• Scottish independence: Whatever the outcome, the trend for greater localism is evident across much of the world

    Two weeks ago I was in Scotland for the excellent CEiS Annual Social Enterprise Conference. Glasgow is rightly still basking in the glory of the Commonwealth Games but as you might expect, there was only one thing that people really wanted to talk to me about – and it wasn’t social enterprise. From taxi drivers to conference delegates and Big Issue vendors, everyone was talking about independence.

    I’m a localist, I wave the ‘local by default’ flag enthusiastically, and passionately believe in self-determination. I know only too well that many of the best ideas and the talents required for tackling our most stubborn social and economic problems exist within the very communities blighted by them.

    Because I believe in self-determination I’ve intentionally stayed well away from wading into the independence debate, particularly when in Scotland. It’s primarily a matter for them but with obvious implications for us all.

    Over the last couple of years I’ve seen more and more of my friends, mainly within the Scottish social economy become more confident and comfortable extolling the virtues of being out and proud as ‘yes’ voters. There’s a strong belief that has been emerging that independence will enable Scotland to become a fairer, more prosperous and more ecologically sustainable country. Whilst the ‘independence = fairer’ is not a belief I share, it’s certainly an ambition, and an aspiration I wholeheartedly support for Scotland, for Britain and for the world.

    Whatever the outcome, the trend for greater localism and self-determination is evident across much of the world, and long may it continue. In my view, the trend to towards greater localism is in part driven as a response to globalisation, where increasingly our lives, our opportunities – even many of our behaviours – are determined less and less by our own ‘free’ choices or even by our respective government’s policies. More and more of these controls, influences and effects are now controlled by opaque transnational companies over whom we have very little influence and almost no control.

    Greater localised political self-determination, whilst welcome, does nothing to assuage the increasing trend of economic power being siphoned from our communities, regions and nations, and placed in the hands of those unaccountable, almost invisible elites controlling our global markets and the transnational mega corps, which have so much more influence over our lives.

    Unless there’s a worldwide revolution that overthrows our globalised market economy (which I fear is unlikely), then localised political power will do little to challenge the rapid rise in inequality, wage stagnation, declining social mobility or climate chaos. What’s needed is much more localised, sustainable economic systems and social enterprise has to be part of that process however local, national or international we determine our political leaders should be.

    I hope to see you in Seoul next month for the Social Enterprise World Forum. Immerse yourselves in what’s happening across Asia and the world, see how far the movement now stretches and is progressing across whole continents. The Social Enterprise World Forum was incidentally born in Edinburgh seven years ago. Convened, developed and scaled by a great friend; an Irish man and a resident of Scotland, an internationally admired social enterprise leader who has his focus firmly on social justice in local neighbourhoods whilst walking and cooperating with nations near and far. We’ll be travelling together with a rag tag of great social enterprise leaders and supporters. It’s still not too late to join us, you’ll come back with a renewed sense of your place in the world whatever the outcome tomorrow.

    Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive, Social Enterprise UK

  • A matter of social justice in health

    By Mark Swift, CEO, Wellbeing Enterprises

    Following a seminar at the NHS Health and Care Innovation expo on Monday, Mark Swift, a speaker at the event, blogs on how the Social Value in Health Programme is aligning the VCSE sector with Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

    Wellbeing Enterprises CIC was the first ‘health and wellbeing’ Community Interest Company to establish in the UK. Set up almost nine years ago we support individuals and communities to achieve better health and wellbeing – helping thousands and thousands of people across the UK to achieve just that.

    We are playing a lead role in the Delivering Social Value in Health Programme funded by the DoH, IVAR and SEUK – which aims to support the implementation of the Social Value Act across localities. Here in Halton we’ve been working alongside a broad array of stakeholders, including representatives from Halton CCG, Halton MBC, and the local voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector to align our social value endeavours with the swell of scientific evidence that describes how people become well and stay that way throughout life. With support from the Programme, we have welcomed international experts such as Dr Lynne Friedli to the borough to help us to define social value locally and ensure this is married up with the evidence underpinning what works to promote and protect wellbeing for all.

    What has emerged from the Programme so far is a consensus amongst stakeholders that efforts to improve economic, social and environmental wellbeing in Halton will rely substantially on our efforts to mobilise the assets of people and place, and to enable all people to maximise their capabilities and have control over their lives. However alongside the need to mobilise local assets and resources, we also recognise the importance of aligning our efforts with those that are aiming to reduce inequalities and promote social justice. The English Review ‘Fair Society, Healthy Lives’ demonstrated how inequalities arise from the social inequalities in the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. Reducing inequalities will require action across all of the social determinants, by central and local government, the NHS, VCSE and private sector.

    Although we have quite some distance to travel as part of the Programme, what is apparent is the convergence of thought around utilising the Social Value Act as a lever to integrate all of our individual efforts to improve the quality of people’s lives and to reduce inequalities.

    This is a matter of fairness and social justice for the people of Halton.

    Find out more about the Social Value Health Programme.

  • Do you pay the living wage?

    Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive SEUK

    A report out earlier this week from the Living Wage Commission shows that an increase in living costs and stagnating wages are creating a squeeze on the five million people in the UK who are in low paid employment. The findings are a sobering read: 6.7m of the 13m people in poverty in the UK are in a family where someone works, and more than 5m workers in the UK – equal to 21% of the workforce – are paid below a living wage – an increase of 9% over the last year.

    For lots of people, the minimum wage simply doesn’t cover the bare necessities. The cost of living crisis is being felt by many as housing, utility bills, transport prices all continue to creep up. The Commission is calling on employers that can pay a living wage to do so. We’ve recently been accredited as a living wage employer at Social Enterprise UK and are pleased to be in a position where we can. But we are only too aware of how difficult it can be for smaller businesses, social enterprises and charities, and those in organisations managing shrinking budgets.

    We would encourage our members who are paying the living wage – like The Phone Coop – to apply in order to be recognised. If you’ve already been accredited please let us know on twitter using our handle @SocialEnt_UK and the hashtag #LivingWage – we’re interested to know of those of you who do and will spread the word.

    We’ve been taking some steps to get our house in order and all of the team at SEUK have been making a real effort to Buy Social at every opportunity. With a few exceptions our supply chain is made up entirely of social enterprises and we were delighted to work with so many social enterprise suppliers at last year’s Social Enterprise Awards. Next on our to-do-list is to measure and report on our own social impact. As a membership organisation and not on the front line, we’ve been told (very nicely) that it’s not going to be easy, but we think it’s important and are about to start working on it. We’ll be publishing the report in the summer.

  • ‘Social value’ must be a priority for those who spend public money

    Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive SEUK

    It’s a year since the Social Value Act came into force. The act places a duty on councils, the NHS and other public bodies in England and Wales to consider how they might improve the economic, social and environmental wellbeing – the “social value” – of a relevant area when they buy and commission goods and services. During the year, I’ve raised many eyebrows with my belief that the act has made commissioning and procurement staff the new rock’n'roll gods of public service. But I am deadly serious. It is ground-breaking legislation. If properly implemented, it can unleash billions of pounds’ worth of public spending power to benefit whole communities.

    It marks a shift in how value is assessed in public service markets. Traditionally, the immediate financial cost of services has been the focus – added social cost or benefit has been factored out. Many argue this has led to a perverse situation, where the lowest bidders win contracts and they are often companies that degrade the quality of services and, in some cases, fuel further social problems. The crumbling care markets are a prime example. Private firms plunge workers into poverty and spread costs to other parts of the public purse, which must foot the bill with in-work benefits just to sustain the workforce.

    The political will that ensured cross-party backing for the legislation arose in the midst of repeated scandals where large outsourcing firms failed at delivery on a grand scale, but still received giant sums of public money. Naturally, the act was greeted cautiously by some. Within local government, many were wary of one more thing to do. And the fact that it came with few guidelines, has left some people wondering what to do with it.

    But there are many public bodies – often local authorities – that have capitalised on its design to give them freedom to spend in socially shrewd ways.

    In Durham, for example, council leaders have launched a Social Value Task Force. They are designing contracted council services to include mechanisms for tackling youth unemployment – a chronic problem in the area. Others, such as Liverpool city council, have included criteria such as payment of the living wage as a basic requirement for any organisation and its suppliers that are bidding to run a council service, in order to tackle inequalities.

    In a recent survey carried out by Social Enterprise UK, 81% of commissioners had taken steps to identify social value criteria and more than 75% said their organisation has issued tenders that include social value criteria. Given that the act is still in its infancy, these are encouraging signs, even allowing for the fact that the sample was a self-selecting group who are probably more enthusiastic champions of the act than is the norm.

    But smaller providers – particularly charities and social enterprises – still struggle to access and win contracts even though they can bring social value. Our survey identified a lack of pre-procurement collaboration between commissioners and providers. The public bodies that report most success with the act work with their local community sector to identify needs and resources, and how contracts can tackle and take advantage of these. Yet our survey found that fewer than one in five community organisations had been involved in a consultation.

    The success of the act will largely rely on a shift in attitude by the commissioners yet to embrace it. So what should those commissioners be doing?

    They should outline clear social value priorities that match their core objectives, in collaboration with local communities, social enterprises and voluntary organisations.

    Failure to change the status quo is a real and growing risk. In the current climate, commissioners who don’t realise the savings and local growth that a genuine social value approach to commissioning services creates are running a huge risk.

    Originally printed in the Guardian 4th February 2014

    For more information and resources about the Social Value Act click here

  • How will you use your energy to change society?

    Julia Rebholz, Managing Director, Ignite Social Enterprise LP

    UK society is facing huge challenges and we believe that the answers do not lie solely with the private sector or the public sector, but with social entrepreneurs, in communities, and in cross-sector partnerships.  We have a responsibility to help develop and grow these businesses. We also hear from social entrepreneurs that they need investment that will match their business needs. We believe that in the same way social entrepreneurs put their beneficiaries at the heart of what they do – impact investors need to do the same by putting the business’ needs at the heart of the investment.

    To address this challenge we set up the £10m Ignite fund which is the UK’s first impact investment fund with a focus on energy, backed by Centrica Plc.  We believe that energy entrepreneurs have a vital role to play in building a better society and we put their needs first to help them achieve their potential.

    We invest people and money (from £50k to £2m) into emerging and mature organisations that have a clear vision of how they benefit society.  By focussing on energy, we’re driving innovation at every point of the energy chain – from sourcing and generation through to supply, service and saving energy.  And by investing in social enterprises we’re making a positive impact on employment, income, housing and local communities.

    As well as providing capital, we work to understand the specific needs of each of our investments and help them grow through mentorship, networking and the skilled support from across the energy industry.

    We believe that investment and support go hand in hand, and that entrepreneurs need support and freedom, much in the same way as children learning to ride bicycles -

    “The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles.  A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom.  The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard”  —Sloan Wilson

    For this reason we launched The Big Energy Idea, in collaboration with Wayra which will provide 10 energy social entrepreneurs with an individual package of support and the potential for funding of a minimum £50,000 to grow the social impact they create.

    Applications are now open until the 28th February at or @BigEnergyIdea – How will you use your energy to change society?

  • The Social Value Act, almost one year on…


    SEUK’s Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Olof Jonsdottir, worked closely with Chris White MP on behalf of the social enterprise sector to navigate the Social Value Act through parliament. Almost one year on from its implementation, Olof shares the progress so far and what’s been going on behind the scenes. 


    After a hard-fought campaign by the sector, there was a real feeling of having arrived at a game-changing moment when the Social Value Act came into force on 31st January 2013. But what difference has the Act made almost one year on?  It’s still early days in terms of judging its long-term impact, but the team at SEUK have been busy working with social enterprises, public bodies, corporates and policy-makers to build capacity for implementing the Act and we’re seeing a number of consistent trends emerging from the conversations we’re having around the UK.

    The EU is being increasingly vocal in its support for social value, from speeches in the European Parliament to the language of social value appearing in procurement guidance – more than ever, there should be no question about Europe holding us back on this.  At some point during 2014 (when exactly hasn’t been announced), the EU procurement thresholds are also due to rise from around £175,000 to approximately £400,000 at local government level.

    Because the threshold is set to rise, more contracts will fall beneath the new level, meaning that fewer will be mandated to go out to formal competition via the traditional procurement routes. The good news is that public sector bodies will have greater freedom. We’re already seeing the Act be applied to contracts of all sizes, not just those above the thresholds. Procurers will continue to have greater flexibility to make sure their processes meet local needs.

    There were some concerns around Westminster that private sector companies would view the Act as burdensome and unnecessary regulation.  SEUK’s work with corporates like Wates and Landmarc has shown that in many cases the opposite is true, with progressive companies seeing the Act as an opportunity to emphasise their social and environmental credentials and distinguish themselves from their rivals, whether bidding for public sector contracts or competing in other areas – for example, in order to attract the brightest and best new graduates who place increasing importance on working for a company they can feel proud of.

    Government figures were also worried that public sector officials would see the Act as additional bureaucracy to be waded through.  In fact, commissioners we’ve spoken to have widely welcomed it saying it gives them a platform for working creatively to meet local needs.  That said, different drivers and pressures are at play within public commissioning and procurement arms, and work is needed to unite these professions in the pursuit of shared priorities. For example, the government’s flagship Commissioning Academy would do well to draw these two professions together rather than maintain the divide.

    At the same time, there is enormous variation in the legal advice being given to public bodies.  We’re told that many in-house lawyers still maintain that social value-led purchasing contradicts EU regulations, whilst others suggest a superficial tick-box approach will neatly avoid having to make any real changes.  These myths and more are busted in a short SEUK guide by Mark Cook, the lawyer who advised Chris White and government on the passage of the Act – loud and consistent messaging from Government to reinforce this would go a long way.

    Lastly, the big question coming from social enterprises is ‘how should we measure our impact in a way that helps us to demonstrate our social value?’. There’s no single or industry standard tool which can do this and each public body will have their own social value priorities, meaning that however you measure your impact, you’ll need to communicate your strengths in a way that aligns with what public bodies are looking for.

    Looking ahead, there are many avenues of untapped potential for the Act and we’ll be exploring these through the work of the Social Economy Alliance.  To build some baseline data, SEUK have also teamed up with NCVO and the LGA to create a short survey on how the Social Value Act is being perceived and implement around the UK, with the results due to be published at the end of January 2014.

    Click here to share your experiences – we’d love to hear your thoughts.


  • Bridges and walkways, not more models and engines


    By Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK

    An increasing number of conversations are returning to the issue of CICs, charities, coops and their respective investability. The conversations relate to whether the current range of legal models are good enough to meet both the aspirations of social entrepreneurs who want to run or establish socially- driven businesses, versus the ambition of social investors who, with predictable frequency, claim the supply of investable social enterprises is either woeful or nonexistent.

    For the purposes of clarity we’re not talking about the mega charities, about asset rich housing associations, about more established social enterprises or universities; they can and do borrow using the finance markets as an effective way to meet their capital requirements and investment needs. An increasing number of organisations like Manchester University, Scope and Greenwich Leisure Ltd are increasingly developing their own financial bonds to raise significant capital to expand, invest and build.

    Where the disconnect really exists is with the smaller social enterprises, the new starts, the disruptors and the innovators that choose to opt for a social enterprise because they don’t seek to only disrupt a market but a whole economic premise – about what a business can and should be. But these businesses can achieve investment; Midlands Together CIC being just one such recent example. There’s some myth-busting that urgently needs to be done. Because we are in danger, as my colleague Nick Temple said in his recent blog, of a headlong rush to suit the models to the finance. And as Nigel Kershaw of Big Issue Invest (and newly crowned Social Enterprise Champion) might say, we are at risk of forgetting that the finance is a tool – it is a means to an end.

    To become investible does not and should not mean (ever) that social entrepreneurs should avoid mission-locks and asset-locks in order to raise the capital they need.

    We learn nothing if we don’t learn from history, and the evidence is there for all to see that businesses, particularly those with strong social values or a strong sense of morality, have been vulnerable to dilution (or obliteration) of their social mission after they achieve success. Their need for has caused them to acquire new institutional investor-owners who believe that it is all (and only) about the money.

    I spent years working for Marks and Spencer when it was still a family-controlled business and during its transition to a PLC. I worked within Body Shop International, both when owned by Gordon and Anita Roddick and subsequently after they ceased to be majority shareholders. In both cases their social, staff and/or environmental commitments were eroded.  And I’m also aware that my own experiences are not unique; remember Cadbury, Quaker, Ben and Jerry’s, Rowntree, the building societies of the past…. the path to money-hungry investor-owned organisations which started with a strong sense of moral or social purpose is littered with casualties. Time will tell whether we can add the Cooperative Bank to the growing list of companies that once were more than profit with purpose.

    In previous conversations with executives at both the John Lewis Partnership and at Tata Group, my view that social mission and assets require a lock has been reinforced. Both companies would have been taken over, probably asset-stripped and would be mere shadows of their former selves (and their founders’ social and moral values) had they not ensured that strong chains shackled their businesses and made it all but impossible to lose the founding principles and commitments to society with which they started.

    But locks and chains are, of course, no guarantee of positive social impact. In fact I’ve experienced a small but significant number of charities and social enterprises that, despite all the positive intentions of founders – and with all the legal locks in place – are not particularly socially useful.  Indeed, many are poorly-managed and inherently unworthy of investment, be it via philanthropy, volunteering, partnership or overdraft.

    So (and apologies for spending so much time getting here) my point is really this: we don’t need new legal models for the social enterprise sector to grow exponentially. The ones we have should do us just fine. Nor do we need the emperor’s new clothes of trust engines, or other social gadgets, widgets or gizmos. But what we do need is a bit more imagination in using what we already have. And we need a willingness, indeed an eagerness, to build bridges, understanding and solutions that help us meet each other somewhere in middle or somewhere altogether new.  We need social investors who recognise that protecting mission and assets permanently is important to most social entrepreneurs. And the social sector needs to understand that the new generation of social investors need to see a pipeline of organisations that are professionally-run, transparent, viable, sometimes scalable, but ultimately impactful, and not operated in the interests of a quick profit or, worse, a quick exit.

    And we all need to be a little bit more patient, because these bridges have not been built before; they are not necessarily only about connecting two different places, they may be taking us to a whole new place. The investable, mission-locked social enterprises are already here, and more are on the way their way. The social investors are beginning to create a small but energetic crowd.

    The new social investment sector needs to emerge with ever-evolving financial instruments, and with rationale costs that meet the needs of our sector. Just because demand and supply aren’t in harmony just yet doesn’t mean they never will be.

    I resolutely do not accept that charities and social enterprises need to build to adopt corporate models in order to resource themselves and grow. This in my view would be a disaster – and the first step towards the privatisation of civil society.

  • Public Services We Can Believe In


    By Dan Gregory, Head of Policy at Social Enterprise UK

    Tony Blair – the man probably most responsible for introducing the language of ‘public service reform’ into our national lexicon – once famously floundered in Parliament when asked to sum up his political ideology. The heirs to Blair – Miliband, Clegg and Cameron – have followed his lead in recent weeks as they rustle up policies to sort out pay day lenders, mortgages and energy markets. What should government do when private markets fail? Each party variously advocates price-fixing, sometimes subsidies, sometimes tax and sometimes regulation but with little consistency to suggest any deep, driving principles are guiding their approach to managing markets. Blair would surely nod approvingly, as a firm believer only in ‘what works’.

    But what about public services, where ideology is perhaps still at large? Any politician seeking to drive forward public service reform is likely to be confronted by those with a vested interest in the choice between the state and the market, between in-house provision or going out to tender.

    The taxpayer it seems, doesn’t actually like privatisation very much. Successive governments have often been to the right of the taxpayer, outsourcing regardless of a public mandate, not least in the NHS. PWC polling suggests that citizens prefer public control in most cases, reporting a “visceral belief that the profit motive is inherently harmful and likely to erode service quality”.

    Among public servants, ideology is also strong. Trade unions representing the staff side have fought for public ownership, often from a political rather than practical position in order to provide a counterweight to the mainstream political parties fondness for outsourcing, whatever the limitations or failure of public models in certain circumstances and whatever the views of the staff.

    Finally, the beneficiaries, ‘customers’ or service users have had almost no voice at all in decisions over who runs their public services.

    So for too long, each of these groups have been ignored, neglected or short-changed by their representatives. Partly, this is because of an unimaginative ideological framing set in the 20th Century which pits public against private and ignores, a meaningful third way (in lower case) of social, common or co-operative ownership.

    It turns out that taxpayers are also very supportive of a role for not-for-profits, such as charities and social enterprises. Sadly, public bodies have had almost no levers at their disposal to select such a provider if they do go out to competition; procurement law has been ‘ownership blind’. Crudely put, the choice is to keep it public or cross your fingers and hope that somehow the social sector wins against the might of private competition. But this is changing. A space is opening up for public bodies, staff and beneficiaries to choose a space between public and private. The Social Value Act, which entered into force earlier this year, now places a duty on public officials to consider wider social value in the procurement process. And this summer, the EU provisionally agreed new procurement rules which allow public bodies to reserve contracts exclusively to social enterprises – those with a public service mission, which reinvest profits in pursuit of that objective, and are either employee, user or stakeholder owned or managed – for a time-limited period.

    Space is opening up for staff too. Sometimes, working for an independent, not-for-profit can appeal to staff as a way to take greater control over their own destiny and reconnect with their public service ethos. Yet often, those interested in this model have been accused of “opening the back door to privatisation”, which is ludicrous given the scale of the services being carried out the ‘front door’ to the private sector through competitive tendering. But this too is changing. Earlier this year, Co-operatives UK and the Trade Union Congress came together to agree principles for when ‘public service mutuals’ can make sense, as long as staff are up for it and assets are locked in. Workers’ representatives are becoming less suspicious of social enterprises and some are starting to see the possibilities for a new era of empowerment of our public sector professionals and workers.

    Finally, service users are also finally starting to have their frustrations heard – from the Olympics to the Work Programme and care homes. On the back of public sentiment, a new campaign called We Own It has introduced the idea of a Public Service Users Bill, intended to give the beneficiaries of public services a greater say in decisions which affect them.

    So politicians can move beyond a tired conflict between 20th century concepts of left versus right, without falling into a hole of believing in nothing at all. A position beyond public versus private which can enable greater innovation and entrepreneurial approaches while retaining a public service ethos and a commitment to social value. Politicians can seize this idea, filling an ideological vacuum at the heart of our politics, and meeting the aspirations of the taxpayer, workers and beneficiaries, who still believe in our public services.

    A new report by Social Enterprise UK - Out of the Shadows - was published on 28 October.

    First published on the Huffington Post.

  • Harness the power of video! It’s here to stay.

    Recent statistics show that watching video is now a mainstream activity and that more people are viewing online video than ever before.

    It’s estimated that video promotion is over 6 times more effective than print and online text. Furthermore, 80% of internet users could recall watching an online video they had visited in the past 30 days, while 46% took some action after viewing them.

    So how can your social enterprise benefit from the opportunities video offers? Here are three easy-to-implement video strategies that could help you increase your business.

    #1 Tips and Guide videos are all too frequently overlooked and underrated yet they are one of the most immediate and effective ways to generate leads, engage viewers and increase your online presence. Relatively easy to make, a short 1-2 minute video tip is a great way to showcase your expertise and products. When you offer valuable tips to potential customers, statistics show that you significantly increase the chances of them returning to your site and hiring your services or purchasing a product.

    #2 Video Testimonials –  If you are able to, video testimonials from one or two satisfied customers are extremely effective in building customer trust and your credibility. Place the video on your home page and keep it short, honest and always non-scripted. A good video testimony is priceless!

     #3 Profile Videos – Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research has said that ‘a minute of video is worth 1.8 million words’. When it comes to a profile video, 2 -3 minutes is all it takes to introduce yourself and tell viewers about your Social Enterprise. A profile video is a great platform to showcase your mission and the people behind it. Customers can see and hear you speak – an excellent way to get your story across and boost your success rate by attracting the right kind of customers for your enterprise.

    Whether you create the videos yourself or, ideally, hire a professional team to do it, using video can also significantly boost your site positioning on Google page rankings. Bear in mind that YouTube is the most popular search engine after Google, and if optimised correctly, video can increase your search engine rankings by 53 times!

    In business today it’s not only about who you know – it’s also about who knows you. Video is the perfect tool to showcase your social mission, story and product whilst also promoting your services to as large a customer base as possible. Why not give it a try?

    Jonathan Rose is the Managing Director of Big Fish Small Fish, a Social Enterprise production company that creates low cost, effective videos for Social Enterprises, charities and small businesses. Big Fish Small Fish also offers free video production training and marketing webinars. Find us at :

  • Social enterprise recruitment: top tips on how to get the best talent

    Simon Bascombe, Senior Consultant at CIPFA Recruitment Services, suggests that recruitment in social enterprise is a balance between meeting the business needs of an organisation and finding people who will support its overriding social mission.   

    Recent years have witnessed the growth and success of social enterprise.  This success combined with the rise of the social entrepreneur is driving demand for talented and skilled individuals to help organisations stay at the top of their game. But, wading through the talent pool to find people who have the right mix of commercial acumen and commitment to the cause is challenging, even in the best of times, and this is where a specialist can come in handy.

    CIPFA Recruitment Services has first-hand experience of striking this balance, with our own senior management teams recruiting people who can juggle.  As part of a chartered institute with charitable status, our own employees must deliver the commercial aspects of CIPFA as well as represent the interests of members who work in public finance.

    Highlighted below are some top tips for HR and senior management teams to consider when recruiting for social enterprise.

    Employ people who have the right mind-set

    The nature of social enterprise today means that recruiters and HR teams need to look beyond whether an individual can meet set business objectives. When recruiting to social enterprise teams it is also important to consider whether the new recruit fits and understands the existing culture of an organisation.

    Moving from a commercial organisation to a social enterprise organisation, where work is frequently people based, requires not only a certain skills set  but also a certain mind set.

    Don’t ignore your talent management programme

    It is no secret that good talent management is at the heart of many a productive organisation, and it is just as important for the success of a social enterprise as it is for a commercially driven FTSE 100.  Too often large social enterprises overlook the need for structured recruitment programmes with talent management and succession planning initiatives in place.  In social enterprise work is overwhelmingly people based and driven.  Therefore, when one key player leaves the team this can be damaging to the organisation as a whole.

    Don’t leave succession planning to the last minute

    Succession planning and good talent management techniques play a significant role in the long term stability and management of social enterprises.  Do not leave it to the last minute to put these initiatives into place and if your organisation lacks the expertise needed to do this, then outside specialists will be able to help.

    Embed a culture of support

    At the core of every social enterprise is its overriding social mission and this is often the main motivator for employees.  Motivation and engagement provide the fuel to reach ambitious targets in social enterprise, and so embedding a culture of support and encouragement ensures that employees work together to full effect. In today’s workplace environment employees have busy lives and are often faced with competing demands.  Individuals as well as teams need support to feel that they can meet the challenges set at work.

    Focus on leadership development

    Concentrating on leadership development and individual capability will help deliver commercial and social objectives. Adopting this approach means that attention is paid to how to get the best out of individuals and teams plus ensuring that challenging commercial and social targets are met. By building and recruiting teams with these attributes social enterprises will stay at the top of the ladder.

    Adopt an engaging approach

    And finally, one of the best sourcing tools for new talent we have is conversation.  Social enterprises frequently embrace the art of engagement through conversation and this aptitude is vital to recruit the best talent. From a short discussion a lot can be gleaned about a candidate including, their suitability for a role, how they may come across in an interview as well as fully understanding what is driving their search for a new role in social enterprise.  What are their motivators and do they fit with the culture of your organisation?

    Verbal communication also requires a different skill set and being able to communicate effectively is important for social enterprise. Right at the start of the recruitment process candidates should be assessed for this skill.  The right staff will contribute significantly to the success of a social enterprise, but the wrong staff can cause a great deal of damage to the same organisation.  For this reason alone speaking directly to a potential candidate, particularly for senior positions, is crucial. 

    Consider using a recruitment specialist

    Successful sourcing and recruitment of talented individuals to your organisation can prove a challenging task.  Making the most of specialist recruitment consultants will help you to balance commercial goals and social missions, whilst creating teams that add vitality and attract success.

    To join the conversation follow CIPFA on Twitter.  Connect with us through LinkedIn or visit .