Meeting Bob Geldof at the Nesta Innovation conference

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Well what can I say? Meeting Bob Geldof has always been one of my life's ambitions and today I managed to do it :)

Anyway, I am getting a bit ahead of myself. I have been at the Nesta Innovation Conference all day and they have had Tim Berners Lee (inventor of the internet), Gordon Brown (some politician) and Bob Geldof as keynote speakers. Although they did play U2 as he walked onstage which makes me suspect that the organisers are not as fimiliar as I am with his discography (Best album - "Deep in the heart of nowhere" althpough not much of a commercial success).

Bob has been a hero of mine for many years primarily because of what he acheived at Live Aid and Live8 but more because of the way he acheived it. His autobiography "Is that it" covers this in a lot of detail but in a nutshell he (and the original team) acheived some amazing things through just keeping going, breaking lots of rules, innovating on a shoestring and sheer bloody-minded arrogance.

Anyway his speech was really good and the video of it is at this site and he came up with the best quote of the whole conference from George Bernard Shaw:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. All progress, therefore, depends upon the unreasonable man."

The highlight for me though was the chance to meet one of my inspirational heroes and so I worked out the route between the stage and the speakers area and strategically placed myself. I thought this is just a timing thing - what can go wrong?

Well a full bladder from too much coffee went wrong. After his speech there was a round table discussion for 90 minutes and with 30 minutes to go, I knew I wouldn't make iit. But then I saw a photographer pop out through a nearby door and I thought "I'll follow him". So I nipped out and tried to return thoroughly relieved. Then this petite cute security guard said "you can't go through those doors, you need to go in at the back". I had come this close and I wasn't going to lose my prized spot through overzealous security, so I simply went past her fast enough that she couldn't grab me before I got inside (by which time she gave up). It was an interesting scenario with this girl telling me I can't go through a door, me telling her it will be fine and all the time walking through the door.

Then 20 minutes later, the session ended and Bob walked offstage following my predicted route (I would have made a great stalker) and he then found a smiling social entrepreneur standing in front of him with an outstreched hand. He shook my hand, I told him how he had inspired me as a social entrepreneur, we spoke for a few moments and then he went offstage and I wandered around grinning like someone who has finally met one of his lifetime heroes.

Days don't get much better than this :)

Note: Photographer: Rob Kennard


A new framework for analysing social enterprises

I have been looking at various frameworks for categorising social enterprises and have noticed that a lot of them distinguish between grant and contract income. I think there are flaws with models which only look at whether funding is trading or grants in terms of public sector commissioners. Many of these commissioners (whether they are Primary Care Trusts, Strategic Health Authorities or Local Authorities) often use terms like contracts and grants interchangeably in terms of the third sector and often for varying political motivations. For example, a Local Authority may specify some outputs for a piece of funding and regard this is a contract. Even though the funding rarely covers the full cost of those outcomes and so is not really a true contract but a grant towards running costs, many social enterprises describe this as contract-funding to differentiate themselves from more charity-like third sector organisations which are dependent on grants and fundraising.

I have developed a different framework (called Funding Base Analaysis) which doesn’t differentiate between grants and contracts but the source of that funding. This is particularly useful in looking at social enterprises which work in areas such as health, social care, transport, regeneration and other areas with a high public sector presence. The model looks at the percentage of turnover that an organisation receives from public sector commissioners compared with organisations and individuals who are not public sector commissioners. This is plotted on the horizontal axis and is then compared with the percentage of profit of turnover on the vertical axis. In this way, organisations are allocated to one of size quadrants as in the following diagram.

Using this framework, the characteristics of the 6 quadrants are as follows:
A – this tends to be where the commissioner-funded third sector organisations operate. They receive most of their funding from public sector commissioners but generate little or no surpluses or profits.
B – is similar to A but generating reasonable profits.
C – is similar to A but generating high profits.
D – this tends to be where the publically funded charities and voluntary sector organisations operate and social enterprises that trade directly with the public and/or other enterprises (social and private). They receive little or no funding from public sector commissioners but generate little or no surpluses or profits.
E – is similar to D but generating reasonable profits.
F – is similar to D but generating high profits.

D, E and F have tended to be the areas where Fair Trade organisations have tended to operate historically whereas the majority of social enterprises appear to be in the A, B and C quadrants. One of the interesting aspects of this framework is that where organisations are has nothing to do with aspiration or perception but simply financial variables which can be externally monitored and verified (the profit:turnover ration and the percentage of turnover from the public sector).

The usefulness of this framework is that it predicts organisational behaviour, success factors and sources of competition. A, B and C organisations depend for their success on the patronage of public sector commissioners who are rarely recipients of the service. Their focus tends to be on delivering outcomes that commissioners want and measuring performance indicators that are important to commissioners and if there is a conflict between what the recipients of the service want and the commissioners, the commissioners will tend to win. D, E and F organisations on the other hand depend for their success on the satisfaction of the customers who receive their services or products. Their focus tends to be on making the customer happy and they measure performance indicators that are important to the customer as well as to internal benchmarks. A and D organisations operate in a relatively uncompetitive market as there is little to attract an outside organisation into this market. C and F organisations operate in a highly competitive market as outside organisations (particularly private sector ones) see these areas as high profit opportunities.


Firestarter Podcast 9 - Social entrepreneur bloggers

Saturday, 17 May 2008

This is the Firestarter Podcast which is the world's first podcast for social enterprises in health.

This is an impromptu podcast from the Shine Unconference Last weekend. It features a host of social entrepreneur blogger, including:

The podcast covers:
  • Meeting and networking with people via their blog
  • Making time for creating and following blogs
  • How blogs can raise the profile of your social enterprise
  • The role of blog comments and blog readership
  • Corporate vs personal/informal blogging styles
  • How to start blogging (typepad, wordpress, etc)
  • The pros and cons of Twitter (the scary world of microblogging)
  • Is mobile blogging the next evolution?
  • Finding out that lots more people read your blog than you thought
  • Dealing with information overload and using blogreaders and RSS feeds
  • Using blogs to share ideas, develop ideas and create collaborations
  • How UnLtdworld works
  • Why some people like blogs, other like podcats, others like forums, others like twitter - the role of people's personality preference and learning style

Podcast 9 - This can be downloaded here (35 Mb)

The music is "Fire Dance" by djbouly and is brought to you under a creative commons licence.


Shine 2008 Day Three

Sunday, 11 May 2008

I think I am starting to get the hang of the buidling now and there is now a very relaxed somewhat chaotic feel to the event :)

What seems to be happening now is that embryonic conversations that started on day one are now feeding off each other and I am collecting a bunch of "back burner ideas" such as "could we run free healthcare that has nothing to do with the NHS", "what if Mecca was run a social enterprise", "are all co-ops social enterprise or does it depend on who the members and community are", "can you monetise your content through web-based models", "is the traditional capitalist growth model flawed" (e.g. should you growth or find a good size niche and stay at a sustainable level.

(Pause for lunch)

I have just come out of a really cool session on web 2.0 and had a really interesting and really passionate discussion with a load of people with cool ideas. Hopefully we will carry this on on the blog they are setting up and I will signpost it from here next week. We covered issues like ownership, authenticity, the relationship between business and their customers/users and generated equal amounts of heat and light. I met David Wilcox at the event who is a fellow ENTP and blogger/podcaster/social reporter etc and we had a really great thrash though about whether Web 2.0 is real or whether we are all being "blown off by the technorati" :)

I am now in one of those surreal workshops that I ended up whilst looking for a coffee that is a talkoake session??? So now I am being videod while I am blogging about what the guy with the video camera is talking about. It is all far too self-referential for a sunny sunday afternoon. I love the looks I get when I am blogging in sessions and I do find this much more comfortable on my mac than on my blackberry, although I think I might get into mobile blogging and even maybe Twitter (which does like the crack cocaine of the web 2.0 world).

Overall the 3 days have been really cool and wonderfully anarchic and unstructured (I keep expecting a "free hugs" campaign to break out any any time). There have been some amazing conversations in a very weird building and my head is full of ideas. I think I need to spend some time is a nice quiet introverted space to put some of these thoughts together and trying to move some of these into reality. There is a bit of me that wishes this hadn't been a weekend conference as I think I am going to be pretty knackered tonight and tomorrow and I have got work to do :(

As an aside, I have now decided that Rowena Young does not exist. I think she is like Godot in the Beckett play "Waiting for Godot". Everyone talks about her (and how bright and amazing she is) but I have been to a number of events recently where people say "you've just missed her" or "she is around here somewhere". I wonder if she is some form of social construct or even a mass delusion. I might put "being in the same room as Rowena" on my bucket list (things to do before you die!). I don't think I will post again until a few days after and I have followed up all the wonderful contacts that I have made, put the podcast up and added comments to all the blogs of bloggers that I have met.


Shine 2008 Day Two

Saturday, 10 May 2008

So here we are on day two of this fascinating event. I had breakfast this morning so my blood sugar is far healthier even allowing for some late night drinking the night before.

The first workshop was by Siobhan from Nesta who probably thinks I have been stalking her recently. This became a really amazing brainstorming event looking at entrepreneurship and innovation for the elderly. This is currently the most amazing discussion so far and I came away with some really interesting ideas (such as running Mecca as a social enterprise, a not-for-profit nursing home, a social enterprise around incontinence, etc). There were some really sparky people in the room and all our ideas kept building from each other and I just can't spend enough time in environments like that.

I have just wandered into another accidental workshop which seems to happen a lot. Some of the workshops seem to be cancelled and rearranged at short notice and it is frustrating a few of us. So I wandered over to What If (who are being highly recommended) but they had gone for lunch, so I wandered through to Kim's presentation on fundraising from the Foundation of Social Improvement. I had come across her at Voice 08 and this is a really interesting workshop. At the ENLF we botched up our fundraising and I sent out 205 letters and got rejected by 204, most because we weren't a registered charity. It got to the stage where I dreaded opening the post because every day I was getting bucketloads of rejection.

She is presenting a really good 7-stage model which seems really solid and practical. I am not going to replicate it here but I would definitely recommend talking to them or going to their website. I might try and do a podcast with them later although I keep saying that to people all day :(

Once again they are being very tolerant about someone who is typing away on their blackberry and I am sure the person next to me thinks I have a dreadful email addiction. Anyway, I need to go and grab some food in a minute and I hope the pub crawl tonight is a little bit more organised (as I think we lost a few people who couldn't find anyone).


Shine 2008 - Later that day

Friday, 9 May 2008

Well the web-based seminar and the blogging seminar went well (even if I did get lost finding it). Both were great and I met some bloggers in the flesh for the first time who I have only met virtually.

I think we are really missing a trick monetising web-based social enterprises and I think advertising-based models are fundamentally flawed. I have just had some interesting discussions about cross-fertilising ideas from "the long tail", "the four hour workweek" and some of the American East Coast business models. The gist of them is how we take niche pieces of content and learning and monetise them via podcasts, pdfs/lulu, blogs, etc. It would be good to pull a bunch of web-based social entrepreneurs together to explore this and I will bring my podcasting gear tomorrow to try and capture some of this.

Anyway the whole event is unfolding quite well although I think it depends on how comfortable you are with little structure. Some people seem to be struggling but I love this kind of space. I have just realised that I haven't eaten anything today and I am now starting to get a bit peckish. That and having my business ideas pulled apart and reassembled by some of Ashoka team has definitely knocked the old blood sugar.

I am now sat at the back of a discussion which I am not entirely sure what its about but it is very popular (and means I can blog in the background without looking too rude). I think this mobile blogging is getting a bit like twitter and I will reflect when I get back about whether this is at all useful or whether it is becoming "Dave's Stream of Consciousness".


Shine 2008 First Impressions

Well I have finally arrived and this is definitely a very quirky event :) It has the wonderfully quirky feel that large gatherings of social entrepreneurs tend to have. We have this badges with coloured spots on that would have far more use for me if it wasn't for my colour-blindness!

Anyway I have managed to find a coffee (all organic and fairtrade naturally!) and sat in my first session. It is on "emotional intelligence" and is being run by which seems like an interesting organisation. I am having to bite my tongue a bit as I do think a lot of the literature on emotional intelligence is a load of cr*p although some of the peripheral discussions on things like head/heart and intuition are really interesting. It is an interesting example of how labels and titles can really set up wrong expectations of a session. So I am sitting on my inner critic and am filling in a psychometric like a well-behaved delegate ;)

Actually the psychometric isn't bad and I might adapt this for the nursing leadership site ( Some of the other people seem to be getting a lot out of it though so I will definitely not be naughty :) I do wish they would relabel this though because the emotional intelligence is grating and it really has almost no evidence base (sorry Mr Goleman but do enjoy all the royalties).

The next session is on blogging and it would be a bit surreal to blog during this. As an aside this mobile blogging lark is quite addictive and I really must avoid twitter as I can see it eating up your life. It is also nice to be in a group with facilitators who don't challenge the fact that you are typing away on your blackberry (although us auditory learners have no problem following this).



This is a test to see if my mobile blog settings work :)

And it does :) Yay!


How to give up your day job

I get asked this a lot at the moment and I think its probably a sad indictment of the state of morale with many nurses. Often people have a great idea for a service or a new social enterprise but don’t know when the right time is to leave. From my experience over the last 5 years, I think there are 3 distinct phases you need to move through and (for the record) I completely botched this myself and survived the first year by the skin of my teeth.

Stage 1 – The planning stage (still with your current employer)

The 1st stage needs to be complete before you do anything about leaving. First you need to work out your business idea and by that I mean the idea or service AND a way that this can be run at a surplus. Often people have a great idea but haven’t worked out how much it will cost to run, where the income will come from and the “napkin costings”. Once you have a business idea then you need to develop contacts with commissioners and potential purchasers and look to raise the start-up income. You may even be able to start delivering the work at this stage even though you are still holding down a full-time day job.

Stage 2 – Early growth (part-time with your existing employer)

This stage starts when the new enterprise can pay AT LEAST half your current salary. Until you have brought in half your salary then you are still at stage 1 and it is incredibly risky leaving your job while you are in stage 1. Once you have enough income to support yourself on a part-time job then you need to start negotiating with your current employer about moving to a part-time role. Tim Ferris has some very detailed strategies for this stage in his book “The four-hour workweek” and I can heartily recommend this to anyone at this stage. This transition can be tricky and you need to carefully think through a number of issues such as conflicts of interest, indemnity insurance, workload balance between the two roles, work-life balance, etc.

Stage 3 – Full-time entrepreneur

You can move to this stage when your new enterprise can pay AT LEAST your full-time salary. A reserve of 3-months salary is the bank is ideal but it needs to be able to complete support you. At this point, you should hand in your notice and it is possible to waive your contract’s notice period if both you and your employer are happy to do this. One of the other possibilities at this stage is for your new enterprise to second you from your current employer although you will definitely need advice if you are looking at this route. The big advantage of this is that you may be able to keep your pension and it may be slightly less risky than being a full-time entrepreneur (although if you are that risk-averse, being an entrepreneur may not be a very comfortable existence).

The key to this process is that it is not dependent on your personal aspiration, your current work situation or how good your business idea. The stage you are at is ENTIRELY BASED on how successful your enterprise is. Given that 50% of new enterprises fail within 4 years, it is also a way of testing how good the idea is and whether it can financially support yourself without risking everything on it. If you leave prematurely and the enterprise is not as successful as you hoped (or even if you hit the dreaded cash-flow problems) then you may end up taking on personal debt in order to survive as the enterprise cannot afford to maintain you.

It is also easier to grow your market, do your business planning, make business contacts without the enormous pressure of wondering where this months mortgage payments are coming from or shopping for Netto’s no-frills baked beans and wondering what exactly were the frills in a tin of beans.


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