Tag Archives: #ppchange

SHINE 2011; Social Enterprise, Story-telling and Change

On Thursday, I was at Shine 2011, which billed itself as “the UK’s leading unconventional conference (or unconference) for socially-minded entrepreneurs”.

Arriving just after the start, while things were already seemingly in full swing, it took me a little time to work out what was going on, as there seemed to be so much happening in different parts of the interesting space that is Hub Westminster. But, after a while, it started to make sense, and I joined a session on money issues for social entrepreneurs.

I was particularly struck, in this session, by the contribution of Dave Dawes, who describes himself as a “nurse social entrepreneur”. Dave talked about what social entrepreneurs get wrong when seeking financing for their projects, In particular, he was critical of those who invest all their efforts in chasing grants. Dave says everyone is after free money, but they rarely take the time to consider the return on investment of the time and effort spent on filling in grant applications and pitching to funders. There was particular derision accorded from session participants to the example of the “social enterprise” which, when asked what it would do when its grant application had been turned down, replied “wait for next year’s round”. As Dave said, any organisation which is serious about being a social enterprise should be aiming to be profitable in as short a space of time as possible, and if you are making profits, you can afford to borrow money rather than chase grants. If your enterprise is never going to be profitable, it is not a social enterprise.

Later in the day, I interrupted a conversation between Dave and Mel Findlater and asked them to talk to me about some of the issues raised in Dave’s workshop session. It was interesting as well, to hear that Dave is working in a similar space to the Social App Store. 

One of the most interesting and relevant (to the work of SocialReporters.net) sessions I witnessed at SHINE 2011, was Nick Jankel‘s presentation on Story-telling for Changemakers. Nick’s presentation was of particular interest as it accords with the work we are doing to encourage organisations funded by, and associated with, the Big Lottery Fund, to tell the stories which illustrate the differences they are making to people’s lives.

The slides from Nick’s presentation are here:

One of the points that Nick makes is that people who are running interesting projects, or doing innovative things, often make the mistake of assuming that everyone else will be similarly enthused by what they are doing. This is never an automatic process, and people need to learn to communicate the story of the progress they are making.

Nick talks about the differences between the stories of the nature of the world which are told from different points of view. One is that the earth is a mechanism whose finite resources mean that humans must be selfish, protect what they have from each other, and compete for a place in the world. The alternative story is that the earth is a living system, all of whose parts are interconnected, which means that humans must share, collaborate and co-create. It is important that, if you want to change the world, you are able to tell the story of the world view that informs your approach.

The basis of all Hollywood film scripts is “The Hero’s Journey” (see slide 37 of Nick’s presentation above), and this can provide a basic outline for anyone to tell a compelling story about their own work. The seven elements of the “Impact Story” are Connection, Context, Conventions, Consciousness Shift, Concept, Conviction, and Concrete Impact (slides 38-46).

After his presentation, I caught up with Nick to get him to expound on his theories. The video is in two parts, because we were interrupted by a security guard who objected to Nick’s voice echoing through the public part of the building.

Projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund, and bringing about People Powered Change, have some powerful stories to tell, as is often evidenced when they are showcased on television in shows such as the regular Saturday Night lottery programmes, and Village SOS. New social media tools, and the advent of cheap video cameras, camera phones, and other recording devices, mean that it is becoming even easier for such projects to tell their own stories.

 

People Powered Change in Dudley – Joining up the strands

Last week, David Wilcox and I visited Dudley at the invitation of Dudley CVS’s Lorna Prescott to document some of the work that is going on there to join up some of the different initiatives intended to assist local people-led development. Partners in the Borough have been realistic about the new environment they have found themselves in since major public spending cuts started to be felt. Finding that the government’s “Big Society” rhetoric was not necessarily appealing to many in their communities, Lorna was instrumental in helping local partners to come to their own vision, which embraced the Our Society concept, which Lorna, David and I have helped to develop on a national basis.

The local Our Society strategy has moved forward, powered by the drive of people like Lorna, and with the leadership of the Borough’s Local Strategic Partnership, the Dudley Community Partnership. David and I talked to Dennis Hodson, Director of the Partnership about the challenges of supporting people-led development in the age of public austerity, including the tale, which hit national headlines, about what happened when a local community wanted to take over the cutting of grass verges which the local authority could no longer afford to undertake.

One of the most important roles of the Our Society Strategy is in pulling together the strands of different activity in the Borough , particularly where there is funding available. Money is scarce in this field at the moment, and it would be criminal to waste it by duplicating activity and failing to take up opportunities to achieve synergies. There are some key programmes which are able to offer financial support, including the Big Lottery’s Big Local programme, Community First, and others, and Dudley’s Our Society Strategy is designed to ensure the Borough makes the most of these opportunities by strengthening the linkages between them. As highlighted in this discussion between Lorna, Donna Roberts of Dudley Council, and Joanne Weston of Dudley Community Partnership, a prominent concern is to ensure that equalities issues are given due attention.

 

In times of tight resources it is ever more important to take advantage of free tools, like social media platforms, to help bring people together and progress their plans. In this video, Lorna talks to David Wilcox about how social media is playing an increasing role in developing community initiatives, and also touches on some of the frustrations of engaging with key public partners which are lagging behind in adopting such methods.

 

We had an enjoyable day in Dudley, which passed by far too quickly. It is clear that there are some very interesting lessons to be learned from emerging practice in the Borough which is starting to prove that progress can be made in supporting People-Powered Change even in quite disadvantaged areas if reduced levels of funding are carefully targeted and linked together.