Orange RockCorps - Corporates Mobilising The Community: A UK First?

Orange RockCorps is coming to you. Volunteer for free concert tickets. The adverts are on TV now. You'll recognise the underpinning philosophy from the ads on the tube if you live in London. "I am who I am because of everyone". I used to see the ads, think it was a nice idea, but figured it was just some more corporate positioning. However, true to their strapline Orange have teamed up with RockCorps to bring an awesome community project to the UK.

Here's the deal... You do 4 hours of volunteering/community service at one of 50 projects being organized around London, covering everything from school regeneration to helping the homeless, and you get 1 free concert ticket.

The first gig is on September 26th at the Royal Albert Hall and involves Busta Rhymes, Guillemots, John Legend, Feeder and more artists are still signing up.

That appears to be it. No further catch. No idea how many concerts there are, or if the 1 concert will cover all volunteers, but since I can't find any other condition for getting a ticket I'm assuming they will have to keep them coming for as many people as do the volunteering. I love it!

It's already happened in the US, but this is quite clearly the first true example of a corporate mobilising the community in the UK. Orange provide the funding, publicity, platform, social media, project connections, scalability, and in return they get massive, massive kudos even though the idea really is RockCorps'. Still, someone had to be brave enough to make it happen, and respect to Orange for doing it.

Here's some more links

Orange RockCorps

4 Phases of Innovation

Innovation really has turned into the buzzword for 2008. In case, like most people, you still don't know what innovating is really all about here's a quick intro. According to Iris Mootee on the Future Lab blog, apparently going from idea to mass market adoption happens in 4 phases, all of which involve innovation.

  1. The Fuzzy Front End (FFE), which involves a lot of insight gathering, ideation and early conceptualization

  2. New Product Development (NPD) process, which involves design and engineering prototyping

  3. Early-Stage Commercialization (ESC), where ideas are needed to inform how the product is being brought to market (usually small underserved or unserved market/segments)

  4. Driving Mass Adoption (DMA), where innovation is applied to mass market the product/service and considerations include how to use this disruptive innovation to upset the market dynamics and economics.

3 Models of Social Enterprise: Creating Social Impact Through Trading

The Charities Aid Foundations' social investment arm Venturesome has published a couple of papers this year on categorising social enterprises, so that both investors and investees understand how different business models create social impact and the consequences they have for generating financial returns. It is worth a look to see if or where you fit within their model as it might help you present your social enterprise better, and understand not only the management skills needed but the financial risks and potential social return perceived by your investors.

Anyway CAF divide social enterprises into 3 distinct business models, based on their research defining enterprises according to the social impact they are achieving rather than their legal form.

  1. Model 1 - Profit Generator:
    Trading activity itself is primarily seeking a financial return only. As such, it is deemed to have no direct social impact but gives some or all of its profits to charity. Financial risk of the investment is disconnected from the likelihood of achieving social impact.
    Examples include Corporates with CSR programmes or those which give a percentage of their profits to developing charitable projects, Charities investing endowments in financial markets, and Trading subsidiaries of charities.

  2. Model 2 - Trade Off:
    Social impact is integral to the nature of the trading activity, but a balance has to be struck between generating financial returns and creating social impact. The firm could increase its social impact by decreasing financial returns, or vice versa. In other words, there is a trade-off. Model 2 firms may be able to attract commercial investors with an acceptable rate of financial return, while at the same time achieving a level of social return which is acceptable to its other stakeholders.
    Examples include Fair Trade Businesses, Microfinance Institutions, and Firms that employ the disabled or other disadvantaged people.

  3. Model 3 - Lock Step:
    Trading activity has direct social impact, but that social impact increases or decreases in step with financial returns. Apparently these types of enterprise are scarce as they operate in clearly competitive markets. The level of financial returns that Model 3 businesses are able to achieve may be acceptable to a fully commercial (financial return only) investor.
    Examples include Co-operatives, Wind Farms, and

Download Three Models of Social Enterprise (.pdf)

Download Three Models of Social Enterprise, Part Two (.pdf)

Listening to the Social Entrepreneur

I recently came across this event so thought I'd share it. It's called "Listening to the Social Entrepreneur" and will be held on Thursday, October 09, 2008 from 10:00am - 05:30pm at the University of East London's Docklands Campus.

Looks interesting. Here are the main themes:

  1. The Social Entrepreneurial Mindset - is a social entrepreneur just born that way or can those from other sectors transition their organisations to become social enterprises, and how do we make that cultural shift?

  2. Procurement Versus Market Place Focus - is procurement really a long-term sustainable business model for social enterprise or is it time to start moving back to the market place?

  3. The Business Versus Social Goals Debate - how do we get the balance right without selling out, and how important is social impact measurement and bench marking in helping us achieve our goals?

More info here. Let me know if you're planning on going as I'm thinking of it too.

The Future Is Chrome... Or Is It?

In a nutshell the answer is No

Until the way we browse fundamentally changes, new entrants like Google's new browser 'Chrome' really have nothing to add for the majority of users. The future is touch screen and voice commands. When these start to become ubiquitous, what the mass market needs from browsers will change. At that point there will be a big gap for new entrants.

If Chrome was setting itself up to exploit that change, we'd be looking at the early rumblings of a browsing revolution. But it isn't.

The browser is not finger touch oriented in anyway, and in fact the functionality has become more mouse based, fiddly and precision oriented. There isn't even the 'alt' functionality needed for disabled access technologies.

So no, for the moment I don't really see Chrome taking over the world. I suspect it will be just another player like Firefox. I'll be keeping an eye on it anyway from the perspective of USP development, so if anything new comes to light that changes my view, I'll be sure to keep you posted!

Meantime if you want to know a bit more about this, read the full article on my other blog -

Google's new browser muscles in on Microsoft

If you've been keeping up with the voices in the blogosphere, particularly the tech side, there's no way you'd have missed the fact that Google has just released a new browser called Chrome. But since I know you most of you probably haven't, here's a quick update. 

What is Chrome?

Basically Google has released an Open Source beta (test) version a new internet explorer (browser). It is small to download, simple to use and apparently very fast (although if you're not a developer, you'd never really notice). 

Quick highlights of what's different

  • The search and address field is the same - which is good for the tech savvy, but probably a bit tricky for everyone else. 
  • The homepage shows you your 'most visited' sites, recently closed tabs and bookmarks.
  • Unlike IE, you can shut down tabs that have crashed without losing all your open windows.
  • Security wise, before loading any suspect page Google Chrome will warn you if its a site that is suspected of malware or phishing.
  • Bookmarking is ridiculously easy.

Google Chrome

Why should you care?

Apparently Chrome is not just a browser, but a platform for web pages and applications based on a more powerful JavaScript engine called V8, that can power the next generation of web applications that aren't even possible in today's browsers. Basically it creates huge potential for Google to integrate its multitude of apps like Gmail, Google Calendar, Blogger, Notebook, RSS Reader etc, into a browser in a way that’s never been done before. 

Also and more importantly, since the browser is a desktop application, when combined with Google's Gears which allows web applications to run offline, this finally means that Google is moving into Microsoft operating system territory. In short we might finally see some real competition to Windows and Macs! 

If you're building web apps for your start-up then this is probably something you should keep your eye on. If not, well then I doubt you're missing much by sticking with IE, but that's a story for another post :)


I'm curious to know what others think. Have you tried Chrome? Do you like it? Write in and let me know...

Did You Know? (Shift Happens Update)

Some months ago I put up a slideshow by Karl Fisch called Shift Happens, which I think was created in about 2006. I recently came across some updates created in 2007, so thought I'd share them with you.

The most interesting thing about these updates is that even though they were created barely a year ago, neither mentions the impact of mobile telephone technology. Mobile innovation is transforming the developing world, bringing affordable communication, banking, social and commercial services to rural places where no physical infrastructure exists. It has exploded in the last year, and its impact is finally being recognised over the past couple of months. I'll put up some links related to this when I can. Effectively we're seeing a shift that's happening so fast that even social discussion can't keep up with it!

Anyway here's a couple of interesting video presentations that follow up on Shift Happens.

Did you know - Part 2

Did you know - Part 4
(Part 3 is very similar and was revised to Part 4 a couple months later. You can find it on Youtube if you like)

They both essentially question whether our education systems are keeping up with these shifts and providing young people with the knowledge they need to survive in a rapidly shifting global economy.

What do you think?

9 Fundraising Survival Tips For Startups

I recently came across a really good article by Paul Graham on fundraising for startups. He makes some really good points and his core message resonates with me after months of working on USP, and probably resonates with anyone involved with a social startup.

The hardest part of a startup is making something people want: most startups that fail, die because they didn't do that. But the second biggest cause of death is probably the difficulty of raising money. Fundraising is brutal. I'd add to that point by saying that it's even worse if your idea is social, because funders immediately get nervous about the connotations for potential for return on investment. Here's the full article, but I must warn that it's a long one!

The short version...

  1. Have low expectations
  2. Keep working on your startup
  3. Be conservative
  4. Be flexible
  5. Be independent
  6. Don't take rejection personally
  7. Be able to downshift into consulting (if appropriate)
  8. Avoid inexperienced investors
  9. Know where you stand with them in terms of commitment


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