June 2008 Volunteer News Roundup

  1. The Government Train to Gain Funding scheme has been extended to cover volunteers who can now benefit from the same subsidies as those for paid employees.

  2. Youth Volunteering Charity V has changed the applications process for its match fund scheme to attract new project ideas and will now assess funding applications for projects in six new categories: community cohesion, environment, health, human rights, supporting children and young people, and poverty. The scheme will match funds that projects raise from the private sector with government money. Any project that encourages 16-to-25 year olds to volunteer can apply. Here's their viral on Youtube -


  3. The recently launched Morgan Enquiry published some interesting recommendations including that the Department of Work and Pensions and Jobcentre Plus should fully recognise volunteering as a legitimate job-seeking activity for those claiming benefits and a route to work for unemployed young adults. It further recommended that an accredited corporate opt-in employee volunteering scheme should be developed to generate good and give employers and academic institutions the confidence to release individuals for a day to take part in accredited volunteering.

  4. A new screening system for people who work with children and vulnerable adults will begin in October 2009 and cost £64 per person, the Independent Safeguarding Authority has announced. The CRB will be responsible for gathering information on applicants and transferring it to the ISA. The ISA will then decide whether a person should be barred from working with children or vulnerable adults.

  5. A Europe-wide accreditation scheme for environmental volunteers will be launched in September 2008. The "Environments for Learning" programme is based on the European Qualification Framework and will provide a way of recognising and assessing skills and knowledge that volunteers learn informally through volunteering. The programme is being developed by UK environmental volunteering charity BTCV and six partner organisations from across Europe. It will allow skills learned through volunteering in one country to be recognised in another.

MySpace still rules America

Facebook went past MySpace in the UK last September, and has now officially equalled MySpace globally in monthly unique visitors. MySpace still dominates in the US though - their unique visitor count still doubles that of Facebook - 76m vs. 32m. This means that Facebook has way more unique hits outside America and is dominating heavily, while MySpace is struggling with the global audience.

MySpace vs Facebook US visits

Here's 3 probably controversial reasons why I think MySpace is still dominating America

  1. MySpace networks are inclusive (open) while Facebook networks are exclusive (gated)
  2. Facebook blows MySpace away in instant gratification, but MySpace pays off in profile uniqueness
  3. MySpace accepts everyone... the Oldies too, while Facebook is elitist... for the hip generation only

What this means is that if you're based in the US or your primary audience is US based, stop worrying about Facebook so much and take MySpace seriously!

(Excerpt taken from full post "3 Controversial Reasons Why MySpace Dominates in America, but Facebook Rules Everywhere Else" published on my other blog www.multichannelthinking.com)

Ken Robinson on Creativity

This is a fantastic presentation by Ken Robinson at a TED conference. About 20 minutes long, but really fun and engaging. Watch if you can!

(If it doesn't play, watch it on the TED site here - http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/66)

The gist of it - Ken contends that creativity is as important as literacy and should be treated with the same status. He defines creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value and highlights that it comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.

Here's the thing. Kids will take a chance. If they don't know the answer they'll have a go anyway. They're not frightened of being wrong. If you're not prepared to be wrong you're not going to come up with anything original. As you grow up you become frightened to be wrong because we stigmatise mistakes, and we're now running national educational systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. Effectively we're educating people out of their creative capacities.

We need to radically change our view of intelligence. It is diverse, dynamic, and distinct; and it's expressed through distinct and different avenues - some creative, some physical, some academic. Consequently he believes only hope for the future is to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity.

Google's 9 Principles of Innovation

If Google's successes can be attributed to these principles, then they have to be worth modelling your own startup or enterprise around

  1. Ideas come from everywhere - it's not about frameworks and enforced ideation
  2. Share everything you can - don't be territorial and give credit for ideas
  3. You're brilliant, we're hiring - when you meet someone exceptional, fit them in even if you don't actually have a role
  4. A license to pursue dreams - make space for your people to explore tangential ideas
  5. Innovation, not instant perfection - start rough, learn and iterate
  6. Data is apolitical - be specific with measurement and data and make decisions based on it
  7. Creativity loves constraints - fixing at least a few parameters helps people start thinking out of the box
  8. It's users, not money - if you can successfully engage users, you can monetise them
  9. Don't kill projects, morph them - figure out how to repackage and rejuvenate struggling projects rather than waste invested ideas, time and money by shutting them down completely

Watch and listen to Google's Marissa Mayer on the 9 Principles:

What is SROI? - A couple of useful papers for download

I've turned my previous post into a very short paper you can download for reference.

What is SROI? - Download White Paper

And in case you want something more in-depth here's the REDF paper on exploring value creation in non-profit sector

Exploring Value Creation in the Non-Profit Sector - Download White Paper

Social Return on Investment (SROI)

For many of us who are looking to start up a social enterprise, the framework of Social Return on Investment (SROI) could prove to be crucial in both understanding and presenting our social impacts in economic terms. Anything that helps us raise funding and support has to be worth taking seriously, so here's a short overview of SROI.

According to the SROI-UK Network , SROI is an approach to understanding and managing the impacts of a project, organisation or policy. It is based on important impacts that stakeholders identify and puts financial value on outcomes that do not have market values. SROI therefore is a framework. It’s a story, not just a number.

The story should show how you:

  1. Understand the value created
  2. Manage it
  3. Can prove it

It was developed in the early 1990s, by a non-profit social enterprise called The Roberts Enterprise Development Fund [REDF] who began to analyse its SROI to help illustrate in monetary terms the value generated through an investment in its social programmes.

For social entrepreneurs there are 3 avenues of value creation:

  1. Economic: creating services or products that have greater market value than their inputs e.g. any commercial business
  2. Social: creating services or products that have a provably beneficial impact on society e.g. anti-racism initiatives
  3. Socio-Economic: creating services or products that increase the market value of inputs but also generate cost savings for the public system or environment e.g. employment programs

Why should you care?

The key point to note is that the SROI analysis is essentially a robust argument for your non-profit or social enterprise to be at least partially compensated or credited for the value it creates in the marketplace. This could be either through public funding or CSR investment.

To create your SROI analysis you need to do the following:

  1. Examine your social service activity over a given time frame (usually five to 10 years);
  2. Calculate the amount of "investment" required to support that social activity and analyze the capital structure in place to support it
  3. Identify the various cost savings, reductions in spending and related benefits that accrue to your public system as a result of what you're doing
  4. Calculate the economic value of those cost savings and related benefits
  5. Discount those savings back to the beginning of the investment time frame using a net present value (NPV) and/or discounted cash flow analysis
  6. Finally present the Socio-Economic Value created during the investment time frame, by expressing that value in terms of NPV and SROI rates and ratios.

And yes, it clearly points towards needing a decent accountant!

Still, the benefits of having an SROI framework are clear. It will help you

  • Understand the real value of what your enterprise/organisation does
  • Raise finance more easily
  • Get public sector support more easily
  • Improve reporting on positive changes caused by your organisation
  • Develop a better organisational structure, with improved strategies, systems and accountability
  • Improve your ability to manage risks and identify opportunities required to achieve your mission



Download this post on SROI as a pdf

Trends in Logo Design

Since I've been talking about branding I thought I'd have a look at logo design. Personally I'm a big believer in designing logos that can stand alone from any text and still be clearly identifiable as your organisation. Think Nike, Apple, Microsoft Windows and the original Adidas logos. Anyway, I recently came across a cool post on trends in visual design for logos.

So if you're thinking of starting a new enterprise or are in the process of updating your brand, here are some thoughts below based on a post from logoorange.

  1. 3D: the organic rather than blocky sort. Be careful though. Here's the Microsoft Silverlight example. Visually nice - yes. Memorable - no!

    Microsoft Silverlight Logo

  2. Waves: Apparently the swoosh is dead. It's all about waves with fades these days.

    Agility Logo

  3. "Web 2.0": Think rounded corners and glassy

    Skpye Logo

  4. Transparency: Subtle effects are in

    Windows Vista Logo

  5. Minimal "Underground" Typography: None of these still exist so no idea what that says about this form of logo!

    Underground Logos

  6. Rainbow Color Scales: Unfortunately everytime I see anything like this I think 'Polaroid'! Other examples are SpaceTime and ElasticDigital. Their logos look really similar though.

    Northcolour Logo

  7. Sci-Fi Fonts: You can end up looking very tech geek or "video-gamey", so be careful.

  8. Leaves: Green is big right now. Leaves help you ride the eco wave and can give your brand that fresh peaceful look.

  9. The "Ugly" 80's: What can you say about this, except that it's a risky strategy unless you're of the belief that even bad publicity is still good!

    London 2012

  10. The New Crest: Medieval symbolism and urban culture graphic elements can be very cool if done well. If not, they just look complicated and impossible to identify the company within.

    Ministry of Sound Logo

Innovation and iVolntr

iVolntr.org falls into the Type III innovation category as defined in NESTA's 'Total Innovation' report. It is about tying together a host of digital editing technologies (like google docs), existing social networks (like facebook), and open standards (like opensocial and the dataportability initiative) to remove the existing perceptual and real barriers to volunteering (particularly for the facebook generation) and thus change the way volunteering is perceived and done.

The project is about crowdsourcing time and skill on a many-to-one-basis to facilitate people helping people, and people helping organisations; by creating, commenting and editing individual and organisational information directly through the webpage in immediate response to need or request. It will be primarily designed to support social organisations and disadvanted groups in developed information economies like ours, where so much is facilitated by or done through desktop computing.

iVolntr then is essentially about innovation in social behaviour and the development of Personal Social Responsibility (PSR). By removing the commitment, physicality and localisation factors present in traditional volunteering models, as well as removing the effort in finding out about opportunities to help (for eg. through a facebook app) we should be able to leverage personal need for social kudos to create a sustainable culture of social enthusiasm and a sustainable supply of help for disadvantaged individuals and the third sector.

The Lifecycle of Innovation

This is a great illustration by Tom Fishburne of what can happen to your fantastic idea once realities bite!

Realities and the Innovation Lifecycle

Are you innovating without knowing it? - A look at NESTA's 4 Types of Hidden Innovation

In light of general pessimism about the state of innovation in the UK, NESTA have published a research report called 'Total Innovation'. 100 pages of mostly impenetrable writing with sentences the size of paragraphs. The key bit of the report however is the focus on 'hidden innovation' and NESTA defines 4 types which are worth sharing.

In our current world innovation has, as NESTA put it, become "synonymous with scientific and technological invention born of new research-driven knowledge." However innovation can be social, behavioural, organisational etc. Recognising this should help raise awareness that just because you aren't involved in tech research doesn't mean that you aren't innovating.

Unhelpfully these other types of innovation have been titled Type I, Type II, Type III and Type IV, so I'm going to use a bit of creative license and title them by their descriptions

  1. Type I: Practical Research - eg. Engineering solutions developed through 'on-the-job' learning rather than through lab research.
  2. Type II: New Organisational and Business Models - eg. Semi-autonomous business units in the pharmaceutical industry reflecting the entrepreneurial nature of small bio-tech firms.
  3. Type III: Novel combination of existing technologies and processes - eg. Using existing functions and routines to deliver new services
  4. Type IV: Micro-Innovations - eg. Small scale manufacturing problems and challenges dealt with outside R&D programmes

I found this interesting because it helped me understand that by doing something new with existing technologies, we can be recognised as innovating too. iVoluntr.org will fall into the Type III category. I'll explain why in a follow-on post.


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