The Social Enterprise Mark Guest Blog features editorial and discussion contributions from our Mark holders, as well as thought leaders in the social enterprise sector.

Brexit – Millions are ready for an opportunity…

By Steve Hawkins, CEO of Pluss

Steve Hawkins, Pluss CEOThe UK is due to leave the EU in six months. There are many questions still unresolved, but one thing is clear. Whatever decisions are made between now and next March, UK employers will face a struggle after Brexit to find low skilled workers to keep their businesses moving.

A new report from the respected Migration Observatory at Oxford University calculates that over half a million EU citizens who currently work in the UK are carrying out low skilled jobs. These are jobs that don’t require qualifications gained after the compulsory schooling age. They include 132,000 people in cleaning jobs, 120,000 in basic hospitality businesses like coffee shops, 96,000 in warehousing and 90,000 working in factories.

That’s not all. In lower-middle skilled jobs (those involving some simple training as well as school qualifications), over 80,000 EU citizens currently work in our care services, 74,000 in food processing and 68,000 in shops and stores.

With parts of the UK experiencing virtual ‘full employment’, the Migration Observatory report confirms that current plans to address the likely shortfall of labour with non-EU countries will not be sufficient as the predicted number of EU workers in the UK falls.

But there is a solution closer to home…

We know that 1.36 million UK citizens who are keen to work don’t currently have a job. This might be because they are struggling to find the right job with the right employer, or because their support needs mean they need help to develop the right set of skills to help them secure that job.

Pluss is at the forefront of employment support. We provide specialist support for individuals with health conditions and disabilities to secure the right job with an employer who feels confident that they have recruited a great employee. Our conviction is that most people, with the right support, can be helped to realise their potential in work, and can make a significant contribution to our economy.

We believe that Brexit provides a real opportunity for government to reduce the welfare budget supporting working age people, currently standing at £81bn, by providing the necessary support for many of those 1.36 million Britons who are seeking a helping hand to find work and build a career in post-Brexit Britain.

#NooneLeftBehind

Julie Hawker_Cosmic

Leading the way as a Social Enterprise Ambassador

By Julie Hawker, Joint CEO of Cosmic

Cosmic was Social Enterprise Mark holder number one. Although that position was very closely contested by the Co-operative Group South West!

In those days, I was heavily involved as Chair of RISE – the regional body supporting social enterprise developments in the South West – and therefore was also part of the team which developed and successfully launched the Mark. I also served for several years on the Board of Social Enterprise Mark CIC, working to develop its strategy for national and international developments.

Cosmic logoFor all of the years since then Cosmic has continued to support and encourage the further impact which the Social Enterprise Mark can make to the wider sector and business in general. The Mark has been a fundamental part of Cosmic’s brand identity for well over a decade now, and it has proved a highly effective way to promote to the world our social impact credentials.

Cosmic’s commitment to social enterprise remains as strong as ever, and the Mark acts as a regular reminder for all stakeholders – staff, Directors, partners and clients.

In more recent years, Cosmic has been able to embed the Mark into all of our marketing and promotional materials. As the sector and the Mark has gained wider recognition, it has become easier to describe how we use our business model to achieve social impact, but at the same time, the Mark still represents a very useful tool for us to engage in questions and discussions about how the model works at Cosmic. Describing that our commercial services (web development, training and tech support) have the ability to generate profits, which are then 100% utilised to develop social impact projects and match-fund our work in this area with other sources of funding has become a key message for our stakeholders and clients.

For example, our investment in digital apprenticeships for our own business and others, or more recently our involvement in the Enhance Social Enterprise programme, which provides digital business support for other social enterprise; both of these involved Cosmic’s own investment to achieve social impact. More broadly speaking, Cosmic operates every day in achieving social enterprise – staff, directors, partners and members all act as ambassadors to social enterprise, constantly seeking ways to achieve more social impact and share this ethos.

Cosmic is very proud to have been Social Enterprise Mark holder No.1 and we very much consider ourselves as a sector leader and ambassador. We will continue to champion the role which social enterprise plays in improving society in UK and abroad.


Julie Hawker is Joint CEO of Cosmic, a social enterprise based in Devon, which is very highly regarded for its work in addressing digital skills development and digital inclusion as key priorities across the region. Julie is also a Social Enterprise Mark Ambassador, committed to raising the profile of the Social Enterprise Mark.

The risk of not focusing on profit in your social enterprise

Kat LuckockBy Kat Luckock, Founder of Share Impact

This is the second in a series of posts Kat has written specially for our guest blog.

It’s true that balancing social and environmental priorities with commercial and financial requirements of a social enterprise is a challenge we all face as social entrepreneurs. However, what I’ve noticed, and increasingly been surprised by, in many quarters of the social enterprise sector is a resistance to talking about and focussing on finance, income strategies and profit to the detriment of many organisations’ success.

This seems especially the case for early-stage social enterprises or those who haven’t received external support or backing from investors. In my experience a commitment to ‘doing good’ often gets in the way of prioritising a strategy to generating reliable income. And for many early stage solopreneurs with social or environmental aims, confusion about whether profit is allowed or the conflation of making profit with being wealthy sits very uncomfortably.

“Profit in and of itself cannot be seen as a dirty concept. Rather it should be understood that it’s the choice of how to spend or invest that profit that differentiates a social enterprise with other types of business.”

I suppose it does take a particular type of person to set up a business which doesn’t allow for personal profit or shareholder returns (at least not without limits). More often than not it’s about being able to do a job that’s aligned to one’s values and commitment to make a difference on an issue they care deeply about.

The risk however is that those of us working in the sector conflate the issue of limiting personal/shareholder profit with the need to create organisational profit. The difference being that organisational profit can be used to deepen or scale the powerful social or environmental impact the organisation was set up to achieve, rather than line the private pockets of individual shareholders.

Profit in and of itself cannot be seen as a dirty concept. Rather it should be understood that it’s the choice of how to spend or invest that profit that differentiates a social enterprise with other types of business. As such, it seems essential to me, as a social entrepreneur, to focus on both: delivering the social / environmental impact and creating a robust income strategy to enable it.

Where income and finance are not taken seriously the impact is limited and the social enterprises themselves struggle to continue at all or become dependent on increasingly constrained grant funding (with all its restrictions and limited timescales). This in turn hinders the sector as a whole and limits our collective opportunity to demonstrate the difference social enterprise can make to challenging the status quo (and those we compete with on a global scale), not doing business as usual, and most importantly tackling global inequality and environmental degradation.

A secondary symptom of not focussing on wealth generation (within a social enterprise) is individuals working more hours for less income; reduced competitiveness to attract the best people for roles; lack of investment in training and development; and limited research and development for innovation or expansion in to new markets.

Without profit we limit the possibility of the social sector to expand and challenge “business as usual” to the detriment of people and planet.

To conclude I want to share three reasons why getting more comfortable with generating profit is beneficial to your social enterprise:

1) It enables sustainability

With an operating profit you know you have reserves to take you into the next financial year. Consistent profits and sustainable income also allow you to plan more than 6-12 months down the line. Being able to create a strategy of what you want to achieve that extends 2-5 years in to the future helps you make big decisions and move your business forward.

2) It enables space for research, innovation and development (note how I didn’t say growth)

With profit you can choose to invest in the areas of the business that are struggling or new areas you want to develop and expand in to. Without an operating profit it’s very difficult to find money to invest in the development of your business and harness potential opportunities in the market place. Notably this isn’t always about growth or scaling the impact but could be about improving your service, developing products or simply deepening the impact you have by being able to invest more in your social or environmental cause.

3) It increases opportunity for investment

As someone who is no expert in investment this is just an assumption, but it is my understanding that an investor or funder is always going to look more favourably on a social enterprise that is able to demonstrate how it will maintain a sustainable income and generate a profit beyond the term of their investment.

On the whole, as I understand it, investors and funders want to help organisations start, get to the next stage or innovate something new (for profit or impact) but they don’t want to fund you indefinitely. They want to know their investment or grant will pump-prime your initiative and allow you to maintain operations afterwards – so they can see a return on investment and celebrate your success with you. So planning for profit and setting this out in your proposal will give them more confidence that it’s possible to happen.

 


Kat Luckock is an Impact Strategist & Business Coach for social entrepreneurs and ethical retailers. She specialises in helping businesses measure and communicate their social and environmental impact to stakeholders and customers so they can build communities of support and increase sales and income.

Kat works with social entrepreneurs all over the world and is excited to write a series of posts for the Social Enterprise Mark blog throughout September. To find out more about Kat visit the Share Impact website.

Save time and money using digital technology for your social enterprise

Kat LuckockBy Kat Luckock, Founder of Share Impact

I like to think of social entrepreneurs as innovative ground-breaking, revolutionary AND tech savvy. The type of people who want to create change and are at the fore-front of the technology landscape – maximising the best tools to advance their business and deliver phenomenal impact.

Although there are many examples of social entrepreneurs who are like this, the majority of us at the early stage of business (1-3 years in) tend to be stuck in the reality of do, do, do and not lifting out head up to discover what tools could help us.

Okay so you’re using email, Office 365, sharing documents with your team via Google Drive (or something similar), and frequently look up your competitors on Facebook or LinkedIn but you have no idea what else is out there to help your organisation when it comes to digital technology.

No one would argue that when it comes to digital technology the world has moved on phenomenally over the past 20 years. In fact, the pace of change is difficult to keep up with at times. But how are we supposed to keep apace of all these changes and more importantly identify and decide which technologies are most useful to us day-to-day in our business?

In the first of my four guest blogs (released over the next couple of weeks), I wanted to share a variety of tools that could help your social enterprise increase its productivity, save time and as a result save money.

All the tools mentioned below are free to use, with upgrades for extra features and larger capacity. I’m sharing both tools I’ve used and some I’ve heard others recommend. They cover everything from diary management to lead generation, sales to CRM systems.

The first thing I want to introduce you to though is a little thing called Zapier. It’s like a wonder tool that links everything up so you can automate workflows and alleviate repetitive tasks in your business. Seriously, I could write a whole blog post just about this, there’s so much possibility with the tool. But if you’re using some of the other tools I mention below and you want simplify how they all connect up then check if Zapier can do that first.

Time killers! I focus in the rest of the blog on things that eat up time in your business, which could be simplified, automated or completely avoided with one of these tools.

General

The first one I know we all struggle with is losing passwords. Especially when you’re working across teams, you have new volunteers or interns helping out every couple of months, and you have to update your passwords regularly to stay secure. LastPass is your answer. Never forget a password again and give access to team members at the click of a button all in one secure place.

Time waster number two; Printing out documents like contracts and funding applications to sign and then scan back in to your computer to send via email. HelloSign is a simple tool that allows you to sign documents electronically, without all the faff and unnecessary printing.

Been sent a file or document you can’t open? Cloud Convert  supports the conversion between more than 200 different audio, video, document, ebook, archive, image, spreadsheet and presentation formats without having to download any software on your computer.

Diary Management and booking meetings

DiaryHow many hours do you spend on the phone or emailing back and forth to customers and stakeholders trying to find appropriate times to book in a meeting or call? For finding a convenient date for team or group of people Doodle is an amazing tool.

But what about when you want to allow customers and clients to book a call or meeting with you directly from your website or Facebook page? Calendly is my number one tool for showing when I’m available for meetings and helping customers book a call or meeting in my diary, without me ever having to speak to them. It also automates an email to confirm the booking and there are settings for reminders. You can also sync it with your Google Calendar (ICal or Office calendar) so you know when it’s been booked in too.

Lead Generation

Do you spend hours looking for B2B leads on LinkedIn? Try Dux-Soup; a great tool that visits thousands of profiles for you, using key words and existing networks. When people see you’ve been looking at their profile they’re much more likely to look at yours and get in touch.

Video Conferencing & Webinars

Do you spend a lot of time on the road going to meetings? Why not organise more video calls to save you time, money and carbon emissions. It’s still face-to-face, you can share documents, screens, invite others in and record the calls with Zoom – my go-to video call platform. I run my business from my laptop and I couldn’t be without Zoom, it means I can connect to clients all over the world and jump on a call with my remote team members for weekly check-ins. You can also add bolt-ons for webinars and more than 10 people.

Email Communication & Sales Funnels

So you’ve probably heard of MailChimp and maybe you’re using it. I loved Mailchimp when I first started as a social entrepreneur. It was a great way to design and send weekly newsletters to our mailing list. It’s even easier now you can create opt-in forms and landing pages to capture email address on your website or via social media. And it probably is the simplest way if you’re just starting out with a mailing list and want to create a simple email sequence to introduce yourself and warm leads up.

But for the more advanced there’s the paid-for Convertkit or ClickFunnels; two great tools for creating more advance sales funnels for different audiences, leads and product types.

And if you want more of a CRM built in, Dubsado, Hubspot, 17 Hats and Capsule are recommended (although I’ve never used any of these myself).

Social Media Scheduling & Automation

Social media channelsIf you’re not scheduling your social media so it automatically posts each day, you’re probably wasting time or not being consistent enough on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram. Hootsuite, Buffer and Planoly (an App  for Instagram only), amongst many others, are great tools to schedule all your posts for the month ahead so you do it once and forget about it.

Project planning and team organisation

Trello and Asana are two of the most popular platforms I see people using for project planning and team organisation. I also like Wunderlist for creating quick to do lists and setting deadlines or reminders for things.

Simple Graphic Design or Document Creation

Not a graphic designer? Don’t have the funds for Adobe Suite? I use Canva every single day in my business because it’s so easy to create graphics and documents.

My last money saving tip…

Website manualIf your website is just for sharing information about your products or services, or you have an e-commerce store, don’t spend thousands with a web-developer – use simple platforms like Squarespace, WordPress, Wix, Weebly or Shopify to set up your website quickly and cheaply (from as little as £20/month including domain).

 


Kat Luckock is an Impact Strategist & Business Coach for social entrepreneurs and ethical retailers. She specialises in helping businesses measure and communicate their social and environmental impact to stakeholders and customers so they can build communities of support and increase sales and income. Kat works with social entrepreneurs all over the world and is excited to being featured in the Social Enterprise Mark blog for the next few weeks.

Fashion

Going ‘Beyond the Badge’
in the fashion industry

By Flora Davidson, Co-Founder of Supply Compass

Flora Davidson, Supply CompassSome certification badges are instantly recognisable as a mark of assurance when purchasing a product. According to the Fairtrade Foundation, 97% of Millennials recognise the Fairtrade Mark on food, compared with 69% for the Rainforest Alliance logo and 41% for the Soil Association Organic label.  But how many people actually know what is required to acquire these certifications and how rigorous their testing methods are?

Whilst recognition is a good start, a deeper understanding of what badges actually mean and what tests and audits are required to achieve the result, will enable customers to be more discerning about the products they buy. Whilst certification bodies need to find better ways to engage and educate consumers, is it also key that consumers start to #GoBeyondTheBadge?

Fairtrade MarkEven though the shift towards more responsible consumption is gaining momentum, it’s still far from being the norm. To make matters harder for those looking to make greener and more ethical choices, certifications in garment production can be extremely confusing. Beyond the Fairtrade Mark, there are few badges with such widespread recognition. There are hundreds of certifications available for each area of the supply chain, but most of them are not consumer facing. As a result, consumers often have to rely on the brand that they purchase from to make responsible choices about their supply chain on their behalf.

The certifications brands look for in a manufacturer is often dictated by what country they are from and what products they are producing. It can seem overwhelming and overly complicated for brands to decide which certifications are the most crucial. Brands need greater clarity and visibility over what certifications actually mean in reality, what the verification process is and how reliable the results are.

Conversely, it can be difficult and costly for manufacturers to accommodate the increasing certification demands from multiple brands from multiple geographies. They can feel frustrated at paying for certifications which verify a standard they are already certified for with another body, and it can also be detrimental to their efficiency if they are having to constantly host auditors at their facilities.

As consumers are becoming more conscious about what they are buying, more certifications are starting to emerge as the industry standard. Below we have highlighted a few certifications that consumers can look for in their clothes, however it is important to dig further into each of these to understand what is Beyond the Badge.


fair-wear-foundation-logoFair Wear Foundation (FWF)

Works with brands, factories, trade unions, NGOs and governments to verify and improve workplace conditions. FWF represents over 120 brands, bringing together the key components needed to make a sustainable improvement to workplace conditions.

Brands should check if their manufacturers are certified by FWF if they prioritise having safe working conditions where their products are made.

FWF keeps track of the efforts made by the companies it certifies, and works to increase the effectiveness of efforts made by companies through sharing expertise, social dialogue and strengthening industrial relations.


Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

Global Organic Textile StandardKnown for being the world’s most predominant processing standard for testing and verifying organic materials. It also provides a consumer label.

To qualify, textile products must be at least 70% organic fibres. There are also strict environmental, toxicological and social criteria, and a detailed quality assurance system. A manufacturer with this certification is clearly dedicated to protecting the environment while producing high-quality organic fabrics.


Confidence in Textiles – Tested for harmful substances

Oeko-Tex standardOften known as Oeko-Tex standards. It is a global testing and accreditation scheme for the screening of harmful substances within consumer textiles. It is the leading label for textiles that have been screened for harmful substances. The Oeko-Tex certificate issued by the relevant institute or responsible certification centre is valid for 12 months.


Supply Compass logoFlora Davidson is co-founder of Supply Compass.

Supplycompass is a tech enabled end-to-end production management platform for responsible brands that want to find and work with the best international manufacturers. It enables brands to find their perfect manufacturing partner at home or overseas.

Brands can create tech packs, get matched with a manufacturer and use the platform to manage production from design to delivery. Supplycompass works with brands and manufacturers to embed responsible and sustainable practises in their businesses and deliver value and create opportunities for growth.

Protestors

Community owned change – we need to talk about anarchism

By Ed Whitelaw, Head of Enterprise & Regeneration at Real Ideas Organisation

Ed WhitelawWe need to talk about anarchism. Once you get past the often mis-leading, negative, bomb-chucking stereotypes of the proceeding centuries, many of the ideas contained within the, by definition, very broad church of anarchist thought are quite sensible. Indeed, in many cases emphasizing balance and moderation. They also have the potential to provide at least part of the answer to society’s infinitely complex growing list of challenges, from political disenfranchisement to growing inequalities, aging populations, environmental degradation and shrinking public services.

Be it by necessity and by design, anarchic ideas, and practice, are increasingly evident all around us. While the wider anarchist “movement” intermittently flares up, burning hot and fast, but ultimately short-lived like a virus in the popular mind – in moments such as Occupya more sustained, transformative genera of anarchism is growing, more like mycelium through the forest of society day-by-day.

These aren’t quick, but they are steady and cumulative steps, and coming from both directions – from activists and government alike – politics and politicians know this is needed. From localism, devolution and cooperative councils to the increasing prevalence of self-managing, self-organising, agile, matrix managed businesses and civic organisations. Running all the way from subsidiary in European Union, right the way through to energetic indy-towns such as Frome and Buckfastleigh. Though where this is often most evident is in the ever-growing UK-wide movement of enterprise driven social action: social enterprises, b-corps, community business, coops and just good businesses – a restless growing wave the anarchopreneurs balancing economic independence with social value, personal liberty with collective solidarity. This is beyond the politics of the Left or the Right, it is the politics community leadership – taking action and accepting social, and economic, responsibility.

South West England provides further examples. The Transition Towns movement grew out of Totnes, and just 20 minutes down the road, the “Plymouth Model”, the UK’s first Social Enterprise City where hundreds of socially enterprising organisations, with an enabling local government partner and a welcoming business community are driving everything from regeneration to education, from healthcare to clean energy and even the creative and digital industries. Towns like Watchet, where a group of local people, the Onion Collective (predominantly women) have painted an effective picture of what “taking back control” should actually look like. Igniting a range of locally owned community businesses following all-too-common market failures, resulting in the loss of local industry.  Projects include a visitors’ centre, a new green space community park and regular summer street markets, even reimagining the East Quay waterfront as a new space for studios, restaurants, galleries and visitor accommodation.

This community owned – anarchic – action is increasingly seeping into the mainstream. From the recent incorporation of the South West Mutual, part of a national network of the soon-to-be people powered regional banks, to the Big Lottery’s own endowment trust – Power to Change – that is tirelessly working (in both Plymouth and Watchet) to create locally owned, community accountable businesses and services up and down England. And then, Carne Ross’s story of his remarkable journey from diplomate to anarchist – The Accidental Anarchist – lands slap-bang in the middle of your BBC viewing – now something is really up?

Britain today is alive with constructive anarchism, anarchic ideas and substantial real action.

We need to talk about anarchism. We need to talk about community owned change. Take Proudhon for instance, one of the leading anarcho-theoreticians, sometime described as the “connoisseur of paradox” (or other words, he understood the need for balanced view!), who first adopted the word anarchist to describe himself and along with Godwin is often credited with “creating” anarchism. His position here could be summarised in three parts:

  1. Participation – far from being the absence of governance, he saw anarchism as the mass participation in government: limiting but with necessary layers of government, built from the people or the workshop up. Initially, and primarily, this came about via economic more than political means, growing networks of social and economic administration – “the cure for social ills cannot be found on political level and must be sought in the economic roots of society”.
  2. Local ownership – his most famed pronouncement – “property is theft” wasn’t a statement against the ownership of private property, only against the disproportionate ownership of large scale capital and assets by private interest, and/or indeed the state, what he termed the “cumulative proprietors”. With an emphasis on democratic and social value, he welcomed private ownership and saw economic liberation as fundamental to wider political freedom – “political right requires to be buttressed by economic right”. In a Smithian way he was an advocate of genuine free trade, as an effective regulating structure for society and recognised that, to a larger extent, communities are often remarkably good at managing themselves. Proudhonism, often cited as the philosophical bedrock of anarcho-syndicalism, envisaged a society organized around cooperating local businesses-like enterprising organisations, working units of society (social enterprises, coops and community business, even SMEs?), inter-trading and federating as needed on the larger scale.
  3. Reform –  flying the face of the anarchist caricature, Proudhon rejected revolution, favouring reform over time through education, fiscal policy, credit reform and new forms of social corporate ownership – he even tried to set up a mutual, Peoples’ Bank. At the heart of this was a good honest grasp of human nature, a Hayekian recognition of complexity, the value and need for personal liberty and individualism, well balanced with the important need for, and indeed facilitated by, community collective good.

We need to talk about anarchism. We need to move that anarchist debate beyond a quirk of the 19th century; beyond the flash of passion, courage, but ultimate tragedy of the Spanish Civil War; and beyond the unhelpful black bloc stereotypes. We need to move it to where it belongs – in our daily lives. Anarchism is more than a fringe political movement of the shadows, it is something that is happening and as C. S. Scott suggests with his “anarchist squint” it’s a way of looking, thinking and behaving. If we look at the world through the anarchist lens, we see it all around us and with many encouraging results.

While anarchism has often been good at defining what it is against, it is less clear when it comes to practical application and what it is for. Community enterprises are finding new, real ways for more people, often at the furthest fringes, to participate in society economically and therefore, also democratically. They are creating more meaningful forms of ownership, putting the means of production not in private or state hands, but in the hands of local people, and they are changing the way society works. Reforming healthcare, learning, social care, energy production, housing, pubs, venues, the creative industries, business services, finance and even banking – now government too? Isn’t this what Proudhon was talking about? We need to talk about anarchism.

 


Originally posted on Real Ideas Organisation blog on 19th July 2018

Alder and Alder branding guide

Harness the power of your brand

Jonathan AlderBy Jonathan Alder, founder and Co-Director of Alder and Alder

Your brand is a powerful communication tool that has the potential to differentiate you from competitors, and make you interesting and relevant to your audience. If you can harness the power of your brand it will give you the opportunity to influence what people think and how they behave. It will give you the power to change things.

And there is a need to change things. Existing models are struggling to adapt to the new demands that business and society is placing upon them. Change is all around us, and undoubtedly brings challenges, but it also brings opportunities. It brings the opportunity to do something different. Something new. Something better.

Social enterprises have the opportunity to be the change and bring the solution. But to win a new audience you have to explain why you are the solution.

As a social enterprise your brand is a particularly powerful tool. At the heart of each organisation is a ‘purpose’ – the reason they exist. This is the foundation of every brand. In commercial businesses ‘purpose’ can get lost, because the focus is often on making money, rather than making a difference. This is where the opportunity for social enterprise emerges. As a social enterprise it’s ALL about making a difference, and that’s attractive, not just to your stakeholders, but to the wider community.

Brand building can seem a daunting prospect, but breaking the process down into stages can make it much easier to manage. I’ve identified three stages that provide a practical approach to harnessing the power of your brand.

  1. The first stage is Brand Definition. Social enterprises need to clearly articulate the advantages their model can offer to each stakeholder group they engage with, when compared to the existing solutions available. For organisations that are selling a service or product to customers, differentiating a social enterprise approach from the commercial model of competitors can be even more important, as the trend for values-driven purchasing continues.
  2. Brand Design, the second stage, is focused on the tools an organisation will need in order to communicate with stakeholders. Engaging, persuasive, powerful communication is fundamental to influencing how your audience behaves, especially when you are offering something new or different. The quality of your visual communication will help you to compete more effectively against, what some stakeholders might consider, more ‘professional’ commercial competitors.
  3. The final step is to bring your brand to life. I call this stage Brand Delivery. Society is looking for change, but they don’t necessarily know where to find it. If you have an alternative solution you need to take it to your stakeholders and present it as a viable option, not some kind of worthy compromise. You will need to find an effective and efficient way to deliver your message, whether that is in print, in person or online.

The business sector – and society at large – is experiencing change and uncertainty. People are frustrated and looking for alternative solutions. This is the opportunity for social enterprise to move from a niche model to the mainstream. But to achieve that transition social enterprises need to communicate clearly. It’s time to harness the power of your brand, and build one that helps you to define, design and deliver your message.

If you would like to learn more about how to harness the power of your brand, I’ve written a guide to branding for social enterprises, Time For Change.

Alder and Alder branding guide for social enterprises

Changemaker Hub

Celebrating social enterprise success…one year after hitting the ‘gold mark’

Wray IrwinBy Wray Irwin, Head of University Centre of Employability and Engagement at The University of Northampton

Last year, the University of Northampton joined a growing list of universities and organisations committed to solving social or environmental problems, after gaining the Social Enterprise Gold Mark.

I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate one year of social enterprise successes with a recap of the University’s ‘Changemaker’ work since then.

The breadth and depth of the University of Northampton’s commitment to delivering social impact through and, as a result of its Changemaker student experience, has been singled out as the defining component of its Gold Mark recognition. Delivering social impact through Changemaking enables every student and member of staff to pursue their passion and address social inequality and environmental issues in a way that ‘transforms lives and inspires change’.

The range of ventures developed always impresses and inspires me, the approaches taken are impactful and are driven by individuals who are able to reframe the problems to create innovative solutions. Everyday examples emerge of the great work undertaken at the University confronting everything from homelessness to human trafficking, food poverty to raising educational attainment but the one thing they all have in common is the belief of students and staff that something must be done and it’s up to them to do it.

The examples outlined below are by no means the limit of what is being achieved but are highlighted to give a flavour of why the University has retained its Gold Mark accreditation.

June 2017

Eyespeak is a web-based TV channel created by second year International Tourism Management & Events Management student Hulda Adao, aimed at tackling online abuse and bullying on social media.

Her channel has grown its audience and Hulda is now delivering workshops for secondary schools to highlight the social issues related to cyber security such as bullying, LGBT, mental health, and relationships. She has so far delivered 16 workshops to more than 300 young people., with interest growing from schools and community groups.

Hulda now works with the University’s ASPIRE Schools’ Engagement team to deliver these workshops in schools across Northampton.

This is a social enterprise for the digital age.

Lara Hamer, a third year International Relations and Politics student, started supporting refugee communities by fundraising for volunteers who were helping at refugee camps.

Northamptonshire has the fourth largest community of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK so, following the ‘Cities of Sanctuary’ programme, Lara created a ‘University of Sanctuary’.

Lara, who hails from Croatia, is passionate about building a culture of hospitality and acceptance across the University of Northampton for asylum seekers and refugees.

Lara personifies the spirit of Changemaker, spotting that something in the world outside the lecture theatre needs addressing and then working to sort that problem.

October 2017   

Sukhwinder Singh, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University, has lead a team of 30 who are supporting and counselling refugee children from war torn South Sudan who travelled to Uganda seeking asylum.

Sukhwinder has Changemaker in his DNA, so it was no surprise he was named Global Changemaker of the Year at the University’s annual awards last year.

February 2018

Our latest ‘Big Bang’ event, held in collaboration with the OfS funded National Collaborative Outreach Programme, saw nearly 4000 nine to 19 year olds converge at Silverstone Race Circuit, for a day of hands on experience of science, medicine, engineering and sports commentary, as a way to explore all manner of career avenues.

TV personalities Dr Emily Grossman and Simon Watt came along to present shows and more than companies including Nissan, Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd. joined them for a day of fun and discovery…and made a lot of noise!

The aim of the Big Bang is to inspire young people to love science and maths by showing them they can be fun and have real benefit on their future careers.

April 2018

We beat 140 other education providers from around the world and scooped a coveted Innovation Award at the annual AshokaU Awards. This was in recognition of our institutional to embed social innovation and changemaking into every programme of study.

The award celebrates the brightest new approaches to teaching and we won for our ‘Changemaker Outcomes for Graduate Success’ (CGOS) Toolkit a downloadable guide developed by the University to help teaching staff provide students with important life and work skills and not just academic knowledge.

We are working with town and county partners to help make Northamptonshire more ‘dementia friendly’ raising awareness of and support for the needs of people with a diagnosis of dementia and their families and carers.

The University’s Changemaker Challenge Fund has supported a range of projects that support this work. This culminated in the launch of our first ever Dementia Friendly Organisation award. The award which recognises and celebrates excellence in supporting people living with a dementia diagnosis was awarded to the local theatre Royal & Derngate scoop who deliver dementia friendly film screenings in the Errol Flynn cinema. They are using the prize to employ an intern from the University who will help them develop the de film screenings, whilst enhancing the intern’s skills and learning.

May 2018

Not content with founding one successful school where vulnerable women and girls in Malawi are trained in conversational English and receive work experience, third year International Development student Emma Leering went on to create another ‘United Amayi’ school.

Emma spent 12 months as a primary school teacher in Malawi teaching in a rural primary school, when she first came up with the idea of supporting the village women to learn English. Through the experience she recognised that supporting the children to have the best possible life chances was only one small part of the way she could help the people of Malawi. Her commitment has ensured the growth and development of United Amayi to support more young people.

June 2018

We held our first SocialxChange late last year, hosting staff and students from the University of Warsaw who looked at ways to tackle prejudice. Students returned their home university with projects to develop to help deal with race inequality.

So worthwhile was the opportunity, the xChange has now been extended and we have just finished a second event with Ryerson University, Toronto with more planned for 2018-19, opening opportunities for our students to experience inequality from a global perspective and to do something about it back home.

Whilst these examples are early stage developments their potential social impact will begin to emerge over the coming years, and we will be supporting all of these to ensure their full potential is reach. As the University prepares to take up residence at its new Waterside Campus the potential to grow our social innovation work and impact will increase.

In November 2018 we will be celebrating the next batch of emerging social entrepreneurs at our Changemaker Awards Dinner; demonstrating that at the University of Northampton, social impact through Changemaking is at the core of everything we do.


Originally posted on the University of Northampton blog on 29th June 2018

Socent and gender equality_Heidi Fisher blog

Social enterprise and gender equality

Heidi FisherBy Heidi Fisher, Director of Make an Impact CIC

OK folks, let’s start off with something we could all benefit from doing a little more of – something I call ‘Positive Propositioning’… Take the name of this blog: Gender ‘Equality’. Not ‘Inequality’.

That’s simply because I’m of the mindset that if you focus on the positive aspect of change, you get more of it.

Also, I want to make it clear that this isn’t a feminist rant, far from it – in fact, it’s a bird’s eye observation on what is and what could, and arguably should be.

OK, now I’ve got that off my chest, let me share a couple of stats with you…

  • In global companies, 15% of women hold board positions
  • 4% chair boards
  • And 20% of boards have 3 or more women on them

And when you consider more female board directors give:

  • 16% higher Return on Sales
  • 26% higher Return on Invested Capital
  • Fewer governance-related controversies

…It’s certainly good for us to explore ways in which we can help businesses encourage more women into higher positions. And one of the ways I see this happening is by…

Encouraging MORE women to become Social Entrepreneurs in the first place.

Oh Heidi, but you would say that, you’re ALL ABOUT Social Enterprise. Yes, you’re right, but hear me out.

(Ready for some more stats? Here they come!)

  • 41% of UK’s social enterprises are led by women
  • Globally 38% are led by women
  • Women are 3x more likely to start social enterprises than men
  • Twice as many women run social enterprises than traditional businesses
  • Women equate to 46% of ‘traditional’ business workforce but 66% of social enterprise workforce

In comparison to the stats on traditional businesses, isn’t that absolutely, mind-bogglingly staggering?

And the thing is, having worked many, many years in the Social Enterprise sector, I’ve got to say, there’s a non-proven, but arguably rational, biological reason why there’s such a disparity between the two industries, and that is… Women tend to lead with their hearts, and men with their heads.

Women, driven by factors such as community, impact, connections and innovation are often social entrepreneurs without even realising it… If I had a £1 for every time a lady has told me their business idea and I’ve replied, “you’ve got a social enterprise there!” I mean…well, you know the rest.

But don’t get me wrong, if you’re a female reading this and you’re even slightly offended by that, please, let me assure you, this is, in fact, one of the reasons why it’s IMPERATIVE we have more female leaders in our world; not to dominate men, but to accompany, complement and work alongside them….As equals.

Instead of looking at this as a stereotype, let’s look at this as a celebration of traits and talents. If we had more Social Entrepreneurs in the world, heck, if EVERY business had a social element, think how much good would be given back to people and our world.

Social Enterprise isn’t a soft option, it’s actually, the only option.

So, in the push for equality within all areas of business, how about this as a lasting thought… If we’ve already recognised there’s a disparity and a need to change it, we should look at tackling it from the root, which naturally stems from education.

Let’s do what we can to educate our daughters (and sons!) about the importance of Social Entrepreneurship, self-actualisation and a love for doing good, but not only that, let’s also educated them on the importance of self-belief and inspire them to have just as much confidence as men to go out there and smash it.

If we help them grow up believing they have the power to make impact irrespective of their gender, just think what societal, environmental and health advancements can be achieved.

As you can tell, I am extremely passionate about this for reasons some of you will know and some of you won’t; that’s not the point here, what is the point is that we acknowledge with grace and respond with action.

If you have any thoughts on the above, I really hope you share them, after all, that’s what this is all about…


Originally posted on Linked In on 14th June 2018

Heidi Fisher

Five essential factors for financial success with your social enterprise

By Heidi Fisher, Director of Make an Impact CIC

It’s easy to assume because there’s purpose, profit will swiftly follow, but you and I both know that only works if you work it.

As a Consultant to Social Entrepreneurs for over 20 years, I’ve built a robust understanding of the key factors that lead to financial success, and, for your convenience and relief, I’m going to share them right here.

Take note change maker, implementing these is not only smart; it’s your key to survival.

1) Manage your cash flow

CashCash is everything. You can be profitable, but if you have no money in the bank then you won’t exist for long.

Here are some practical steps you can take to manage and improve your cash flow position.

  • Take deposits for work if at all possible.
  • Clearly state your payment terms and chase customers if they haven’t paid by the due date.
  • Send out a reminder email before the due date and then phone them if it’s still unpaid.
  • Emails can be ignored. If you don’t like chasing for payments then hire someone for an hour or two to do this for you. It also avoids you having to have difficult conversations with clients.

2) Keep overheads low

Stephen Fear, aka the Phonebox Millionaire, says this is one of the reasons he’s been successful, as he doesn’t spend a lot on on-going overheads.  He’s right because so often people think they need to get premises straight away before they’ve even generated any income. Reality is, you probably don’t need it and you won’t have the income to pay for it either!  Think about what is essential for your social enterprise and what you can do without.

Another point to mention is the importance of paying your suppliers on time. Big or small, they’re a business too and are likely to be experiencing the same challenges as you. Keep it honest. Keep it fair, and that way everyone can benefit.

3) Pricing- Don’t undervalue your activities/products/services

Decide from the start whether you want to be budget, mid range or premium, but appreciate and be OK with the connotations attached to each.

Budget = could be perceived as providing low quality and attract customers that aren’t loyal and are only concerned about where they can get the cheapest item. Having a low price also makes it very difficult to increase prices in the future, and you could remain at breakeven or worse loss making just to keep this competitive edge. That aside, budget doesn’t always mean ‘cheap’ in the damaging sense of the word. As long as your service/product’s quality is aligned with price expectations, you can find ways of adding value that impresses the low-level customer, whilst not breaking your bank, i.e. customer service.

Mid-Range = safe. A good share of the market are what we call ‘floating voters’, which means they will happily straddle between price and quality often opting for the product or service that catches their attention the most (good marketing, product placement etc.) A potential drawback of this would be a lack of identity. Mid-range pricing can make you appear unsure of where your true USP sits, which, for a social consumer is key, for they often buy for the ‘why’.

Premium = Risky. Premium pricing requires thorough understanding of your market – you must be confident what you’re offering is what they need/want and are willing to pay the privilege for. Where higher prices mean reduced pressure in mass sales, it always requires consistent market research and development, plus strong relationships with your consumer. Loyalty is everything here, as is good, effective marketing.

My advice is to focus on determining YOUR value factors and being very realistic over what they’re worth. If you conclude it’s slightly on the lower end of the pricing scale, so what, it’s fantastic you’ve identified this. Spend time crafting your message and communicate it effectively so you can make a surplus and do more of your good work.

4) Trade if possible 

TradingIf you’ve received a grant to help pursue your societal purpose, you’ll know all too well the limitations that come with this, not least the restrictions on what you spend the money on.

Opting for a model that includes trading will ultimately give you so much more freedom, plus it doesn’t come with the reporting, monitoring or evaluation pressures from funders wanting to know where every penny’s being spent.

Being able to generate surpluses rather than just recovering the costs of delivering a project is also a massive advantage.

On a more subjective level, including trading within your business model shows that you’re focussed on your triple bottom line – something that will work in your favour should you wish to grow.

5) Diversify your income sources 

Don’t get married, play the field! OK, so figuratively speaking, when it comes to your income stream, this is a very smart move, as depending on just one source of income is risky and unpredictable.

Some of the most successful Social Enterprises I’ve worked with have at least 3 or 4 income streams working within their business.

This can be achieved through offering a mix of products/services, or looking for ways to include your offering alongside a project/initiative/programme that compliments it.

Whether that’s a training programme, an online course, a license arrangement, membership, or even offering your expertise on a Consultancy basis, you want to minimise your risk of failure by securing income streams in different places.

 


So, there you have it. I’m under no illusion a lot of this won’t be new to you, but oftentimes the most successful strategies are the ones that are simple and timeless.

A little known figure called Albert Einstein once defined insanity as “doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result” – if you’re looking to secure financial success within your Social Enterprise, try one, two, three or even better all five of these strategies – I guarantee you they will work if you work them.

Have we forgotten to ask how we can BE and DO better?

By Caroline Bartle, Managing Director of 3 Spirit UK

I started to write this blog at the start of the year. Normally this is a time most people take stock and ask how can we BE and DO better?  However, within our social care sector, this reappraisal is not new, but rather ongoing, and insidious.  We are constantly being asked, how we can DO better. For many services this has resulted in cutting back, and prioritising profitability.

However, what is the impact of this?  Is there a hidden cost of dwindling social care funding, creating highly competitive, low cost, low value services? Has this disproportionate focus on the turning a profit  taken us away from more ethical aspects of our work, as we forget to ask how can we BE better? Surely the test of how we can ‘BE’ better as a social care service lies within the ‘social impact’ that we have, not in the profit that we accrue.

About twenty years ago after a relatively short career in social work I became a proprietor of a social care business at the age of 27, and when I look back over the last two decades I see the factor which drove me to business was the freedom to BE the person that I wanted to be. Because of this, I get immense pleasure from my work, and my collaborations. I spend time working with the individuals that I chose, and I have the opportunities to learn about, and develop what I determine as critical, interesting and applicable. I am motivated, engaged and free to be innovative. My values are at the heart of my business, sometimes at the expense of profit.  Over the years my values have evolved. As a young entrepreneur, I was always interested in creating and sharing, however now I am more concerned about how these collaborations impact on our communities, collectively and positively.

Despite being a ‘for profit’ organisation, we shared our resources, widely and openly (with no material gain), and attempted to reach out to individuals and organisations through our work. Whilst we have had many supporters, we have also been met with some alarming responses: individuals proactively unfollowed us, and actively excluded us. It was disappointing and deeply demotivating. There appears to be a lack of trust in our sector: driven possibly by competitive, anti-collective forces.   Consider though what the possibilities might be for our sector if we are able to foster trust, and build alliances beyond the competitive limitations of market forces. What if we all shared common goals, the communities that we serve? What if there was a less of a ‘me’ mentality and more of an ‘us’?

The growth of a market was stimulated, in part with the introduction of the Community Care Act, and has relied on competitive forces, creating best value. However, how effectively does this model work now, in this current climate?

In 2012 the government introduced the Public Services (Social Value) Act in an attempt to get commissioners to consider the social impact of their buying power. However, this only applies to high value contracts. So what of all the other services, or individuals, purchasing services in their community? Whilst these services are regulated by the CQC, many are driven by profit, and may not always be making their decisions in the interests of ALL of their stakeholders.  If we are to really make a ‘shared society’ work, should we not ‘expect’ that social enterprises are afforded preferential treatment at a local buyer level? In 2015 there was a review of the implementation of the Social Value Act, suggesting that the Act be extended to contracts below the public spend threshold. It is my view this could be extended further than suggested.

In the healthcare market we have already seen many services become social enterprises. Health has long had an expectation that it should service all stakeholders, as since the introduction of the NHS, it has been free at the point of delivery.

However, that is not the case for social care: the expectation remains that many providers maintain a ‘for profit’ status. Many business minded individuals identify opportunities in a growth market, particularly in the community, where there is a growing need to support individuals with more complex levels of care. The question is – how sustainable is this in the current market? Does the social enterprise model work better in this climate, and if so – should commissioners consider this as part of their market shaping strategy as part of a long term goal for smaller, as well as large organisations? Could this be applied across all types of services, particularly training services like us, whom should be embodying an example, as advocates of ‘best practice’.

So, what are your driving values as a proprietor? To make a profit or make a difference? Whilst on the face of it, it may be a little more complex than that, determining the overriding priorities will help to properly focus priorities on outcomes. As an education provider in social care, we aim to buck the trend, and embody this change.

Social enterprise  is a more comfortable fit for us: synergy with stakeholder expectations and our activities. Through raising awareness, we aim to provide better insights into the experience and needs of the individuals we support in the social care sector.  From a business perspective, it seems to make sense, as it is through trading that we may have a bigger impact in society.

Steve Hawkins, Pluss CEO

Social justice – more than just a pipedream?

By Steve Hawkins, CEO of Pluss

PlussPluss has over 45 years experience of working with some of the most disadvantaged people in society. However, the fact is that today, we are working with many less severely disadvantaged people than we have done in the past.

This is absolutely not because the need has gone away, but as a result of the reduction in funding for these services, which has historically been provided locally.

The upcoming Building Better Opportunities contracts will provide a new range of support but these are not focussed in the way that, for example, local authority learning disability services have been in the past.  And whilst we welcome the focus of the Work and Health programme, it is clear that the programme is for people with a shorter-term into-work prognosis.

At the top level then, this situation is unfortunately at odds with the objective of increasing social justice in the short-term. Increasing social justice should be about addressing disadvantage, reducing inequality and widening opportunities for all people.

In terms of real life issues facing the people that we work with today, the nature of the economy in 2016 (typified by underemployment, zero hours contracts, minimum wage jobs) and the stresses on public services mean vulnerable people’s lives are often more fragile than they have ever been.

When talking about people who are disabled, it is always good to take a step back to reflect on who they actually are. They are not some “distant” group of people – the reality is that they are all of us. The fact is that well over 85% of people with disabilities have acquired them through the course of their lives as a result of illness or injury.

By definition, people with disabilities span the social and economic spectrums. As it stands, the help available from DWP contracted provision is primarily aimed just above the bottom of the demographic – ie. entry-level jobs. This leaves huge gaps at either end of the spectrum where people are not supported – an issue which has to be addressed.

The obvious fact is that this huge degree of diversity means that a one-size approach is never going to work. Halving the disability employment gap requires us to have an amalgam of support services ranging from pre-work, into work and effective retention strategies. All need to be delivered against the specific needs of the individual if lasting change is to be achieved.

Very often one of the major barriers which we see with those people who are more marginalised is the view that work is unattainable. This is often as a result of that message having been drummed into them over a lifetime by medical professionals, schools etc. This has to change, with recognition that employment is a health outcome being vitally important.

We know that at the macro level the labour market and people’s needs will change over time. Therefore it is critical that we have a range of integrated services which embeds local expertise so that it can flex to deliver what is needed on the ground now and for the changing needs of tomorrow.

So what does this mean for commissioning?

Quality, highly effective services are required to deliver lasting results and value for money for the exchequer. We must avoid the race to the bottom in commissioning to ensure that inexpensive just doesn’t end up being cheap.

  • We must retain a focus on in-work support to avoid churn and implement new retention strategies to avoid the bath tap analogy – as fast as we’re filling the labour market vacancies, it’s emptying out twice as quickly. This must take into account the numbers of people falling out of the work from professional, technical and managerial positions who have long careers behind them and who will choose not to access Jobcentre plus.
  • We need to find ways to support people who cannot access DWP provision to re-enter the labour market. It is vital that government finds ways of incentivising local authorities to retain employment services for people in receipt of adult social care who are unlikely to gain access in large numbers to the Work and Health Programme.
  • We need to bring on board others (such as NHS Confederation, CCGs, GP’s etc.) to support our efforts to make work a genuine and valuable health outcome for health stakeholders.
  • We need to build a presumption of employability in the eyes of commissioners for those unlikely to be accommodated by the Work  and Health Programme.

As well as increasing social justice for people because it’s the right thing to do, there is also a very clear economic argument. 

Landman Economics modelled the economic impact of a sustained increase in the rate of employment amongst disabled people between 2105 and 2030. They found that a rise of just five percentage points would lead to

  • An increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of £23 billion
  • A gain of £6 billion to the Exchequer

For Pluss, the argument for a return to the principles of “invest to save” in order to support effective local provision that operates alongside the DWP Work and Health Programme would seem clear.

As a sector, we need appropriate levels of funding to be available so that quality services are provided, thus ensuring that achieving social justice is more than just a pipe dream.

Promoting true professionalism as a social enterprise

By Simon Ayers, CEO of TrustMark

trustmarkAs TrustMark nears a close on its 10th Anniversary year, we nostalgically look back on how we got to this point. This year we’ve been campaigning heavily to promote reputable tradespeople, and shone light into the daily activities of our ten TrustMark Ambassadors, all of whom excel in customer service, trading practices and standards of workmanship.

Our ambassadors have been involved in a range of activities this year to promote reputable traders. They started off by being featured in our anniversary report which you can download here. This looks at their business practices, ethos and how they stay true to their customers. We’re proud to work with them to change the industry stereotype and instil confidence in customers that by looking for the right indicators you can find truly professional tradespeople.

trustmark-infographicFirms have come a long way from the commonly branded ‘cowboy’ brush that they are still tarnished with. This year alone, we’ve seen a huge drive to change this unfair image. We released an infographic at the start of this year with some keys statistics on how much UK tradespeople contribute to the economy, which unveiled some astonishing figures. The repair, maintenance and improvement sector alone is worth £2.7 billion every year, so the work carried out by tradespeople has a huge impact on the UK economy.

We’re proud to call ourselves a Social Enterprise Mark Holder. We’ve held the Mark for five years already, so we understand how much value it adds to a business such as ours. As a not-for-profit social enterprise, we put the interests of our Registered Firms and their customers at the heart of our business, and having a symbol that recognises this is important as consumers know that we aren’t focused on purely commercial gains.

Naturally, we aim to stay competitive, but in a way that benefits society and the construction industry. To us, the Mark shows businesses we have their best interests at heart, and we’re not just another scheme trying to make money. Social Enterprise Mark CIC are committed to ensuring the social enterprise business model remains ethical, credible and commercial through accreditation.

SE_BRAND_APPROVED_RGBAll organisations awarded the Social Enterprise Mark accreditation have one key quality in common: their main aim is to use income and profits to benefit society, rather than individuals such as business owners or shareholders. As the only social enterprise accreditation that is internationally available, we see it as a distinctive sign of quality and reassurance to consumers. It is also re-assessed on an annual basis, to ensure businesses are maintaining a fair approach and keep consumer interests at the core of activity.

As a social enterprise, we don’t have a big marketing budget to play around with, so for TrustMark as an organisation we focus on spreading the word organically and adding value to our firms and their customers in any way we can in order to grow and stay competitive. Being a Social Enterprise Mark holder sends a message to firms that we are a professional organisation, and we feel that such affiliations attract the right sort of firms to become TrustMark registered. It’s important in this day and age to give a platform for quality, expert people to sell themselves with the recognition they deserve.

Within our big drive this year to promote professionals in the industry and add credibility to their businesses, we’ve set about a number of initiatives, to expand on the work with our Ambassadors and offer easier ways of staying professional to all of our Registered Firms.

One of the ways we looked to do this way by launching a new feedback system earlier this year to add value to traders on the TrustMark website. We see online reviews as a real sign of quality, and is obviously a great way for these firms to prove their worth to new customers who might not be familiar with their standards of workmanship. We try to encourage our firms to request reviews from all customers, even those that might have had some hiccups along the way. Reviews are often criticised for their inability to distinguish between real and fake, but with this new system in place, we are going the extra mile to ensure reviews are genuine. All customers leaving a review will have their review moderated by Referenceline to ensure they are genuine customers, and are not denied the right to leave a review by the firm.

We’re now looking to 2017 and how we can continue to add value to our Registered Firms so that they can pass this on to their customers. We’ll soon be launching a National Trading Standards Approval scheme – so this is something to look forward to seeing in the New Year!

Disability Confident

Yes we can – how the NHS can lead the Disability Confident movement

By Social Enterprise Mark holder Pluss

If you haven’t seen it yet, you will soon. And when you do, it’ll blow you away.


It’s the ‘Superhumans’ trailer for Channel 4’s coverage of the 2016 Paralympics that comes hard on the heels of this summer’s Rio Olympic Games. Set to the Sammy Davis Jr. track ‘Yes I Can’ being stunningly performed by a band of disabled musicians, the three-minute film features world-class athletes as well as a rock climber with one arm and a rally driver who steers cars with his feet. It also shows people carrying out everyday tasks – a woman without arms efficiently changes her child’s nappy; another writes notes during a phone call while gripping her pen with her toes. Cut to a gloomy room where a careers officer is telling a young man with a disability, ‘No you can’t’. His message is swamped by a kaleidoscope of people who’ve been featured in the trailer who take it in turn to chorus ‘Yes I can’.

The message is a simple one – see the person; recognise ability; help it flourish because that way everyone benefits.

Within the NHS, it’s easy to think of disability in terms of us and them. In fact, one in three people have some form of disability or limiting condition. The reality is that disability is a part of everyone’s life whether this means friends, family or colleagues, and any of us can become disabled at any time. Disability is everyone’s business.

The Government recognised this recently when, as part of its Disability Confident campaign, it made a commitment to halve the UK’s disability employment gap. That’s the difference between the percentage of people with disabilities who are in work and that of the working age population as a whole. That difference is currently around 33%. To achieve this ambition – in other words to close the gap – will mean one million additional people with a disability or a health condition in work.

Pretty much everyone agrees that this would be a good thing – for the individuals themselves, for employers, for all of us. For NHS Trusts in particular, it makes sound business sense, not least because the NHS Confederation reports a huge problem in recruiting – especially to the 60% of its lower tier jobs. Trusts need talented and resourceful staff, but how best to bring them on board?

There’s a mountain of evidence that workers with a disability are at least, if not more, productive and reliable than their non-disabled colleagues. From Pluss’ experience, disabled employees also bring to work those can-do attributes that they’ve needed to develop in their everyday lives. And having a workforce that is representative of the people being supported by NHS Trusts can only help inspire recovering patients, and help Trusts better understand and respond to their patient base.

For this to happen, Trusts need to think creatively about recruitment if they are to tap into this pool of talent. Employment rates amongst people with a disability or health condition (that’s one in three of us, remember) are low because stubborn preconceptions stop us seeing beyond the disability; and because inflexible recruitment procedures can prevent that pool of people from showing Trusts how they could shine if they were given the chance.
There are some simple steps that Trusts can take to develop a more inclusive approach to recruitment, one that is flexible enough to include some innovative routes into employment for people with a range of disabilities and health conditions. Traditional recruitment procedures such as panel interviews and group sessions are one of the biggest barriers for people with complex disabilities. Working interviews or time limited work trials offer a far better opportunity to judge whether a person has the skills and capabilities to do a job really well. Job carving, with the help of an organisation like Pluss, can ensure a job fits a person’s unique set of skills. Longer term recruitment techniques including traineeships and internships such as Project SEARCH help people grow steadily into outstanding employees.

A yes we can willingness to make small adjustments in work pays dividends too. The changes a Trust might need to make to support dedicated disabled employees are frequently tiny and, almost always, those changes are worth the investment. The NHS is the most iconic health brand in the world. As an institution, it is uniquely placed to see the whole remarkable person, to recognise not what people can’t do but what they can. Showing innovation in how it recruits its workforce can put an NHS Trust where it should be – at the forefront of the Disability Confident movement, and be good for business too.

PlussIf your Trust isn’t sure about the best place to start, or how to build on the steps you’ve already taken, the Disability Confident campaign offers some really good ideas to raise awareness and challenge perceptions. And you can always talk to Pluss. We love hearing from employers and we’re always happy to help.

www.pluss.org.uk

 

Health in our community and how we can work together

By Gareth Presch, Founder of World Health Innovation Summit

We now have the tools and the will to inspire, innovate and share knowledge to support our health services. World Health Innovation Summit provides that space for innovation and knowledge exchange to take place so all sectors of society benefit.

Problem: Our health services are under immense pressure with demand rising. Staff morale, recruitment, retention, patient safety and overall pressures are seeing the current health services stretched to breaking point.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 12.14.18

Solution: World Health Innovation Summit (WHIS) provides an innovative and unique global opportunity to bring people together. WHIS is about inspiring, innovating and sharing knowledge to improve and support healthcare services. It’s a platform for everyone in the community to come together and share their knowledge so we all benefit. Every sector is touched by health, and WHIS allows us all to contribute in a constructive manner and deliver solutions that benefit us all and most importantly while doing so it creates huge economic opportunities.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 12.14.47

Unique and Innovative – Previously we only had patients and clinicians discuss how we solve or improve our health problems. However, health touches everyone and every sector and WHIS provides the platform for all sectors to get involved (Patients, Clinicians, Voluntary Sector, Education and Businesses) so everyone benefits.

Our #WHISCumbria16 summit, which was held in the City of Carlisle, attracted over 300 people and we had a staggering 23.7 million twitter impressions around the World (#WHISCumbria16). This exposure and promotion for the City and region was unprecedented. The value to the City over the 2 days was estimated at £40,000 and we estimate that economically WHIS has brought in excess of £100,000 over the last few months through our various activities.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 12.14.57

To put the WHIS reach into context, we have had enquiries now from over 10 different locations around the World, proposing to host a WHIS summit. WHIS has reached over 100 countries and continues to grow. We’ve just signed a partnership with a top digital health influencer, Salus Digital, that gives us the opportunity to share our vision with key stakeholders in the digital sector.

The WHIS model is a community led initiative that supports existing health care provision while looking at prevention (WHISKids, WHISatwork etc).

An example of the local impact – A father of two disabled children attended WHISCumbria and. based on the knowledge exchanged, he set up a peer support group for other fathers of disabled children. This has a direct impact on alleviating pressure on the local health economy. It means those fathers don’t have to go to their GP’s for support, and also has a significant impact on their quality of life, which in turn results in improvements to the family’s well-being.

From a global perspective, a similar support group was established on the back of WHIS Cumbria – Global Villages for Mental Health – a twitter account set up to support people with mental health problems.

These are just two examples that are innovative and were born as a direct result of the WHIS Cumbria event.

Audience – 80% of our Twitter following are health professionals and decision makers. It’s very evident by the speakers we attracted to WHIS Cumbria that key stakeholders support our ethos and work.

With increasing population growth expected over the next 30 years, it is imperative that we look at how we communicate with the wider public on a local, national and international level around health. Education and knowledge exchange will play an important role as our current health services are stretched. The World Health Innovation Summit platform for knowledge exchange and preventative programmes will play a key role in how public engagement and support of our health services develop around the World.

For example, in six months we’ve seen WHISKids grow from a pilot project to being in 8 schools, with 10 more schools interested. These programmes look to support children with health & wellness and we use a mental health app, the My Way Code, as part of the programme. Results have been significant, with children reporting that it is fun and interesting while also educational.

13450276_1566042923692631_3965843858200540694_n-1

The World Health Innovation Summit is a social enterprise and set up to support communities in a unique way. Our profits after costs go back to local communities. Income generated from our activities will be re-invested into local projects.

The WHIS model is aligned to social good and therefore businesses aligning themselves via partnerships with WHIS will see a return (CSR), based on supporting a health initiative that improves health and social care not just locally and nationally but also internationally.

We are unique and innovative in that nobody has ever done anything along these lines before.

To draw a comparison, we can look at Websummit (technology based summit), who saw growth from 400-42,000 in 5 years. WHIS, by comparison, focuses on health and social care as well as technology, so we expect growth to be similar or in excess of this.

WHIS
Communities are supporting our activities and now we are seeking to partner with companies and agencies with the same values that are aligned to improving our community’s health care while sharing knowledge.

*If you have an idea that can help our health services or community contact us on [email protected]


 

This post originally appeared on the WHIS blog on 15th July 2016: http://www.worldhealthinnovationsummit.com/blog/2016/07/15/health-in-our-community-and-how-we-can-work-together-gareth-presch/

 

Steve Hawkins, Pluss CEO

Mind the gap…

…The step change needed to halve the disability employment gap

By Steve Hawkins, CEO of Pluss

First the good news, then the maths.

The good news is the government’s unequivocal commitment to halving the disability employment gap.

Now the maths.

The disability employment gap currently stands at around 43 percentage points. To halve the gap means moving around 1.2 million more disabled people in work. In the last five years, the number of disabled people in work has risen by just 23,000. Halving the gap also means keeping people in work. According to the ONS, over 400,000 disabled people each year lose their job and fall into unemployment or inactivity. One in six of those who become disabled while in work lose their employment during the first year after becoming disabled.

What’s more, the challenge is increasing. The ONS predicts that by 2020, over a third of the workforce will be over fifty, and more than half of the over-50s workforce will have a disability or impairment. Like all really effective aspirational statements, the government’s pledge sets an almost unachievable goal. Almost, but not quite. It raises the bar. It demands that we think differently, that we make some brave choices.

Like President Kennedy’s pledge in 1961 that Americans would land on the Moon by the end of the decade, the idea of halving the disability employment gap is do-able because, perhaps naively, we can imagine a world in which it is possible. Many people believed that a Moon landing was possible, but not all of them understood the level of commitment, resilience and willingness to innovate that was needed to realise the goal in 1969. I believe we can, if we choose, get a million more people with disabilities into work and, importantly, keep most of them there – but not without an almost unimaginable level of commitment, resilience and willingness to innovate on the part of government and the partners it chooses to work with.

As the flagship initiative to deliver the government’s pledge, the challenge for the Work and Health Programme is that, for a majority of its customers, `any job` won’t be good enough, and for many a job start will, at most, represent only half of the journey. We’ll need to have primes in place who understand the critical nature of specialists in delivering outcomes on the programme, who can build and contract manage a team of specialists with local credentials and partnerships that are integrated with local health systems, in particular mental health, to support the journey back to work.

At £130 million a year, the Work and Health Programme will have around 20% of the combined resources of Work Programme and Work Choice, and will help upwards of perhaps 10,000 people a year to enter the workplace. It will set an important tone. But to reduce the disability employment gap by any significant measure will require a step change across half a dozen complementary areas of work.

  • First, government should explore ways of developing a robust retention service that meets the needs of both employers and disabled employees in a much more proactive way than the Fit for Work Service and Access to Work provision is currently able to do.
  • Second, we should ensure that the strategic and commissioning weight of LEPs, City Deals and Growth Plans are used in a co-ordinated way to maximise the opportunities of disabled people to enter local labour markets.
  • Third, I endorse the calls of a number of organisations for Government to explore the potential for ‘disability leave’ as a way of more constructively managing the fluctuating conditions of some employees. 40% of all employed disabled people say that modified hours have enabled them to stay in work; 36% of those out of work say that modified hours could have helped them retain their job.
  • Fourth, we need to find ways to support people who cannot access DWP provision to re-enter the labour market. Providing employment support is not a statutory requirement for local authorities or CCGs The four DWP mental health and employment pilots about to commence are welcome, but they take place against a background of dwindling funding for locally commissioned supported employment programmes, making it vital that government finds ways of incentivising local authorities to retain employment services for people in receipt of adult social care who are unlikely to gain access in large numbers to a capped Work and Health Programme.
  • Fifth, a significant percentage of disabled people falling out of the workforce are from professional, technical and managerial positions with acquired disabilities and health conditions who have long careers behind them and who will choose not to access JCP. Government and other stakeholders should urgently explore the potential for an intervention designed to support this cohort of people to rapidly re-enter the workforce.
  • Sixth, we need to get to grips with the transitions agenda, finding ways to help talented young people with learning disabilities and hidden impairments onto apprenticeship routes and supported internship programmes as part of a national unified drive to ensure that every young person with a disability who wants to transition into work can do so.

Finally, we need a step change in the way employers are engaged and supported to be part of the solution. We need to build on the Disability Confident initiative – from a promising PR campaign driven by committed providers and seventy active employers into a national movement which is identifiably driving the agenda, holding to account and championing innovation across each part of the plan.

Achieving remarkable things isn’t easy. We shouldn’t pretend this is a quick fix, or that more and more can magically be achieved with fewer and fewer resources. But a challenge has been set. Now we need some brave decisions that will move us from a visionary slogan to a detailed roadmap.

Please click here to read Pluss’ full submission to the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into halving the disability employment gap.

 


PlussSquare_400x400Pluss is an accredited social enterprise with the Social Enterprise Mark. This means that Pluss has proved it is genuine against independently-assessed criteria for social enterprise. The Social Enterprise Mark provides assurance that profits are used to help disabled people gain opportunities to work, acting as a guarantee that Pluss is trading for people and planet.

How the Social Enterprise Mark can benefit Higher Education Institutions

By Cara Aitchison, Vice Chancellor of University of St Mark & St John

Our students and graduates are increasingly reporting that they seek employment and lifestyles that enable them to contribute to the social, cultural and environmental well-being of their communities, society and the world around them, rather than simply thinking of their degree as a route to a highly paid career. This presents an opportunity for university leaders who chose to put ethics, civic engagement, social and environmental justice and sustainable economic development at the heart of their strategic plans and student experience.

By being accredited with the Social Enterprise Mark, universities can better demonstrate their sustainable and ethical business credentials to the next generation of applicants. We can show our students how we apply in practice the values and knowledge that we teach and how they too can be part of a social enterprise culture.

We are all under increasing pressure to expand and diversify our income streams, and to demonstrate our positive benefit to the students, communities and stakeholders we serve. The social enterprise business model provides opportunities for HEIs to transform the way we are perceived by stakeholders and can enable us to position ourselves as ‘businesses’ driven by social objectives.

MARJON-LOGO-CMYKThe University of St Mark & St John was awarded the Social Enterprise Mark in 2015, signalling our commitment to social enterprise and demonstrating the social value that we create as a university.

As the number one university in the UK for social mobility, we are proud to be recognised for our commitment to helping local communities and the broader south west peninsula to thrive and prosper. The Social Enterprise Mark helps us to communicate this commitment to students, potential applicants, partners and the wider business community and sets us apart as a values-based, socially conscious university.

As we enter a new era in Higher Education, where the Teaching Excellence Framework and other policy developments emphasise graduate earnings, we need ways to demonstrate our parallel commitment to social enterprise principles, and the Social Enterprise Mark offers one such mechanism.

There is currently a potential discount for GuildHE members that commit to apply for the Social Enterprise Mark before the end of August 2016, and I would recommend doing so. My colleague, Professor Brendon Noble, the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and International who took forward our application for the Social Enterprise Mark, can also talk to you about our experience and the benefits.

You can get in touch with Social Enterprise Mark CIC with any questions, or to express your interest in applying – 0345 504 6536 or via email.


 

Originally posted on the GuildHE blog on 22nd April 2016

Why talking about ‘what is a social enterprise?’ is still important

By Gareth Hart, Co-founder of Iridescent Ideas

“So you’re a social enterprise, eh? What does that mean then?” How many times have you been asked that question? How many times have you answered it but still aren’t convinced that they questioner has ‘got it’ or believes it?

The debate about the definition of social enterprise may well seem jaded and old news to those of us within the social enterprise community but it seems that a large proportion of the general public didn’t even realise there had been a debate going on. So, the aforementioned question comes up time and time again. If we want to establish new audiences for social enterprise and push the concept into a wider public consciousness it is vitally important to maintain a public dialogue about ‘what is a social enterprise’.

No one really seems to question you in the same way if your business is a charity or Fairtrade or eco-friendly. There is an automatic assumption these are ‘good’ things. People know what these terms mean. They come with a nice badge, logo or number that tells the public they’ve been checked out and do indeed do what they say on the tin. If only there was a similar thing available to social enterprises…

SE_Business_Identifier_RGBEnter the Social Enterprise Mark. The Mark is the social enterprise equivalent of the Fairtrade logo or the Charity Commission number. The Social Enterprise Mark provides:

  • A clear definition of what constitutes a social enterprise
  • An instantly recognisable ‘stamp of approval’ to show that your business has been independently assessed and meets criteria to justifiably call itself a social enterprise
  • A national community of like-minded ethical businesses for social enterprises to engage with
  • A range of other benefits around marketing and support

There is growing interest in the Social Enterprise Mark, particularly among large organisations like universities. Plymouth University was the first social enterprise university and has held the Mark since 2012. Many of the large health spin-outs also hold the Mark. These organisations provide services to huge numbers of people and have strong roles in public life in their respective towns, cities and areas. I would like to see more large healthcare providers really engage with the public around understanding that they are receiving great services from a local social enterprise. The Mark could help them do this.

As the social enterprise sector, and public awareness of it, continues to grow, so I hope that the Social Enterprise Mark will continue to flow into public consciousness and eventually become as recognisable as the Fairtrade logo. The Mark will evolve, I am sure, and we need an ongoing dialogue about what it means to be a social enterprise both within and outside the sector.

With the introduction of the Social Value Act in 2013 there is a requirement for social value and impact to be given more weight within commissioning of services. Consumers are looking to purchase ethical goods and for businesses to behave better. Surely then, the time is right for the Social Enterprise Mark to become a stamp of social value so that commissioners and customers alike will recognise social enterprises and be able to make more informed choices about the goods and services they buy and use.

I believe that social enterprises are better for the economy and for society. We need to articulate more clear what ‘better’ looks like of course. Social enterprises create wealth and jobs and also deliver environmental and social value. The Mark can be the guarantee that proves this.


 

Originally published on Iridescent Ideas blog, 2nd September 2015

How Good Are We At Doing ‘Good’?

By Kate Pierpoint, Deputy Chief Executive of Manor House Development Trust

mhdtAs we continue to face social and economic challenges, the need for value for money and maximised social impact continues to increase. The Social Value Act of 2012 has seen an acceleration of this trend. More recently, the demand for both financial and social return is reflected in the Government’s backing of Social Impact Bonds and injection of £20m a year (Autumn Statement 2015). As a result, public sector commissioners increasingly want to know how much value their investment creates and social reporting figures help them to decide where to put their money.

When you market your organisation as one that is making positive impact, you open yourself up to extra scrutiny. Expectations are high and those looking at your impact will often compare your results to other organisations as a way to see ‘how good you are at doing good’. Figures can often be skewed and this contest to demonstrate the greatest impact creates the need for larger and larger numbers and more and more sensational stories in order to stand out- especially so in an economic climate with heightened competition for funding and customers.

So even if we are good at achieving positive impact, social impact figures are not necessarily going to reflect that or get us noticed.

Tools like Social Return on Investment (designed by New Economics Foundation) have been designed to measure the efficiency of projects to generate impact. The ratio of £:£ tells you exactly how good your projects are at doing good. But even this data doesn’t tell us about the needs of those you are supporting; it can’t capture the value of change to an individual; and it doesn’t explain why your work is important and why other people should care about it. Figures don’t tell the full story; you have to look beyond the data.

The ‘so what?’ statement

What I am getting at is the ‘so what’ statement. Context is everything in social impact measurement. Whatever type of organisation you work for, it’s really important to tell a story that others can get behind; whether they are customers, investors, partners or your staff. For this reason, you have to really know who your audience is and what matters to them.

Tell the story

“We realise a lot of social enterprises don’t have the means to do full social impact reporting. They just need to clearly articulate what they’re doing”
Venturesome in The Guardian, 2012, ‘The growing importance of social impact reporting’

Audiences don’t have 30 seconds to be interrupted, but they always have 30 minutes to hear a great story”
Sweetman, J., ‘The importance of social impact’

 

What we did

For 2 years, Manor House Development Trust has invested a great deal of time and money improving its impact measurement processes. As a ‘community development’ organisation, we found it difficult to articulate the impact we were having, in a way all of our stakeholders could understand. The concept of ‘Community’ means many different things to different people. It could be any size, any location (it doesn’t even need a location) and each of us probably belongs to many different ‘communities’. The word ‘Development’ in the context of community is also very difficult to describe, even though no one could deny its importance.

And this is what we were faced with as an organisation. How do we succinctly describe what it is we are trying to do, whilst also explaining these complex concepts? How do we tell the story, without it becoming a novel?

“We realised that even though we describe ourselves as a community development organisation,we don’t actually do community development”
Simon Donovan, Manor House Development Trust

The answer came from speaking to people, lots of people, about what changes we have brought about for them and why that was important; whether they were funders, service-users, staff or partners. And gradually, we began to use their language- piecing it all together. Key themes, priorities and commonalities emerged, which would then form the 5 Business Objectives of our new Business Plan.
hex-points

What this has allowed us to do is to tell a narrative that speaks to many different types of stakeholders. It follows through the journey explaining how a project (however small) contributes to a wider context and can create a legacy for the future. The narrative has also steered the branding of the organisation, where the language of our stakeholders is embedded in the Business Plan and all communications that flow from it. Crucially, the narrative provides a framework whereby all future impact can be captured and reported effectively. In other words, we know what our impact is before our projects even start.

So in answer to the question: How good are we at doing ‘good’?
In my view, we are only as good as the story we tell. 


Originally published on http://www.mhdt.org.uk/our-impact/blog-november/ 27th November 2015

 

Steve Hawkins, Pluss CEO

One Million Journeys

By Steve Hawkins, CEO of Pluss

So now we know that a new Work and Health Programme will replace the two current DWP employment programmes when they end in 2017.

Just a month after the Work & Pensions Committee recommended that DWP should ‘maintain, and ideally expand, a separate employment programme for disabled people’, the Government has instead announced that a single Work and Health Programme will be commissioned to support into work people with health conditions and disabilities, and job-seekers who have been unemployed for two years.

The government is clear that it wants to halve the disability employment gap. In other words, it wants to see a million more disabled people moving into work. We know now that this new programme will be one of the main vehicles tasked with achieving that goal.

Of course, by focusing on the disability employment gap, the government is acknowledging the reality of a distinct set of labour market disadvantages faced by people with complex support needs. It is asking the new programme not to hit and hope, but to identify these disadvantages and to fix them.

The challenge for DWP is now to commission the new programme in a way that ensures disability specialists are at the heart of delivery, not pushed to the edges, and to align the programme’s commercial drivers with the goal of securing sustained jobs and careers for people needing highly specialised support.

The challenge to the primes who will lead the new programme is to recognise early on that this isn’t Work Programme 2.0. This is a specialist programme, but one with the potential to be delivered on a much bigger scale than existing specialist provision. It is clear that there was a strong argument for retaining a separate specialist programme, but at least the emphasis of the new programme is right.

Gone is the flawed logic of having a ‘universal’ programme which was expected to cater for everybody. As the results showed, the mechanics of the Work Programme forced most providers into a standardised one size fits all model that focused on those closest to the labour market. By contrast, the message now is that the new programme is to be aimed by design at people with disabilities, with health conditions, with chaotic lifestyles and with multiple barriers to work. In truth, this is a quiet revolution. It’s one that we shouldn’t underestimate. And it’s one that is re-enforced by the decision to provide £115m for the Joint Work & Health Unit, including £40m for a health and work innovation fund to pilot new ways to join up health and employment systems.

The arguments put forward for a separate specialist programme had a clear logic. They were based on the understanding that helping someone who needs highly specialised support to gain a job and build a career is a wholly distinct profession to the carrot and stick business of prompting work-ready jobseekers to submit multiple CVs. This insight remains vital.

It’s why those primes with the financial muscle to lead bids for the new programme will need to ensure that resources intended to support work with the most vulnerable customers do reach the front line. And it’s why those primes will also need to put specialists at the heart of the process to craft and develop what will be a radically new programme.

That’s because those partnerships that do go on to make money from welfare to work services in the future will be the ones not simply bent on crashing cohorts into the first jobs they spy. Instead they will have sufficient expertise threaded through their supply chains, connected to supporting health and welfare systems, to support the right person into the right (often modified) job and then a career with employers who themselves are partners in the process.

As the new programme starts to takes shape, it will be important for everyone involved in the process to recognise the reality that there are one million individuals, at home, in college, outside the doctor’s consulting room or the therapist’s office, waiting to make one million separate journeys into work.

For now, we at Pluss await with interest details of the scale, design and commissioning of a programme that will need to provide the specialist support that each of those million journeys into work will require.

Steve Hawkins, Pluss CEO

Pluss CEO responds to the recently published Work & Pensions Committee report on the Work Programme

By Steve Hawkins, CEO of Pluss

The Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee have just published their report on the Work Programme after interviewing a series of expert witnesses and taking a mountain of evidence. Their report is clear-sighted, far-reaching, and unanimous.

The report makes clear that a mainstream, one size fits all Work Programme is not working well for people who need more intensive help. That’s why, as the Committee observes, nearly 70% of participants are completing  two years on the Work Programme without finding sustained employment. Condemning so many people with disabilities to live out two whole years of their lives on the Work Programme does no-one any favours, least of all the Exchequer.

But the central point is this – if the Government is serious about halving the disability employment gap, it must retain and significantly expand a specialist employment programme separate to the mainstream Work Programme. What’s more, the Committee are adamant that this specialist programme should be delivered exclusively by specialist disability organisations with the expertise to support disabled people.

Why? Because Work Choice, the current specialist programme, offers a clearly different kind of provision but is too small to make a big enough difference. For reasons of cost, the Government may be tempted to consolidate mainstream and specialist disability employment support into a single new programme. If the Government elects to go with a single programme, there are some stark challenges to avoid vanquishing all meaningful expertise from the sector.

Service fees intended to support work with the most vulnerable customers must not be gobbled up by hungry primes or heavily top-sliced as a tax on supply chains; they must reach specialist providers in full. As an integral part of the bidding process, primes must be forced to explain what the challenges are to each customer cohort across each CPA and how specialists will be used to meet these challenges. The commissioning process must include active dialogue with bidders to drill down into their levels of expertise and localised resources.

Under these circumstances, a single programme could deliver at least some of the benefits of a separate specialist approach. But let’s be clear, this is not the optimum solution, it’s a second best. The Work and Pensions Committee report goes further and says that a single programme would be a grave mistake.

For myself, I am certain that, over five years of costs and benefits, Government would gain considerably if they follow the unambiguous advice of the cross-party Committee.

Of course, the people who have most to gain are the one million people with a disability who will need to be supported into sustainable work if the disability employment gap is to be halved. These are the individuals who need the right support to find the right job first time, and the Work and Pensions Committee have now set out clearly for all of us the best way for this to be achieved.

 


PlussSquare_400x400Pluss is a certified social enterprise with the Social Enterprise Mark. This means that Pluss has proved it is genuine against independently-assessed criteria for social enterprise. The Social Enterprise Mark provides assurance that profits are used to help disabled people gain opportunities to work, acting as a guarantee that Pluss is trading for people and planet.

Good Money Week 18th – 24th October

By Isabelle De Grave, Charity Bank

 (originally posted on Charity Bank blog on 1st October 2015)

The most important week for the Good Money campaign is fast approaching. Here’s what it’s all about.

Good Money WeekGood Money Week, 18th – 24th October 2015, is an opportunity to ensure those you trust with your money are looking after it well and using it in ways that benefit society and protect the environment.

What’s the big deal?

“It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future.”

Desmond Tutu’s take on the logic of investment without concern for our future wellbeing is hard to beat and even harder to contest. As it is, the money we invest, or deposit with a bank, isn’t always invested in ways that are good for people, communities and the environment. Look closely, and you’ll find that money flows to some pretty unsavoury destinations, the arms trade, fossil fuels, gambling to name a few.

So we nod in agreement with Archbishop Tutu and dream of a better world. Or, better still, we look for ways to build one. . .

What is Good Money Week all about?

Good Money Week is about discovering new ways to make money work the way we want it to, whether we want to save ethically, invest for social impact or spend our money in ways that won’t leave the planet worse off than we found it.

As the Good Money campaign puts it, “We’re facing big challenges in the UK and across the globe: extreme weather, social inequality, scarce resources and a rapidly growing population… The amount of money channeled into solving these problems – in the form of investment into projects or more responsible companies – helps ensure they won’t get worse and that our quality of life, and that of our children and grandchildren, will be protected.”

So here’s to fossil-free ISAs, ethical equity and savings that work for good! If Good Money is something you want to learn more about and support, pop along to some events during Good Money Week.

How you can get involved

  • Follow the money saved with an ethical bank. In support of Good Money Week, we’re following the money saved in Charity Bank’s ethical accounts to the charities and social enterprises they help support. You can sign up here.
  • Email or write to your MP and ask them to support Good Money Week.
  • Attend a Good Money Week event or organise your own.
  • Read up on the issues and find ‘good money’ options for your finances. Some useful sites include The Good Money Week website, Good With Money, Pioneers Post and the Charity Bank blog.
  • Tell friends, family, your community group, customers, the media and anyone else about Good Money Week using the Good Money toolkit (currently being updated with new resources for 2015).

As the Good Money Week campaign reminds us, ‘Money makes the world go round’ but ‘Good Money’ makes it go the right way.

*This article originally appeared on the Charity Bank blog on 1st October 2015: http://charitybank.org/news/good-money-week-is-approaching-dont-let-it-pass-you-by

Social Enterprise

If The Government Are Serious About Halving The Disability Employment Gap…

By Steve Hawkins, CEO of Pluss

Credit to the Government for being so clear. They want to halve the disability employment gap. That’s the difference between the percentage of people with disabilities who are in work and that of the working age population as a whole.

Pretty much everyone agrees this would be a good thing – for the individuals themselves, for employers, for taxpayers, for all of us. Research by the Social Market Foundation indicates that achieving the goal would boost the economy by £13 billion.

But the ambition won’t be achieved by wishing for it. True, the imaginative Disability Confident campaign has captured headlines and made inroads. And much good work is being done to build the ‘presumption of employability’ for people with disabilities, although this remains a work in progress on both sides of the interviewer’s desk.

But these are only complementary activities. I believe that over the next decade our ability to reduce the disability employment gap will be largely dependent on a single factor. It’s this. What help will people get to make the journey? In other words, what will the programme that is required to do most of the heavy lifting look like?

It’s critical to recognise that helping into work someone with a learning disability or autism, or someone with profound and enduring mental ill-health or with multiple and complex support needs, is an entirely different industry to helping roomfuls of jobseekers close to the labour market to get a job.

At its heart, this question is about the challenge facing some people that ‘any job’ isn’t good enough. The greater the level or complexity of the disability or health need, the more precise the fit of the person, the job role, the support and the employer must be.

It isn’t that people with complex support needs can`t work – our experience at Pluss is that they make some of the most outstanding employees for the companies we support. But it’s important to recognise that, as we move along a spectrum of support needs from simple to complex, the pool of potentially suitable jobs and work settings steadily shrinks. At the same time, the need increases for a thorough technical understanding of how an individual’s support needs impact on both the navigation of labour market and the capacity to work well in a job.

A successful intervention therefore requires not just ‘any job’ but exactly the right job with the right employer in the right place with the right help both leading up to a job start and in-work.

As we have seen on the Work Programme, getting it wrong for this group of customers means that all too often the negative perceptions of employers (that people with disabilities can’t work, that they’re not as productive, that reasonable adjustments might be too much hassle) can get reinforced.

This need for an increasingly exact fit between person and job is why the Universal Job Match process is routinely unsuccessful, for example, for someone with autism or with severe and enduring mental ill-health. In our world, it’s rarely the case that an approximate job match is good enough.

I think this approach begins to explain some of the differences in programme performance. 52% of Work Choice starts between the 1st April 2014 and 30th September 2014 obtained a job outcome by 31st March 2015. In contrast, only 12% of ESA new claimants  and  only 5% of ‘ex-IB’ ESA participants on Work Programme get a job outcome after being on the programme for 2 years.

The procurement and commercial arrangements for Work Programme have exacerbated this challenge of working with ESA customers. The commercial drivers of the programme and the scale of contracts have ensured that specialist primes have been excluded from the programme. The use of non-specialists as primes, many of whom are also non-providers, has led to a one size fits all approach that works for some but clearly not for all.

Differential pricing was designed to be the tool to persuade the market to invest in support and expertise for those people whose disabilities placed them furthest from the market place. The market, left to its own devices, has failed this test.

It’s important to say that the Work Programme works well for a large number of people. It has established its credibility as a programme that is effective for those jobseekers without complex support needs for who a wide range of jobs and workplace settings are potentially suitable.

That’s what the replacement mainstream employment programme must be allowed to focus on.

But the greater or more complex a customer’s disabilities, the less effective will be a high volume programme delivered by primes that are driven by the commercial model to a one-size-fits-all approach and that have no in-depth disability specialism.

I believe the evident strengths of the current specialist Work Choice programme, and the comparably poor ESA performance data for the Work Programme, provide a strong evidence base to support the need for a specialist programme, commissioned in a way that ensures the inclusion of experts.

That is why a specialist disability employment programme led by specialist primes must be the cornerstone of the Government’s strategy.

When we know if that’s the plan, we’ll know how serious the Government is about halving the disability gap.

 


Pluss is a certified social enterprise with the Social Enterprise Mark. This means that Pluss has proved it is genuine against independently-assessed criteria for social enterprise. The Social Enterprise Mark provides assurance that profits are used to help disabled people  gain opportunities to work, acting as a guarantee that Pluss is trading for people and planet.

Act like Amazon or save the Amazon?

By Isabelle De Grave, Charity Bank

We can choose to buy from, work for, and even set up companies that have a sense of purpose beyond profit. But how do we spot them?

In the digital age, the demand for information, often just a click or a ‘google’ away, is immense. At the same time public interest in the inner-workings of organisations, their ethics, standards and practices, is growing.

As a business, it’s not enough to simply say you’re ethical; you need to be able to prove it. Today there are a number of ways to do this, and companies are beginning to take notice.

The view from inside an ethical bank

From my vantage point, inside an ethical bank that lends its savers’ money to charities and social enterprises, I can see the potential for ethical business to grow. Charity Bank’s strong community – people who really care about where their money ends up – fuels my optimism, as do recent events…

The exposure of Amazon’s treatment of its employees, pushing people to their physical and mental limits in the name of production and profit, instantly provoked public outrage. It also sparked action, a petition on change.org to make Amazon UK pay their workers the Living Wage, along with the publication of an Amazon-free shopping guide.

Disenchantment with corporates

It must be sinking in. We care about how companies treat people, what sort of activities they’re invested in and how they affect the environment.

Anyone attuned to the current tone of Twitter and the blogosphere will recognise the growing public interest in the way businesses operate. The feeling towards companies which pay little or no attention to purpose and values is pure disenchantment, neatly captured by Dom Jackman, founder of Escape The City, in his blog “Dear Corporates: A quarter of a million of your workforce are escaping…”

The ball is in our court.

We can choose to buy from, work for, and even set up companies that have a sense of purpose beyond profit. But how do we spot them?

Here are some steps that Charity Bank has taken to point people towards its ethical credentials and a few other ways of identifying ‘good’ businesses. These are all credible signs that an organisation cares about its employees, society and the environment. Whether you’re someone who wants to check that a business is ‘walking the ethical talk’ or you’re a business owner, I’d recommend looking out for them.

  1. SE_Business_Identifier_RGBThe Social Enterprise Mark. If you invest at least 50% of your profits in a social mission, you may qualify for the Social Enterprise Mark. We became the first bank in the UK to earn the Mark making Charity Bank an independently certified social enterprise. See if you can apply.
  2. Living Wage accreditation. Companies that pay all employees the Living Wage can seek an independent certification and become an accredited Living Wage employer. We did this back in 2014.
  3. The B Corporation certificate. A growing number of businesses, including Charity Bank, are showing that they take their impacts on their employees, society and the environment seriously by applying to become a B Corporation, which provides an independent certification of ethical business.
  4. Measuring and sharing social and environmental impacts. This is something that’s core to our business of lending to charities and social enterprises. We share information about our loans on our website so that savers can see the impact their savings are having. See our approach here. There’s no standard approach to accounting for impact on society and the environment but there are some useful resources and initiatives. The Common Good Balance Sheet is worth a look.
  5. Using finance for good. If you’re a small business or a charity looking to put money away in a savings account, you could consider opening a savings account with Charity Bank, as a way of earning a fair return and boosting your organisation’s social impact by supporting the work of charities and social enterprises. And if you’re an individual looking to save with an ethical bank, this all helps to show you’re in the right place. You can check out our savings accounts here.

There are a few ethical banking options out there for businesses, charities and individuals. The space is maturing slowly but surely. As well as Charity Bank, there’s Triodos Bank, Ecology Building Society, Charities Aid Foundation and Unity Trust Bank.You can find ethical and mainstream banks ranked in the Good Shopping Guide’s ethical league tables and more on ethical finance and movements in a blog by Patrick Crawford, Charity Bank’s chief executive here.

As the Amazon storm calms, perhaps it’s time to reflect on our own power to redefine success in business. With the tools to raise standards of purpose, transparency and accountability at our fingertips, now is an exciting time.

*This article originally appeared on the Charity Bank blog: http://charitybank.org/news/act-like-amazon-or-save-the-amazon-the-ball-is-in-our-court

 


25% discount on Charity Bank loans for Mark Holders

IMG_2290To celebrate becoming the first UK bank to be awarded the Social Enterprise Mark, Charity Bank has announced a partnership with Social Enterprise Mark CIC to offer Mark Holders a 25% reduction on their standard loan arrangement fee.

Please click here for full information

Important information

  • Quote CBL/SEM to claim your 25% discount. Charity Bank’s standard arrangement fee is usually 1% of the agreed loan but may be individually negotiated
  • The offer is available to all Social Enterprise Mark holders, which have not borrowed or submitted a formal enquiry or loan application about a Charity Bank loan in the past twelve months
  • All loan applications are subject to approval by Charity Bank and applications must be submitted by 31st May 2016.
To find out more about Charity Bank, visit: http://charitybank.org/charity-loans  or follow @charitybank