Pitch perfect

I had one of those interesting late night debates with friends recently that included, among other things, a discussion about human behaviour. The following question was the dominant one:

Why is it that those who actually do stuff, shout least about it; where as those who cluck and pontificate seem to do just that, and not a lot else?

That was just as much a general observation about humans as it was about any particular sector of work. Some people are just better at getting their point across than others; not everyone is a great story-teller. But the observation did get us thinking about the differences between sectors in general, something that happens often when there is a diverse range of people in a group! The subject then came up again today, so it is clearly in the forefront of my mind again. And like an earworm, the only way to get rid of it is to play the tune! So, here is a more specific question:

Why does it seem that large corporations are more interested in international CSR, i.e. helping those in the developing world, rather than those closer to home? Is it prestige? Or is it because Joe Public thinks the state picks everything up and is unaware of how much the voluntary and social enterprise sector actually does? If the latter, why is that?

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece about the importance of story-telling and getting the tagline for any project right; but again, perhaps some people are just better at getting their message across than others. So this got me thinking back to a workshop I did a few months ago that covered a few pitching tips I thought I would share. It is based on Freytag’s basic five part narrative structure:

Exposition: introduce a story that will pique audience interest. Never be afraid to start your story with a little background information about yourself either, as you are often asking people to invest at least their faith, if not time and money, in you. However, some will want to know more than others and to judge that properly you will need to research your audience in the same way you would for any other presentation. What is your audience’s motivation? Why would they want to contribute to what you do? Can you anticipate any questions they might have for you? Have a look at your stakeholders (who you will hopefully have mapped already) and think about what messages they need to hear; you don’t need to change your story completely to suit each group, but your emphasis certainly needs tweaking according to the audience.
• The rising action of a narrative structure presents the problem or question that the protagonist needs to solve. You are the protagonist in this case and your social mission is to help solve one of society’s many problems. If you don’t know what this is yet, you have a problem of your own that needs answering really quickly!
• The climax to a story is where the hero decides what needs to be done to solve the problem presented in the previous act and sets out to do it. This is where you present what you intend to do to reach a favourable outcome to your story – it is the ‘how’ …
• The falling action is where the tension is in most narrative structures – you know the problem and how to solve it but will it work? Who will benefit from your chosen course of action and how will you know whether your intended outcomes have been achieved? People concentrate a lot on the why and the how without ever really knowing whether it will work, so be honest – have you done anything like this before? What are you basing your assumptions on and why?
Dénouement is such a lovely word it gets a sentence all to itself. And, if you’ve got this far, it’s all too easy to forget it as you stagger breathlessly through the previous act. The ‘dénouement’ is the resolution to your story and should in this case be your call to action. What do you want your audience to do? How do you want them to contribute? Here is where you tell them. If you do not give your audience this resolution your story will remain a mystery and you will achieve very little.

Freytag’s narrative structure is often presented as a pyramid, or as a ‘story arc’, but in this case it would be wise to read it as a circle: the final question ‘what do you want your audience to do’ will also answer the first ‘how do I address my audience’ question presented at the beginning. Ta da!

Like these tips? Want more? Send a breath of fresh air through your organisation by giving me a call. My contact details are at www.bonsaibison.com, where you will also find more articles like this on the ‘blog’ page …

Posted in Bonsai Bison | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing my friend Trichotillomania

23 July 2013 I met Lucinda Ellery at her London base in Hammersmith. Lucinda is someone I came across about 3 years ago when her work was featured in a documentary called ‘Girls on the Pull’. Like many, this was the first time I had heard of the condition Trichotillomania (TTM); that is to say, this was the first time I had heard this particular condition, where a person has an irresistible urge to pull out their own hair, given a name. I knew exactly what the condition was, as I had spent the previous 30 years thinking I was a complete freak, alone with this bizarre behaviour. And yet here it was, with a name, recognised and sadly suffered by many. The floodgates opened.

Of course I wasn’t alone, but who wants to admit they pull their hair out? Apparently 1 or 2 people in 50 (mostly female) will pull their hair at some stage in their lives. TTM belongs to a group of impulse control disorders; in other words, you don’t want to pull but you can’t help yourself. Furthermore, once a hair root has been plucked several times it desensitises and consequently, pulling sites often get wider and wider as the feeling of relief is lost from the original area. I can absolutely guarantee that the urge to pull is indeed irresistible; the tension that rises both before that urge and if I try to resist it, is physically overwhelming. Nevertheless, where giving in to the urge may relieve the tension and even be pleasurable in the short-term, eventually it leaves you feeling guilty and hating yourself; just like smoking, you know the benefits of stopping far outweigh giving in to temptation.

At the time of the original broadcast back in 2010, I considered contacting Lucinda, but frankly I was afraid of revisiting something that I was pretty sure I had dealt with to the point of not being able to deal with it anymore. I was also telling myself that I wasn’t pulling my hair out anymore and that the lack of re-growth was my own silly fault. But TTM is a reliable friend who is always there; where I perhaps wasn’t having any more of those ritual sessions that could last for hours of pulling the hair from my head until I had found the ‘perfect’ specimen, I was certainly having mini sessions of pulling it out from elsewhere on my body. Sufferers, such as me, often alternate between pulling sites to regain that feeling of relief or find other areas of the body to pull from.

Only yesterday I found myself searching for one of those particularly course and wiry hairs to pull from just over my ears after visiting my family, so to say I no longer pull it from my head would be lying. Most of the time I am able to stop myself, but this is a good demonstration of the fact that TTM really doesn’t go away, you’re just aware of it in some instances more than others. Right now I’m in an aware state; let’s say that generally I’m in a better place than I was 3 years ago. So where it’s always been in the back of my mind, republishing a blog piece I had written that mentioned TTM a few weeks back, I started to think more concretely about contacting Lucinda again and dealing with it once and for all.

If you’re after an ego boost, Lucinda is your woman! I came out of our consultation feeling fabulous. A lot of this had to do with her showering me with compliments; not ridiculous and unrealistic compliments, just the kind of things I should be saying to myself in the mirror every morning when I can face looking at more than just an eye in a hand mirror. I also felt that for the first time I had met someone who knew how to look TTM objectively in the face. She called it ‘self-calm’ and not ‘self-harm’ and instead of wagging the ‘stop doing that or you’ll go bald’ finger at me, as my family had done ever since I’d started to pull my hair out, Lucinda offered the kind of practical solutions I could deal with.

It was the first time too that anyone had looked under the surface of my thick chaotic barnet without gasping in disbelief at the fact that there is very little hair on the top of my head after 30 odd years of pulling it out. Imagine having to try and explain that away every time you walk into a salon?! As a result, the hair I haven’t pulled has been long, self-cut and self-coloured ever since the accident/burn/a bit of stress excuses ran out, which would be well over 20 years ago. I’m lucky in that my hair is very thick so the pulling sites are covered well; but to those who know me, how often do you see me with my hair down? Now you know why.

Now this is just the start of what I hope will be yet another one of my many journeys of self-development and I am generally someone who believes that the secret to eternal youth is indeed an inquisitive mind that is actively willing to develop. But I have to admit this is a little different. I am not someone who likes revealing any of the crumbly stuff that lies beneath the independent, tough, confident, ball-breaking exterior I wear, so going public with this is not going to be an easy task, I know that. But awareness needs to be raised and I couldn’t bear to think there are others like me out there who have no idea there are others like them, let alone practical help.

So I have decided to come out from behind my high barnet mask (if you’ll pardon the pun) and share my story and the journey that will hopefully restore my locks to their full and luscious potential. If that story helps inform, educate and help others along the way, then the embarrassment and I have to say now, shame, of admitting I am a TTM sufferer will be a small price to pay.

And the start of my story? Well, there are undoubtedly a number of issues that led me to start pulling my hair out. I know it was likely a combination of both my family circumstances and precocious puberty (in itself another story!). Although my parents’ relationship had been turbulent for most of my life, in 1980, just before I turned 10, there were a couple of events and corresponding consequences, that conspired to shake my world to the core and trigger a series of destructive behaviour patterns. It is probably fair to say that there is very little understanding of the emotional effects of precocious puberty now, so imagine how it was in the 70s/80s. As a result, the combination of events that year had a profound effect, not just because of what they were but because despite being 10 in actual years, my physiology was about 15 and extremely confused.

Now I call them “destructive behaviour patterns” and yet in hindsight I would say all of it has actually strengthened me. If the offer of turning back time was miraculously made to me, I would not chose to change anything, as there would be no guarantee that I would be the person I am today and I am rather partial to that person. Similarly I do not blame anyone for any of this – apportioning blame helps no-one, least of all me – TTM is just one of the ways we find to cope and it could have been a lot worse.

That is not to say if someone had offered me some TTM help when I was in my teens, twenties or thirties, I would not have grabbed it with both hands! When in 2010, just a few months shy of 40 I saw that documentary, the familiarity of it all made me shake and sob both with sorrow and anger. Convinced it was too late for me given the 30 year gap compounded the fear and it took another 3 years for me to pick up the phone. I’m glad I did.

To be continued …

Posted in TTM | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Discussing creative ‘performance angst’

I think it would be fair to say that we assume artists are happy sharing their work; be that a painting, a song, a play, a novel, or whatever tangible ‘product’ comes out of creative expression.

At a workshop for pianists and piano teachers recently, I was quite surprised to discover how many of my fellow pianists hated performing and how much of this had to do with the restrictions put on us by our classical training and it made me wonder whether this was unique to musicians with formal training or whether it was a ‘performance angst’ common to all artists.

Therefore, as part of the Brendan Lloyd & Me initiative, I would be interested to hear what others feel about ‘performing’ – so let me open the discussion with a few thoughts:

Those of us who learn to play a musical instrument in the UK often do so in accordance with the ABRSM curriculum, which is a pretty tough set of exams at 8 Grades. My own path is a fairly typical one: I started formal piano lessons aged seven and had achieved Grade 8 by the time I was sixteen. I was lucky too in that the local authority considered me good enough for a scholarship, which paid for my lessons for as long as I was in full time education. So I was quite good in relation to the rest of the general populous. As a result, I was regularly rolled out for school speech days, holiday events and care home visits not to mention the obligatory family round on Christmas day. One of my first jobs was playing for a ballet school where the students were put under the same rigorous exam pressure as their fellow musical artists – I felt their pain on a number of levels!

The problem was that I was only as good as the sheet of music in front of me, which also acted as a security blanket. As soon as that went, I crumbled mentally. It wasn’t that I couldn’t remember anything, more that I didn’t have the confidence to just go for it; it was a hang-up from training for those exams, you had to be note perfect or you failed. If someone asks me to play when there is a piano in the vicinity and I have unwisely let slip that I do play, I literally feel like sticking pins in my eyes. Having participated in the aforementioned workshop, I now know that I am not the only one who dreads going for broke without the music in front of me for fear of missing a trill or slipping a wrong bass note and dying on the spot!

While I was learning formally, any kind of improvisation was a secret activity. I had a great teacher, but improvisation was never something he really taught me to do, or even so much as encouraged. I think he thought I just did it given I had such a firm opinion on everything else! Putting words to music was a habit I had nurtured ever since I could hum, but if I wanted to make up a tune I would pick up a guitar and strum a few chords (as that was the limit of my guitar-playing!) to a melody I sang. Rarely did I do that at the piano, thinking that I should be coming up with something way more complicated than a melody and simple chords.

Once I started playing in bands, particularly some of the really bad ones, I realised that relatively, I had a modicum of talent. So when I bought my first digital piano, the instances of sitting down at the piano and improvising grew, as I was able to record my musings and build on them. And this is something I still do regularly.

Some of those musings are not that bad, but no-one on this planet has ever heard them or probably ever will! My arm literally has to be twisted before I’ll play for anyone without several glasses down me; even then, without any comforting sheet music, I clam up. However, having had no formal photography training, I’m quite happy to post what I feel are my better photographs online. I am no writer either, but that has never stopped me posting my ramblings for all and sundry to read!

Do other people feel like this? Do you feel that having had the formal training your performance will be judged more harshly than for those who have had less or do you believe Joe Public will view art or listen to music for what it is? Do you care? I would really like to hear your thoughts, so feel free to comment!

Posted in Brendan Lloyd & Me | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A practical guide to partnership building

This would not be the first time I’ve used a visual media business model to demonstrate what can be done in the charity and social enterprise sector, but one of the things the visual media business does really well, particularly in the world of animated television series, is co-produce. Without skill sharing and strategic partnership building, the industry would never survive. Sound familiar? It is an effective way of doing things, particularly in the specialised area of animation. And where the charity and social enterprise sector may not be computer generated or hand drawn, it is certainly specialised, so I urge you to read on:

I think most of us know enough about animated films to know that there is a variety of styles out there and that certain studios have their own hallmark ‘look’. For example, a large portion of us would be able to pick out a Disney Princess and most of us know the distinctive ‘claymation’ style of Aardman Animation, whether that’s Morph or Wallace and Gromit. Similarly, a Tim Burton puppet is distinctive even before either Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter gives it a voice. There is an obvious reason for this: the creative vision behind these studios usually comes from one person or at the very most, a group of people with a common one.

When you have a property you would like to develop into a film or television series, you’re not just looking for a reputable studio, you also want someone who can adopt the style you want; you are looking for that common creative vision. If you are not a Producer yourself, you need to find one that believes in you and your project, as they will not only be best placed to find the studio that best fits the ‘look’ with a crew that can achieve it, they will be best placed to know where you can find the funds to make it.

So there are essentially two types of partnership building that go on here:

First off, who are your co-producers going to be? Producers often seek out co-production partners who can not only bring on board talented crew members, but who can bring on board finance. I have never worked on a television or film project that hasn’t involved at least one other international partner. 99% of the time this was because they could bring local funding to the table, more often than not a broadcaster, which in some cases brought state funding too. For example, the Media Programme, a fund administered by the European Commission would cover a small percentage of your production funding if you could bring a number of broadcasters from different European language areas together. This would often mean bringing on co-producers from those territories as the broadcasters would be obliged to commission local organisations.

Second is your crew. Most studios run on a small core team and crew up according to the projects that come in. Just about everyone works on a contract / is a freelance artist. There is no point taking people on permanently if they’re only going to be working on one project. Most people in the animation business are freelance and enjoy the flexibility it gives them, as do the studios that engage them.

Not only is a partnership approach more cost-effective, it is also an issue of skills. Quite often the best skills are elsewhere, so instead of seeing that as competition, life is a lot easier if you club together: you may have skills they don’t and vice versa.

So basically, at the start of every project, you are developing a number of relationships; some of them are old ones, some brand new, but the questions you ask yourself are always the same:

• Who shares your ‘style’ and ‘ethos’? There is no point working with people who don’t believe the same things as you do about the project!

• Who are the specialists? This is the whole point of skill sharing and the reason is it cost-effective – why employ an ‘all-rounder’ to whom you are obliged to pay a salary regardless of the work you can bring in, when you can have a specialist for a project specific amount of time?

• Do you get on? In other words, do you trust each other? This has always been a contentious one – I remember an executive producer of mine once accusing me of hiring people on character rather than talent. If I’m running a project and am unable to trust my team, it will not work, however talented those individuals might be. I have to say this is rarely an issue but I stand by the principle still.

Once you have found your partners, you need to set out the parameters of work before you begin. Regardless of how new or old those partnerships are, you must agree the following and put it in writing:

• Agree what you are expecting partners to do (and reversely, what they expect of you) and put it into a formal agreement. This really should happen before you start, not half way through. However much you have met the ‘trust’ principle, you do not know what lies ahead. So do your risk assessment, always anticipate the worst case scenario and put procedures for mitigation in place early.

• Same goes with finances, if partners are bringing funding to the table you must agree before the work starts, how that is distributed across the work plan. What is your budget and who is putting what into it? Who is paying for what services and how will cash flow? What are the conditions of funding and what implications do these have on your work plan? Again, do this BEFORE the work starts.

• Intellectual property: define who owns what and who takes what when the work is done. This can be a fairly simple case of if you put 50% of the funding in, you take 50% of the receipts out, or it could be much more complex. Either way, this could potentially be a delicate conversation the further into the project, so do it before you start.

• How are the profits going to be distributed? Call it surplus if you wish, the principle is the same. How will any surplus be distributed and what costs need to be deducted first. This ties in to ownership and is just as delicate, so sort it before it is too late to do so comfortably.

So there you have it. Take out words like ‘producer’ and ‘crew’ and these practical steps could be applied to anything. The list is not an exhaustive one, but you get the gist!

Posted in Bonsai Bison | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Single parents, feckless fathers and how everyone has forgotten the children … again

Following the somewhat ridiculous attempt by the Centre of Social Justice to promote marriage as a way of preventing children growing up without male role models today, I am re-posting something I wrote in January 2011 as it is just as relevant now as it was then and indeed was twenty/thirty/forty/… years ago (I have made updates where appropriate):

I have a rather long-standing beef with society and its attitude towards those who grow up in a single parent family. I hear the sighs already, yet another post about unemployment, poverty and the benefits spiral; we have been hearing a lot of that recently haven’t we? But stop sighing, I am asking a more pertinent question: what about the kids who get caught up in all this?

Take two very bright 10 year old girls, both starting a new school after they moved with mothers and siblings to a rather affluent suburb of a major English city to live with their maternal grandparents following tragic occurrences. Girl A lost her father to cancer some months before and girl B had lost hers to an acrimonious divorce at about the same time and had not seen her father since; it would be some years before she saw him again. Neither fit the generalised picture of unemployment and poverty: both sets of parents are professionals and where they are not exactly affluent, they both have wider family nets to keep them above the poverty line. Both are about to enter that taboo world of living in a single parent family, but both will experience that world quite differently. When girl A wanted to talk about her father, she attracted the sympathetic attention of teachers and pupils alike, who in turn did not quite know what to say around girl B, when she wanted to talk about hers. The general feeling was that if a father loses contact with his child, well then he was what we might at best call ‘feckless’ and was not worth the effort – in fact, the sympathy went to the mother: “poor cow, how dare he treat her so?” It was some time before one clearly extraordinary teacher noticed the ever-increasing piles of hair* that girl B was pulling from her head as she worked and took her aside one day as school was finishing. All she wanted was to see her father, but everyone was telling her they were better off without him. Girl B was simply grieving, just like her friend girl A, but unlike girl A, she felt as if missing her father was wrong, because in effect, that was what she was being told. On top of that she felt the rejection of her father, who she was convinced did not love her anymore because hey, if he did, then he’d be on her doorstep, right? After all, it is not like he was dead. None of this she could express and there was apparently no-one there to help her either, so as a result she had turned the pain on herself and started to self-harm. No doubt it took her a number of years to recover from that alone.

This is a true story and I could write a book about what happened next and how each girl tries to terms with their loss, maybe I will one day, let me know if you think it’s a go-er! Suffice to say that girl A later told girl B that she was aware of the attention she was getting and had for that reason made friends with girl B in the hope she could share some of that attention with her. Girl A admitted that in hindsight she had probably had it easier than girl B, not least because at some point she could begin to move on, always in the secure knowledge that her father had not rejected her. Girl B’s father probably did not knowingly or even intentionally reject her either; your guess is as good as mine. Things have changed since these two girls were 10, but it’s still not enough.

I am by no means saying that to lose a parent due to the breakdown of a relationship is worse than losing a parent to a terminal disease or indeed vice versa. Both will leave a child in a state of extreme grief and that grief needs to be dealt with. For whatever reason though, it seems to be easier for us as a society to accept a child needs grief counselling when one of their parents has died than to accept a child needs a considerable amount of support when a parent is very much alive, but not where they should be. For the child, it’s a loss either way. As a society we need to recognise that and recognise that this constant debate around the whys and wherefores of family breakdown does kids no favours at all. Deborah Orr put it quite nicely in her article in the Guardian at the time this post was originally written: ‘All of this argy-bargy has been going on for years, and tends to produce lots of heat and absolutely no light.’ Absolutely. So let’s start shining the light on those who innocently get caught up in the idiotic behaviour of adults and the consequences thereof and work at helping them.

Declan Lawn’s Panorama report ‘Britain’s Missing Dads’ from January 2011, from which Orr’s article originated, was sympathetic to the kids to a point: yes, perhaps we do need to change our attitudes to fatherhood as well as continuing the debate around employment and benefits. However, I found myself going around in circles asking, are these ‘feckless fathers’ feckless because they are poor or poor because they are feckless. So what either way? Lawn’s own young daughter summed it up for me in a nutshell, absent dads everywhere listen up: “I love my daddy for giving me a hug”. That’s all it boils down to for those who really matter; the remaining rhetoric is just like listening to a very worn record. Because Frank Field MP, as much as I agree with you on many things, I do not agree that this is the first generation to accept a man can relinquish all his paternal responsibilities. Rubbish, this has been going on forever!

Neither do I agree that this is class thing. Here’s my guess: affluent families are perhaps just better at hiding it, woe betide anyone notices the cracks. The light is simply shined much brighter on those claiming benefits, since many members of this society seem to begrudge paying into a welfare system they may, through no fault of their own, need to fall back on some day!

But none of this got my back up quite as much as the idea of making couples pay for using the CSA (see here). In fluffy Toryland people may well be able to settle their differences amicably but that is rarely the reality. Who pays for that? The kids. You can walk away angrily or otherwise from a relationship as an adult, as a child in the middle of it all, you’re stuck in a no love land watching them snarl at each other while they argue over who gets the hostess trolley with what feels like no way out. Let’s face it, love and lust do crazy things to people, makes them act irrationally across the board – it’s been like that since the beginning of time and will continue to be like that until time comes to an explosive end. I do not believe there is any point wasting time trying to change that biological fact. What has to change is the emphasis of debate.

A few years ago I read ‘Adult Children of Divorce’ by Edward W. Beal and Gloria Hochman (published in 1991 by Delacourte Press, New York), which was a bit of an eye opener. If you are one of those prone to make assumptions about single parent families, see if you can get a copy and have a read. Beal and Hochman’s research found that on the whole adult women of divorce at least did very well for themselves, on the surface, achieving high academic grades and successful careers. Possibly because they feel they have something to prove to themselves, or those that doubted them, or more poignantly because they feel they have something to prove to their absent fathers. None sadly did too well on the relationship front, all being left with the emotional scarring an absent father can inflict and many had at some point self-harmed. They are however survivors. And as for the men, well, take a look at what the St. Michaels Fellowship do and at those who do want to break the pattern their own parents (or lack thereof) have branded on them.

Relationships break down at all echelons of society, fact. Sometimes the break-up is amicable; sometimes it’s not, fact. Whatever or however it happens, if there are children in that relationship, they will suffer some sort of loss and will need to grieve, fact. Not all of them will turn out to be no good trouble makers, in fact very few of them will. With the right support, maybe none of them will and maybe all of them can grow up without holes in their emotional well-being. So how about concentrating on that?

Fast forward to 2013 and this story is the first seed that went into the Brendan Lloyd & Me initiative. Brendan’s single parent family ensured his childhood was at the extreme end of the abuse and neglect scale. A plague that sadly followed him into a far too brief spell as an adult; I can only hope he found peace when he passed.

(*Trichotillomania (TMM) is a condition where a person has an irresistible urge to pull out their own hair. It is believed to affect up to 2% of the population and most sufferers with Trichotillomania are female. The hair pulling is a form of self-harm that acts to provide a short term distraction from immediate worries such as depression, anxiety or anger but the pulling will most likely then fuel a new cycle of all of these feelings. TMM is a rare but devastating condition, but there are those who can help.)

Posted in Brendan Lloyd & Me | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If you liked last week’s blog post …

… you may be interested to know that a revamped version was published on the Guardian Social Enterprise Network website this morning.

Many thanks for the feedback on the original, which was largely incorporated into this ‘new improved’ version.

You can read the article here

Posted in Bonsai Bison | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Starting your business – a charity perspective

There is an article in the Guardian today claiming 92% of charities want to start trading to increase their chances of generating un-restricted income.

Judging from my experience working at NCVYS with the Catalyst consortium, that is probably true; but just because there is a will, there is not necessarily a way. We found many lacked the skills as well as the capital to start something new. In addition, for those looking to their ‘traditional’ commissioners to buy services, there was still a huge lack of knowledge and skills there too, that would ensure the market was ready to go.

Overwhelmingly, the biggest hurdle was the necessary culture shift: approaching the whole ‘business activities’ concept like a business, is perfectly sensible.

If that chimes true to your organisation, you might want to read on for my top tips for making your social enterprise viable:

1) Do what you know – success is more likely if you trade on existing skills rather than trying something new;

2) That said, take some time to identify what you can ‘trade’ before looking at what social issue needs addressing. You are much more likely to be successful or at the very least self-sustaining if you think about the business case first;

3) Impact: you will however have to address the social issue at some point and if you need a financial kick-start (highly likely), then you will need some facts and figures as well as a good story. Look at something like the Young Foundation’s Noticing the Change – A Framework of Outcomes for Young People in Practice and notice how important the ‘theory of change’ is to the process of demonstrating impact – this will be crucial to your story as well as giving you a baseline for your facts and figures.

4) Modelling: the Young Foundation again do a great ‘social enterprise’ version of the business model canvas, but if you are not able to get onto their programme, you would be very wise to make a start either with the Business Model Generation book or the less expensive related website. It is an absolute must for anyone wanting to get that ‘idea’ off the ground; enabling you to focus in all the rights places, thanks to its practical exercises for the impatient and varied examples of success!

5) Forget about legal structure until you have been through that modelling process and have considered all the possibilities properly. You may even need to pilot your idea before you can put this in stone and the development, the actual ‘doing’, will determine what works best. When you are 90% clear, get some independent advice as there are so many legal structures out there, all have their pros and cons. Personally I would avoid CIC, as to an investor they are a no-go; you can always work a social mission into your constitution.

Need more help? Then why not engage the services of the original Bonsai Bison? You will not only get a fresh perspective but proof that ‘business’ and ‘social’ are not mutually exclusive …

Posted in Bonsai Bison | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments