Category Archives: Social Enterprise

Questions that keep me up at night:
What are the business practices that encourage enterprises to grow?
How/can we breakdown bureaucracies – where the people exist to serve the system / their manager, not the customer?
Is more growth always better?

In today’s webinar at the Starting Good Virtual Summit, Kari Enge, founder of Rank&File Magazine told us a salutary tale about how a focus on dollars and efficiency can kill a people-focused culture in less than six months. To avoid this, she says it’s crucial at an early stage for entrepreneurs, especially social entrepreneurs, “to decide their leadership philosophy … and imagine their perfect culture”.

So who is already doing this well?

We have good role models in a number of tech enterprises. Google used its data analytics power in Project Aristotle to find out what makes a successful team and concludes that psychological safety as well as purposeful work, are two of the five success factors keys. The CEO of Menlo Innovations and author of Joy Inc. says his mission is to “emancipate the heart of the engineers…which is to serve others. He thinks that there is a limit to the size of a business if it wants to bring joy to its customers.  And home-grown enterprises such as Atlassian, tell us that healthy teams embrace continuous improvement. They also say the dirty secret is that team work is ‘very’ hard and tools are not the ‘fix-it’. They contribute their team playbook to the world, because they know it will be ‘very’ hard to emulate, especially for competitors who have an ‘efficiency and dollars must prevail’ philosophy.

We need even more examples of those who are doing good for customers as well as for employees and especially those in the social sphere.

Whom do you admire? What are they doing differently from the ‘norm’? Where can we find them and highlight the good practices they have developed?

Making things ten times cheaper

Something to ponder for the social sector (thanks to Clay Shirky):

“Dr. Amy Smith is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, where she runs the Development Lab, or D-Lab, a lab organized around simple and cheap engineering solutions for the developing world.

Among the rules of thumb she offers for building in that environment is this: “If you want something to be 10 times cheaper, take out 90% of the materials.”

Perhaps this is also true for the social sector, i.e.  what can we automate, so that we can devote our limited labour resources to what really matters – quality interactions between people?

Nurturing social entrepreneurs & enterprises

I’ve just finished a year long Salon for Social Entrepreneurs, in conjunction with Cheryl Kernot from the Centre for Social Impact, Julian Noel from Aware Business and an amazing group of existing and budding social entrepreneurs and supporters.  We’ve learned a lot about what’s required to set up and build social enterprises and there’s lots more learning to come as our entrepreneurs put the ideas and contacts into operation.

Last night I finished my paper exploring the year’s lessons, which I get to present at the SLaM Conference: Feb 11-14. The paper attempts to answer to the question I’ve been asked all year when I talk about the Salon – “What do you mean by social enterprises?”

The real lesson for me has been how much I love nurturing and supporting these inspiring people and connecting them with ideas, contacts and access to support.

A new niche is opening for me personally and with A Passion for Results.

Do we really need abundance?

A good take on the abundance vs sufficiency dilemma from writer and personal life coach Bruce Elkin here.

I agree with a lot of his sentiments and am working to ensure that we reduce our family and company footprint from its current level of 2.4 planets to something approaching 1.

It’s hard to avoid the lure of stuff and one way I have been successful is to keep reminding myself of my vision – for a world where all have access to food, water, shelter, security and freedom of choice – and the way that I am choosing to achieve this outcome is by encouraging sustainable & social businesses.

Making progress on that vision is worth more than any stuff I can buy!

Vote 1 Earth

I must be one of the many people who haven’t yet met Todd Sampson via the Gruen Transfer, but as of next week I will be an avid viewer.  Tonight I listened and watched teary eyed, to his story about the growth of the Earth Hour movement and now I’m all inspired to find other ways for self interest to meet planetary purpose.

As we discussed at dinner, it’s a sign of true democracy at work and I look forward to hearing the numbers come in as over 90 countries – and potentially over a billion peers around the world – vote for a sustainable future for us all.

It’s a long shot, but I’m trying to organise for REMO to print Vote 1 Earth tee-shirts, with proceeds going to the Earth Hour and WWF, so watch this space for news and contact us:info at if you’d like a tee shirt or two!

Wisps of Ideas

One summer’s day at Chinamans beach, I watched amazed as tiny wisps of nearly nothing swirled together to become a significant cloud.  I’d never noticed a cloud appear from nothing before and marvelled at the process.

This metaphor neatly describes my experience over the past six months.  From a wisp of an idea last year, sixteen excited souls have swirled together to form a Salon for Social Entrepreneurs, in conjunction with the Centre for Social Impact, UNSW.

I have the great fortune to be co-facilitating alongside Cheryl Kernot from the Centre, who proposed the idea and is contributing pro bono time to the Salon, and Julian Noel, whose Aware Business Community generated many of the connections to budding social entrepreneurs.

Stay tuned for some exciting developments, the first being the launch of “Wake Up Sydney” a venture founded by Salon member Jonathon Fisher.

Spring and passion is in the air

It’s spring, it’s passion month and I’ve just returned from the XL Entrepreneur Business School in Bali.  What did I learn – lots!

First, you cannot achieve anything amazing on your own.  The entrepreneurs who wanted to “own” all the ideas and way their business was going to run, has much smaller ideas that those who accepted input.  I know this and now I’m committed to supporting managers and businesses to make sure they have got team support, not try to do it on their own.  I’ve also come back with some great team processes, so if your team needs a top up, give us a call.

Second, you cannot excite people to contribute 110% if it’s only about you (or shareholders).  Those who had a purpose beyond profit were much more exciting to be around and got the most help too.  And the flip side of this, the feeling “what about me?” was a good indicator for me that I was feeling an incongruity between the business and its offering.

Third, I got clear that my passion really is to support social enterprises to flourish, so look out everyone, I will be beating the drum of “purpose beyond profit” to you in the near future.   Check out Buy 1 Give 1 if you want to find out more.