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E3M Away Day 2017

Date: 03.02.17 |Categories: Uncategorised

The 2017 E3M Leaders’ Away Day generated some interesting and positive conversations, and a couple of commitments to do new things among the leaders who took part.

The event kicked-off with a discussion about the “New Normal” and the challenges of the current context (not just Brexit!), with its opportunities and threats, and what this means for the kind of social businesses that are members of E3M.

People shared their thoughts about a series of issues, ranging from dealing with the challenges of being a CEO, involving sometimes difficult relations with staff and boards; to concerns about being on a “contracts treadmill”, responding to tenders, rather than proactively making positive social change happen.

There was a discussion about collaboration and how there should really be more collaboration in the kind of underdeveloped areas/markets that social enterprises work in, but that there are some real barriers to this. Inspiration was gained from an update on the progress of the Health and Being LLP, and how it is facilitating collaboration among a group of social enterprises based in the North of England. Several people said they would explore this model further.

Matt-Stephenson Dodd, CEO of Street League, shared his thoughts with the group about the need for real honesty and a more robust approach to the way social enterprises report their impact. It was noted that a recent Ipsos Mori poll suggests that trust in charity CEOs is low in comparison to hairdressers (only 47%). Social enterprises need both good story telling AND the facts (too often charities/social enterprises rely on stories that tug on the heartstrings and aren’t clear about what is achieved (what the real impact of the interventions are longer term and for how many/which people). Some messages have no real meaning (‘we’ve helped…’ ‘we’ve worked with…’ x number of people, “hardest to reach”).

There was general agreement that E3M members can sign up to three Golden Rules of Impact:

  • We’ll never over claim what we do
  • All percentages to include a sample size – e.g. 80% is meaningless on its own unless include (8/10) or (8,000/10,000)
  • We have evidence to prove the outcomes

We will take this commitment forward in our work programme during 2017.

One of the highlights of the 24 hours was the talk at dinner by Eric Robinson, CEO of the Wirral. He outlined the current position of his council and the other five authorities in the City Region. The level of cuts already made, and those that have to be made over the next 3 years, means that the council is really very open to practical new solutions. The overwhelming sense was that there are some real opportunities, and this is an area where E3M could play a role in facilitating contacts and making new things happen. His key points were:

  • Proactively pitch ideas – don’t wait for a procurement process to make a bid
  • Talk a language that local authorities will hear (i.e. they want to know how your service will save them money)
  • You need a strong business case, with a clear narrative
  • You need to find the right people to talk to in the local authorities: the CEO and Leader

The Away Day provided some real inspiration, and we are exploring how to take forward the ideas discussed in our E3M programme during 2017 and beyond.

Watch this space!


Jonathan Bland
MD of Social Business International and Founder of E3M