Saturday, 20 February 2010

Cheque out

I'm a Trustee of Norfolk Community Foundation and so often meet people who give money to charity. Indeed the Foundation's role is to make it easy for people to become donors, by providing a very personal, professional and focused service. Their money is well invested to create an endowment fund from which the income will be distributed as grants for ever.

However I'm rarely there when the cheque is passed across; the very moment of commitment. The other day I witnessed a donor signing and passing over a cheque for £100,000. It's massively more than I give each year and indeed, more than I usually earn in a year. Yet to this donor, it was simply part of his programme of investing in Norfolk; the place where he was born, lives and has always called home.

I had that sudden thought that by comparison, my contributions were insignificant. The reality is though, that as Tesco are alwasy quick to tell us; 'every little helps.' The success of any endowment building charity relies as much on the many who give a little as thew few fortunate enough to be able to give a lot.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Tories will bang Business Link on the head

Today's Sunday Times carries a story by Rachel Bridge that explains how an incoming Conservative government plan to zap Business Link. Instead they plan to increase funding to Enterprise Agencies and let them get on with the job. The problem with Business Link says Mark Prisk, the most likely contender for the role of Small Business minister, is that Business Link spend £190m pa pointing people towards sources of help, rather than helping people solve their problems themselves.

It's good news for the Enterprise Agency movement, who in my experience are far more passionate about enterprise than Business Link. But are Business Link really so bad they need to disappear? I think not. Instead of getting rid of the good ones as well as the bad, why not give them three years to become self funding. Give them the freedom to follow their market and the flexibility to build local partnerships that make sense.

There's nothing with the people who work for Business Link - what's wrong is the top down, one size suits all regime they have to work under.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The next BIG idea

Great to see that the Big Lottery are to put a greater focus on their 'Reaching Communities' initiative. Especially welcome is the simplified 'Light' version that makes application less daunting for people looking for up to £40k pa for up to five years to get their project off the ground.

It's good to see a big funder making things easier. Perhaps others will now follow their example!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

There's something strange about a man who buys a villa on Lanzarote

Today's local daily paper carries a story about the company that made me redundant in 1990. I came to be hugely grateful to their MD who gave me the push because without that nudge, I'd probably still be working for someone else. 

Alas his company went bust last year, no small feat when the firm's been around 40 years and has had plenty of time to stash away plenty of rainy day money. I guess there's a moral there somewhere, but that's not the point I want to make. The news story was about two of the assets of the firm yet to be bought from the receiver.

The assets were an interesting combination. A development of park homes in mid Norfolk and a villa on Lanzarote. One was an investment closely linked to the company's core business. The other perhaps less so.

The story got me thinking. I've been to Lanzarote to speak at a conference. It's a volcanic island with nothing to do or see; people go there to lay in the sun, eat drink and party. Why would a real entrepreneur buy a villa there? Aren't entrepreneurs more likely to invest in places where there's lots going on?

How will you celebrate New Year's Eve in 2099?

Alas I'm not expecting to stay alive long enough for that one, but Frank here stands a very good chance of doing just that. Frank and his dad Rob were with me on Thursday evening when I spoke to an audience of social entrepreneurs in Leeds for Business Link Yorks and Humber. Rob and I have known each other a while, both being passionate and vocal about social enterprise. We met up at Voice 10 and he let slip that he'd be bringing Frank along to meet me in Leeds later in the week. I think that mum was out as well that evening so Rob was babysitting.
I used this picture of Frank in my presentation to make the point that just because we would not be around in 2100, here's a guy who would. It's the way we behave now, in terms of enterprise and environment that will shape Frank's future. 

Furthermore he's growing up in a very different age to the one I was raised in. The 50 years that have passed since I was Frank's age have seen huge change; colossal growth in consumerism being just one of them. It strikes me that things I'd experienced at his age, central heating, a family car and 24/7 entertainment on demand are the very things hid generation might choose to do without. I'd never had them and he'll probably decide to get by without. Together, he and I bracket the consumerist age.

You can see what Rob Greenland, Frank's dad thought of all this by visiting his blog. It's well worth subscribing to.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Let's all be stick in the muds

Yesterday I attended a brilliant meeting in West Norfolk. It was all about opportunities to diversify, develop and generally improve the success of the local economy.

The notion of a water taxi captured the imagination of a quite a few people. Until that is a local farmer pointed out that on a tidal river, you'd only be able to make one trip each way per day.

Voice 10 - well worth listening to

There are two advantages to being the last person to blog about Voice 10, the Social Enterprise Coalition's annual conference. One is that you've had time to reflect on what was said and the other, is that you are spared the hassle of keying in all the best bits.

The best speaker by a mile was Phillip Blond. He's the first person I've heard publicly say what I've long thought: that tomorrow, every enterprise will be a social enterprise. Quite rightly in my view, he says that community ownership will become universal, albeit in differing forms. It's what real democracy is about! I was not surprised to spot that he's left handed.

Social Enterprise magazine have kindly captured the best quotes of the conference and placed them here. They're well worth reading!