CED Bulletin – September 2012

On September 3, 2012

Hello CED practitioners and supporters,

Doing Real Good

Last week I attended the SOCANZ “Doing Real Good” Conference in Wellington. Congratulations to Viv Maidaborn and Shaun Lines for creating an event that provided a space for innovative ideas and inspiration to be shared and discussed.

Highlights for me were:

  • The inclusion of a Maori work stream and the opportunity to participate in conversations about how the Maori Economy is developing and how this relates to the social enterprise movement in general.
  • Social entrepreneurs who think and operate globally and seek social/environmental impact on a large scale (like Nic Francis, Melissa Clark Reynolds and Katherine Corich).  Apart from Nic, all the speakers were from New Zealand, (some of who operate globally, some nationally and some at a community level).  So it is evident that there is plenty of activity happening in our own backyard.
  • The possibilities that emerge when social enterprise intersects with the digital/knowledge economy realm. I am so not a digital native and don’t understand all the implications, but my  intuition  tells me that this is where  big impact innovation is going to be happening, especially in the global democracy space.  For example, the work of Enspiral in Wellington is particularly inspiring!
  • I have been reminded of the power of a good story. And our collective need for new stories that demonstrate business as a force for good.

Some of my reflections since the conference are:

Some of the presenters had businesses that undoubtedly are “doing real good” – and also distribute profits to individual shareholders. In my book that is called social business, not social enterprise. Both are absolutely valid in terms of making positive change in the world. This may sound like semantics, but it  seems  to me that the inherent  nature of social enterprise is that profits are principally reinvested for community benefit, to distinguish it from mainstream “business as usual” that has, in some cases, allowed greed for profit to lead to the abuse of both people and the environment. Investor profits can lead to a slippery slope. However I can accept that this is not necessarily the case. The Scots take the view that the ratio between highest and lowest paid in a social enterprise should be no more than 5:1. Seems fair. I don’t doubt that this is a debate that will be around for a while.

Personally, I am most excited where social enterprise intersects with a localism, community empowerment agenda. You know, small is beautiful, thriving local communities, reduced oil dependency etc. I guess that’s because my background is in community development. The SOCANZ conference highlighted the role of large scale global social entrepreneurship – and the significant impact it is making. It seems to me we need both the global and the local.

Corporate attempt to appropriate the term “Social Enterprise”

A company called Salesforce is attempting to trademark the term social enterprise for its own business products. In response, Steve Wyler from Locality in the UK says, “…there is something very wrong indeed with the idea that a private company should appropriate the term social enterprise for its own narrow commercial ends, and moreover claim legal ownership for itself. What astonishing effrontery!”

Wyler says that Social Enterprise UK is mounting a challenge, and hopefully, will win. He says that this is as an indicator of what we are up against as our movement grows, and has a deeper significance. Ideas and practices of social enterprise have moved quickly from the margins to the mainstream, in part due to catastrophic failures of “business as usual”, and in part due to the growing credibility and reach of the social enterprise sector itself. The hope for a better way of doing things is, at last, becoming a threat to those who have sat so long and so comfortably around corporate boardroom tables and he thinks that that increasingly, the tactic will be to appropriate the term, to wear the attractive new clothes –  without changing the nature of the beast within. Wyler says that this is nothing more nor less than a confidence trick!

CED Research Progress

Dorte Wray and I are making good progress with the CED research that is being carried out with Lotteries Community Research Funding, through the CEDNZ Trust with support from Unitec. The literature review is now completed and a summary will soon be published on the CEDNZ website. We have held five focus groups around the country. The many conversations have been illuminating. Focus Group participants say that they have welcomed the opportunity to meet with other practitioners to explore CED issues at a depth. In fact, the mid north island group that was held in Rotorua is continuing to meet, an unanticipated outcome of the research. Through September and October, Dorte and I will be travelling around New Zealand carrying out face to face interviews with 100 social enterprise practitioners. Next steps are the data analysis and report writing including some case studies.

OCVS Social Enterprise Research

The CED research above is distinct from the Social Enterprise Mapping Survey that is currently being carried out by OCVS, that has most likely come your way by now. The OCVS survey is a mapping exercise and it is anticipated that the two pieces of research will complement one another. You can link to the OCVS survey here. The closing date is 14 September 2012. If you are a social enterprise and have not completed the survey as yet, here is some relevant information from Diana Suggate.

The survey aims to get a better understand of the number and range of social enterprises, their activities and their contribution to New Zealand society and the economy. A social enterprise is an organisation that:

  • has a social, cultural, or environmental mission;
  • derives a substantial portion of its income from trade; and
  • reinvests the majority of its profit/surplus in the fulfilment of its mission.

At this stage we don’t want to tightly define what a “substantial proportion” of trading income is. In Australia, the definition of a “social enterprise” specifies that income from commercial activity is 50% or more (but can be less for newer ventures that have a clear aim of increasing their trading income).

Some people have encountered issues with the link to the survey or with particular questions. The new link www.surveymonkey.com/s/V6G9GLK should work for everyone. (People who have already used the earlier link don't need to worry – we will have that information.) Questions that require an answer are marked with an asterisk (*). It helps to have your organisation's financial report for the year ending in 2011 on hand before you start. For some questions you will be asked to provide numerical information. Please do not use dollar signs ($), percentage signs (%), commas, spaces or decimal points when answering these questions, or you may find you cannot proceed.

If you have for any reason partially completed the survey and then exited, we would encourage you to start again and complete the survey for us. Many thanks! If you encounter any problems, feel free to contact Diana.

Taking the risks…

I recently carried out a review of a community based information technology social enterprise in the Waikato region that unfortunately failed. Hats off to Community Waikato for having a go in the first place – and having the courage to commission an independent review to determine the causes of failure. They were, of course, multiple.  

Developing social enterprise is challenging work, and it feels so important to me that we accept that, just like the private sector, not all social enterprises will succeed, that we learn from our mistakes – and even better, share the lessons with others for our collective learning. A copy of the report can be found here.

Here’s to having as few failures as possible and ensuring that we learn from our mistakes when things don’t pan out. In the course of my recent research, I read that it is a fallacy that social entrepreneurs take more risks than others, but that successful social entrepreneurs embark on a thorough investigation of potential risks in advance and plan rigorously for risk mitigation. That seems like a healthy attitude to risk, one that enables and does not stymie innovation – at the same time as accepting that unforeseen circumstances will inevitable emerge to undermine the best laid plans!

Establishing a National Social Enterprise Network

It continues to feel important that we develop a national network for CED and social enterprise that is sufficiently resourced and able to provide a cohesive voice for this growing sector. This is a journey that a number of us have been engaged in for some time. Here is a brief summary of what has happened to date, the ups and the downs…

Phase 1.0

  • The CEDNZ Trust was established in 2010
  • CEDNZ Conferences were held in Auckland in both 2010 and 2011 – with significant support from Community Waitakere, the Christchurch Small Business Enterprise Centre  and the Auckland Council
  • A database of CED practitioners and supporters has been developed and regular ebulletins sent
  • November 2011 – the vision to establish a national network is  stymied by lack of resource, a number of funding applications  are declined (with the exception of the application to Lotteries Community Research Fund to carry out research that is currently being carried out by the CED Trust, with support from Unitec)

Time for a new approach….

Phase 2.0

  • CEDNZ reaches out and a number of new people bring significant time, skills and energy to the process
  • BNZ pays for facilitation and concept development
  • Sub groups are established to hone up the key messages and develop a structure
  • The challenge (still) is how to access funds to employ staff to get the ball rolling… and develop a financially sustainable model in the longer term
  • Peter Holbrook visits New Zealand and provides a road map based on the SEUK journey

Social Enterprise New Zealand (SENZ) is born. At a recent meeting an Establishment Board was created to develop the following:

  • A Business Plan
  • A Communications Plan
  • Identification of founding partners and patrons
  • The legal entity and constitution

At this stage, this work is being carried out by a handful of people on a voluntary basis. If our efforts are successful, you will certainly hear about it, and you will be invited to continue to be involved in this journey to establish and develop a national network for social enterprise.  

Do you need a Social Loan?

Based at Lifewise, in the Auckland CBD, the Employment Generation Fund has been making loans to business ventures in Auckland and Northland since the early 1990's. This independent charitable micro-finance fund was set up by Methodist Churches in Auckland and Manukau to create jobs at a time of high unemployment.

The Fund assists small businesses which are unable to access finance from mainstream funders, making loans to ventures looking to start up, or expand. So far it's assisted more than 150 ventures, created over 340 full-time equivalent jobs and used the re-generating nature of the Fund to make loans of more than $1.7M.

The fund acts primarily as a “lending institution of last resort” to support new and early stage businesses get ahead and create employment on the way. But recently, as a consequence of the global financial crisis, businesses are watching their debt levels closely and in many cases not entertaining the thought of taking on more, which means that despite having funds to lend - their loan book is looking a bit too lean. The fund is seeking more business!

If you know someone whose business fits the basic criteria and needs funds up to about $20,000, please encourage them to call Phil Hickling on (09) 302 5394 or email philh@lifewise.org.nz  and he will discuss their needs. The Management Committee is versatile in its approach and the web site is only a click away at www.microfinance.org.nz. It has a downloadable application form, but if in doubt do make the phone call.

Want to know more about micro finance in New Zealand? Email microfinance@lifewise.org.nz to subscribe to the Generator, a regular newsletter featuring articles, case studies and news.

Happenings at “The Kitchen”, Auckland

Six months in and The Kitchen, a shared work space for changemakers, located in Ponsonby, Auckland, is steadily developing as a launch-pad for good ideas. The team are currently developing a database of professional skills that members are able to offer each other and the broader community. If you'd like to work with other social entrepreneurs and community sector types, membership options are available to freelancers and small business people with a focus on positive/social and environmental impact.

Last Wednesday they hosted their first showcase of Kitchen talent "Table Talk". Seven organisations wowed an audience of 100, speaking on international development projects, health initiatives, brain-computer interfaces, sustainable housing, creative communications, and guidance and mentoring of sports people. You can check out the photos "here". Or if you missed that, they'll be hosting Pecha Kucha on 10th Oct.

See the Kitchen website for details, sign up to receive monthly invites or get in touch via hello@thekitchen.net.nz. The Kitchen Trust also offers a limited number of membership subsidies for deserving start-ups and non-for-profits – email trust@thekitchen.net.nz for more information.

Urban Edible Gardens Project

The British Council are launching an Edible Garden project in association with the Auckland Council. The idea is to create vegetable gardens in urban environments within the city, to both sustainably make use of organic waste and to showcase the possibilities for implementing urban closed loop permaculture systems in environments where there may not be access to grass or gardens.

The first garden was launched as part of the opening party for Co-Space (the new K Rd BizDojo makers space), on August 17th. Waste from cafes and working spaces will be utilised, and it is intended that the gardens will provide fresh greens for the community come summertime.

“System Jumpers”

In conversation with a UK colleague, I just discovered some new language for a concept that I am a big fan of. “System Jumpers” describes those people who love to work in the margins between sectors and systems, broker connections and encourage opportunities. When I was working in Waitakere we named this role a “community broker”. This felt right in its time, but in today’s environment it feels too wedded to one sector – the concept of a “system jumper” feels freer and more outward looking. Sometimes nailing the language is useful to enable the conversations to flow and the innovations to happen! My experience is that when these “system jumper “roles are resourced, that magical innovation can happen.

SIMPOL: People Power and Global Democracy

This is exciting. Many of us are disenchanted with nation state politics and the inability of our leading politicians to gain agreements on the big global issues of our times. SIMPOL is as an innovative concept that responds to this seemingly intractable dilemma. In this link the founder, John Bunzl, talks about citizens developing bottom-up power and global cooperation in addressing fundamental problems. I was riveted and have signed up. And am thinking how to encourage our New Zealand politicians to sign up…  

Cleaning the World –  with unused hotel soap

Clean the World takes in amenities from hotels and makes soap, more than 10 million bars of it, for people in need around the world. Check it out here.

That’s all from me for now, wishing you all the best in your various socially just and enterprising adventures…

Di Jennings

Convenor, CED Network

di@ced.org.nz

 

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