Project A - Journeys into the Social Unknown

[Taken from my new blog @ - please visit and update your feeds!]

Source for Butterfly design: Over the past few years I've slowly been moving more and more towards a focus on social enterprise. Along the way I've worked on grassroots projects, run initiatives, joined and chaired charity boards and provided advisory help and input to social enterprises; all with the end goal of covering enough ground to be compelling as a consultant in the social space.

However, as I began to understand the UK social sector, I began to develop a curiosity about how things work in other parts of the world. How relevant is UK best practice to other regions? What impacts do different cultures and economies have on social and charitable enterprise? What new and exciting social innovations and approaches are budding in countries outside the western sphere?

Since there's only so much you can grasp from books and blogs, I figured the fastest and most effective way to build a global picture of social endeavour would be to travel through different countries working with social or charitable enterprises, helping address the challenges these organisations face.

So here I am. A few years and much saving later, ready to make it happen. If you know any organisations that could use strategic help, or you want to be part of the journey, follow what I'm doing, help fund me or simply provide connections, drop me an email at

The plan so far is as follows:


Project Bio/Summary

I am planning a year's self funded journey to travel to different countries, working with and understanding social enterprise and social innovation in different cultures and economies. I'm interested in understanding the relevance of UK best practice in other contexts and also the cultural and economic impact on scope and success of social enterprises.

My broad areas of focus will be as follows:
  • Local (Best) Practices
  • Developing Global "Health-Check" Toolkits for Social Enterprises (based on
  • Governmental Policy and Support
  • Funding mechanisms
  • Business innovations
  • Social innovations
  • Challenges
  • Working partnerships
  • Similarities and differences with the UK model
  • Key social entrepreneurial hubs and networks
The basic methodology is simple and for every country visited will involve
  1. Spending a few weeks with 2 or more social enterprises, providing pro-bono generic consulting skills to help them address any organisational or developmental challenge they are facing (see skills profile below)
  2. Connecting with local arms of global SE umbrella organisations (eg. Ashoka) and local Social Enterprise or Third Sector support organisations
  3. Connecting with local Social Entrepreneurs
I am currently looking for
  1. Organisations that might be interested in commissioning comparative outputs
  2. Suggestions for local organisations that might need help in terms of advisory / guidance etc. in the following regions
    • East and South Africa
    • India
    • South East Asia
    • China
    • South America
  3. Potential funding avenues / support with travel and accommodation costs

My Skills Profile i.e. where I could help you or organisation:

Management and Social Enterprise consultant specialising in Financial Sustainability, Start-Up, Scaling and Business Models for Charities and Social Enterprises. Areas of focus include Strategic Development, Social Design, Business Model Innovation, Organisational Scaling & Transformation, Project Management, Raising Investment, Branding, Marketing & PR, Web 2.0 and Social Media.

Social experience and achievement includes direct involvement with grass roots projects covering issues ranging from youth exclusion to literacy, discrimination, conflict, civil rights and disabilities; advisory input to a wide range of charities and social enterprises; board membership as Chairman of the London charity BANG Edutainment and Director of the communications charity Imediate; and Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts.

Commerical experience includes large scale management, technology and digital consulting; at Charteris and Conchango to the UK's top 100 Retail and Financial Services organisations; and strategic transformation and change at Logica to Government and the Public Sector.

More information @


5 Steps to Successful Free Websites for Social Enterprises

[Taken from my new blog @ - please visit and update your feeds!]

A year of working with different social startups and growing enterprises has highlighted one very unfortunate trend. Too many social entrepreneurs are wasting precious resource on building websites for their startups. If you're about to hand over a few thousand pounds to a designer somewhere to create you a logo or build you a few pages, STOP!! Read this first...

Here's a few key fundamentals you should grasp before we get started.
  • A Logo is NOT the same as a Brand.
    A brand is what your audience feels, thinks, and remembers about your enterprise. The logo is simply an iconic representation that should be able to adapt and change without affecting your brand. Define your brand first, then design the logo.

  • A Website is NOT just a set of Pages.
    It can be any web-space you control, which allows you to showcase what you stand for and what you do. In today's inter-connected Web 2.0 world, you must think of websites as broad linkages of organisational content on multiple platforms, in multiple conversations and in multiple contexts. Whatever 'website' you have must therefore function as a content sharer/aggregator allowing subscription (RSS) and interaction (commenting), and NOT just as pages or brochureware (HTML).

  • A Blog is NOT different from a Website.
    It is simply a type of website with rich content management features and the ability for readers to automatically subscribe to content and updates. You can easily use a blog as your organisational website with the various pages as linked articles.
That cleared up, here's the 5 steps you need to follow
  1. Make sure your mission is simple (memorable), clear (followable) and focused (accurate). If it's open, vague, or all-encompassing, then rewrite it.

  2. Develop your brand in a way that makes it a key strategy for achieving your mission, and NOT just as a marketing tool.

  3. Focus on creation of content worth sharing, and focus on categories that support your organisation's mission and vision.

  4. Use your branding to define how you present this content in terms of tone, style and use of visuals.

  5. Use FREE blogging platforms on which to build your new 'website'. Don't spend a penny on building it. You may have to compromise a little on layout, but you gain so much in richness and flexibility for zero cost that the trade-off is a no-brainer. I recommend blogger for your website and Ning for your community.

If this makes sense but you're still a little unclear about how to put it into practice, feel free to contact me for a chat. Drop me a line at

3 Reasons Why Your Great Idea Doesn't Yet Exist

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I've recently had a number of people with ideas for startups come to me for advice on how to get these ideas going. In each case the idea has appeared to plug a perceived need in the market, suggesting a no-brainer that the 'inventor' is therefore about to take risks to pursue.

After a little investigation however, I'm usually able to find equivalents that already exist, or good reasons for why it's not already being done. So I always urge caution, as there are some obvious reasons why an idea you've had does not already appear to exist
  1. You haven't done your research properly.
    This is by far and away the primary reason people think their idea is unique. Don't just search for the most obvious term that reflects your idea. Look for words and phrases that mean something similar. Also look for news or releases that suggest that something similar is already under development.

  2. Someone has thought of it, looked at all the angles and decided the ROI isn't worth it.
    This is also very likely. Stay wary of your idea until you've covered these bases yourself. If the idea requires set up and development well outside your personal areas of expertise, you should know that many ideas that seem entirely obvious to the naive, often involve prohibitive execution, set up and development, or simply don't have the scale of market first imagined.

  3. Someone thought of it, built it, and it failed.
    Lots of companies, services and products come and go. Don't just focus on things that are out there. Make sure you've checked if anyone has tried it before and failed. Investigate why they weren't successful and be honest about whether or not you are really likely to do better.
Finally, if you get past all of the above you are in the fantastic position of being confident that no one has thought of it. Yes it's rare, but it happens. Protect your IP and get busy!

3 Reasons Why Finding Equivalents Shouldn't Stop You

On the other hand, just because products or services exist, doesn't mean that you should drop your idea right away for the following reasons
  1. The market has already been primed and created (just make sure it isn't saturated).
  2. You can easily evaluate what does and doesn't work, and you might thus be able to improve on existing products and services.
  3. You could go niche in terms of design or target market, and focus on developing a specific variant of the idea instead.

The Urban Survival Project is Closing

After a year and a half of development and evolution, what started out as The Urban Survival Project has finally changed so significantly that it is time to move on.

The core idea of USP itself evolved into a broader wikipedia-esque volunteering platform called iVolntr, for which I never really found a suitable funder and thus has largely been parked as a project. The blog too has shifted from a focus on the development of these projects into one that primarily provides ideas, help and advice for developing social enterprises. Finally I too have moved from being a part-time pro-bono advisor and mentor to social start-ups, into a full time participant in the global social development movement. I quit commercial work in April and now work solely with social and charitable enterprises.

The upshot is that I feel it is time to focus more on dedicated advice for social enterprises, and so I've created a new blog called "Social Effect". I will keep both blogs going in parallel for a little while but from October this blog will only contain updates on USP/iVolntr, while the other one will move forward as my primary blog on social enterprise.

If you've found my posts useful, please add the new feed to your readers and inboxes. Here are the links

Thanks for all the support and readership over the past year or so. Hope to see you at the new blog @


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The Urban Survival Project is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.