If you are thinking of recruiting trustees, this pack from NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisaitons) is an excellent tool

    13:00 update: @camydeacon from NCVO has contacted me to say that there is another pack aimed at helping smaller charities recruit trustees here

    Thursday, 3 November 2011

    Encouragement costs you nothing and could be worth everything

    I don't know about you but for me, at crucial points in my life, it's always the encouragement of others that keeps me going and pushes me to the next level. What is it that spurs you on when you're thinking of taking a risk, stretching yourself and making yourself more vulnerable? What is it that stops you from maintaining the status quo? Well, for me - and perhaps many others - it is encouragement. Charles Schwab, the American industrialist said:
    I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among men the greatest asset I possess. The way to develop the best that is in a man is by appreciation and encouragement.
    Leadership and management development courses are often good, but they can cost an arm and a leg; the thing about encouragement is that it costs you nothing and could be worth a lot to the person you're encouraging.

    Here are five ways that I try and show encouragement to people:
    • Be interested: Take a genuine interest in the person and what they're doing. If you're their line manager, or they're your client, treat them as a person and not a project;
    • See the situation from the other person's perspective: Understand what makes the person you're encouraging tick, show them that you are interested in what they are interested in and that you understand their point of view and where they are coming from;
    • Give positive feedback: After someone has taken a risk or done something you value, congratulate them. Even if it wasn't them at their best, make sure in the aftermath you show appreciation for what they did well and then if necessary give more challenging feedback at a later date in the midst of praise. When giving encouragement, look the person in the eye.
    • Ask advice: One of the best ways of showing someone that you value them is to ask their advice; if they value your counsel, this is a huge motivator. This will also help you see viewpoints from their perspective on what you're doing together;
    • Be generous: If you can, show value to people by taking them for a coffee, lunch, or a drink. They'll feel appreciated, valued and wanted.
    Imagine if our society was built on encouraging others; we'd be a lot more productive and live more rewarding lives.

    Wednesday, 2 November 2011

    Why not be a charity trustee?

    It's Trustees' Week this week (30th October - 6th November 2011). In the UK, trustees are the people who oversee a charity - the charity board. They play a vital role, volunteering their time and working as a team to make important decisions about the charity's work and setting strategic direction. But a 2009 report by New Philanthropy Capital quoted research showing that 48% of charities have at least one vacancy.

    I've really enjoyed being a charitable trustee (of a Newcastle based charity working with marginalised young people helping them find work) and am currently looking for new opportunities to be a trustee now I've moved from Newcastle. Not only did I enjoy being a trustee, it also did me a lot of good; why don't you consider it? Here are my five reasons to be a charity trustee:
    1. Develop new skills: From setting strategy to overseeing management accounts to Human Resources, being a charity trustee can help you learn new skills that will help you in your personal and professional life;
    2. Improve your CV: Being a charity trustee enhances your CV and your job opportunities, both because of the skills you learn and develop but also because it illustrates it shows you have a leadership role and that you are applying your skills to help improve society;
    3. Increase self awareness: Working in a team of people to make strategic decisions about an organisation reveals more about yourself and it has certainly helped me understand what my strengths and weaknesses are;
    4. More self confidence: As you see decisions you are making have an impact in people's lives for the better and how you influenced that process, you'll see yourself become more confident in your ability to achieve change and make good decisions;
    5. Personal satisfaction: Being a charity trustee is stretching but it should also be a lot of fun; it's an opportunity to meet new people, make new friends and generally feel that some people's lives are improved because of what you have done.
    If you want to start looking for trustee opportunities, the website Do-it has a good search function. It also has some great advice on what to do before deciding to join a charity board here.

    Tuesday, 1 November 2011

    Lunch with (and some great advice for a budding social entrepreneur from) Jack Sim

    On Sunday, I was lucky enough to have lunch with the founder of the World Toilet Organization, Jack Sim, a truly global social entrepreneur, an Ashoka fellow and a Schwab Foundation award winner.

    The World Toilet Organization (WTO) is a global non-profit organisation committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide. WTO focuses on toilets instead of water, which receives more attention and resources under the common subject of sanitation. Founded in 2001 with 15 members, it now has 151 member organisations in 53 countries working towards eliminating the toilet taboo and delivering sustainable sanitation.

    Having worked in politics and as a social innovation and business consultant, I'm now embarking on setting up a social investment/ impact investment innovation lab. So, I asked Jack what his three pieces of advice for a budding social entrepreneur like me are. He replied:
    1. Showcase the problem not yourself: Jack commented that too often social entrepreneurs get caught in the fame trap; always trying to promote themselves. As he said "fame can be a great servant but is a very poor master" and by focusing on the problem, you are seen as a champion for your cause and not a self-promoter.
    2. Deliver don't just talk: In Jack's experience, he has seen so many social entrepreneurs just go to conferences and talk without actually building the organisation they lead. Tragically this means that they miss the opportunity to achieve systemic change in their field and make the world a better place.
    3. Focus on the need first, not the money: Too often, Jack stated, social entrepreneurs chase after the next bit of cash and compromise on tackling the need; he feels mission drift is a trap that many social entrepreneurs fall into. Some of Jack's final words to me were "if the need is compelling enough and you demonstrate you are solving the problem, the money will always follow".
    Jack, thank you.

    Monday, 31 October 2011

    3 tips for Social Entrepreneurs and Charities wanting to engage with Government

    At the weekend, I was one of the speakers at a session on government and society at the Emerge Conference at Said Business School, Oxford University, run by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Student Hubs. Liam Black, our panel chair asked me what my 3 tips for Social Entrepreneurs wanting to engage with Government were. I replied:
    1. Engage with Civil Servants, not just Ministers: Too often we can get trapped into thinking that speaking to a Minister means that our cause will be advanced by the Government. But more often than not the Minister will be involved in setting vision but not in the detailed design or implementation of individual policies. This is usually undertaken by individual Civil Servants who we should also engage with. It is now a lot easier to find out who does what in the UK Government as it has published its organisational structures, known as organograms, online. You can find them here on or you can Google the Department you want to talk to with the word "organogram". With a bit of Googling and detective work you'll be able to work out what Civil Servants' email addresses are.
    2. Help don't hinder: As my co-panelist, Jim Robinson from the Office for Civil Society at the Cabinet Office said, Civil Servants "will bite your arm off" if you offer to provide them with information that helps them with the development of their policy, either by collaborating with them on your social innovation or by assisting them in policy formation. If however Civil Servants feel that you are solely trying to promote your cause, they'll feel lobbied and will more often than not be less inclined to engage with youIn this process, also be clear about what is your Intellectual Property and what isn't so that it isn't accidentally tendered out. 
    3. Speak to the Opposition, other political parties and think tanks: Teach First is undoubtedly one of the UK's social innovation successes of the last decade. One of the many things that they did (and do) excellently is engage with all of the main political parties in the UK, whether they are in Government or not. One of things this has achieved is that political parties don't see Teach First as one party's toy but instead, there is cross-party consensus that Teach First is an excellent intervention in the UK education system. As well as speaking to Ministers and Civil Servants, make sure you talk to the Shadow Ministerial teams from all the main political parties. Don't worry if some of them don't agree with you, at least you know some of the arguments against what you're doing, which will help you make your case stronger. Think tanks are also a really good way of allowing you to shape Government and Opposition policy; have a look to see which think tanks are engaging in the areas you are interested in. Good think tanks on the centre-right (Conservative leaning) include Centre for Social Justice, Policy Exchange and ResPublica, on the centre-left (Labour leaning) include Demos, IPPR and it's dedicated Northern think tank IPPR NorthCentre Forum is a good think tank which heavily influences Lib Dem thinking.
    What are your tips?

    9:35 update: @SimonSimply has just tweeted me to suggest an excellent tip: Never raise a problem without suggesting a solution

    Tuesday, 25 October 2011

    8Ps of Powerful Social Innovation

    Time shows us what some of the successful social innovations are; examples include Teach for America and it's UK equivalent Teach First, The Big Issue, Divine Chocolate and Grameen Bank. They have transformed teaching in inner-city schools, the lives of homeless people, the earnings of farmers in the developing world and some of the world's most deprived - turning them into successful entrepreneurs through microfinance.

    But, how can we tell whether a socially innovative idea has the power to be transformative or not? I've been thinking about this for a while and have come up with 8Ps of Powerful Social Innovation:
    • Problem: How big is the problem the social innovation is wanting to address and is there a need for systemic change?
    • Progression: Will the solution have a significant positive impact on the problem it is tackling and propose to tackle it altogether? If it doesn't tackle it altogether, does it move the problem along significantly?
    • People: What is the track record of the people behind the solution? Do they understand the problem, have they suggested a solution that seems to tackle it and can they or a team around them turn the idea into a reality?
    • Partnership: Who are the innovators proposing to collaborate with? Are they aiming to work with stakeholders in the private and public sectors, and civil society at large? Are they seeking the advice - and tapping into the expertise - of leaders in the field at which they are attempting to innovate in?
    • Participation: How has the innovation involved the users in its design? How does it propose to involve the users in shaping the design as it moves into delivery and more importantly, how does it build on the strengths of its users and build their capacity?
    • Price: Is the cost of the innovation cheaper than what it costs to tackle the social problem at the moment? Is it - for example - proposing to use technology to drive down costs, or is it using a more cost-effective model of delivery?
    • Prevention: How does the social innovation tackle the root of the problem? Prevention is always better than cure as the saying goes and increasingly social innovation is looking more at earlier interventions that can prevent the problem getting larger or manifesting significantly in the first place.
    • Proof: Even if the idea is in its early days, what proof is there that the idea will work? Has it been tested elsewhere, if not, has the idea been tested with proposed users?

    What are your thoughts? Is there anything you would add or change?

    Friday, 7 October 2011

    Social Impact Bonds both sides of the Atlantic

    Social entrepreneurs and investors in the UK have been hearing the term social impact bond for a few years now. In case you haven't heard of it, a social impact bond is funded by private investors and the money is used to finance projects run by charities, social enterprises or businesses. Crucially, the investors would only be repaid, or make a profit, if the projects achieve certain results agreed in advance. I think social impact bonds have three main benefits:
    • They make more funds available for early intervention and prevention at no risk to government;
    • Government funding only pays for those services that are effective as the investor bears all the risk of services being potentially ineffective;
    • Investors and deliverers have an incentive to be as effective as possible as  the larger impact they, the larger the repayment.
    In the UK, we're already see a Social Impact Bond working at reducing reoffending, launched in September 2010 by the Ministry of Justice and Social Finance and funded by investors including the Big Lottery Fund. The Office for Civil Society has also recently announced four new social impact bonds to aid troubled families.

    Now the US are looking at this model - under the American term "Pay for Success Bonds". Barack Obama’s proposed 2012 budget contains a rule change that allows various government agencies to issue social impact/pay for success bonds and he has proposed that up to $100m of federal money be freed up to run pilot schemes to test the idea.

    Social Finance, the pioneers of the Social Impact Bond in the UK, have recently launched a US sister organisation, Social Finance US which President Clinton highlighted at his recent Clinton Global Initiative in September.  Social Finance US also announced some new stellar Directors including former Gates Foundation CFO Alexander Friedman, the leading Harvard business professor and thinker Michael Porter, Luther Ragin, head of the Global Impact Investing Network and the excellent Sonal Shah, the former Director of the Office of Social Innovation at the White House. Wow. Exciting times for social impact bonds both sides of the Atlantic and for social innovation scaling internationally.

    Friday, 23 September 2011

    If you're making a grant or social investment what should you consider before making it?

    I was asked this question on Monday and it made me think; what does make for an effective grant or social investment? At the time I came up with seven criteria:
    • The evidence behind the idea/project
    • Quality of the people
    • Their vision
    • Social impact/outcomes
    • Value for money
    • Sustainability
    • Co-design/community involvement
    Have I missed anything out that you would include?

    Friday, 16 September 2011

    Back from Kenya

    I'm back from Kenya and we had a successful trip with excellent meetings with - amongst others -  UNICEF, the Danish Refugee Council - who have an excellent work supporting village communities with wells -  as well as the Kenyan Ministry of Water and the Water Board with responsibility for the drought affected area. Allan and I also had the privilege of spending some time with some village elders (pictured) to talk about the water crisis.

    Sunday, 11 September 2011

    The road from Nairobi to Garissa told stories of drought, lack of education & human trafficking

    The 6 hour journey from Nairobi from Garissa told many stories of the poverty that is facing Kenya today.

    Within an hour of leaving Nairobi we encountered ladies walking between villages with 20 litre jerry cans to provide water for their families. According to my colleague, Allan's research many are walking up to 40km each way to carry 20 litres of water. 20 litres is the total amount of water an average person in drought affected areas is using for two weeks; as someone I met yesterday commented, if people are living on this, "their hygiene goes down the toilet, literally". An offshoot of the girls going to pick up the water is that it means they often don't go to school. The drought is not only killing many, it is depriving many others of receiving a good education.

    At numerous times during the journey, there were checkpoints with portable speed bumps with spikes on them across the road that are on rope operated by police; I asked our driver Paul why and the answer he gave "because of human trafficking". Human trafficking out of Somalia is widespread. To give you an idea of the problem, below I have told the story of Amina who was trafficked from Somalia to Ethiopia:

    Amina is a 13 years old girl from Mogadishu. Her father makes little earnings selling vegetables and other small items on the street. Following her mother’s death, she joined her elder sister in Garowe, (Puntland) with other siblings in search of a safer environment and better education opportunities. One day as she walked to the shops, a Somali woman approached her, and enticed her into going with her. Amina does not recall what has happened next. When she woke up, she found herself contained in a room full of other children. The other children informed her that the woman had drugged her and transported her to Ethiopia for the purpose of organ removal. The following day, Amina was made to undergo several medical check-ups where she was diagnosed with hepatitis A. She was given medical treatment, which did not work. Amina was told by the Somali woman that she was ‘useless’. As a result she was transferred from Ethiopia to Burao via Hargeisa in Somaliland, where she was found by one of IOM’s Counter Trafficking Network members who referred her case to IOM. She was given immediate assistance and protection, and would be finally reunited with her family in Garowe.
    As is probably obvious, the road challenged me once again about the desperate poverty that many in the world are in. It did on the other hand also gave me some fun, I saw a Somalian ostrich (pictured).

    Saturday, 10 September 2011

    Just arrived in Kenya

    I've just arrived in Nairobi to do some work with Maji-Tech Engineering, a Tanzanian drilling company, who are working with the UN to create partnerships that drill, pump and manage wells on the Kenyan-Somalian Border. Tragically, the UN have warned that as many as 750,000 people could die as a result of the drought within the next four months.

    It can be forgotten however that the situation for Kenyans living near Somalia is often as perilous as for the refugees coming over the border.

    I've joined a colleague who flew out earlier in the week and is building partnerships with other organisations that can pump water for the wells and manage the wells in the medium term. I'll be out in Kenya for a week, six days in Nairobi and an overnight stay in Garissa. I'm looking forward to helping build some inter-agency relationships that can help tackle the desperate situation on the ground.

    On the way from the airport to the hotel I saw a giraffe but sadly it was raining and not like the photo above - I've clearly brought the British weather with me!