Sunday, 29 April 2007

Charles Leadbeater

• I missed the workshop session featuring Charles Leadbeater (... there was just too much going on at the same time), but I got to read his column in the Observer newspaper, which was published during the time of the Forum, and also his later article in the Social Enterprise magazine. Leadbeater was one of the earliest influences on my own awareness of this field. Ten years ago, he wrote a small booklet called The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur which was published by the British Think Tank Demos. This booklet helped to popularise the term and brought social entrepreneurship into the mainstream of public policy debate.

Leadbeater’s booklet also had a significant influence on the “Third Way” movement within the leadership of Labour Parties around the world. In New Zealand, in the early part of this decade, these ideas were an influence on Social Development Minister Steve Maharey’s interest in establishing a local Social Entrepreneurship Scheme (through the ill-fated Community Employment Group).

• These days, Leadbeater is a “Visiting Fellow” at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University. So ... What has he learned about social entrepreneurship after its first decade of significant growth? Well, he believes that the movement has got quite a lot right, but also quite a lot wrong. For a start, he challenges the current “hero” focus as a way that social entrepreneurship is being promoted:
“Social entrepreneurship needs to become a mass activity, not just the domain of inspirational mavericks ... Entrepreneurship usually comes from teams, not heroic individuals. Social entrepreneurs thrive on interdependence, learning and borrowing resources from the public and private sectors.”
Leadbeater believes that the biggest challenge facing the social sector is how to scale up its impact — and the social entrepreneur movement needs to embrace this challenge:
“Too many social entrepreneurs are still running inspiring but small schemes. Too few can show how their inspirational new approaches have spread. Part of the reason is a lack of both capital and management skills to expand larger organisations from smaller roots. Opposition from entrenched bureaucracies and professionals is another factor. But social entrepreneurs may have their biggest impact by being disruptive innovators, opening up markets that bigger organisations cannot see...” — Charles Leadbeater
“Mainstreaming the Mavericks”, by Charles Leadbeater, The Observer 25 March 2007
“Whatever Happened to the Heroes?” by Charles Leadbeater in Social Enterprise magazine Issue 57 (April 2007)
Charles Leadbeater on Innovation (TED Talk July 2005 in Oxford UK)
The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur by Charles Leadbeater (pamphlet pub 1997 by Demos Thinktank)
Social Entrepreneurs — Special issue of The Jobs Letter (No.147, 27 June 2001) by vivian Hutchinson