Friday, November 25, 2011

It's great to be proved wrong (really!)

I offer support to social enterprises through a variety of means – one of which is as a mentor through the Unltd Connect programme.

Recently I was 'paired' with One&Other, a new media enterprise in York that’s seeking to use news channels and digital publishing to share good news and build communities rather than simply 'telling tales' to make money.

They've already attracted a lot of initial interest from within this industry, and one of the topics that I wanted to explore with them (as well as everything on their 'wish list') was that of their legal form – they incorporated as a CIC and I wanted to explore with them why they'd chosen this structure given my experience of this form: briefly, I'm skeptical of the tangible benefits that being a CIC might offer based on published research and my own experiences, but am always open to being proved wrong about that.

I think it’s important that I remain open in this way, seeking opportunities to be proved wrong in my understanding and stance on all sorts of issues, because if I don't I risk become an entrenched cynic and it also offers me new opportunities to further enhance my own knowledge which can surely only be a good thing for everyone?

Anyway – their experience of being a CIC is fantastic! It's allowing them to achieve one of their principle aims: creating opportunities and generating invitations for them to explain and explore what social enterprise is within an industry that's largely unaware of it and the potential it can offer, because when they meet people as say 'we're a CIC' people are invariably asking 'what's that then?'

So thank you One&Other for proving me wrong – I hope to be able to return the favour someday ;-)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Charities now being created at more than 1 every hour!

The charity commission published its annual survey of what’s happening on the Charity register recently, and I think it makes for slightly concerning reading.

With 3,003 new charities being ‘approved’ in the last year this means that charities are now being created at more than 1 per hour! (assuming 252 working days and 8 working hours a day).

What’s more, the median income of these new charities is less than £30,000 – suggesting that they’re what I refer to as ‘pet’ charities.

In an age of austerity measures, when resources for charities are getting harder and harder to come by, why are so many people feeling the need to form new charities, rather than engaging with, and supporting, exiting ones who are crying out for new blood on their boards and struggling to raise sufficient finance. Surely we need to be better educating people who are thinking of setting up a new charity to encourage them to consider carefully if their energies wouldn’t in fact be better used in supporting those that already exist; or perhaps, as I’ve argued before, charity legislation isn’t flexible enough to reflect our changing society and so people are being forced to create new charities to continue to meet the needs of those most vulnerable in our communities?