Tag Archives: accountability

An A – Z of social entrepreneurship: A – D

As a contribution to Global Entrepreneurship Week (17 – 23 November) Chris Lee blogs his personal and highly selective reflections on what increases the effectiveness of social entrepreneurship to mobilise resources of all kinds for positive change and social impact in and beyond local communities.

A – Accountability

Even when you’re spending your own money you’re not truly free to behave as you might wish. You have a responsibility to guard against your actions having a negative impact and to be aware that a poorly executed plan may harm the credibility of those who follow you. When you’re working with vulnerable people, as clients or employees, their welfare should also be your concern.

 B – Balance

Rarely are there right and wrong ways of doings things, even when applying a proven model in a new situation. For all the online advice and training manuals, social entrepreneurship is about testing new and different ways to bring positive change in society and seeing ever obstacle as a new opportunity. Ultimately the ‘right way’ is likely to be a compromise – balancing conflicting needs and interests.

 C – Collaboration

It’s too easy to stereotype entrepreneurship as being competitive (and aggressive if you believe ‘The Apprentice’…) and social entrepreneurship as being about collaboration. In reality, entrepreneurs of all varieties know the value of networking and building mutually-beneficial alliances with others. Indeed, with growing need and shrinking resources, partnership may be the only answer in some cases!

 D – Decision-making and democracy

When asked, four years on, why he’d not consulted the community when setting up a (very successful) social enterprise, the entrepreneur replied “They’d still be trying to decide what to call it if I had.”  

Consultation and involvement are our watchwords, but they can make decision-making more cumbersome. Business decision-making tends to be more streamlined. But, ultimately, which brings better decisions?

On reflection – building a shed day 400

IMG_5486Never let it be said that I’m an admirer of Donald Trump, but I once heard that he spends an average of three hours a day reflecting (in the early hours I think it was).

I’ve always believed that we spend more time with our heads down (eyes glued to screens most likely) than is good for us personally or professionally. So I applaud Trump for finding such space in his day to reflect…

Before embarking on my current journey, I worked in an advisory role with charities and social enterprises for over a decade. That experience convinced me there’s a valuable role for outsiders to take people away from their desks (and preferably out of their offices) to ask what may be very simple, but surprisingly challenging, questions. I’ve often stumped people by simply asking “how would you define success for your organisation?”

Readers of this blog will know I’ve been ‘building a shed’ (The Repair Shed) for the past 400 days. I started the timer on 1 October 2013 when joining the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) start-up programme at the Eastern Enterprise Hub. One of the most valuable aspects of the past 12 months has been the many opportunities I’ve had to reflect with others on where I’ve been going, going wrong, and why.

This blog: Started to coincide with my attempt to start a social enterprise , I doubt anyone is really interested in my learning, but just sitting down and writing a regular blog has taken me away from enterprise development and ‘forced’ me to draw out lessons from what can be quite a solitary activity – getting a venture off the ground.

Even posting my ‘80 Enterprise Essentials’ over the past 40 weeks has meant I’ve re-visited tips that I put together back in 2011 and thought about which of the 80 I’d replace if I was compiling the list now.

Learning days at the Eastern Enterprise Hub: Each day has been an opportunity to ‘take stock’ of what’s gone well and less so in the intervening periods, and to benchmark my progress against others in our 16-strong student cohort. For me, the Action Learning Sets (facilitated, small group problem-solving sessions) really helped me through particular stumbling blocks.

My Lloyds Bank mentor: A part of the SSE programme package, my mentor has been a great sounding board, someone with experience in a very different part of the business world, with a personal and professional interest in my exploits. Having to account for myself on a regular basis is scary but valuable.

The Repair Shed Steering Group: Nine months in, I set up a steering group to increase my accountability. I don’t believe even the most maverick social entrepreneur should operate alone. Like the meetings with my mentor, the regular reporting is scary but the reflection and guidance from others is ultimately very helpful.

Monitoring by the School for Social Entrepreneurs: I’ve always said that spending someone else’s money brings responsibilities, and completing feedback surveys and keeping spending records to make claims is part of that obligation, as is the whole process of ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

Research with Sheffield University: Beyond the East of England, I’m part of a national longitudinal study – Start Up Journeys for Social Good – to better understand the support needs of social entrepreneurs. A programme of online surveys, Skype interviews ,and a visit to Sheffield University are further opportunities to assess progress and review the direction of travel.

So I may not be able to trump Donald, but if The Repair Shed doesn’t ultimately achieve what I hope it will, it won’t be for a lack of opportunities to stop, think, assess and act.

You can find all Eighty Enterprise Essentials at http://bit.ly/1xbonvw and more about The Repair Shed at https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/the-repair-shed)

Building a shed – the second 100 days

Day 200I’m already seven months into my year with the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Start-up Programme at the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) in Ipswich. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun etc… but more about that later.

April 18 was day 200 – Good Friday – and a good day for further reflection on my progress in setting up The Repair Shed – a will-be environmental social enterprise involving older men in purposeful but unpaid employment – making, mending and learning.

A timely reminder of my plan (and deviation from it) also drops through my letterbox in the shape of a postcard, sent by SSE but written by me last October, about what I wanted to achieve in the six months to end March 2014. So what does it say on that oh-so-optimistic postcard?

For me, by April 2014 I planned to ‘know I’m going to get paid for the next 6 months’ and for The Repair Shed, to have ‘shed members recruited and active’ and to be ‘earning income’.

On the ‘members active’ front, I’m pleased to say that, after an inspiring and energizing shed crawl to Milton Keynes and Aylesbury at the end of March, we’re having a final meeting on 1st May (Labour Day – significant I think) before we literally roll up our sleeves and get hands-on.  We’re going to start small, one day a week, but I think the move will be important for making The Repair Shed more real for both insiders and outsiders.

So we’re not yet earning income and nor am I. Unless, that is, you count a £20 donation for putting someone’s IKEA shelves together (did you know there are literally hundreds of companies offering that same service – along with IKEA themselves?) A crowded market and not one for The Repair Shed I think. Try putting ‘flatpack assembly’ into Google if you don’t believe me.

At the start of this blog post I mentioned the F-word – fun – and I can honestly say the last 200 days have been some of the most enjoyable and rewarding of my entire career in the not-for-private-profit sector.

But F for fun, not for funding.

As no one is currently paying me to do what I’m doing, I’ve been tempted to think I can be a free spirit and do pretty much what I like as long as I’m developing The Repair Shed.  This isn’t the case of course, and I now know I need to be more formally held to account, in advance of possible income-generation (for The Repair Shed) and funding (to cover my time).

With this in mind, I’m setting up a steering group – inviting people whom I hope will want to help develop The Repair Shed through a personal and professional interest. People willing to attend tightly-run meetings at which I report on what I say I’m going to do/ have done and they share their expertise and insights.  To keep a wider group of people abreast of my exploits, I’m planning a monthly e-bulletin – Make & Mend – from May onwards, to allow others to look through The Repair Shed window.

If you’d like to have a regular, short and, hopefully, lively update on what we’re getting up to in the Repair Shed, just e-mail leeinroyston@aol.com with ‘Make & Mend subscription’ in the subject box.