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.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Want to start a social enterprise? Here are my 5Is of Starting Social Ventures

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about how people set up social ventures; what system do they  follow, what lessons have they learnt etc. I have also thought about how I have helped set up social enterprises such as FranchisingWorks and NurseFirst; and how I've supported philanthropists in starting their new ventures. I have encapsulated this in what I have called the 5Is of Starting Social Ventures. I'd love your comments, and hope it helps you as much as it has helped me!

Idea: Any social venture starts with an idea that can transform society. Have you got an idea? This could be for example, to help young people get better GCSE results, to improve participation in sport or to help people get jobs.

Innovation: For this idea to turn into a reality, it needs to be honed and developed, fusing it with a mixture of sector experience, leading research, and unconventional thinking. For more about what makes a powerful social innovation, read my 8Ps of Powerful Social Innovation.

Incubation: Now the innovation is at a stage where a team needs to be put in place to help turn it into into a fully designed and developed organisation ready to pilot the idea. This process includes business modelling and planning that not only enables the pilot to happen but also enables the new organisation to scale, enabling its impact to be much more significant.

Initiation: Having identified locations to trial and initiate what is by now a new social venture, it's time to set up the organisation itself, press go and pilot! Finding the right location(s) is crucial; ensuring a good mix of stakeholders is key.

Impact: Successful piloting provides the benchmark for social venture expanding and having significant impact, potentially nationally or internationally. At this point, it's time to learn lessons from the pilot(s) and think roll out, perhaps through direct growth, social franchising or replicating through a different means.

If you want support turning your idea into a reality; I'd love to help. See here.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Guest Post: Liam Black on being a mentor

Liam Black is co-founder of Wavelength, a global network bringing together business leaders and social innovators. Liam is an award-winning social entrepreneur who has founded and led a number of social businesses. With Jamie Oliver he grew Fifteen into a global brand with businesses in Europe and Australia. Liam's a mentor to young entrepreneurs and a busy writer and speaker on entrepreneurialism and social innovation.

Reading Dom’s blog about what he looks for in a mentor made me think about my mentoring history. I’m a pushover for any young entrepreneur who asks for help and over the years I have mentored/coached/helped scores of them. Dom may be the first Tory I’ve mentored, and despite differing political views, we get on well! Our relationship is proof that the mentor and mentee (awful word) need not share identical beliefs – in fact it can help the mentee get challenging different perspectives.

I have had huge benefit from mentors. My best was Graham Morris who in 1999 I recruited to chair the social business I was then leading. A scouser and a hard man from the car industry, he had more business knowledge in his little finger than I had in my whole body. Graham helped me enormously and pulled off that rare trick of being able to push and challenge me without ever talking down or making me wrong.

My mentoring is a combination of advice giving, door opening, connecting, hooking up with money, getting access to supply chains and, often, simply listening and assuring them they’re not nuts and it is okay to get really mad and have a good cry about how damn hard it is to create and sustain a business of any sort.

Sometimes the help they want is very basic – business model options, branding ideas, getting enough cash to pay next month’s wages (!) – but as a relationship develops and deepens it inevitably becomes more personal and there are many conversations about purpose, balancing the business with personal relationships, fears, exits and rewards.

With social entrepreneurs working with the homeless or deprived youth, an area we soon get into is identity . I try and help them uncouple their own sense of worth from what they are doing. Too many (often middle class) people want to ‘save’ the poor and – albeit unconsciously – tie up their own redemption with their social impact. Many the long hour with a social entrepreneur beating himself or herself up that they couldn’t save so and so from going back to prison or from drinking himself to death. The sooner that people realise that they cannot make anybody do anything, the better their mental health will be and the more sleep they’ll get.

How to remain passionately committed to the cause and not burn out is a regular topic of conversation. Social entrepreneurs can act as if they really believe the world will stop turning if they take a few days off to look after themselves. One of these would be world saviours told me recently the best advice I gave him several years ago when he was up against it was to take a holiday and have some fun. He did; mentoring is not brain surgery.

The worst thing you can do as a mentor is dance round the hand bag or prevaricate. If an idea is crap then tell them. If they repeatedly don’t do what you advise, say goodbye. Sometimes it is about helping them work out better questions but, when I clearly know more than they do about something – or at least have made the very mistake they are about to – then telling them straight not to do something is what is needed. In the world of social enterprise/investment/innovation there is a great deal of self serving guff. Playing the grumpy old man mentor is good for them – “hmm that’s all very well you’ve won the Blogg Sprockets Social Entrepreneur of the Last Ten Minutes Award – but you can’t even pay your rent next month. Get a grip”.

The fact that I actually have become a grumpy old man adds authenticity to this process.

Why do I mentor? The old cliché which all mentors are supposed to trot out is that we get more back from our mentees than we give them. I’m not sure this is true for me – indeed if it is generally true then why do it? But no doubt spending time with younger, passionate, idealistic innovators determined to change the world can be very inspiring. I guess I will keep doing it until they stop collaring me.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

What makes a social enterprise successful?

A friend of mine recently commented that for a social enterprise to be successful it needs a visionary entrepreneur, an enabling operator, a good mentor & a competent financier...

What's make your work successful, aside from an idea (which is assumed I think), what would you add to the above list

Monday, 19 March 2012

What should we look for in a mentor?

I've been really fortunate in having some great people helping me set up AchieveGood. A number of these people are ongoing mentors. Finding a mentor has been transformational for my career, and life. Here's some of the best advice I've heard - and learnt - on choosing a mentors. The best mentors are often:
  1. Different to you: Finding someone who is different to you, but is sympathetic to you is important. This isn't too difficult as no-one is exactly the same as you, but in mentoring it's important that you don't choose people who do as you do always and are exactly like you.
  2. Someone who provides a new perspective: Sometimes when we are busy setting up our organisations, we can get so drawn in that we are unable to look at the big picture or not think differently on an issue that we need to;
  3. Inspiring: If your mentor doesn't inspire you to be a better person or do better then the likelihood is the mentor isn't right for you. Finding someone who inspires is crucial to the mentoring relationship. I wrote about my lunch last year with Jack Sim, and the advice he gave me. He certainly inspired and challenged me;
  4. Someone who believes in you: A friend of mine once said "never underestimate the power of someone who believes in you". This has certainly been true in my life; when I'm surrounded by critical friends who believe in me, instead of feeling like I can't achieve anything, I realise that I can achieve - even if it means me changing a few things along the way, working with different types of people or changing as a person myself;
  5. Further along the journey than you: The people who mentor me are further along the journey than me; they've led large organisations, set up social enterprises and therefore understand what I'm thinking and experiencing. They can also share the mistakes they've made - as well as words of wisdom to enable me to make wise decisions.
What advice would you give to people wanting new mentors?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Boldly going where social enterprises don't always go: Building a good team (with some help from Star Trek)

So, I'm looking to build a team. Sometimes when setting up social enterprises, we don't think enough about building strong teams, perhaps because we mainly judge people on whether they carry our mission. One of the 8 Ps of Powerful Social Innovation is People. I was talking about teambuilding to a friend the other day and he said that I needed to build a team the Star Trek way. This caused confusion, especially as I'm not a Trekkie (sorry for everyone I've just offended)! What do Captain Kirk, Mr Spock, Mr McCoy and Mr Scott have to do with creating a social business? But then he explained the different types of roles you need to create a strong team; below are the profiles I found online which describe it better than I can:
  • Captain Kirk - Catalyst (Often Myers Briggs NF): The Enterprise Captain will bend the rules  and defy what analysis or engineering says is not possible. Kirk will dispute what is logical and search for what is human and even what is spiritual (along with McCoy).  Kirk makes connections on a psychological, emotional and spiritual level. He seeks the universal oneness in his voyages, but he will act out of intuition and take action just to see what happens or upset an opponent's predictions about his strategy. 
  • Mr Spock - Visionary (Often Myers Briggs NT): Always the logical and analytical First Officer. Spock wants to make up logical structures that connect ideas, not people or values.  He creates the theory or blueprint and visionary model of abstract concepts to solve problems based upon time series and historical analysis and simulation.  He is not bothered by traditional categories and likes to see the connections that will result in his reasoned intuitive leaps about the big picture. Spock peers at the vision of the universe on his screens.
  • Mr Scotty - Traditionalist (Often Myers Briggs NF): The Chief Engineer gets upset when things are out of order and not being run by the book. He is stressed when he has to fix the engines that Kirk asks him to push beyond their limit. Scotty is the sceptic, questioning if something can be done and wanting to follow tradition.  He likes to know where he is in the organisation chart. He thinks with hierarchies and categories. He is sensing and judging and then relating things and can treat people as things and thing-tenders.
  • Mr McCoy - Troubleshooter (Often Myers Briggs SP): When there are problems, McCoy will question and undermine authority by bringing up the human value and moral issues. McCoy challenges the existing categories that Spock, Kirk and McCoy create.  He is the critic and trouble shooter (a bit of a rebel).  He challenges the military-types with his eat, drink and be merry role. He dislikes being the cog in the wheel (be it a logical, military, or administrative one ).  He can be radical in his approach to problem solving in groups.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Two big mistakes Governments have made with dealing with poverty

Governments throughout history have made two big mistakes with the way they interact with society - and therefore tackle poverty. Both seeking to control society or abdicating responsibility for it has allowed poverty to increase, not decrease. As well as addressing what the Centre for Social Justice term the five pathways to poverty - family breakdown, educational failure, worklessness, serious personal debt and addiction to drugs and alcohol causes of poverty - the Government needs to continue to look at another problem: how to increase the glue that holds our communities together – social capital. too many people lack aspiration, hope and a sense of belonging to society. 97% of communities have become more fragmented in the last thirty years and even the strongest communities today are weaker than the weakest in 1971.

Increasing social capital is not about creating some utopia; it is about tackling poverty, decreasing crime and creating opportunity. Statistics show that crime is lower in places where people know their neighbours, when parents take an active interest in their child’s school, the teachers try harder and the children do better, and connected communities are good for children: babies are born healthier, teenage pregnancies are fewer, and young people are less likely to get involved in crime.

The ways of doing this are many and complex, but Government can play a role. If social capital is not built, disenfranchisement amongst communities will only increase and we will continue to be stuck in a system of top-down control where people continue to lack aspiration and hope.

In order to facilitate the building of social capital, the Government needs to:
  1. Go further in decentralising power, ensuring that we see ourselves more as citizens with a responsibility for our communities’ well being; instead of us seeing ourselves as taxpayers and clients of the state and statutory providers;
  2. Encourage local governments to share this freedom with citizens in as broad a way as possible with more co-designing of public services & community engagement;
  3. Re-evaluate the model of top down Government contracts. The Government’s announcement that its Community First funding is largely on a match basis (with a financial value placed on time given) is a good start but I am concerned that as long as the UK Government pursues a model based on top-down contracts without community participation, we are increasing top-down control and not enabling bottom-up societal ownership. In an age where we can buy and sell products through eBay, why can’t communities have more of a say in funding decisions or even bid for outcomes?
  4. Make the engagement of communities a requirement for funding for community-based projects;
  5. Ensure funding is more accountable to communities of – let’s not forget – taxpayers up and down the land. National and local governments should be looking at increasing the amount of participatory budgeting so that responsibility for decreasing taxpayers’ spending is in line with community priorities.