Best bits — leadership in social enterprise

Best bits — leadership in social enterprise
The Guardian, by Nick Petrie
26.04.11

A round up of our experts advise and experience from last week’s Q&A

Richard Dickins, director, Make it Happen

Away from the more traditional skills that include strategy and operational planning and development, I would suggest ethics is important. Ethical decision making and understanding your own organisations value to society and the values of stakeholders is a key to strategic leadership. It promotes an open and honest working relationship with stakeholders and where two of five purchases are ethically based, perhaps its a time to think about this more?

Leaders in social enterprise can generally be broken down into two areas: leaders who are social leaders and those who are enterprising leaders, and the communication methods to attract them will differ greatly. Developing the right language to engage with them is important.

We at Make it Happen find social leaders need help with strategic planning, marketing, communication and financial planning, and sometimes just confidence in themselves.

Enterprising leaders need of social value and impact training, softer skills around communication and people developmen,t and often a softer marketing approach.

Siobhan Edwards, fellowship director, Clore Social Leadership

Any training provider, or anyone designing a training programme, needs to be aware of, and cater for, different learning styles. Providing a mix of learning opportunities, from the experiential and practical to the reflective and theoretical, is vital … but I have to admit that it can be pretty hard to get the balance right, and it’s pretty impossible to please everyone all of the time with any single training/learning activity. Presumably, people who are strongly activist, also want and need some reflective time too, even if it’s not their ‘comfort zone’.

David Bryan, The Social Enterprise Academy

Learning programmes for social entrepreneurs should do exactly that, and give them time and space to reflect and plan ahead. They should give participants what they can’t get from google. That’s all about interaction, discussion, generating ideas, reflecting. Action-based learning, in other words. Coaching, action learning sets and other interactive activities are all part of this.

If social entrepreneurs are not ready to reflect on their experiences to date, they will not be successful. Is this too hard a line?

Their team will, in truth, be doing most of the work. It’s important for leaders to understand their own strengths and leadership style, and those of their team. By doing this, they will be able to establish a ‘team of talents’, with the right people in the right jobs. We don’t think its about addressing weaknesses, rather capitalising on strengths. That way, everyone is happy and productive.

Vanessa Augustus, founder, Social Solutions Academy (SSA)

We’ve spoken to social entrepreneurs established for more than two years. During these conversations, it is evident training budgets are not necessarily seen as priorities. As we know, leadership training aimed at the commercial sector can be very expensive. Private sector individuals spend significant sums of money on their development.

Rather than asking the government to help, the real challenge is to address the mindset of social leaders. If you have set up a charity applying for funding or asking for donations will be your main source of income. If you have set up a social enterprise, you need to be enterprising. Social entrepreneurs have to be prepared to invest in their own success.

We have to acknowledge the fears within some organisations regarding the benefits of training. Will the investment benefit an individual (the participant) or the organisation? Following the success of our Action Day event last year we have continued to track impact. Delegates were happy to pay for their own tickets to attend a high impact learning day. There were no grants available. We didn’t attract major sponsorship, so tickets could not be subsided. When we marketed the event we clearly outlined the benefits social entrepreneurs would receive.

I agree with Ogunte, nurturing connections is incredibly important. We recognise social leaders are seeking to be part a wider community outside their organisations. Again I agree with Ogunte about where social leaders emerge. We do not solely focus on social entrepreneurs. Ethically-minded private individuals are very much a part of our growing community. We have actively engaged with the public sector to increase their understanding of the value social leaders bring to the market place.

Servane Mouazan, Ogunte

Social leadership shouldn’t be reduced to the third sector, or to just one sector (I’m not sure if the word sector makes sense nowadays either anyway). It’s not a monopoly of social enterprises or charities or philanthropists.

I would argue that anyone interested in making a positive contribution to society, anyone who can demonstrate they have attracted and collaborated positively with champions, networks, and generated influence and change, can label themselves social leaders. You will find them in large corporations too and in governments.

Rob Watling, Momentum Associates

One of the things that makes learning opportunities valuable to leaders is a clear sense of what they are going to get out of them. I had an invitation this week (nameless!) to attend an interesting-sounding event in my own field (executive coaching). It seemed, on the face of it, a good opportunity so I asked for more details.

All I got back was a venue and workshop times. No details of facilitators, themes, content. It might be a brilliant event. But I’m not going to gamble £250 just in case.

Organisers and facilitators of events and workshops need to pay close attention to what they are offering and what the attendees need. Then they can decide if it’s a good investment of their money, time, energy.