Britons are more likely to donate to campaigns that help people survive, than thrive. Christain Aid explains its decision to concentrate its new ad campaign on the upside
Over the past few days, television viewers in the UK might have caught a glimpse of an ad shot by Christian Aid to mark our annual week-long fundraising drive. The campaign, filmed on location in Sierra Leone, depicts the difference a solar freezer could make to the life of a local fisherman, helping him not only feed his family, but then market his catch and maybe even open a small restaurant.
Instead of grinding poverty, the ad features smiling faces, energetic children and upbeat music – our attempt to tell the true story of positive intervention. However the fact remains: UK-based NGOs, seeking donations from the British public for development and aid work overseas today, face something of an obstacle course in presenting the case that urgent need still exists.
In choosing to tell the true story of a positive intervention made through one of our partner agencies in the life of the York Island community, Christian Aid has had to walk a delicate line, leaving viewers with the sense that an end to poverty is possible – some of the world’s fastest growing economies are in sub-Saharan Africa – but that real needs still exist that Britons can help to alleviate. But the million dollar question is how.
My team recently conducted research involving groups most likely to support Christian Aid. The findings suggested that while people were perfectly willing to donate to help people survive, they were more reticent to put their hands in their pockets to help people thrive. Any footage showing a poor person with a mobile phone – or colour television – would be counterproductive, we were told. That response rang true recently when I gave a talk using one of the case studies for Christian Aid Week that features a mobile phone project. There was an audible gasp from the group on first mention of phones.
It was only when we’d watched the film together and discussed the project in detail that they could see for themselves the usefulness of mobile phones in delivering early warnings to communities exposed to extreme weather events as a result of climate change. We don’t have that luxury with a television advert. It has to do the job of announcing Christian Aid Week, support our army of volunteer collectors and motivate people to give. All in just 30 seconds.
We would never resort to an advert that portrays people living in poverty as people without their own dignity. The question for us was whether we could move away from a Christian Aid Week advertising message that had been fairly simple – ‘sending money over there’ – to a more complex message about food security, hope and independence.
It’s an age-old question, the dissonance between rhetoric and reality in advertising, can we talk about our work and world view without depressing income? The potential supporters we discussed it with said yes. That was enough to take the risk and make the ad.
So far, the advert has been well received by the public and our volunteer collectors. Perhaps more importantly still, our colleagues and the community in Sierra Leone like the film. As someone said to me on Twitter: “This is an ad you can be proud to show your beneficiaries”.
Proof of how successful we have been will come when we discover whether this year’s fundraising week has reached or exceeded the target of £12.7m. That’s the hard reality: if the film changes perceptions but doesn’t support the donations that are urgently needed then we’ll need to think again.
The challenges that we and other agencies face in tapping into the generosity of the British public start at home. As this newspaper recently remarked, the economic climate today is much tougher than it was eight years ago when Make Poverty History galvanised public opinion and G8 leaders at Gleneagles delivered on trade and debt, or said they would.
Africa too has changed. Once the graveyard of good intentions, it is fast changing its image. The former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan announced in an annual progress report last week that there was “good reason to be optimistic”. Nearly half of the countries there have been identified as resource rich by the IMF, and have “sustained high growth and improved their citizens’ daily lives”.
It is not all good news though. The same report goes on to say that in many African countries, rising inequality is slowing the rate at which growth reduces poverty. “Countries across Africa are becoming richer, but whole sections of society are being left behind,” it warns.
This is the complexity we need to get across in our stories. While there will always be a need for advertising that emphasises desperation – in response to natural disasters for instance – we think it’s time to try and present aid and development in a different way.
In our ad, the sun may be shining, and the participants – all local villagers – may look buoyant. But more than 60% of Sierra Leoneans live below the poverty line, the average life expectancy is 48, and malnutrition ranks among the world’s highest, with acute malnutrition at or above the emergency level of 15% of children under five years old.
Helping alleviate poverty is not simply about feeding the hungry, it’s about enabling communities to help themselves. That is the message that needs to come across loud and clear.
Steven Buckley is head of communications at Christian Aid. You can follow him on Twitter @stevenbuckley
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Selling online with the spare bedroom as warehouse was fine – to start. Now designers Rog and Cat How have taken on staff and moved into a studio
When my wife Cat and I first decided to start up a business, we had plenty of ideas, enthusiasm and a very meagre investment.
The only way we could get started with our business – an online design shop called Howkapow – was to keep our running costs to an absolute minimum. We had an office in our spare room, and did everything ourselves, from designing and building the website, to running our own ad campaigns. We focused almost all our initial cash into the most essential part of the business – stock.
We plugged away for about two years and, as our sales gradually grew, we put everything we earned back into the business and kept on increasing our stock level and the diversity of products offered on the website. We closely analysed our sales and got a really good feel for what sold well and what our customers wanted to buy. Working from home was great as it cost us nothing and we wasted no time commuting. The most tricky thing was finishing work. We’d frequently work into the night and then end up just cooking dinner and going to bed.
When the opportunity came to take on a pop-up shop in the middle of Bristol, we were really able to hit the ground running, with a fairly broad stock base and confidence in our products. All we needed to sort out were the fittings and furniture to display it all.
The pop-up was open seven days a week, so both Cat and I worked every single day for about six months. We kept the shop running and ran the website from the back of the shop. It was a hard slog, but it really helped to galvanise our reputation as a serious business. I think there’s an old-fashioned mentality, that if you don’t have a physical shop, then your business is somehow less valid or worthy. It’s something we experience often at trade fairs.
Some suppliers turn their nose up at a web-only business, which I think is a huge error considering the growth of the online market. The pop-up was a great way to counter this kind of attitude. The press wrote more about us, and even our friends and family took the business more seriously.
It was interesting to see that what sold well online wasn’t necessarily what sold well in the pop-up. We had to adjust our stock accordingly. The increased turnover meant that we had more money to spend on new products, too. We grew our stock level by around 50% in order to make the most of the shop space. We filled the shelves over the Christmas period and did some really good trade in the shop. All the while the online trade was also flourishing and we experienced a real surge in sales. More people were talking about us, searching for us on Google and ultimately buying their gifts from us.
Despite the great success, we decided to close the pop-up in April. It was a lot of work to keep it running. We felt that after the festive period it was slowing down our growth opportunities rather than helping. The cost of keeping the shop open in terms of rent, staff cost and time meant it just wasn’t worth it. When you compare all the costs to the online wing of the business, it’s difficult to justify. Online selling is so efficient, and the growth opportunities more or less infinite, so we decided to concentrate on that. That’s not to say we won’t open another physical shop at some point though. It just has to be the right time and place.
We’re now running the website from a studio in Bristol. We decided that going back to working from home wasn’t really an option because we’d increased our stock level so much that we just didn’t have the space. It was also key for us to have somewhere we could grow into and have staff come and work with us, too.
It’s been a really good couple of months, as we’ve had more time to get organised after the manic pop-up. We also now have our press and PR manager working with Cat and I every day, which is helping us reach more people via the press. Having a really efficient head office means we have the time and space to look at new opportunities and it feels like we can carry on moving forward.
All things considered, pop-ups can bring a much needed physical presence and generate attention to an existing virtual business. They are also an excellent way to test the water with a new idea or business, but with the growth of e-commerce, the way to make the most of it is to use it to complement rather than replace your existing home grown business.
Rog How is director of Howkapow
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Mandy Weston went from being a board member at an international company to the founder of her own business. Here, she gives her tips for anyone else looking to make that transition
In spring 2012 I took the terrifying step of leaving my role as a board member for an international environment compliance company to set up on my own.
I had worked at board level for more than a decade and managed more than 250 staff. I controlled PR, human resources and marketing departments, not to mention budgets worth in excess of £1m.
You might assume choices made as a ‘lone ranger’ in business are somehow less significant than those reached at executive level, but I can assure you this is not true – in many ways they are much harder to make.
It is nine months since I decided to offer various clients the benefits of my expertise from my own company, Wize Consulting, and from this perspective my role is the same as ever.
I still make the changes necessary to increase the bottom line for businesses on my books, I still sit in boardrooms occasionally, I still drink plenty of coffee. It’s the ‘being my own boss’ bit of the job description that has challenged and at times surprised me in spite of my career experience.
Firstly, I employ three people who are solely reliant on me bringing home the bacon every month, and there is little to no margin between me as manager and them as employees (where once there was a gaping chasm occupied by HR staff).
Maybe it is due to my management experience that I sometimes find this a truly terrifying prospect – having awareness of the multiple HR processes that companies, especially large ones, are required by law to comply with these days.
But what I have learned, in searching for a solution to my many sleepless nights, is there is no need to work alone on any aspect of your startup business.
About the same time I launched Wize, a previous employer invited me to help launch a social enterprise he was creating to accommodate and support startup businesses in my local town, Caerphilly, called the Welsh Innovation Centre for Enterprise (ICE).
Welsh ICE is a social enterprise offering start-up businesses in Caerphilly the advice and financial support needed to launch them with help from partnering organisations and expert mentors in business finance, marketing, PR, funding, planning, branding and other areas.
As you can imagine, growing both organisations side by side has been an interchangeable process and has taught me a lot, both in terms of the experience I already had and my distinct lack of it as a new business owner.
I now realise there are loads of schemes in place to help small businesses walk without feeling forced into a jog too soon, and there are centres around like ICE that can hold your hand while you are doing it, too.
In Wales one such scheme is Jobs Growth Wales, which offers not only financial support in hiring your first employees but also advice from a real, living person on all sorts of HR issues. I’d advise anyone new to running their own business to check what is available in their own area.
Having put suitable broadband and other links to my office at ICE in place at home means I also have the opportunity to work from the house whenever I feel like it too, which works brilliantly well for me as a single mum with a 13-year-old daughter. It means I can usually pick her up from school, or be at home with her when she’s ill, and saves me money on childcare too.
Here’s some other lessons I have learned, based on my own experience of launching my own version of a bigger business in an area I already had knowledge of:
• Don’t ever assume you are qualified to make decisions alone. I found myself turning to friends from my corporate career to answer HR, payroll, VAT registration and staff contract queries.
• Don’t forget, even if you’re starting your global empire from the safety of your back bedroom, there are still overheads involved in securing the right broadband coverage and creating your business phone number, your website and your accounts system.
• Don’t assume you know the market just because you’ve been dealing with it from the comfort of your corporate office for 20 years – do your homework and don’t be afraid to use contacts from your previous career or associates on social media such as LinkedIn, for example, to get business.
• Do prepare to swap your previous role for that of accountant/HR manager/PR executive/marketing assistant and above all salesperson. I was least prepared for how much my role would involve selling our services as well as delivering them.
• Do prepare. I took a couple of months to plan things alongside my existing role. Think about all the things you take for granted in a corporate setting.
Do give it at least a year (ideally two) and above all, don’t forget that you will work harder than you have worked before but the rewards will be greater than ever too.
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Researchers at the Centre for Charitable Giving are investigating the reasons why prominent entrepreneurs, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, become philanthropic
“How do you become philanthropic?,” is a question that has never really been studied in depth. What does the journey from entrepreneur to philanthropist look like, and how can we chart these experiences to help the cause of more and increasingly effective giving?
Our research team, based at the universities of Newcastle, Exeter and Strathclyde, has conducted a major initiative to understand the experiences of entrepreneurs turned philanthropists: the ‘big-givers’ of all backgrounds, whether they are local or international players, who have become committed to sharing their wealth. The group will present its findings on “Understanding the philanthropic journey” at a CGAP Conference in London on Thursday where they will co-present with two leading entrepreneur-philanthropists: Sir Tom Hunter of West Coast Capital and Hunter Foundation, and Rakesh Bharti Mittal of Bharti Enterprises and Bharti Foundation.
We want this research to show there is a logical process at play which many struggle to understand. Entrepreneurs apply the same rigour and disciplines from the world of commerce to the charitable sector, which suggests there is in fact a science to giving at this level that can be replicated and learned from.
Entrepreneurs bring business methods and disciplines to philanthropy – they don’t like wasting money and like to be focussed and planned and their charitable partners to be vetted. Andrew Carnegie, a man famed for the mass manufacture of steel in America, is perhaps the best example of this.
His pervasive influence within the field of philanthropy stems more than anything from his treatise on ‘wealth’, known as ‘The Gospel of Wealth’, where he concludes: “the problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth, so that the ties of brotherhood may still bind together the rich and the poor in harmonious relationship.” Through his charitable projects Andrew Carnegie gave away almost everything he had earned to a wide range of projects, from arts to education. Entrepreneurs tend to be gifted in recognising and consciously applying the principles of capital accumulation. This is critical to making philanthropy more effective at a time when there is increasing inequality of wealth and income. What are the hallmarks of entrepreneurial philanthropy? Our research shows the following:
• It is the pursuit by entrepreneurs on a not-for-profit basis of big social objectives through active involvement of their economic, cultural, social and symbolic resources.
• They apply business-like methods when making social investments: key performance indicators and rates of return.
• Entrepreneurs invest more than simply money to their causes: time, connections, the ‘know-how’, branding.
• They like to leverage investments and frequently partner with others, including governments.
• Businessmen and women don’t believe in giving handouts. They want to help others to help themselves.
Our studies have also shown that philanthropy is not a one way street. Entrepreneurs benefit from forms of capital, like honorary titles, degrees and recognition. Their world becomes a lot richer, they meet interesting people and come to mix in very interesting circles. What they learn can be turned to economic advantage. The possession of this status and level of connections within the world helps build philanthropy further over time. Therefore, giving encourages these greater returns and helps facilitate more philanthropic enterprises.
A large aspect of the research has been interviewing businessmen and women confronted by the burdensome issue of what to do with more money than they could ever spend in a lifetime. We have asked why they decided to become philanthropic and what they got out of it.
Their motivation is often revealed in their personal experiences and personal values. What makes them get involved in the voluntary sector is commonly understood to be a landmark event within their life that triggers a transition. One entrepreneur said the death of his mother from cancer in 2008 had prompted the change:
“Suddenly life felt a bit meaningless. We were sitting there in a big house in Berkshire, with a house in the south of France, and two beautiful little girls and everything seems perfect … It [the death of his mother] made me feel more emotional … It probably made me start thinking about giving … I think another thing is when I sold the business I didn’t know, I felt like I wanted to start giving but I didn’t know how to or who to give to or what way to do it, I hadn’t a clue, no one teaches you how to be philanthropic.”
While entrepreneurs have all the intellectual capacity to make giving more effective, they frequently search for the guidance to become philanthropic. What we need are more stories to be told by philanthropists because they are its best advocates.
We also need access to fellow philanthropists to share their experiences. The level of giving relative to wealth and also need is nowhere near as high as it could or should be. What we witness are some very generous individuals among a lot of people who do little or nothing. A lot can be learned from these practised entrepreneurs and philanthropic groups, such as The Philanthropy Fellowship led by UK Community Foundations and funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, to inspire more and better philanthropy.
The voluntary redistribution of wealth, however, cannot serve as a substitute for welfare in times of austerity. IMF figures (2012) show there is a clear relationship between income inequality and the dynamics of the global economy. The gap between the top 5% and the rest of us has risen very sharply since the early 1980s in the UK & US and other countries of the developed world. As profits and top pay rise it becomes more obvious that this is unsustainable. The power of entrepreneurial philanthropy lies in helping others to help themselves and seize opportunities for betterment.
Professor Charles Harvey is pro-vice-chancellor for humanities and social sciences at Newcastle University
A development bank financed by the giants of the developing world has the potential to change how development is done, but the devil is in the detail
At the first Bric summit in Yekaterinburg, Russia in 2009, then member states Brazil, Russia, India and China expressed mounting dissatisfaction with the inertia in the Bretton Woods institutions (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) and agreed to “advance the reform of international financial institutions, so as to reflect changes in the global economy.” Russia’s president, Dmitri Medvedev, said the main point of the meeting was to show that “the Bric should create conditions for a more just world order.” This sentiment, to reform the global economy has been a primary point of convergence for the group ever since and a common position around which to establish a new institution.
Nearly four years later, Bric has gained an ‘s’ with the addition of South Africa and that new, highly anticipated, institution spoken of in Russia was finally announced at the 2013 Durban Summit — but not quite as the international community expected it. The statement was based on a report by their finance ministers suggesting that a Brics development bank was feasible and viable, inspiring the heads of state of the member nations to conclude: “The initial contribution to the bank should be substantial and sufficient for the bank to be effective in financing infrastructure.” Anticlimactic to say the least.
The Brics members have been able to quickly establish a common purpose to diversify the current international financial institutions to be more inclusive and representative of today’s economic realities. However, the details on how to do this seem to have been hard to agree on. Very little concrete information has been released on the proposed development bank. The leaders have positioned it as an institution to finance long-term infrastructure projects within the Brics countries, expanding to other low-income countries only after taking domestic actions. The location, leadership, start-up capital or indeed how the head of the bank will be chosen and other pivotal decisions made, have yet to be determined and no timeline on progress has been released.
This lack of information makes it difficult to gauge what the bank will and will not do, and therefore difficult to judge the kind of impact it is likely to have on global development. In its most successful form, it is hoped that the bank will achieve three things. First, it will respond to developing countries needs as opposed to the priorities of the lending institution. Second, it will fill any current gaps in financing, including access to finance for small and medium enterprises. Finally, it will finance infrastructure projects in places normally neglected by the private sector, and infrastructure projects to support an increased standard of living for all.
On the other hand the bank could fail. The conflicting interests between the Brics members may be too great to reach agreement for implementation. It has been suggested that the start-up capital need would be $50bn (£32bn) and should be divided equally among the members, a $10bn contribution from each. However, tensions may arise as China has the capacity to contribute $50bn on its own while $10bn from South Africa is substantial. The breakdown of start-up contributions may affect decision-making and leadership.
The bank could also be considered a failure if it simply replicates the characteristics of the major development finance institutions, with rigid lending conditions and donor directed decision-making instead of being based on the needs of recipient governments. If the bank merely tries to trump the existing institutional architecture, it will prove to be redundant and fail to provide progressive services, to move the current development paradigm forward. When the bank is formally established, its functioning will indicate that the group has managed to find a way to balance the power and the relative capabilities of each country, based on their varying financial reserves and immediate development needs.
To ensure success of the bank, the Durban eThekwini declaration outlined an action plan of ministerial and high-level officials meetings to facilitate ongoing dialogue on country positions and priorities. In theory these meetings should clarify the details necessary to get the bank up and running. As individual nations, the Brics have had varied success in developing fair societies. Ideally, as a collective and through this new bank, they will take the lead in championing sustainable development, and a participatory, collaborative approach that results in equitable growth. For now though, the world watches and waits.
Caroline Bracht is a senior researcher in the Brics Research Group at the University of Toronto
Join our experts on 15 May to discuss whether the transfer of youth services to mutual ownership can benefit young people
Since taking office in 2010, the government has emphasised the need for greater diversity in public service delivery. Part of this has come through the Cabinet Office’s public sector mutuals programme, which encourages public sector workers, or the communities they serve, to take over the running of public services under mutual ownership.
The transfer of youth services to mutual ownership is an area that is actively being considered by some local authorities. Recently the Cabinet Office granted an organisationin Knowsley £93,000 to support a youth services spin-off.
Meanwhile, The Co-operative, through its public service mutuals initiative, has been working with a number of local authorities to help them transfer youth services into mutual bodies, focusing on the opportunities to empower young people through enhanced participation and engagement that this affords. Recent work has included the creation of Young Lambeth Co-operative, an independent, community-owned organisation that will shortly take over the running of play and youth service provision in the borough.
The public sector mutuals programme is not the first example we’ve seen of young people benefiting from more co-operative and democratic involvement in the services they use. In September 2012 we ran a live Q&A on co-operative schools which featured two former students who had played an integral role in developing a co-operative model of ownership at their college.
So, join us on 15 May from 12-1.30pm to discuss:
• what mutualisation means for youth services
• how community interests can be protected when public sector services are spun out
• the importance of young people having a stake in the services they use
Do get in touch if you’d like to be a panellist – email Joe Jervis for more details. If you’d like to leave a question, please do so in the comments section below, or come back to ask it live at midday on 15 May – and follow the debate.
Remember, to be on the panel and participate you need to register as a member of the Guardian social enterprise network, and log in. Click here to register.
Panel (more details to follow)
Clare Oakley – manager, The Co-operative Group The Co-operative has been working with a number of local authorities to help them transfer youth services into mutual bodies and has recently helped create the Young Lambeth Co-operative.
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Developed with large commercial operators in mind, the bill could stop wind farm projects from proceeding
Community owned renewable energy has received remarkable levels of vocal support from ministers and shadow ministers alike as the Energy Bill has progressed through parliament. However, it currently contains no supportive policy measures and, as it stands, represents a huge threat to this vibrant and rapidly growing sector.
Currently, the Energy Bill threatens to prevent larger community schemes over 5MW, such as the Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative in Oxfordshire and the Lochcarnan Community Wind Farm in Scotland, from ever happening again. The problem is that the Bill has been developed with large commercial generators in mind. Participating in the proposed “contracts for difference” system would require a high degree of technical knowledge, creating an excessive administrative burden for community projects largely dependent on passionate and dedicated volunteers. Also, with the end of the Renewables Obligation, electricity suppliers will have little incentive to purchase renewable energy from community generators, who have limited bargaining power.
To overcome these problems the Energy Bill urgently requires amendment. Together with 16 other co-operatives and civil society organisations, including the National Trust, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Transition Network, we are calling for community schemes to be exempted from the new “contracts for difference” regime by allowing projects up to 20MW in size to access the fixed Feed-in Tariff scheme instead. We also want a duty to be placed on the secretary of state to promote new community energy generation and for a Green Power Auction Market to be introduced, where communities would receive a fair rate for their electricity.
Critics of these amendments suggest that few community projects are of the scale that would be affected. This misses the point, as community energy is an emerging sector with huge potential for growth, with conservative estimates of 3.5GW of generation capacity achievable in the UK by 2020, the equivalent of nearly four conventional coal-fired power stations. Those larger community projects mentioned above are potentially the first of a great many, not exceptions to the rule.
Policymakers need to recognise that the benefits of community energy extend far beyond helping the country to meet its stated energy goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy security. It also keeps the profits generated within the community to be redistributed for its own benefit, improves energy awareness and influences personal behaviour, and perhaps most important of all, it increases public acceptance of vital renewable energy projects. Recent research commissioned by the Co-operative found that 22% of people would oppose a wind farm near their home. This opposition drops to just 7% if the project is owned by and benefits the community.
When planning opposition is the main barrier to many larger renewable energy projects being realised, this cannot easily be ignored.
There is very strong political support for community energy with Liberal Democrat secretary of state, Ed Davey, stating “I want nothing less than a community energy revolution” and the Conservative minister, Greg Barker, stating it to be “vital to our vision of the development of energy in the UK”.
DECC is also in the process of drafting a Community Energy Strategy, which is a very welcome step forwards. However, the Energy Bill remains a missed opportunity and grave threat with the only positive news being that Greg Barker has stated in parliament that raising the fixed Feed-in Tariff threshold is “under active consideration”.
We must keep up the pressure to turn this vocal government support into solid policy measures. You can help by contacting your MP to ask that they sign Early Day Motion 684 (Community Energy) and support our recommended amendments to the Energy Bill. So far the EDM has attracted support from across the political spectrum, with MPs from nine political parties having signed, including influential figures from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. These include the Lib Dem president Tim Farron, former Conservative energy minister Charles Hendry and chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee Tim Yeo.
With such a broad base of support and such enormous potential, community energy must be given the opportunity to thrive. We hope this opportunity will be taken when the Energy Bill reaches its report stage in the House of Commons in coming days.
Colin Baines is campaigns manager at the Co-operative Group
Join us on 30 April to discuss with our experts the types of training and skills social entrepreneurs need
Fellow social enterprise enthusiasts may have had the pleasure of enjoying an interactive session on at the Oxford Jam event earlier this month which looked at reasons why social investments go wrong.
According to CAF Venturesome’s research ‘a lack of appropriate skills‘ at management level was the most common reason why social investments fail.
So what training and skills do social entrepreneurs need? And where can they get advice? Join us on 30 April to share your thoughts.
Do get in touch if you’d like to be a panellist – email Joe Jervis for more details.
Also, if you’d like to leave a question please do so in the comments section below, or come back to ask it live – and follow the debate – on Tuesday 30 February, 12-1pm GMT.
Remember, to be on the panel and participate you need to register as a member of the Guardian social enterprise network, and log in. Click here to register.
Isabel Newman – investment executive, CAF Venturesome
Isabel is an investment executive at CAF Venturesome, responsible for making and managing a portfolio of social investments, with a specific focus on impact measurement. Prior to joining Venturesome, Isabel worked in international grant making at Comic Relief.
Servane Mouazan – founder, Oguntê
Servane is the founder and director of Oguntê, a company started in the Netherlands in 2001 that offers a range of entrepreneurial and learning programmes to support women-led sustainable development and positive social impact. The award-winning team has directly coached and developed over 2000 women and opened doors to hundreds of global social entrepreneurs. Twitter: @ogunte
Kate Richardson – programme manager, On Purpose
Kate manages On Purpose’s year-long leadership development programme. It’s designed to help future leaders from other sectors transition into careers in the social enterprise space. Participating associates undertake two six-month placements in social enterprises, attends half a day of training each week, in addition to regular one-to-one mentoring and executive coaching. Kate was an associate in the inaugural On Purpose cohort, prior to which she was a management consultant and taught with Teach First.
Ilaina Rabbat – co-founder, Amani Insitute
Ilaina is the co-founder and executive director of the Amani Institute which is developing next-generation talent for solving social problems and pushing for a systems change in higher education. She has worked for over 15 years in social change and education in the public and private sectors. Most recently she has been working at Ashoka’s Youth Venture program and serves on the advisory board of the Open Society Foundation.
Kate Whittle – co-operative developer and partner at Co-operantics
Kate is a member of Co-operantics – a co-operative development body promoting and supporting co-operative skills. She has been a co-operative developer and trainer for over 25 years and was recently commissioned by Baker Brown Associates to deliver the ‘Understanding Co-operative Enterprise’ unit of the first national accredited training programme for co-operative development practitioners.
Andy Brady – programme manager, 3rd Sector Futures
Andy is course leader for Anglia Ruskin University‘s BA in Charity & Social Enterprise Management, which has recruited over 100 third sector managers since its launch in 2011. Based in the university’s business school, he runs 3rd Sector Futures, the specialist unit which links academics and students with charities, social enterprises and voluntary organisations.
Harsha Patel – founder and managing director, Doing Social
Harsha is the founder of Doing Social, a new social-purpose enterprise that provides capacity building programmes to enable people and groups in their local communities to set up viable social ventures. As a qualified trainer and social sector consultant, Harsha has supported the development of over 150 social entrepreneurs and organisations in community settings over the last decade.
Tausif Malik – founder director, Muslim Spelling Bee
Tausif has founded a number of competitions for the Muslim Community, the most prominent being Muslim Spelling Bee. The competitions are held in association with Community Schools and provide team members, volunteers and organisation with the opportunity to learn how public private enterprise can work together to become sustainable. The project has shown how training and education are essential to successful social enterprises.
Oxford city council’s chief executive says local government must take action to prevent vulnerable people from slipping through the net
The chief executive of Oxford city council, Peter Sloman, has hit out at the government’s planned changes to the welfare system claiming the reforms – including the bedroom tax and benefit caps – have taken £34m out of Oxford’s local economy.
Speaking at the Guardian’s fifth Local Government Leaders Quarterly event in London last week, Sloman said: “As an officer you are not supposed to be political at all so this isn’t a party political point but it seems to me taking £34m from the poorest people in our community is a bit of a sick exercise.”
He also claimed that “the amount of vindictiveness towards these people [on benefits] you see in the media from government ministers in terms of painting them as those who don’t want to get out of bed in the morning or leaving the curtains closed, is not helpful in terms of dealing with the problems these families face.”
Sloman warned that in Oxford there were 166 families affected by the cap and 956 living in under occupied dwellings that will be hit by the bedroom tax. Between those families there are 1,200 children who will be seeing their family income drop.
However, Sloman said welfare reform also provided an opportunity to take local action to help move residents into work.
“We must ready ourselves – there is a lot we can do. We are launching a scheme to help people deal with putting lodgers into their house. I think it is awful really, but we are doing it because that is the solution for lots of people. We’ve also moved about 300 people extra on our mutual exchange register.”
Other speakers at the event, which discussed how councils should manage the impact of welfare reform, included Katie Shaw, head of welfare policy at Citizens Advice; Dave Simmonds, chief executive of Inclusion, an organisation that promotes social inclusion in the labour market; and, Liz Goodall, chief executive of North Dorset district council.
Goodall echoed Sloman’s advice, arguing that councils must step in and act on welfare reforms. She said practical work must be done or councils would be “swamped in crisis”.
Simmonds shared his fears with the room, stating: “We still cannot double guess these consequences but we have to do our best. We have to be prepared for those who fall through the net.”
But Shaw, who leads on welfare issues for Citizens Advice, was concerned about the lack of government analysis. “There has been lots of impact assessment on each individual change but not on the cumulative impact of the reforms taken together. We know it will be the same people hit by each of these cuts many times in a lot of these cases,” she said.
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For customers, trust is key when it comes to getting advice on improving energy efficiency – and co-operatives have the edge
Ruth Rosselson is an environmental pioneer. The freelance writer and community trainer is one of the first homeowners to sign up with the Manchester-based Carbon Co-op for a programme of energy-efficiency improvements that will transform her cold and draughty house into a warm and toasty low-energy home.
“The main motivation for making my house more energy-efficient is that currently it’s so cold and damp,” says Rosselson, 41, speaking from her Manchester semi that she shares with her partner, Justin.
“We also care deeply about the global environment and so we wanted to improve the carbon efficiency of the house.”
Carbon Co-op, which launched in 2011, is one of a new generation of co-ops that are now aiming to address the critical issue of climate change by making houses more energy-efficient, which in turn will slash carbon emissions and in the long-run save homeowners money.
“The UK has a legally binding target for cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 from a 1990 baseline,” says Carbon Co-op’s Jonathan Atkinson.
“At the same time, escalating fuel bills are leading to more and more people experiencing fuel poverty. Consequently we’re aiming high and offering packages of retrofit improvements to householders that will cut both energy bills and carbon emissions.”
Atkinson doesn’t underestimate the scale of the problem facing the country.
“The UK has 26m homes which need to be made more energy-efficient. If we are to meet the 2050 target then we need to be retrofitting at least one million homes a year.”
Traditionally, tackling home energy-efficiency has been characterised by random, single actions such as installing low-energy light bulbs or fitting loft insulation.
“We take the whole house approach to retrofitting and recommend a package of complementary measures such as wall and loft insulation that will improve the energy performance of a house,” says Atkinson. “And because we have a strong ethical strand to our work, we aim to source materials from local businesses such as highly energy-efficient windows from the Green Building Store in West Yorkshire.”
So what’s the key benefit of operating as a co-op in this sector? “The big issue in the retrofitting industry is that of trust,” replies Atkinson.
“The big energy companies dominate the energy-efficiency market because they are forced to by Ofgem, the energy regulator. However, very few people trust the big energy companies any more because of the recent mis-selling scandals.” He says people are increasingly suspicious of energy companies trying to sell them big-scale changes, thinking that all the companies want is for their bills to increase.
“As a co-op, we’re community orientated and householder-owned with no external shareholders,” says Atkinson.
The issue of trust is a very real concern to householders, as Ruth Rosselson agrees. “We wanted to get the retrofit work done years ago but didn’t know where to go, who to trust or what to get done,” she says. “Carbon Co-op has been extremely knowledgeable and we trust that the work is being done for wider environmental benefits rather than just for profit.”
Currently running pilot projects in Greater Manchester, Carbon Co-op has ambitions to roll out its services across the UK.
The Birmingham-based Energy Saving Co-op, which like Carbon Co-op launched in 2011, has similar ambitions to be a national player in the energy-efficiency retrofit market.
“We’ve already retrofitted 50 homes with a target of completing 600 homes by the end of the year, two thousand homes in 2014 and a plan to eventually operate nationally,” says the chief executive and co-founder Ewan Jones, who aims to fund this expansion programme through its current share offer.
Financing the retrofit ambitions of both Carbon Co-op and the Energy Saving Co-op is a major challenge though both co-ops and the wider co-op movement are set to benefit from the green deal, the government’s flagship programme to make millions of homes more energy-efficient, which was launched this year.
Essentially a type of personal loan where you pay for the work over time through your energy bill, the green deal is set to kickstart the energy-efficiency market – and co-ops and social enterprises are lining up to take a slice of the action.
The Energy Saving Co-op, for example, is now working with a number of co-ops which will act as green deal energy assessors including Energywise, a new Birmingham co-op and the Jericho Foundation, a social enterprise which will install the energy saving kit.
Ewan Jones is acutely aware, however, that the potential costs of retrofitting could be a real disincentive to many on low incomes with the result that only the well-off will sign up. “We’re focusing on delivering energy-efficiency solutions for everyone which is why we accessing energy company-funded ECO grants and funding from community development finance institutions,” says Jones.
“In our pilot project in Oxfordshire we’ve put together a package of financial measures to enable us to target people on the lowest incomes as they have the greatest need as they’re the ones in fuel poverty.”
Other co-ops are looking at the opportunities that the green deal presents.
“The message we’re getting is that local authorities want the energy-efficiency benefits that the green deal promises but don’t want to have the responsibility of delivering the retrofit improvements themselves,” says Russell Smith from the RetrofitWorks co-op, which is midway through a retrofit trial with Haringey council in north London.
Smith is now focusing on getting the co-op’s delivery mechanism right before rolling out the business with local authority partners across the country next year.
“We’re having a soft launch,” says Smith. “If you want to build trust then you can’t start big straight away.”