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Concept’s ‘Blind Baking’ Opened The Eyes of the Hospitality and Catering Industry

All this week Concept Conference Centre has been inviting employers from the hospitality and catering industry to see how blind or partially sighted people can work in and run a commercial kitchen.

The following employers all attended the event as part of the AWM sponsored Diversity Week:

  • Gray Court Catering
  • Mars and Spencer
  • Purple Rock Events
  • Key Personnel
  • Eat Coffee Limited
  • Civic catering
  • Birmingham City University
  • BVSC
  • Town Hall Birmingham

The event was also covered in the press:

  • BBC Midlands Today
  • BBC Radio WM – Joanne Malin Show
  • Express and Star
  • Hotel and Caterer Magazine

All the employers found the event very interesting and many are now looking forward to working with Concept on a number of projects,  as well as, offering placement opportunities to trainees.

Comments:

“Totally changed my mind on partially sighted people”

“Opened up all sorts of opportunities in the workplace”

“Giving employers the chance to ask kitchen staff questions in an informal setting is really useful”

Gateway Family Services becomes first Birmingham SE to be awarded Social Enterprise Mark

At a drinks reception last night to celebrate Social Enterprise Day, Gateway Family Services (GFS) announced that it has become the first Birmingham-based winner of the Social Enterprise Mark, an independently evaluated ‘kitemark’ scheme  which started in the south-west and has now gone national.

GFS, a Community Interest Company, was  born out of a Primary Care Trust just over three years ago and is one of the fastest growing social enterprises in the region, currently employing over 140 staff.

It is a new kind of community health business and believes in putting health to work in local communities in order to address inequalities and deliver employment opportunities. By recruiting, training and accrediting people from disadvantaged communities to take up local employment opportunities in community health, GFS delivers health benefits as well as creating social and economic opportunities.

Cllr Sue Anderson, Cabinet Member for Adults & Communities, spoke glowingly about GFS’s work and said the award was a “fantastic achievement”.

Gateway CEO Vicki Fitzgerald said the award recognised the shared values and efforts of the whole GFS team.  “It will give Gateway a competitive edge but we will also use the Mark to help promote the social enterprise movement in general,” she added.

The award is great news for Gateway, great news for Birmingham and great news for the  sector and congratulations are due to Vicki, to Liz Carroll her deputy, and to the whole team at GFS. It will be fascinating to see how they utilise the Mark in their marketing and key messages in the coming months.

Local Students visit Social Enterprises on Social Enterprise Day

Today 15 students from Heath Park Business and Enterprise College in Wolverhampton visited Concept Conference Centre as part of Social Enterprise Day.

During their visits the students found out about the social enterprise movement, as well as, hearing about the work and aims of two social enterprises: Concept Conference Centre and Citizen Coaching.

On the day the enterprising students also came up with two of their own enterprises: Rainbow Community Services ‘bringing schools and community together’ and PLATFORM ‘building confidence and social skills for young people’.

You cans see the students working on their ideas at Concept’s Flickr page.

Social Enterprise in Action

Action for Blind People is set to work with social enterprises throughout England to offer work experience placements to blind and partially sighted people looking for employment.

Thanks to funding by the National Lottery through Big Lottery Fund, Action for Blind People has developed a Social Enterprise and Employment Development (SEED) Project dedicated to finding work experience placements for blind and partially sighted people within social enterprises.

‘Host’ social enterprises will be offered a full package of support tailored to their needs, including advice on Health and Safety issues, access to specialist adapted equipment and Visual Awareness training. The majority of work placements will last between one day and two weeks and could provide a perfect lead-in ‘working interview’ for the DWP’s Future Jobs Fund six month placements.

The aim of the SEED project is to open the eyes of employers to the abilities of blind and partially sighted people within the workplace. 81% of employers rated the performance of disabled employees as ‘the same or higher’ than non disabled people. If this is the case then why is it estimated that 66% of blind and partially sighted people of working age in the UK remain unemployed. Through the SEED Project, with the support of social enterprises, blind and partially sighted people can develop the skills and confidence they need to progress into employment.

Yorkshire based social firm, Viewpoint employs a team of blind and partially sighted research assistants and has also offered work experience placements, in partnership with Action for Blind People.

Alistair Ponton, Managing Director of Viewpoint said: “The team we have recruited through Action have been enormously beneficial to Viewpoint. Their customer service and IT skills have pushed the boundaries of what services our business can offer and their attitude to helping Viewpoint succeed has reinvigorated our entire staff team.”

If you are interested in becoming a ‘Host’ organisation for the SEED Project or you would just like some more information, please contact the SEED team on 0113 386 2800.

SEC publishes first “state of the sector” survey on Social Enterprise Day

Social Enterprise Day greetings! The Social Enterprise Coalition has just announced publication of its first ever ‘state of the sector’ survey (opens PDF in new window).

Sponsored by the Office of the Third Sector, its findings make encouraging reading. Almost a  thousand SEs were sampled and the survey found that:

  • Social enterprises are twice as confident of future growth as  typical small to medium enterprises (SMEs), with 48% of social enterprises responding positively as opposed to just 24% of SMEs.
  • Over half (56%) have increased their turnover from the previous year while less than 20% have seen it go down. This is a considerably better performance than SMEs in the UK, where only 28% increased their turnover and 43% saw it go down.
  • Two-thirds of those polled are making a profit, and around 20% are breaking even.

This suggests that SEs are performing better during the current economic downturn than conventional SMEs.

I’ve only skimmed the report but it looks as if it contains just the kind of national-level sector intelligence we can all make use of. Well done, SEC!

Latest news confirms that DoH Social Enterprise Investment Fund includes £30K grants for ’emerging SEs’

Deanne Dunstan at iSE has just rushed over the following news. This further clarifies the ‘investment’ products available under the Dept of Health Social Enterprise Investment Fund, mentioned here and confirms that there is a ‘loan-free’ grant element to the fund targetted at ’emerging SEs’ in health and social care:

Just had a conversation with someone at the DoH regarding their social enterprise investment fund.

Thought you might be interested in knowing that Department of Health’s ‘Emerging Enterprising Fund’ is grant based – upto £30k (no loans involved). It is for enterprises less than 12 months old who are working in health and social care and whose trading income to date is less than £20k; those who are working around personalisation are a particular priority ( im thinking Natasha Cotterell). There are no forms to complete but the process takes about 12 weeks from someone making the initial enquiry to the grant being awarded (so short timescales)

Individuals need to ring the enquiry line 0191 269 2276 – they will be asked questions re eligibility etc and about their proposal; if they are eligible etc they will then be asked to submit certain documents etc etc; then there may be other phone calls ..then their case is all written up and presented to a committee who make the awards..in effect the people you talk to will advocate on your behalf.

I think it will be useful if we let anyone who may be eligible know about this asap as I am guessing that many will miss the fact that it is a grant not a loan

The Outreach Fund is also grants, again upto £30k (any age social enterprises) but this is for organisations to develop new products and services for those who are socially or geographically excluded. The guy I spoke to at DoH said there was a lot of competition for this fund and therefore those wanting to apply would have to make a very good case for support – but again it’s the same process, ring up and put your case forward. I am sure there must be organisations working with particular socially excluded groups who could benefit from this. Again I think personalisation agenda is the priority.

Please note — enquiries should either be directed to the hotline number Deanne gave above (0121 269 2276) or check The Social Investment Business website (the manager/distributor of the funds) where there is an explanation about each of the funds here.  Thanks, Deanne.

Tories won’t dismantle New Labour’s third sector policies

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, speaking at ACEVO’s annual conference recently, has pledged that the an incoming Conservative government would not immediately dismantle Labour’s policies on the third sector (reported today in Third Sector Online). “That kind of politics is in the past,” Maude said. A “good part” of what the Government has done regarding the third sector is good, Maude says. “We will look and see what works,” he added.

This is not quite the impression that shadow charities minister Nick Hurd gave when he spoke in Birmingham recently — covered on this blog here. Hurd seemed somewhat more critical of Labour’s record and referred to the need to ‘reform’ the Office of the Third Sector (or its successor) and do away with Labour “micro-management”.

Loaf — a new social enterprise in Brum

Loaf is a new social enterprise in Birmingham — and appropriately enough is the brainchild of…Tom Baker (no, you couldn’t make it up), NHS dietician, cook, baker, advocate of real food, artisan produce, local produce etc.

As well as knowing how to build and fire a traditional wood-burning oven in which he bakes traditional sourdough breads, Tom also clearly knows how to use the media — Loaf is all over the Birmingham Post.

Paul Hanna is going to an event at Loaf HQ next week so we’ll get him to blog more for us.

You can read more about Loaf’s services here.

Kevin Curley tweets himself in the foot?

Kevin Curley, chief exec of NAVCA has just signed off from Twitter pledging a week’s abstinence by way of penance. It seems his mildy critical musings on social enterprise on Twitter have earned him what passes for front-page notoriety in the third sector — a write-up in Third Sector Online.

In his late night tweets Curley mused: “…wondering about social enterprise. Is it charity plus business for social benefit? Or a respectable veneer for profiteers? does calling your organisation a social enterprise give you a licence to do anything which makes money regardless of mission and values?”

Now frankly none of this exactly constitutes a hanging offence but Allison Ogden-Newton, chief exec of Social Enterprise London, has given him both barrels by way of reply.

Is there a word in Twitterish to describe situations of this kind — ill-advised tweets, peer rebuke, self-imposed break from tweeting? Come on Twitterers, if you know it, share it.

Crisis pioneers SROI-based ‘share offer’ in new Skylight Centres — a model for others pursuing philanthropic investment?

Crisis, the homelessness charity, is currently promoting accredited education, training and employment centres called Crisis Skylight Services. The charity already has Skylight Centres in London and Newcastle and is planning a new Skylight development in Birmingham, where it has already been consulting with other providers and investigating potential sites.

What’s interesting about this story — covered recently in Third Sector Online and elsewhere — is the investment and fund-raising model that Crisis has adopted for these centres.

In partnership with the Financial Times, Crisis has issued a SROI-based investment prospectus, similar to a company share offering — the first such prospectus ever issued by a UK charity. This follows research carried out for the charity by independent specialists Oxford Economics, whose report and SROI formula are available here.

This is not, of course, the first time that UK not-for-personal-profit organisations have sought to use SROI to encourage ‘philanthropic investment’ — but the Crisis offer has an additional innovative angle. Because it revolves around similar Skylight centres, it offers comparability and thus enables investors to base their investment decisions not just on location but on the comparable levels of social return these locations generate.

Being a major, national charity ‘brand’ has clearly been of immense assistance to Crisis in this, as has its undoubted media savvy and ability to strike powerful national partnerships, but I reckon many other smaller organisations will also be watching closely to see how this works and whether it offers a model that they too might capitalise on.

The Social Investment Business & DoH unveils eight investment programmes for social enterprises

On the 16th October 2009 Third Sector Online reported that The Social Investment Business (formerly Futurebuilders) and the Department of Health have unveiled eight investment programmes aimed at social enterprises working in the health and social care sector.

The funds — offering  a range of grants or loans of up to £10m — are available under the DH’s Social Enterprise Investment Fund, now managed by The Social Investment Business.

The funds are generally aimed at helping social enterprises develop innovative services in health and social care and have been designed to cater for different types of social enterprises.

The SEIF Outreach Fund offers grants of up to £30,000 for organisations that are developing new products and services for those who are socially or geographically excluded.

The SEIF Growth Fund offers investment packages from £50,000 to £10m to existing organisations for working capital, buildings, staff or any other outlays incurred by social enterprises in their efforts to grow.

Nick Hurd MP speaks — RAWM consultation event

Yesterday, I was at RAWM’s consultation event on the Conservative Green Paper, A Stronger Society: Voluntary Action in the 21st Century (previously covered in this post).

It was a chance to hear the Conservative line from Nick Hurd, shadow minster for charities, social enterprise & volunteering, MP for Ruislip-Northwood — and, of course, Douglas Hurd’s son and the fourth generation of his family to be elected to Parliament.

The event took the form of an address from Hurd followed by brief questions and then roundtable discussion in which groups were asked to consider key points from the speech in greater detail.

Hurd was relaxed and confident, but there was also a hint of steel when he set out the key Conservative values that underpin his party’s vision for the sector, and especially when identifying areas in which he feels the sector must do better.

Conservatives, he began by saying, are sceptical of big government and see the third sector as central in helping to reassert a greater sense of personal and community responsibility — a Britain in which people are more ready to help themselves and to help each other. He believes that the sector has become over-dependent on the state — both in terms of where its income comes from and what it does — and that resources have become concentrated in the hands of the largest organisations: two trends in particular that concern him. “What I want to see,” he went on to explain, “is an ecosystem of organisations embedded in local communities — operating especially in those areas where the state has failed for over twenty-five years.”

The main themes of his speech were structured around what the sector can expect from a ‘reformed’ Office for the Third Sector (or its equivalent) under a Conservative government.

The strategic mission of this new office will be “to unlock the potential of the sector” and in all of its work Hurd will insist that it asks three questions:

  • What are we doing to make it easier to run a charity or third sector organisation?
  • What are we doing to encourage people to donate more time and money to the sector?
  • And what are we doing to make it easier for the sector to do business with the state?

In elaborating on the first question Hurd said that government has to reduce the burden of red tape and bureaucracy impeding the sector and has to get infrastructure support for the sector right. “I can see the great value of the sector being able to communicate and network effectively, and I also see the need for technical support — and the need for public funds to support this, because I can’t see where else the money is likely to come from,” Hurd said. “But I can’t see or understand the overall architecture of this support. How can anyone? I asked my researchers to map it out for me but they said they had tried and that it was just too complicated.”

Hurd continued by posing a challenge to the audience: “Everywhere I go people tell me that Capacitybuilders was well-intentioned but botched. So tell me how infrastructure support should be delivered. But don’t tell me what’s best for the organisations that deliver support: tell me what’s best for customers.”

On the second question of giving more time and money, the Conservatives’ intention — as the Green Paper says — is to create “a cultural norm” of donating. “So tell me what we need to look at — the tax system, incentives — what? If we can unleash the power of donating then we could be directing not millions but billions of pounds into the sector. That’s the prize.” Again, it is the particular Conservative perspective that makes this issue interesting. Conservatives, Hurd explained, are committed to shrinking government and the state — and massively increased income from public donation could “set the voluntary sector free financially from both”.

On the third question — making it easier to do business with the state — Hurd explained that the reform of commissioning will be a gigantic task. “Do not for one moment under-estimate the scale of the change required,” he said, particularly given that the priority — “restoring the health of public finances” — will be the same irrespective of which party forms the next government. He then went on to elaborate on some of the key themes covered in the Green Paper — in particular:

  • The need for accountability in spending public money, but an end to absurd levels of micro-management and intereference, both in contracts and commissioning — “a return to trust”.
  • The importance of grant-aid as well as contracts, and
  • A return to greater freedom for local authorities, making it critical that the sector develops its relationships and communication with locally elected members.

One of the most surprising aspects of Hurd’s address was his clear signalling that the sector will need to strike a new relationship with local authorities. “Over the past twenty-five years we have allowed local councils to become merely creatures of government. Conservatives will change that. There will be greater accountability to communities rather than to the secretary of state.”

He also made it clear that he doesn’t believe the sector works hard enough in building relationships with local government. “I heard Kevin Curley from NAVCA ask the audience at a recent conference the following questions. ‘Who’s been in touch with their local councillors recently to make sure they know who you are and what you do? Who’s been in touch to make sure they understand what your work achieves and how? Who’s been in touch to make sure they understand your value-for-money?’ Do you know, not a single hand went up. It’s not good enough.”

He echoed this theme again in answering a question about the voluntary sector Compact. The Compact should have statutory status — it must “have teeth”, he acknowledged — but he also warned the audience that they were mistaken if they believed the Compact to be the only answer. How the sector prospers is really about relationships, he said, not a pieve of paper headed ‘Compact’. “I have always thought it’s about the attitudes that prevail in that small world made up of around about 400 leaders of councils up and down the country. Get all of them on your side and that will transform relations with the sector.”

It was a fascinating event and RAWM are to be congratulated for organising it.

Social enterprise slot machines?

There’s a fascinating and thought-provoking article in today’s Guardian Society about a social business that has turned to gaming and bars to offer jobs to the hard to employ in great Yarmouth.

Hospitality and Grow is a partnership venture between Towering Leisure — Great Yarmouth-based leisure and gaming company — and the award-winning training and employment social enterprise, the Grow Organisation.

At first glance it seems that the ‘products’ offered by Hospitality and Grow – gaming arcades and slots – could not be more at variance with its mission… But as Daryn Ferguson, the former croupier and casino manager  brought in to run the project, says in the piece,  this is “Yarmouth’s relevant employment” and the hardest to employ — ex-offenders, those with mental health problems and recovering drug  and alcohol addicts — “shouldn’t be excluded from that”.

Mapping of third sector support organisations — AWM

I’ve just spotted that AWM has published a long report called Mapping of third sector support organisations. I’ve only skimmed it but the useful thing about it seems to be that it includes a comprehensive directory of sources of support, including a profile in each case ofthe kind of support each organisation offers.

I’m not sure how much it adds in the way of new sector intelligence — new economic data  about the sector, for example — but as directory that clients and enquirers can be referred to it looks as if it could be very useful.

Live from the Social Enterprise World Forum — Day 3

Another excellent day! I am never sure about study tours – over the years I seem to have visited many social enterprises which are in reality projects and bear little resemblance to anything enterprising! Top of my list of things to do was to visit the Bonsai Social Firm – famous because it began a series of development work in Scotland on acquisitions which is now spreading southwards.

‘Bonsai – the imagination tree’ became a social firm 3 years ago, bought from a family looking to retire – last month it merged with another garden centre [this I hadn’t known] and the new garden centre provides paid employment both for people with learning disabilities and people with mental ill health. What really was interesting was that this is a business of scale, it owns its own land and doesn’t receive payments from the government. What interested me more was that the merged company has been operating a garden centre for 20 years and originally financed the move from day activities to business start up by borrowing the money from a bank against some property they had. I thought it was a great business and didn’t disappoint!

The second visit was to Prahran Mission – a well established agency for homeless, long term unemployed and those with mental ill health. They have just opened a ‘vintage clothes shop’ – not especially exciting but what was interesting was the decision-making process that has led them down the road of social enterprise and how they plan to manage 2 staff teams, one providing traditional support/care and the other operating a social firm.

The final visit was to Tjanabi [Boonwurrung Foundation] – a fantastic restaurant in the heart of Melbourne serving food based on the native food of the reflecting the six seasons of the area. They took this approach so not to over hunt, fish or pick food and to respect it. We met Auntie Carolyn the elder of the tribe who has a considerable reputation as a social entrepreneur. She established the restaurant to resource her work with her community. She has played a significant role in the struggle for recognition and rights for the Boonwurrung people – which ended up with the first indigenous land use agreement for the Melbourne area.

The other elder I met was from the Woiwurrung Tribe [at the opening of the conference] and these two tribes share the land of Melbourne. I have met some amazing and very strong women on this trip! It’s unusual for women to be leaders but apparently many of the men die young and there are real problems with alcoholism.

By the way – the menu today had crocodile and kangaroo – guess what I had – and the plates were dressed with local berries and herbal leaves – it was superb! One of the leaves made my mouth go numb and then when I drank water there was sweetness in my mouth – explain that one if you can!

Tomorrow an eco centre!

Live from the Social Enterprise World Forum — Day 2

Let me tell you a joke I heard today: How many social entrepreneurs does it take to change a light bulb? 15: 2 for feasibility; 5 board members; 3 bid/tender writing; 3 delivering services; 2 to evaluate. I thought this was quite funny!

The themes for today were ‘pathways to success’ and ‘investment’ both key themes for the UK.

The first session was a debate on whether ‘there’s no business like social business’ – a comment made by Liam Black. The session was thought provoking with the 6 debaters taking opposing views. One of the speakers against was Andy Cooper CEO from LeapFrog Investments – the world’s first micro-insurance fund – honoured recently by former-President Clinton. It was really interesting because Andy was clearly struggling being against! The calibre of the speakers has been amazing and as usual you meet up with Brits you haven’t met before but who have wonderful ideas and practices.

Needless to say the debate was draw – It must have been fixed! It was a good way, though, to get some of the contentious issues out in the open like definition, like what’s the difference between private business doing social good and social enterprise? And you’re having no impact because you can’t prove it!

I went to a good session of the SE market place and how can we grow it internationally and I thought the following were really good pointers for development:

  • Developing a shared identity – using similar language, working with similar objectives
  • Knowledge and information development ie research and information base
  • Development of leadership and grassroots support
  • Investment
  • Creation of markets

Kris Prendergast called these ‘field’ building frameworks! She is the co-ordinator of the Social Enterprise Alliance in the States – I was rather pleased that her analysis rather matched up to our own thinking!

The second workshop was pathways for women social entrepreneurs – a truly inspirational session with presentations from the USA [Women’s bean project], UK [Sunderland Homecare] and South Africa [a SE development agency for women and excluded young people].

Other sessions today included a world café visiting 3 SEs in forty five minutes, a session on learning from inspirational social entrepreneurs and a closing session on shaping the sector for the next ten years.

Its been very good!

Next year the conference is in San Francisco on the 28th-30th April – all are welcome!

For the next 2 days I am visiting local social enterprises around Melbourne – so there’s more to come!

First & only NHS social entrepreneur in residence makes a hit with The Guardian

Well, well, Eleanor Cappell, whom many of you will know from the time she spent at iSE, has just been covered in a terrific article in The Guardian explaining her unique role — the first and so far only social entrepreneur to be ’embedded’ in the NHS (at Birmingham East & North PCT). The programme is an initiative of The Young Foundation.

Congratulations, Ellie.

Live from the Social Enterprise World Forum — Day 1

Well what can I say – what an amazing day!

The key themes to start the conference were ‘new markets, employment and sustainability’ three absolutely key issues for the growth of the sector. The first session kicked off with a well known TV presenter interviewing a panel collected from Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania exploring ‘the world is a village’ and the usefulness of social enterprise from a range of perspectives. These included young indigenous people without work and women who now have fewer places in Parliament, on boards of directors and as CEOs.

We explored how ‘profit’ can be thought of as the dark side if you don’t look at sustainability and consider the need to take a long term view not just a financial return. They asked people to watch money moving around communities to understand how money keeps communities alive and how the health of communities depends on enterprise to generate money. Therefore money = social capital!

We were asked to understand that the indigenous communities in Australia and New Zealand respect the past, the present and the future and therefore have 60-100 year plans that consider long term sustainability. They are preparing the world for their children, their children’s children and their children’s children’s children – we seem to have forgotten about this in the northern hemisphere and we need to redress it!

I attended a workshop on market making for the indigenous community in Australia and was one of only two international guests attending – I learnt much about enterprise and culture and ownership – and how very few enterprises there are owned by the Aborigines [0.17%] !!!! The other workshop was on guerrilla marketing – good fun!

I was very privileged this evening to hear the only indigenous opera singer – very famous internationally – she opened the Olympic Games in 2000. She told her very moving life story which was that she was one of the lost children who was taken from her aborigine mother at 3 weeks old and given to a white family to be brought up and then her subsequent journey to discover her roots. It was very moving and her singing was awesome!

Can’t wait for day 2!

Live from the Social Enterprise World Forum — Melbourne 2009

I’m writing from the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) 2009 in Melbourne right after the opening ceremony on Tuesday 6th October.

I arrived late Monday evening (5th Oct) having travelled for about 24 hours via Heathrow and Bangkok.

I was very lucky to meet Gerry Higgins (CEO of CEiS) at the airport, along with his party of 20 people on a study tour of Australia, part-funded by the Scottish Government. I am impressed by the vision of these study trips which Gerry has been running for the past 3 years. He brings together key individuals from social enterprises, trading VCOs, infrastructure organisations, banking and the public sector for two weeks and of course they are experiencing new and exciting social enterprises, cultures and travelling together. The great by-product being real understanding of how one another’s sectors work and superb networking. It’s a great aspiration of mine to get together a similar trip from the West Midlands — it can only be good — maybe we can get AWM to fund this?

SEWF is the first event of its kind to take place in the pacific region and it will build on the success of the inaugural conference held in Scotland last year. Leaders and champions from the USA, Asia, Europe, Canada, Africa, New Zealand, UK and Australia are all attending.

In Australia they aim for the conference to act as a catalyst raising awareness of social enterprise and for growing the sector there. There are about 400 people here, from all countries – it’s sold out!

The opening ceremony was amazing — we were inviting to a ‘smoking ceremony’ at the Parliament House of Victoria which was led by Aunty Joy Wandid Murphy the leader of the indigenous population whose land Melbourne is built on. The smoking part involved burning damp leaves and it is symbolic of starting afresh and rebirth. There was dancing and music from the didgeridoo and face painting with traditional markings. I was lucky enough to get yellow paint smeared down my face – I felt very honoured. The aboriginal people were charming and very welcoming.

The session was opened by a whole range of speeches from dignitaries including a minister and a local politician and of course words from the host agencies (Social Traders and Social Ventures Australia).

The programme looks great and I now can’t wait for today when the input starts!

Lessons from ‘the end of journalism’

The following may seem an awful long way off-topic, but I don’t think it is. The adaptation, evolution and sometimes the demise of business models is central to social enterprise and indeed to all kinds of enterprise.

I have been following a fascinating discussion on the Digital Journalist website about the death of journalism and especially photojournalism. The discussion ranges from technical solutions, such as paywalls, to ‘social’ solutions, such as philanthropic investment in journalism (as a means of promoting and supporting public good), to business solutions, such as strategies to consolidate news/information sources, thus offering users single, convenient content-accounts, and offering advertisers larger, consolidated audiences.

The trail then went here, Revolutions in the media economy, four long and closely argued posts on a blog by David Campbell.

And then here, The end of journalism?, a post on Robert J Picard’s blog, The Media  Business. Picard — who is Hamrin Professor of Media Economics at Jönköping University, Sweden — argues that current attempts to save  ‘news’ (i.e. to ‘monetise’ it) confuses ‘product’ and ‘practise’. Journalism, he argues, has never been primarily a product: rather, it is a “body of practices”, and will be saved when we work out and understand “what manifestation it will take next”.

How is all this relevant to social enterprise, I hear you ask. Well, differentiating between ‘practise’ and ‘product’ can be extremely important to social enterprises. Social enterprises ‘practise’ a social mission — but they do this by trading in ‘products’. That’s where their revenue comes from. In some cases they may even find that their customers have little or no interest in purchasing what the business ‘practises’ (its social mission), focusing almost solely on the quality, price and usefulness of the product on offer. There may in these instances be a necessary differentiation between ‘practise’ and ‘product’, even if only in marketing terms.

Differentiating between ‘practise’ and ‘product’ is certainly relevant to many conventional voluntary organisations, some of which are struggling precisely because they have only their ‘practise’ to offer, and for this there are a declining number of paying customers.

The idea that activities can be divided into two component parts — their practise, and their products — seems a useful tool in helping us to understand how (and why) some business models must evolve if they are to survive. And more than this, it also seems to offer some useful lessons in how social enterprises might be even more adventurous in ‘separating’ product from practice — and I don’t mean by marginalising their social mission, I mean by raising the profile, profitability and performance of their products. After all, the greater the earning power of the products, the more good we can practise.