Friday, August 27, 2010

Is Duncan Bannatyne a Social Entrepreneur?

Silly question you might say if you've seen the dour old sod on Dragon's Den. But I have been reading his book and, although he punches the odd person, I can't help - as someone who has been through start-up, felt patronised by posh twats etc - liking the bloke.

What isn't so obvious about the guy is the stuff he's being doing for 20 years mainly overseas. A visit to Romania in 1990 shocked him to the core and he has since worked with social entrepreneurs to set up `Casa Bannatyne' to help orphaned children. While there are those who will mock his naming decision, it wasn't all just vanity. The name partly comes from the fact that he gets most of his customers to sign up to support it too, and of couse the name-resonance helps there I am sure.

Altogether, Bannatyne has probably put in many millions both to this and to other projects around the world. He chooses people carefully and doesn't get heavily involved in the detail. But he is also more than a mere donor and is active in seeking business-like solutions to social problems.

Liam Black was asked recently by an Asian businessman `What is a social entrepreneur?' Liam's response was that a social entrepreneur is defined by what he or she does or achieves - and forget the rest of the Boring Debate. While this sets aside some important questions about how certain philanthropists get rich in the first place (Mittal etc), there is something powerful in what Liam is saying. And there are definitely many social entrepreneurs who in state-subsidised CICs and co-ops who not achieving anything much for their efforts.

The reason I wrote this blog, as well as to recommend Bannatyne's book - was to say that I don't think the discussion of social entrepreneurship should either be confined to a limited few who run CICs/Co-ops or whatever BUT neither should it be viewed as a club to which ANYONE with money who splashes the cash should join either. How that money has been accumulated has to come into the picture.

But overall, I think we have to be broad in our conceptualisation of social entrepreneurship if all of us involved in changing society through our organiations are to link arms and become a world-force in the difficult few decades to come.


Anonymous said...

Craig, your 'state subsidised' sideswipe irritated me.

Aside from the investment from your core investor, where exactly did SUs resource come from? Ahem, yup, the state.

So - the state is a valid purchaser/consumer of products or not? Why does it need to be a sponsor?

Also, whilst we're on it, could you make an effort to acknowledge the role disabled people played in 'founding' Speaking Up? Whilst they still struggle day-by-day to make sense of their world, you have used their coat-tails to elevate yourself to heights they can barely comprehend.

Humility and perspective is welcome from all those 'social entrepreneurs' that you share a navel gaze with.

Just a thought.

Mark Griffiths 'ideally speaking...' said...

An anonymous comment is not worth the screen it is printed on. If you can't put your name to your viewpoint, why should anyone take it seriously?

Craig Dearden-Phillips said...

Yes, I agree with Mark here (naturally enough). I think it is important to own up to our thoughts.

Couple of points here:
1. If you have ever seen me speak or read my book you will be aware of the place I accord to those people upon whose coat-tails I apparently ride.
2. Loads of SU money was private, philanthropic and, yes, sweat equity from myself and others. Work given for free to make stuff happen. Not something everybody, particularly the comfortably salaried, can always their heads around.

Rob 'Arris said...

Agree with Mark and Craig on this one (I was also "outed" a couple of years ago, although my comments were less venomous).

"Anonymous", i have known Craig for a number of years now and i am always struck by how modest he actually is about what HE achieved at SU - yes i am prepared to put myself out there and say that without Craigs vision and hard work its unlikely it would have happened for SU. One of Craigs skills, looking in from the outside as i do, is encouraging and praising his staff and stakeholders for their contributions.

Please dont take this the wrong way but my understanding of the development of SU in the early days was that if there was a coat tail to grab onto, it was Craigs, grabbing onto others wouldnt have got him too far at that point. Sorry to pop your little bubble....