Thursday, June 16, 2016

latest research suggests CICs are still trying to make their way in the wider world of social enterprise

So - as some of you know, I can be a bit of an anorak when it comes to sector governance, and statistics. Not just because my brain seems to enjoy doing it, but because I think that sometimes it's hard for us to get a proper understanding about what's really going on in our sector unless someone looks at published data afresh and offers an alternate view. (David Floyd and Nick Temple are both great at this, and also much more thorough too - I tend to look at headlines only here on my blog)

Anyway - every so often, someone publishes a survey about their part of the sector, and inevitably they never benchmark their charts against other peoples findings... This makes it hard to understand what might be really going on in the context of the 'bigger picture', and therefore how we can best support and celebrate each other.

So in spare half hours, I try and find a comparison against which to try and make sense of such published surveys.  Last time I did this was on the Big Potential programme from the Social Investment Business. Comparing their report of social ventures supported against the wider sector suggests that they've been very successful in engaging a 'new breed' of social enterprise.

But this time I'm interested in CICs, because the CIC Association has recently collated and published its 10 year survey of this form of social enterprise. Now, I want to be very open and honest here in that I've never been completely sold on the idea of this legal form for various reasons, but I've always been open as to why, and also supported some clients to gain this legal form (see other posts here tagged with 'CIC' for more).

The CIC Association survey contains lots of charts and headlines, and in trying to make sense of if these show this type of social enterprise to be in 'good health' or 'having some cause for concern' I've compared it to the wider Social Enterprise UK 'state of the sector' report.

But - a few words of caution before proceeding further:
1) the CIC survey was published in spring 2016, and the SEUK survey in autumn 2015 so there's bound to be a little 'drift' in the sector over that year
2) the CIC survey is concerned with CICs only; the SEUK report includes CICs as part of the wider response base, so there's also some variance and risk of some 'double counting'

However, for my own purposes and interests in trying to stimulate some wider discussion, I'm not too hung up on such technical variances as I think the 'broad brush' comparisons are what are interesting:

  • CICs are more likely to be trading directly with the public (75%) than other forms of social enterprise (30%)
  • CICs are more likely to fail in their applications for finance (43%) than other forms of social enterprise (20%)
  • CICs are more reliant on grants - 25% have them as their main income compared to 11% of other forms of social enterprise
  • CICs are likely to be smaller than other forms of social enterprise - most have turnovers under £10,000 compared to in excess of £50,000
  • CICs are more likely to be structured to have share capital (private ownership) than other forms of social enterprise (34% vs 11%)
  • Both CICs and other forms of social enterprise prefer grants as the preferred option for financing growth
  • Both CICs and other forms of social enterprise are likely to be micro enterprises (less than 10 employees)
  • Both CICs and other forms of social enterprise are growing year on year in similar ways (60% and 52% respectively)

So there's potentially some clear markers here that make CIC very different to their wider family of social enterprises (more public facing, more open to having private ownership), but also a lot of common ground too (size, growth, and preference for grants to support growth).

However, might there also be some contradictions emerging within this latest survey of CICs too? Potentially they could be seen as a weaker form compared to their 'cousins' in the wider sector, based on their being:
- more likely to be reliant on grants,
- seen as a riskier proposition by investors (based on the extent that they're able to access finance applied for),
- more likely to be marginal businesses (based on most having turnovers below what the average salary in the UK currently is..,)
- that 28% of CICs saying that this form has not had a positive effect on their business.

But its still relatively early days for CICs: while their 'honeymoon' period looks like it might be starting to wane, other forms of Social Enterprise have been around for a few hundred years longer, so investors and funders are probably still getting to grips with the CIC form.
And as I caveated earlier, the above are very much 'broad brush' findings that I've drawn out in a half hour over a cuppa.

However, my hope is that this will help to contribute to the wider discussion, debate, and further analysis. The aim of which should be to help us to better understand how to best support and encourage this (and other) form of social enterprise, so that they can realise their full potential. And in doing so, help bring about a slightly shinier, fluffier, and groovier world for all of us to enjoy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

rebirth of a super hero?

3 years ago, I decided to try an experiment. As part of my overall approach to my personal CPD, I asked a selection of contacts what they thought my superpower was. Not because I wanted to be Batman (well, OK, I do - but who doesn't?), but because I'm genuinely interested in how I'm perceived professionally. And that's not for the sake of vanity but better understanding my 'personal brand', and what makes be special in an already crowded marketplace of advisors, consultants, and trainers.

3 years on, and I thought it was time to repeat the experiment - but this time with a twist. Not only did I ask people what they thought my superpower was (that thing which I can do better than anyone else, or makes me the first person people want to call in certain situations), but also what my 'kryptonite' is. What are the things which I'm powerless in the face of or which can seem to paralyse me. Some may see asking such a question as foolishness, but as part of my CPD I need to know what things really are beyond my reach, and what things I should invest in myself around.

So - 3 years on, and are my powers changed (necessitating a new costume perhaps?) or have a remained a constant 'professional'?

As before, I've collated and anonymised people's responses below, but the headlines seem to be:

- being a 'babel fish': able to translate complex ideas and technical jargon into simple to understand terms and concepts
- acting as a 'human google': having a breadth and depth of knowledge on a range of subjects (but it seems that none of them ever relate to the topics in pub quizzes)
- clearly living out personal and professional values that people admire
- having high ethical and professional standards, but also being able to be pragmatic
- I also liked the response of one particular person: "you're bloody awesome"!

- sometimes not making myself vulnerable with others (which could limit opportunities to build trust and deeper relationships)
- occasional risk of over-egging written documents (something I'm going to try and work on by tightening up my written prose in future!)
- nerves (although I tend to manage them well by doing things like dancing on tables when giving key note addresses...)

So - what do the rest of you think: are these a fair summation or are there things that I should be more aware of about myself? After all, it's only through being honest about who we are (the good and the not-so-good) that we can offer the best service and support, and ultimately do our bit to bringing about a slightly shinier, flufflier world for everyone to enjoy.

All responses - 

1) Clued up with the sector, seeks out collaberative approaches - toned down networking approach in informal settings, best to use in warm lead situations - Self-aware, genuine and positive attitude, which comes across.
It's apparent to me that you have worked incredibly hard to put your worldview/philosophy out into the soc ent world. I have an understanding that you have areas of knowledge and specialism that are in high demand e.g., intellectual property, and that you are incredibly giving to folk who ask (there must be limits of course). You are a straight talker.

2) Help people find answers for themselves, rather than doing it for them. Regularly reflect on your work, and that of others to learn and improve. Not setting yourself as 'the expert that knows it all'.
Your super power is your ability to take the complex process of setting up a business and to explain and break it down for people in an accessible way. You don’t use jargon, you meet people where they are at and you are incredibly approachable and generous with your time & expertise. People leave meeting you reassured about their next steps.

3) I'd say your super power is a hard one to put into words but a your wide breath of knowledge and ability to communicate it effectively to the audience at any chosen time with effective tools and examples. When I talk with you I see more things clearly and am able to absorb what you are saying without any barriers, understanding comes about naturally. I think this comes from many different skills that you have as an individual to long to list here.
Kryptonite - I struggle to think of something. Perhaps having only seen you do one or two workshops. But I'd say perhaps vulnerability...just a random one as nothing particularly stands out. An ability to trust in those you are communicating with deeper things about you. 
I would say as someone who is the font of knowledge and often the one in the know it would be good to know more deeply who you are and be able to connect with that on a more personal than just professional level. But you're bloody awesome and don't go changing 

4) Superpower? I don't think there's a single factor, more a combination of things. You are someone I feel I can work with - I put this down to the way you combine high ethical and professional standards with a pragmatic view of the work itself. Your own social impact reporting, CPD and overall commitment to the job is impressive and inspires trust. At the same time you recognise we're not in an ideal world, and can adapt to meet its imperfections and those of clients in order to get the best result.
I've also appreciated the fresh thinking and ideas you bring to our work.
Kryptonite? I don't think so. I can't think of any situation where you would flounder or panic. If you're looking for improvement ideas, the only thing I might suggest - and it's very minor - is written drafting. I have to confess that I've found a few of your drafts a bit wordy. I say this knowing I'm influenced by a one-day Plain English course I did several years ago. May be worth looking at if you've not already done so? Or google 'Gunning Fog Index' if you're not familiar with it. 
As I say this is a very minor point, and overall I've greatly appreciated working with you - mainly because we think in the same way and almost always come to the same conclusions independently. Thank you for what has been, and I'm sure will continue to be, an enjoyable experience

5) Knows everything yet keeps it simple. You don't over complicate things to make yourself look clever but the knowledge and willingness to help is outstanding. Sorry, no negatives.

6) Superpower: super enthusiasm! I have previously called upon you because you are super reliable, jolly,  you use your imagination and creativity to come up with ideas to inspire and develop the knowledge of others. You're also really well informed and I see you as an expert on co-ops.

Kryptonite: Hmm not sure what that is. But I remember you saying you were a little nervous at a high profile event ahead of the sessions and debate. Though you did also stand on a  table - to calm your nerves..?!