Shine 2011 – part two

Day two of this year’s Shine Unconference at Hub Westminster began with Liam Black, formerly of FRC and Fifteen – now running Wavelength, delivering a presentation called ‘How to screw* up at being socially enterprising’.

The bulk of the presentation focused on Black’s ‘Seven Deadly Sins of Social Entrepreneurship’ which were (in some cases paraphrased):

  1. Convince yourself that having a good idea (in itself) changes anything
  2. Be really vague about your purpose
  3. Come to believe that your unwillingness to pay attention to detail is a charming quirk
  4. Make sure you hang out with people just like you and avoid the nasty people in the private sector
  5. Disregard your customers and their problems
  6. Create a culture in your enterprise which is a reflection of your brilliance
  7. Take on one of the following leadership identities: messiah model, superhero model, Stalin model or invisible leader
Black illustrated the sins with examples from his own working life. One of the highlights, under sin 3, was the example of when an employee at FRC in Liverpool, Stan the upholsterer, saw an quote in the local newspaper in which Black had outlined exciting plans for social change in the city and sent him a short note: “Liam, I read in the Echo you want to transform Liverpool. You can’t get my wages right. Good luck with Liverpool.”
In explaining sin 7, Black challenged the ‘Messiah model’ that sees social entrepreneurs as a vehicle for solving social problems through individual genius and showers them with awards and invitations to high level international conferences. The risk being that you “feed the model that the world is going to be saved by this Premier League of social entrepreneurs – it’s not, you’re not a miracle worker and you get crucified.
The presentation finished with a ‘Recipe for success’ with a list of ingredients including: ‘A tonne of hard work’ and ‘one good pinch of opportunism’.
In the afternoon, I attended the panel session ‘Small Fish & Blue Chips – Can big business & social enterprise work together?’. The overall answer to the question seemed to be ‘yes’ but panellists – ably prompted by Dan Lehner from Unltd – had a range of ideas about the best way for them to do so.
Bob Thust, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Deloitte, was partly there to promote Deloitte Social Innovation Pioneers, a new programme that will see the company ‘showcase up to 50 socially innovative businesses from across the UK and provide them with a package of support to help them mainstream, go to scale and become investment-ready‘.
His comments including the message that (as a social enterprise) it’s important to know what corporates are getting out of a relationship with you because, if a partnership is going to work, it needs to be a partnership of equals. He also suggested that language barriers – social entrepreneurs and business people expressing themselves in different styles or using different terminology – didn’t have to be a major problem if both sides worked on building relationships. He emphasised this position by pointing out that ‘corporates are organisations made up of people‘.
Social Entrepreneur, Richard Tyrie, founder of recruitment website Jobsgopublic, wondered whether the audience viewed social enterprise as a science or an art and got strong support for his position that it is primarily an art, before adding that this can often be a problem. He felt that ‘some of us are too hung up on the social side – the business of business is business‘ and that ultimately social enterprises needed to find the right blend of science and art to take their ideas to scale – working in partnership with corporates to ‘sit in the slipstream of the private sector juggernaut’.
David Barrie, one of the people behind The People’s Supermarket, focused on some ideas about what social entrepreneurs have to offer to corporate partners. In the case of his social enterprises this included useful human contact in the community and experience of implementing projects beyond the planning stage. He suggested that this kind of experience meant many social enterprises had the potential to fulfil a role as sub-consultants for consultancy firms, and do so more cheaply than conventional private sector competitors.
Social enterprise éminence grise, Nick Temple, Director of Business at Social Enterprise UK, said that his organisation received lots of calls from corporates interested in working with social enterprises but there’s a wide spectrum of interest, from conventional CSR to organisations who were genuinely keen to form partnerships with social enterprises. He said it was natural for social entrepreneurs to ask the question ‘do they really mean it?’ when corporates expressed a desire to work with social enterprise but that, for many companies, it was a case of being on a journey towards understanding social enterprise.
Contributions from the audience included the point that, with the passing of Chris White MP’s Social Value Bill imminent, many companies that carry out a lot of public sector contracts would have an added incentive to work with social enterprises.
Overall, while Shine 2011 wasn’t entirely able to banish the feeling of gloom-tinged expectation that hovers over the social enterprise sector in the current economic climate, it did provide a good mix of entertainment, healthy debate and practical ideas for starting and developing socially enterprising activities – along with an opportunity to meet other social entrepreneurs in a relaxed, positive environment. I expect there’s going to be plenty of changes in the social enterprise sector before this time next year but Shine 2012 should provide a good place to reflect on some of them.

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One response to “Shine 2011 – part two

  1. David, in responding to Part One, I’d made observations about lack of transparency in social enterprise support organisations.
    Interestingly when commenting recently on Liam’s blog for Social Enterprise Magazine, my comment which was far from offensive was removed. I’d related the experience of our own last 10 years.
    I have reason to believe that the Magazine rather than Liam took this action.

    Seemingly, it was my other comment about the EU Social Business consultation which upset them. I’d pointed out the remarkable resemblance between this and our own work on microeconomic development ans social enterprise, which was focussed on economic reform in Eastern Europe. It had been put forward in 2008 for the EU Citizens Consultation.

    The social impact report on this work had been requested by but not published in their SE100 index.
    As you’ll see from my previous comment, I’d introduced this work to Baroness Thornton in 2005, as I’d also done the following year when the paper was complete and I joined the SE. It was beyond their focus. I’d also introduced it again to Jonathan Bland on his blog in 2008 when Social Business International was formed. After all by then we’d been engaged in international self-sustaining social enterprise for almost a decade by then. I may also have introduced the Linkedin Group on Social Business and For Benefit Corporations since Feb 2008.

    As a self-sustaining social enterprise we have a natural alignment with the supply chain of corporations. Our customers include GE, BASF, BAA and Honeywell and until a couple of years ago Deloitte in Dublin.

    Today Good Deals 2011 has a slant toward social business in another instance of perpetual conferences which only the publicly funded seem able to afford. We are after all making better use of profit for social purpose. .

    Call me cynical, but it often seems as if we’re being kept at arms length, while being re-constructed as a new brand who are going to change capitalism and how we do business.


    . .


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