A great source of bright ideas

“Life’s too short to make all the mistakes yourself”

In the 15 or so years I’ve been advising not-for-private-profit organisations on funding, marketing and general business development, I’ve constantly been at risk of putting myself out of a job by recommending people look elsewhere for relevant expertise.

Yes, there’s an important role for an enlightened and interested, but disinterested, outsider to probe and encourage reflection, but I’m also a wholehearted advocate of peer-to-peer support. Whenever someone asks me about, for example, registering as a Community Interest Company – it happens more often than you’d think – I suggest they talk to existing CICs (thank you ChildUK for fielding many such referrals over the years).

And I have happy memories of a series of ‘experts by experience’ workshops I organised while at Social Enterprise East of England. Community Cafes and Furniture Re-use Schemes were just two of the days that brought together people who were doing it and others who were ‘thinking about doing it’. The exchanges were stimulating and the learning was far from one-way; everyone picked up new ideas, even the old hands.

Santander-_Logo (2)Which is a roundabout way of explaining why I was so pleased to discover that social entrepreneur support organisation UnLtd and Santander have got together to promote peer-to-peer support through the Spark Award scheme. The website asks Do you have an idea which could bring social entrepreneurs together to support each other? Or do you want to test a hunch for how social enterprises can come together to grow the market place?’

UnLtd-AwardWinner_FullColour_3000px (2)

I’m equally delighted to say that I’ve recently been successful in my application for a Spark Award – to learn and share ideas around enterprise in Men’s Sheds.

So, in early 2014, we’ll hire a mini-bus for a ‘Shed Crawl’ taking people from south-west Herts to visit Sheds in Beds and Bucks (there aren’t any in Herts…yet). I sincerely believe that showing people how it’s already being done is the best way to sell the Shed concept as a potentially-viable business that is already – seeing is believing – tackling isolation and loneliness in older men.

In the spirit of sharing (and as required of Spark Award winners) I’ll be posting our learning in  future blogs and disseminating ideas through the newly formed UK Men’s Sheds Association. So watch this space.

Further information:

Spark Awards – http://unltd.org.uk/spark

UK Men’s Sheds Association – www.menssheds.org.uk

Child UK – www.child.uk.net

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