‘Trust your instincts and hold your nerve’

I’ve spent the day at iSE’s excellent Responding to Change conference, held at the splendid new Midlands Arts Centre in Cannon Hill Park.

Jean Jarvis, from South Shropshire Furniture Scheme was an early keynote speaker and the title of this post comes from her presentation. “It doesn’t always work, but for me it has succeeded more often than it has failed,” she said. As a pithy example of the realpolitik which must sometimes guide decision-making in the sector, this spoke volumes.

It was a very cleverly planned conference. Now, how often do you find yourself saying that? Sarah Crawley began by sketching in some of the key drivers of change in the wider marketplace and spoke briefly about some of the ways social enterprises could respond to these changes. She touched on social investment, mergers and acquisitions, how to manage and structure change, marketing and brand management, using social media, and working in consortia….

And what do you know — there then followed six masterclass workshops on precisely these issues, enabling delegates to customise the conference they wanted by doing three out of six workshops.

Heidi Harris of Heidi Harris Accounting covered social investment. Karen Anderson of Social Firms Scotland covered mergers and acquisitions. Geof Cox of UKFSN covered structuring change. Ranjit Bansal of Dynamic Marketing covered brand management. Martin Hogg of Citizen Coaching covered social media. And Elizabeth Barker of iSE covered consortia working.

In the afternoon we heard from from Mark Cook of Anthony Collins Solicitors on the Public Services (Social Value) Act — a brilliant summary of the policies in public purchasing that have led us to where we are and how social enterprises can — and should — work with public bodies to try and help shape and influence contract specifications as early in the process as possible (“If you only intervene when you see the advert, it’s already too late” was the key remark I took to heart).

And then from John Taylor, head of WM region for the BIG Lottery, on new directions in lottery funding. The future will see a significant emphasis on social investment approaches as opposed to simply grant-giving, including investment aimed at building the social investment market. “We see ourselves increasingly as buying outcomes on behalf of beneficiaries,” he said. Correspondingly, there will be an increasing emphasis on organisations being able to evidence the social return on investment they are capable of making.

There will be a specific programme targetting young people and youth unemployment (including ensuring that young people are part of determining BIG investment priorities) and — in a stop-press announcement “not yet in the public domain, so stop tweeting and facebooking”, John Taylor said — a programme focusing on perhaps no more than 10-15 areas, with a total pot of £100m, to address Multiple & Complex Needs. But here BIG’s approach will be somewhat different to that we have heard the government talking about recently, which focuses on “troubled families”. BIG will focus on those with multiple and complex needs who are not in families.

As far as “building capability” is concerned (what the lottery now seems to prefer to the term “infrastructure support”), there was somewhat controversial news. BIG has already signalled that it no longer plans to fund such support services in the way (or at the level) it has done in the past (Basis etc), and John Taylor said in future the emphasis will be on building a marketplace in support services by enabling frontline organisations to purchase the support they need from the provider of their choice. This is very much in keeping with the objectives of Transforming Local Infrastructure (for which BIG was, of course, the distributor on behalf of the government).

UPDATE 28/06/12: See here for a really useful summary of Ranjit Bansal’s brand management masterclass, courtesy of Dynamic Marketing.

  1. Martin Hogg Reply

    Great blog article Alun. Social Enterprises from far and wide really came together for this positive event. Talk on our Citizen Coaching stand was really positive and people were talking about ‘doing business’ and working together all through the day.

    In contrast The BBC news tonight has lots of negative stories of further banking irregularities and skulduggery.
    I am proud to be part of a growing social enterprise movement and the social enterprises my team and I met today at the event.
    The social media workshops went down well and we made some great new friends and contacts.

  2. Angela Reid Reply

    Thank you so much for this interesting and informative summary.
    Wanted to get there and couldn’t, so next best thing.

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