More clean teeth, not more toothbrushes

We don’t need another hero

Do social entrepreneurs think they’re better than ‘normal’ businesspeople?

Speaking at last month’s Big Social, a London gathering of those working in or supporting social businesses, Dr Margaret Mountford suggested at least some of them do. Watch out for a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, warned the former sidekick from The Apprentice.

At the same conference, a session on branding for social enterprises touched on personal brand. How you come across to others can be particularly important, the facilitators said, because social enterprises are often associated with the small teams that run them, and are often founded by individuals whose personal story is wrapped up in how the business came about.

In an age that encourages (or even demands) all of us to develop a personal brand, the social entrepreneur is surely no more to blame than the rest of us for feeling that their profile, their story, really matters. Meanwhile, those of us writing about social enterprise (including me) find an easy way in to complex problems and business models by talking, instead, about the personal journey behind it all. How they struggled, how they failed, what they learned, how they triumphed.

But has it got just a bit too personal? Continue reading “More clean teeth, not more toothbrushes”

Your daily dollar

Google’s One Today app launched earlier this year. It seems simple: it showcases a different non-profit every day, and if you like what you see, you can donate $1 – no more.

It’s still pretty new – and available in the US only, with no word yet of plans to expand. It’s not the first microdonation app. But it is, to my knowledge, the first one with a massive brand behind it, not to mention a ready community of nonprofits eager to be promoted and an existing money transfer service.

So, will this change how we give to charity? Will instant yes-or-no and commitment-free mark the demise of direct mail and clipboard-wielding chuggers?

Probably not. Microdonations, as Cause4Opinion point out, have been around forever, in the form of dropping your loose change into a tin for the local football club or a new church roof. This is what the likes of Google’s new venture – the digital equivalent of the tin on the shop counter – replaces; charities will still need your long term commitment as well.  Continue reading “Your daily dollar”

How to tell it

yourstoryI hate wasting anything – time, food, money – so it drives me mad to see official publications, nicely designed and translated and distributed, that read like a copy-paste of an internal report. Or websites that leave you re-reading sentences and clicking through pages before you can understand what they actually do. It doesn’t matter how glossy or cool it looks. Overuse of jargon, heartsinkingly long paragraphs, and vague sweeping statements instead of actual facts – it’s a wasted opportunity to tell your taxpayers, partners and public what you do, and why it matters. Continue reading “How to tell it”

A mountain of clichés

Not to mention the cheese

First, there’s a billboard featuring a blue-eyed, blonde girl with plaits sitting on a fence, welcoming you to the country. Then, a soundtrack of yodelling and cowbells plays softly as the monorail sweeps you off to the baggage terminal, where the only products being advertised are Swiss-made watches. As you exit, posters catch your eye: a landscape of mountains and rolling hills. Is Switzerland the one country that happily feeds off its own stereotypes?

The ad agency behind Swiss, the national airline, certainly think so: they run adverts with taglines referring self-deprecatingly – yet with a confident superiority – to the “cliché” of offering Swiss chocolate on board. Continue reading “A mountain of clichés”

The wrong place for headspace

Sound of silence
The sound of silence

Some smart folks at Selfridges lured me in with their reverse psychology the other day. Cashing in on the post-Christmas tightening of purse-strings, they’re offering a limited-edition range of debranded products; “headspace pods” provide a few minutes of escape; and a space usually reserved for exhibitions or pop-up shops (the pop-up shop: another concept I’m struggling with since returning to the western world), has been turned into a Silence Room.

What’s marketed as an “insulated inner-sanctum” is not actually that quiet: you can hear the noise of the café next door (and this was a Tuesday evening; what would a Saturday be like? But it felt good, sitting doing nothing in the semi-darkness, shoeless and phoneless as per requirements, with just a few teenage girls whispering in one corner and a couple asleep in one another’s arms in the other. The couple left before me, but were still dawdling in the foyer when I left. “I’m nervous to go back out there!”, laughed the girl. Continue reading “The wrong place for headspace”