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Consumer Family and Citizen Empowerment
 Public policy and social innovation for empowerment

  August 2011 Issue:

  John Milbank  Riot and response: England's violence and civil society
Robin Murray  Danger and Opportunity - social innovation, the financial
  crisis, and the new social economy
Noel Pearson  "Individuals, families, communities must take power over
  their own destinies"

  Daryl Taylor  Fire and Rain: Everyone wants to rule our world
  Street by Street  Recovering the art of neighbourliness
  John Muscat The End of Green Statism
Geoff Mulgan  Social enterprise: The new frontier?
Geof Cox  What's real social enterprise?
Vern Hughes  Reflections on social enterprise in Australia
  Harold Dimpel  An entrepreneurial Australia?
  Colin Ball It's the community, stupid! 
Self-Directed Services and Personal Budgets Expressions of Interest
Volunteer  Three roles available with the Centre for Civil Society
  Organising by Federal Electorate  Become involved in your area

John Milbank  Riot and response: England's violence and civil society

John Milbank is a leading writer on civil society, social theory, theology and politics in the UK, whose work underpins the emerging realignment in British politics. Here he comments on the "bankruptcy of both liberal left and neo-liberal right" in response to the recent riots.









"The response to the recent wave of riots in English cities has exposed the ethical bankruptcy of both liberal left and neo-liberal right in English culture.

In the case of the left, a latent callousness and authoritarianism has been laid bare. Many London liberals were quick to call for draconian police responses once they were given the impression - in part by exaggeration in the "quality" media - that their own civic precincts might be under threat.

They tended to justify this stance by pointing out that the supposed riots were really a mass spasm of criminality, in which an orgy of looting of consumer durables was the outstanding feature.

In this respect Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has been right to say that these activities are impossible to "romanticise." But on that account he has not concluded, like some left-liberals, that a lack of serious political purpose on the part of desperate fourteen-year olds means that one only needs to analyse their actions within the categories of "criminality."

This has been a much more widespread reaction on the right, which sits ill with their supposed new compassionate sensitivity to social and structural dimensions. More commonly, left-liberals have suggested that, in these respects, we need look no further than economic downturn, inequality of opportunity, government cuts and withdrawal of social services.

Yet precisely because they tend to think in terms of governmental control as the decisive factor, liberals tend to adopt harsh attitudes to those deemed to have failed to live up to local authority disciplines.

Thus some on the left at least initially supported new actions by Conservative local authorities to evict from council rented properties the parents of rioters. But as the conservative Peter Hitchens has pointed out, this would appear to violate a fundamental principle of British law, which holds that you cannot be held responsible for the criminal offences of others. Equally, a withdrawal of benefits from rioters implies an arbitrarily-imposed double punishment that lacks any real legal sanction.

Likewise, most on the left have not dissented from the general chorus of approval for parents who turn their rioting offspring over to the courts. Yet the notion that such action is unquestionably right is a reversion to pagan norms for which the political order was the only sacred one...

Nor has there been much serious discussion, either on the left or on the right, of the fact that a large percentage of these rioters are just children, many as young as eleven, one as young as seven. Surely, if these youngsters have lapsed into nihilism they deserve our compassion and not merely our condemnation?

It cannot most fundamentally be their fault that they are rioting, as if all of a sudden the devil, taking advantage of an unwonted hot spell in an erratic English summer, had decided to quit his usual abode in the city to take up a temporary one on the sink estates of the bleakest urban areas?

The better commentators have rather suggested that, in smashing windows to reach for fantasies, these children and youths are but entertaining the same values that we now all tend to hold. Everything such youngsters see around them would tend to suggest that the organs of virtuality are theirs by right, and that the virtual can be bent to control the real. (Let us not forget that social networking was a crucial factor in the recent events.)

While if they suppose that the there is no moral, as opposed to pragmatic, reason for keeping the law - given the fundamental value of self-interest - then this is surely a conclusion that they share in contemporary England with many wealthy financiers, journalists, senior policeman and holders of government office, as the News International scandal exposed.

The link between the latter and the young rioters was the disturbing presence of some older rioters in their forties and in possession of stable jobs. The shame of the riots is the shame of an England which has sold its soul to propaganda, celebrity, gossip and greed.

On the other hand, this is not a suggestion that only the collective and structural factors are decisive - even though undoubtedly recession and arguably cuts in services have played some part. And much more decisively, a long term increase in economic inequality and the sinking of certain urban areas into hopelessness must be held to blame.

Yet the oddity in the liberal-left attitude is that it combines an objective sociological approach with a certain moral savagery towards the individual, as I have tried to instance. Instead of this, we need an opposite combination of fundamental ethical diagnosis for social problems along with much kinder moral recommendations for individual persons.

What do I mean by this double demand? Fundamentally, we need for all children, and especially those in deprived areas, a much more imaginative mode of education that will always link fact with value, wide knowledge with creativity, details with overall vision and private aspiration with public codes of honour.

One element of the equation for rescuing underclass communities is outside help; for example, they deserve much better architecture, urban environments and more sensitive policing.

But the far greater and more radical requirement is the promotion of self-help. This must include education into parenthood and especially of young males into the responsibilities of becoming fathers. For it is unquestionable that children having children and women trying to cope with children on their own is part of the current urban problem.

Alongside an impoverished, factory-like schooling practice, Britain is peculiarly lacking in formal as well as formal democratic structures for local self-government and self-policing.

The problem is that the tacit control and sense of the common good based upon personal relationships upon which social order finally depends has started to break down in British inner cities, which are often fragmented into different racio-religious and cultural ghettoes. (Though it is notable that the Muslim communities behaved particularly well during the recent troubles.)

The long-term solution, therefore, must have to do with re-creating ethos and self-respect - this also being the key to local economic renewal. For the time being, the rioters, however bad their actions - and actually because they have been so bad - must be seen as the victims of a wider national malaise as well as responsible actors who momentarily took some very wrong decisions.

Here one might venture the remark that while religious people tend to see that malefactors and sinners are most of all to be pitied, secular political positions are bifurcated between a rightist and neo-pagan pure condemnation, and a leftist scientistic patronising of the wrong-doer as a sub-personal ineffective cog in a wonky machine.

But because, by contrast to these verdicts, the rioters share with the nation a problem that is at base ethical, it must be the case that if the young and the learning are to blame, that the older and the instructing (at every social level) must be all the more to blame.

For this reason, a way must be found by the courts and the councillors to treat these young offenders at once firmly and yet sympathetically, for the sake of their better flourishing in the future."

John Milbank is Professor of Religion, Politics and Ethics at the University of Nottingham. He is the author of many books, including the highly influential Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (Wiley-Blackwell, 2nd edition, 2005) and The Future of Love: Essays in Political Theology (Cascade Books, 2009).

CLICK HERE to read the full text of this article.

Robin Murray  Danger and Opportunity - social innovation, the financial crisis, and the new social economy

"This pamphlet argues that the early years of the 21st century are witnessing the emergence of a new kind of economy that has profound implications for the future of public services as well as for the daily life of citizens. This emerging economy can be seen in many fields, including the environment, care, education, welfare, food and energy. It combines some old elements and many new ones. I describe it as a ‘social economy’ because it melds features which are very different from economies based on the production and consumption of commodities.

Its key features include:

The intensive use of distributed networks to sustain and manage
relationships, helped by broadband, mobile and other means of communication.
Blurred boundaries between production and consumption.
An emphasis on collaboration and on repeated interactions, care and
maintenance rather than one-off consumption.
A strong role for values and missions.

However, this emerging economy still lacks adequate capital, methods and skills. There are major gaps on the side of demand, as the great majority of public and private money is still locked up in older models, providing services to essentially passive consumers.

There are, too, major gaps on the side of supply. Although there are thousands of promising initiatives, few have grown to scale, and there is a dearth of support to turn good ideas into big impacts.

The impending squeeze on public spending in the face of growing social pressures makes incremental changes and efficiency measures in public services no longer plausible. Radical social innovation is needed to respond to these pressures. In many cases it will require systemic innovation – changing the way in which whole systems of production and service are conceived and delivered or the need for them avoided. Many of these changes do not require new resources, but rather radical new ways in which existing resources are used, in which regulations are framed and incentives provided...

A new social economy

By social economy I mean all those areas of the economy which are not geared to private profitability. It includes the state but also a ‘civil economy’ of a philanthropic third sector, social enterprises and co-operatives operating in the market, and the many strands of the reciprocal household economy – households themselves, social networks, informal associations as well as social movements.

This ‘associative’ civil economy was strong in the second half of the 19th century, but the expansion of the state in the 20th century relegated it to a back seat role. In the past 30 years, the trend has reversed and there has been a resurgence of the ‘civil economy’, for three main reasons.

i) The user as producer

First, digital technology, the core of the new technological paradigm, has provided the infrastructure – or more accurately the inter-structure – that has transformed the relations of consumers to markets and of citizens among themselves. More than this, it is opening up the possibility of reconfiguring the production process around the user. In many sectors there is a gradual incorporation of users into the process of production.

In this reconfiguration of the economic process, the consumer morphs into the producer-consumer, or ’prosumer’ in Toffler’s phrase. What becomes critical for the prosumer is an array of support to help him or her carry out the task rather than being a passive recipient of generalised services or commodities...

ii) Increasing social imperatives

Second, there have been increasing pressures on state services delivered on the basis of a producer-driven, mass service model of provision.

One set of pressures comes from the sheer scale and growth of the demands on these services. In the UK as in other industrial countries there are dramatic upward trends in obesity, chronic disease, and demographic ageing, each of which has been described as a time bomb waiting to go off.

It is a feature of these systems that there is a strong element of mutual support. Again this does not depend on new technology (Alcoholics Anonymous for example long predates the internet) but is extended by it. There has been a remarkable growth of support groups among people with particular chronic conditions, for example, as well as initiatives to provide information and advice, and often advocacy on behalf of specific groups. They range from informal associations to micro social movements.

The argument here is twofold. First there are a range of intractable social issues which are commanding an increasing share of national economies, many of which neither the market nor the existing model of public services have been able to solve. Second, that there are an extraordinary number of new initiatives both from within the public sector and from households, co-ops, and voluntary organisations, which have the characteristics of the kind of distributed systems that are a feature of the new technological paradigm.

iii) The social economy and the green industrial revolution

The point about intractable social issues applies equally to the environmental ones. The environmental movement exemplifies the practices and new organisational forms of the new social movements and has been a prime example of the resurgent social economy. Those involved have set a 21st century agenda – on energy, food, waste, transport and the whole issue of well-being and lifestyle. In each of these areas citizens’ networks have developed their own political economies of protest, production and consumption. They have created a great wave of alternative technologies, of new forms of consumption and distribution, which now constitutes its own international micro economy."

Robin Murray is an industrial economist and writes for The Young Foundation.

CLICK HERE to download the full text of this article.

Noel Pearson "Individuals, families, communities must take power over their own destinies"


"In the past 11 years there has been a fundamental shift in the indigenous policy debate. It is a shift that had to take place, a shift that I believe promises a new future, and a change in the Aboriginal policy paradigm that is absolutely imperative for our goal of reconciliation.

The principle of indigenous self-determination, as some call it, or the principle of indigenous responsibility, as I would call it, must be the principle that permeates indigenous affairs if we are going to make the change that's needed.

The policy principle in the future must be that indigenous people have the right to take responsibility and power over our own lives. Properly understood, self-determination is the power to take responsibility, it is to arrogate to oneself the power that for too long has been assumed by government. Individuals, families, communities must take power over their own destinies.

On Cape York, during the past 10 years, we have been unrelenting about that point: we have the right to take responsibility, we have a right to arrogate to ourselves a power that has been taken from us, and left us disembodied and mendicant for too long. In my view there has been a shift across the political divide on this question. We have the opportunity before us where indigenous rights and indigenous responsibility can be brought together...

There's another road we will travel at the same time and that is the road of cultural determination, our determination as a people to keep our identity and our traditions, our heritage, our languages. Some of the most successful people on the face of the earth are people who walked two roads at once. Take the Jews, they walked two roads at once. The road of Adam Smith and the road of cultural determination.

I have high ambitions for my mob: I believe we can walk two roads, we can keep our languages, we can keep those things that are precious about our culture and our traditions. There are also universal lessons about development, about the importance of individual agency and family responsibility and function that are the building blocks of successful communities.

A similar challenge faced the Australian people with regard to the sclerotic pre-1983 national economy. And the correct policy principle that we successfully managed to instill in all sections of society is that of competition. An analogous challenge lies ahead of us in relation to the question of indigenous responsibility. We must have a massive cultural change in the way in which government operates and unless everything we do is premised on the idea that indigenous individuals -- and their families and their communities -- take charge of their destinies and take responsibility for the power and the consequences of that power, then we will just see an ongoing cycle of anxiety about the fact indigenous Australians do not yet occupy a fair place in the country."

CLICK HERE to read the full text of this article.

Daryl Taylor  Fire and Rain: Everyone wants to rule our world   
Daryl Taylor lives in Kinglake, north of Melbourne in the Kinglake Ranges, an area severely affected by the 2009 bushfires which claimed 173 lives.

Daryl and his partner Lucy lost 4 neighbours in the fire, and many more in the township of Kinglake. Only one house in four streets in their neighbourhood survived. Only 3 couples in their circle survived with their relationship intact and remain in Kinglake. Lucy lost her full-time position following the disaster. Daryl lost his home office and all work resources. Together they lost their home and two cars.

Daryl made a remarkable presentation to the Fire and Rain conference on 1-2 August 2011, hosted by the Centre for Civil Society, entitled Tiers for Fears, exploring the trauma generated by governmental tiers and dysfunction, on top of the trauma generated by the bushfire.

Daryl paints this dysfunction in this way:

Governmental Strategy

Field/Situation Performance

Emergency Response

Manifold Systems Failure
‘State of Emergency’ •Federal Leadership Not Sought
Premier & Cabinet •Corporate Neo-Liberalism
‘Community - Led’ Myth •Centralised - Professional
Human Services
•Embeds Individual Welfare
External Expertise •Recovery ‘Psychologised’
Army Dismissed •Our “Go to Guys” Gone Too Soon
GROCON Contracted for construction work •Community Rebuild Agency Lost
Vic Bushfire Relief and Reconstruction Authority (VBRRA Bureaucracy) •Not Empowered to Compel 

National Principles


•The VBRRA Minimalist Model  
Local Government •Failed State - Catatonia/Defiance

•Regulatory Framework


•Now 5 Layers of Government
Community Recovery Committees •Granted ‘Advisory Status’ Only

Daryl describes the relief and reconstruction efforts that result as:

Parent-Child Dynamics

"Unacknowledged are the conflicts inherent in the different positions taken (and world views advanced) by the various different actors:

                  government officials:     managerial - strategic
                  helping professionals:    psychological - therapeutic
                  community leaders:       parochial - representational

Central to such potential conflicts is the degree to which the primary actors identify with their role, authority, objectivity and their ‘rational parent’ professional status.

In this context, a parent-child dynamic, or a ‘politics of dominance’ ensues (often despite the very best of intentions), or is instituted, when what’s really needed is peer to peer or ‘partnership practices’ that are mutually supportive, enabling, participatory and co-creative."

Daryl's presentation is available here for download as a Powerpoint file (61 slides, 12.3 MB).
At the Fire and Rain conference, community participants spoke repeatedly of the marginalisation of community members in a field that relies principally on the community to achieve its goals. The experience of being one community voice in a room of 60 government voices is commonplace, and characterises  the deep imbalance between government and civil society in our social development.

A one-day workshop will be held in November to explore the shape of a national community-based disaster organisation which will aim to right this imbalance.

Kate Lawrence is convening a working group on the development of a national community-based disaster organisation and may be contacted at info@civilsociety.org.au

Street by Street  Recovering the art of neighbourliness

Street by Street is a national neighbourhood support program that links people who live in the same street or nearby.

The focus is on practical helping tasks
such as taking the bin in and out, hanging washing, getting a few items from the shops, or getting mail from the letter box. 

We would like to hear from individuals and organisations around the country interested in participating in rolling out Street by Street on a national scale.

Community centres, service clubs, neighbourhood houses, community health centres, scout and guide groups, and voluntary associations are some of the organisations participating in auspicing a local
Street by Street

An Information for Participants Kit is available here.

Our goal is 100 auspiced Street by Street groups by the end of 20110. And 1000 by the end of 2012.

Neighbours not volunteers

Participants in a Street by Street link-up are not volunteers, they are people in a voluntary relationship with their neighbours, as neighbours.

The aim of Street by Street is to recover the practice, and art, of neighbourliness. We don’t want to surround this activity with rules and regulations, nor do we want to subject participants to the usual procedures that volunteers in formal organizations are subject to. 
Street by Street is a very simple program that aims to re-kindle links between neighbours that might once have formed spontaneously but which, in our day and age, require a little facilitation. It is our intention to run
Street by Street as a simple informal network, operating on a very large scale across Australia.

More information is available at Street by Street.  

Information for Participants Kit is available here.

John Muscat  The End of Green Statism   
As the Commonwealth Government flounders on all sides in introducing a carbon tax, it is worth reviewing the collapse of the Copenhagen Convention a year and a half ago. This Convention was to adopt an enforceable treaty, binding on the world's highest emitters, as the centrepiece of the UN's multilateral process in response to climate change.

John Muscat argues that Copenhagen marked the beginning of the end of Green Statism. From here on, voluntary action and enterprise by citizens is the only way through the governmental impasse.

Copenhagen wasn’t a first step; it was the last step. It marked the end point in a long cycle of top-down, bureaucratic, multilateralism launched at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. This all came unstuck in the very different world of 2009.

The geo-political rifts on display at Copenhagen can’t be papered over with the diplomatic equivalent of a Hallmark greeting card. Essentially, the UN process is hostage to a standoff between the two largest emitters and their respective camps. On the one hand there’s China (for which read the Communist Party, whose grip on power depends on high rates of carbon-spewing growth) and so-called rapidly industrialising countries like India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia. On the other there’s the United States (for which read representatives of energy-producing regions in Congress, which must ratify any treaty negotiated by the President) and most of the developed world.

Negotiations are rarely successful when both parties can only lose. Climate talks are about the apportionment of pain and blame, with benefits flowing to a third category of poorer countries, so the prospect of a workable compromise between the major camps is remote. Expect emissions to go on rising...

Of course, individuals, firms and organizations in the private sector are always entitled to act on their own initiative, should they feel strongly about the issue. There just isn’t a rationale, or moral justification, for coercive state action.

As John Humphreys of Sydney points out, “it is an indication of the sorry state of community groups that when faced with a problem, they spend millions of dollars whingeing and asking other people to do something“. He proposes that “instead of whinging and waiting for politicians to become benevolent, people who are worried about anthropogenic global warming can take immediate action”. Climate activists and concerned citizens should put their money where their mouths are.

On a practical level, Humphreys estimates that if activists were to organise a system of voluntary “workplace giving”, whereby people could opt to allow 0.5 per cent (or more) of their income to go directly into a “climate fighting fund“, more that $1 billion would be raised if only one third of Australians participated. These funds could be used to buy low-emission energy from alternative energy producers for sale to into the power grid at the going market price. For one thing, this would spur investment in alternative energy technologies without inefficient meddling from government.

This is one of many courses open to those who profess to be alarmed about the coming cataclysm. We’re often told they’re in the majority. Since the future of the planet is at stake, why should higher contributions matter?

If green activists and entrepreneurs can generate demand for expensive but clean energy sources, the government should facilitate this market by removing barriers to entry, not by mandating or subsidising particular energy options. If property developers can generate demand for high-density “green” housing, planning officials shouldn’t regulate against this, just as they shouldn’t regulate against low-density housing. The same applies to transport and cars. Let consumers choose. This is the real “market solution” to climate change (assuming a solution is needed), not the fake market represented by a cap-and-trade ETS.

Surveys and electoral returns show that the affluent tend to be more concerned about green issues, so this approach has an added advantage. It relieves wealthy greens of the moral hypocrisy inherent in demanding state interventions which produce glittering opportunities for them, while shifting the pain disproportionately to the most vulnerable in the community.

John Muscat lives in Sydney and is a co-editor of The New City, a web
journal of urban and political affairs.

CLICK HERE to read the full text of this article.  


Geoff Mulgan  Social enterprise: The new frontier?

Geoff Mulgan has been a leading thinker and writer on social innovation and social entrepreneurship over the past fifteen years. In this article, he reflects on the phenomenon of social entrepreneurship over this period, and where it might be heading.

"Only a couple of years ago, Jeremy Paxman snorted with derision when a Newsnight interviewee mentioned the possible role that social enterprise might play in public services. Surely the very idea of social enterprise was a ridiculous fantasy: how could something be social yet also an enterprise? His disbelief was disconcerting for the UK’s 70,000 or so social enterprises. But the cynics and sceptics have been largely silenced by a tide that has taken the overlapping concepts of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship into the mainstream of public life, more than anyone could have expected a couple of decades ago.

Some of the seeds of this shift were sown in the mid-1990s, when a cluster of new organisations, including the Community Action Network and the School for Social Entrepreneurs, sprang up to promote the idea of mixing business means and social ends. Little of what they proposed was entirely new. The tradition of socially focused business goes back at least to the 19th century; Britain has historically been rich in entrepreneurial charities, mutuals, cooperatives, industrial and provident organisations, and socially committed family firms. Robert Owen was one of many leading Victorian entrepreneurs who were convinced that enterprise could also have a social mission. The late Michael Young (a former RSA Fellow and recipient of the RSA’s Albert Medal in 1992) was dubbed by Daniel Bell “probably the world’s greatest entrepreneur of social enterprises” for his creation of dozens of new ventures in the 1950s.

But the climate of the 1990s was particularly propitious for social entrepreneurs. Parties of the left had lost their antipathy towards the language of enterprise, while those of the right were emerging from the extremes of Thatcherism and Reaganism...

Two decades on... There is much to celebrate in this history of growing confidence and effectiveness. It has helped to make our economy more pluralistic and resilient, and our public services more creative. Having been part of many of these projects over the past two decades, I cannot help but welcome the ways in which good people and good projects have been given due recognition. So why not just celebrate?

One obvious reason is that social enterprises are taking a hit as public spending is slashed...The bigger issue, however, is that some of the hopes of a decade or two ago have not been realised. Social entrepreneurs claimed to bring a new mindset to business, along with radically improved results. But analysts have struggled to tie down what this means and whether it is true. Do social enterprises and entrepreneurs have a special ability to access resources, such as volunteer labour or unused buildings, or to combine assets in more effective ways? Is their advantage essentially about commitment and the ability to lock in loyalty? The jury is out on all of these questions.

Another hope was that, by now, our societies would be celebrating a new kind of hero. In the 1990s, social entrepreneurship meant unique individuals – people such as Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh, John Bird in Britain and Wendy Kopp in the US – succeeding against the odds in solving entrenched social problems. Michael Young set up the School for Social Entrepreneurs to discover and train just such exceptional individuals, hoping that they would bring a special chemistry to solving social problems. At the time, there was little support for such people, and the arrival of new funds such as UnLtd, which provides small grants to individuals wanting to create new social enterprises, has been a healthy corrective.

But the emphasis on individual heroes overshot and was, at times, almost comically oversold, particularly by certain American organisations, whose Oscar-style ceremonies and awards celebrated what some saw as a ‘club-class’ elite of social entrepreneurs, often with MBAs from western universities and privileged backgrounds. The language of magic and alchemy used to describe social entrepreneurs encouraged muddled thinking and action, obscuring the extent to which most successes depend on the chemistry of teams and places, not just individual brilliance.

The uncomfortable truth is that, despite the hype, there has been no growth in the number of social entrepreneurs who are household names. The UK’s Jamie Oliver might be a partial exception, but he also proves the rule, since his primary identity remains that of a TV celebrity.

The third disappointment has been the lack of commercial investment. There were high hopes in the 1990s that big finance would become seriously interested in social enterprise. But the facts are sobering. A 2010 survey showed that commercial investment has been paltry.

Other parts of Europe have done better. A couple of years ago, Italy launched Banca Prossima, which is solely dedicated to social enterprise. In Spain, regional banks such as BBK in the Basque country routinely invest large sums in social ventures. The British banks, by contrast, talked a lot about social responsibility but made their bets on what turned out to be much riskier propositions.

The fourth disappointment is the continuing absence of scale. Fifteen years ago, it was hoped that big social enterprise brands would emerge in fields such as food and transport, becoming in time as ubiquitous as Sainsbury’s or Vodafone. Today, while there are some visible brands with a social or mutual dimension, including John Lewis and the Co-operative Group, few social entrepreneurs have achieved the scale they hoped for."

Geoff Mulgan is chief executive of NESTA (National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) in the UK.

CLICK HERE to read the full text of this article.

Geof Cox  What's real social enterprise?

Geof Cox is a social enterprise developer currently working on a new fair trade model for hard-pressed families with Oxfam in Russia, and the UK-wide roll-out of the miEnterprise supported self-employment network for people with disabilities or other barriers to paid work.

Here he takes up some of Geoff Mulgan's points:

"The article on social enterprise by Geoff Mulgan raises some good questions about whether social entrepreneurs are fulfilling their potential. They also provide a welcome antidote to the usual pre-perestroika-Pravda flavour of much writing in this area, which only tells the good news! However, the piece also misses a more fundamental question about the adequacy of the usual conceptual frameworks for analysis of what is really happening in social enterprise...

We have to shift to a new paradigm. This means shifting focus from the relatively small number of social enterprises that happen to fit an official definition, or can be used to forward a government agenda, towards the much larger movement of alternative lifestyle businesses, portfolio workers, organisations with or without staff, activists, freelancers and networks working not to redeliver public services but in more challenging and more internationally relevant areas like the environment, local food, fair trade and the open source movement.
In this context Geoff Mulgan’s count of recent social enterprise disappointments looks plain old-fashioned. The conventional idea of business ‘growth’ is precisely what most social entrepreneurs are trying to get away from. Not only because the coming adjustment of our whole economy has to be towards buying, transporting and using much less, but also because the big bland brands world of globalised business, cloned high street and remote call-centre robs us of real human contact, value and fulfillment.

The networked home worker, not driving into an energy-hungry office or factory every day, taking some time to shop locally and cook some slow food, spend time with the kids, get involved in their community and focus on well-being instead of growth; they are not going to be social enterprise celebrities, for sure, but they might nevertheless be driving more radical change.

If this sounds to you like a ‘place in the country’ idyll, please note that I’m working with precisely this kind of social enterprise network among, for example, people with learning disabilities in the UK, and women house-bound by caring responsibilities in an all-but closed-down former closed town in northern Russia.

The really important questions here are about how social enterprise networks can replace conventional investment, whether we can achieve economies of scale while empowering local people and communities, how we can freely share knowledge but retain our originality, and how sharing can reduce our need for hundreds and hundreds more things that don’t really make us happy.

And we need to develop an entirely new brand-paradigm for this kind of social enterprise: one that will propagate brands that are participative and community-owned, that are about collaborating more and consuming less, and that can combine the trust in the familiar that drives conventional brands with a new respect for the unique and the local and the individual.

Geof Cox is a social enterprise developer currently working on a new fair trade model for hard-pressed families with Oxfam in Russia, and the UK-wide roll-out of the miEnterprise supported self-employment network for people with disabilities or other barriers to paid work.

CLICK HERE to read the full text of this article.

Vern Hughes  Reflections on social enterprise in Australia

Vern Hughes founded the Social Entrepreneurs Network (Australia and New Zealand) in 2001. Here he assesses the observations of Geoff Mulgan and Geof Cox:

"It is ten years now since 500 people gathered at the University of NSW to inaugurate a network of social entrepreneurs in Australia. Ten years before that, localised networks like the Community Enterprise Network in the inner north of Melbourne were working below the radar on what later came to be called 'social enterprise'. The aim in gathering social entrepreneurs nationally in 2001 was to take advantage of the factors identified by Geoff Mulgan to accelerate activity in and support for social enterprise on a large scale.

Ten years on, many of the "disappointments" identified by Mulgan ring true. In addition, there have also been a significant number of unforeseen consequences of the "mainstreaming" of social enterprise over this decade. A few observations:

First, the concept of social enterprise has been taken up by governments, charities, philanthropists, and researchers in often very undiscerning ways. Almost any community project in Australia can now call itself a social enterprise and no-one will raise an eyebrow. The Centre for Social Impact, established by a consortium of university business schools, routinely uses the term 'social enterprise' to refer to any social or community organisation. This has brought an emptying out of the content of what was previously defined quite clearly as "a market-based venture for a social purpose".

Second, notions of what constitutes 'enterprise' are highly elastic. This ambiguity was present from the outset in the Social Entrepreneurs Network (SEN), with 'enterprise' stretching from any activity undertaken by a charity or a local council that generated revenue, to fundraising and consultancy work in the not-for-profit sector on 'diversification' of income streams, to businesses that derive some or all of their income from market-based trading activity. Not all innovative or creative activity is entrepreneurial, but there has been a tendency to use the word "entrepreneurial" as an antonym for "charitable", particularly, and ironically, amongst charities who think being charitable is now terribly old-fashioned. 

Third, differences in power, resources and culture between individuals and communities, on the one hand, and charities and funded agencies, on the other, became a deep chasm very quickly. Most of the best known social enterprises were originated by entrepreneurial individuals, but in Australia, it was charities and funded agencies who captured the social enterprise field within a few years of its inception.

By the middle years of this decade, most charities and service delivery agencies had a corps of Social Enterprise Managers and Practitioners on their payrolls, developing ventures that represented "entrepreneurial" extensions of their mission. These have characteristically confined social enterprise to employment creation projects and community resource centres, both highly dependent on grant income for their viability.

Following the forced dissolution of SEN in 2003 by three rogue consultants (Leo Bartlett, Allison Oldfield-Hiosan and Richard Zee) who took advantage of its open structure, charities and funded agencies established two social enterprise development intermediaries in their own image. Social Ventures Australia and Social Traders were created by large charities in Sydney (The Benevolent Society, Smith Family, the Macquarie Foundation) and Melbourne (Brotherhood of St Laurence, Australian Multicultural Education Services, and the Helen McPherson Smith Trust), and adopted corporate cultures drawn from a hybrid of big business and big charity. These corporate cultures held little interest in entrepreneurial individuals and communities that were not part of the large service delivery chains - individuals and communities were deemed to lack "capacity" of the kind possessed by the large charities.

This confusion of cultures remains entrenched in these intermediaries. Social Traders, for instance, was established by charities with $4million of Victorian Government money, to promote social trading. But as an entity, Social Traders does not trade. It derives 99% of its income from grants; it concedes that it is not a social enterprise; and it has recruited its staff from the corporate sector with no knowledge or experience in starting a social enterprise.

Fourth, Mulgan's observation that social enterprise has "helped make our economy more pluralistic and resilient" may be true of the UK, but it cannot be said of Australia. Here, the the charities, foundations and institutions that have colonised the social enterprise idea have tended to develop ventures that are just as top down in their managerial structure as any bureaucracy or corporate. They have tended to bypass both the old mutual and cooperative models with their emphasis on member ownership and participative governance, and the new networked forms of enterprise, in favour of what Geof Cox calls "old-fashioned" models of "the firm". This has often led to charity-directed social enterprises reproducing passive clienthood rather than a culture of empowerment and participation.

Fifth, hopes for a significant movement away from the community sector culture of "grant-seeking" and "grant-dependence" has not eventuated. Indeed, the grant-seeking culture has arguably deepened over the past decade whereby anyone with an innovative idea has been encouraged to seek a government or foundation grant to develop a social enterprise. My view of this trend remains unashamedly conventional - if a project requires a government grant to be established, then it is probably not an enterprise.

Finally, a further unintended consequence of the social enterprise phenomenon in the past decade has been an accelerated marginalisation of voluntarism. Voluntary responses to social issues have tended to be discounted as unfashionable, in favour of "enterprise" responses, when sometimes a voluntary response is the best response. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency to think every social problem can be solved with a grant and a business plan.

Only some social problems can be solved with a grant and a business plan. The wisdom required to know the difference, has not, regrettably, increased as we had hoped."

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Harold Dimpel  An entrepreneurial Australia?

"From the perspective on an entrepreneur who has front line experience with what it takes to take an idea from start-up through to commercialisation (and an ABC TV New Inventors winner), there is an enormous gulf between the "desire" to create a culture of backing innovation to actually doing it.

While there are many good arguments for why governments should provide assistance to innovators, the reality in Australia is that we do not have a culture of backing high risk ventures outside the relative comfort and familiarity of mining or property. Do a straw pole: who within your networks has invest ANY money into a start-up? I bet most of our friends have more than 95% of their money in mining or property related shares.

I mean can you blame people?

The actual hard truth is that most so-called "investors" don't really invest, they talk alot about it.... Give me someone who puts their money where their mouth is and hands over real cash for a "risky" idea. For it is without this culture of taking a risk that we as a nation run the risk of not backing home-grown innovation. I am not talking about the big end of town in the $1M + zone - these guys can look after themselves and their are great government programs to support big-ticket R & D.

I am talking about the lone entrepreneur who has come up with an idea and just needs $50 - 100k to get to the next stage. This sort backing goes a long way for these guys. From my direct experience in the industry, this type funding is very hard to get. Everyone wants the perfect deal.... Well, this is kind of like waiting for the perfect man or woman.....it won't happen - you have to create them."

Harold Dimple is an entrepreneur and a former winner of ABC TV's The New Inventors.

CLICK HERE to read the full text of this article.

Colin Ball It's the community, stupid!
Colin Ball has been active in third sector organisations in the UK. West Africa, Malaysia and Australia for 40 years, and now lives in Brisbane.

He has just published It’s the community, stupid! In
this book, Colin sets out challenging new directions for the organisations that comprise Australia’s third sector.

These radical proposals include:   

scrapping ‘charitable law’ entirely, even expunging the word ‘charity’ from the sector’s vocabulary;
recognising instead that openness, inclusivity and ‘for the common good’ are the essential defining characteristics of third sector organisations;
distinguishing (when tax concessions and other benefits are given)
between genuinely independent organisations and those that have
become agents for the delivery of government welfare services;
ending the imperialist behaviour and attitudes of what Colin calls the big and powerful ‘institutionalised voluntary organisations’;
liberating people’s potential rather than regulating it.

Colin writes: "Numerous enquiries into and reviews of aspects of the work of Not-for-Profit organisations, or those of them known as 'charities', have gone on over the past 10 years and more. Never has so much effort produced so little change! But perhaps that is no bad thing because much of it started in the wrong place (mainly 'regulation'), and then headed in questionable directions (such as strengthening links between government and the sector via compacts)."

Colin argues that these reviews should begin with function and identity. He puts forward four features of organisations that should characterise entities in the third sector: voluntary; independent; not-for-profit; and Not self-serving in aims and values; and then asks how Australian NGOs measure up?

"Voluntary? there are some organisations that claim to be 'voluntary' but have actually come into existence because of a statutory requirement. They can be clearly distinguished as such and should not be entitled to call themselves or be seen and treated by others as voluntary organisations ...

Independent? Much government funding or organisations has for a long time been conditional upon the organisations doing things in ways and towards ends that are defined by government. In blunt terms this means that those organisations that accept such conditionalities are no longer independent ...

Not-for (personal or private) -profit or gain? Many organisations need to do some heart-searching on their practices insofar as this yardstick is concerned. I believe that many have become corrupted. Some of the signs of such corruption are:

    Mirroring either or both of the private and public sectors insofar as the    rate for the job' is concerned and especially insofar as the salaries of   senior staff are concerned.

    Getting into the payment of incentives, bonuses and 'performance-    related pay' to staff at any level.

    Hiring and firing staff indiscriminately in order to create cultures of fear within organisations.

    Having uncomfortably great disparities between the highest- and lowest paid staff in an organisation.

Not self-serving in aims and values? What we are trying to get at here is the inward-looking and exclusive tendencies of many types of community organisations. While such organisations as self-interest-promoting professional associations, gated communities and private schools might satisfy the 'voluntary', 'independent', and 'not-for-profit' aspects of the definition, they do not satisfy this one.... We need to break the mould that many organisations appear still to be shaped by: professional community and social/ community workers providing services (defined by them and /or their funders) for disadvantaged people. There are other models that offers ways to enable and encourage broad community engagement in working with disadvantaged groups.
The four defining characteristics - voluntary, independent, not-for-profit, not self-serving/ not restrictive - should be the basis on which we judge whether an organisation does or does not merit a place in this 'sector', and thus whether it qualifies for the privileges and benefits associated   with such a place...

To qualify for a place in the third sector (including being registered as a third sector organisation) the organisation much be able to demonstrate that it is all of voluntary; and independent; and not-for-profit; and not self-serving/ restrictive in membership.

That should be the basis on which the laws relating to the third sector are framed, and replace 'charitable law'. It should be called 'Third Sector Law'.

Perhaps the next greatest change that is needed is for the large organisations to stop practices that are harming communities and the efforts of their organisations. Some, indeed, have become the new colonialists: tendering for and establishing projects and program outlets in communities where they have no roots and little inclination to establish them.

An equally serious problem has been the willingness, indeed enthusiastic willingness, on many to cast aside their altruistic values and independence, in favour of becoming appendages of government and/ or mirror images of for-profit corporations.

Many have become supine servants of government, accepting without question whatever government asks of them. Many have moved, seemingly at lightning speed, through one giant leap, from being soup-kitchen-handout-old fashioned charities to 'dog-eats-dog', 'modern' competing service-providing corporations. In making such a transition the only thing that has not changed is the disempowering effect on people and communities of their provisions and services."

CLICK HERE to purchase a copy of this book ($30 inc delivery).

Self-Directed Services and Personal Budgets  Expressions of Interest

A National Steering Group on Self-Directed Services and Personal Budgets was established in May to exercise leadership and coordination across Australia in the development of self-directed services and personal    budgets in aged care, chronic and mental illness, disability, special    education and vocational training, and other areas of intensive personal and social support for individuals and families.

The brief of the Steering Group is to develop tools, systems, infrastructure, peer and professional supports for large numbers of Australians in exercising self-management in their personal and social supports.

Expressions of Interest are invited in the following areas:
Family-Management of Aged Care Packages
National Register of Aged Care Agencies Willing to Host Family-Managed Arrangements
Consumer/Family-Managed Support Models in Mental Health
Consumer/Family-Managed Care Budgets and Support Models in Chronic Illness
Families Wanting to Self-Manage Integration Aide Funding in Schools
Families Wanting to Self-Manage VET Funding
National Register of Schools and VET Agencies Willing to Host Family-Managed Arrangements
Consumer and Family-Management of Disability Supports
National Register of Disability Agencies Willing to Host Consumer/Family-Managed Arrangements
Web-Based Portal - A Technology Platform for Consumer and Family-Management in Aged Care, Chronic Illness, Mental Illness, Disability and Education
Matching Support Workers with Individuals Needing Support

CLICK HERE for further information on Self-Directed Services and Personal Budgets.

Members of the Steering Group are:

Siegfried Drews (VIC) managed his wife Mardi's 24 hour care needs through a technology portal he designed himself to assist in the recruitment and direct employment of staff.
[photo, right: Siegfried]

Claire Rennox (QLD) worked on the introduction and ongoing implementation of Direct Payments in Scotland and is now working in Disability Services, Queensland with individuals who are utilising self directed care.

Lorraine Hitt (WA) is Chair of Planned Individual Networks in WA, is negotiating self-management arrangements for her 47 year old son with multiple disabilities, and works as a Local Area Coordinator with the Disability Services Commission.

Margaret Gray (VIC) is developing models for her 92 year old mother's EACH aged care package.

Trevor Parmenter (NSW) is Emeritus Professor and Foundation Chair of Developmental Disability at the University of Sydney and is a leading researcher and innovator in ageing, community living, and physical and mental health.

Ruth Robinson (NSW) is Executive Officer of the Physical Disability Council of NSW.

Peter Sparrow (SA) is CEO of the Carer Support and Respite Centre, and carer for his 21 year old step daughter who has physical and intellectual disabilities.

George Vassilou
(VIC) manages his ageing mother's care package and his 23 year old daughter Natasha's disability package.
[photo, right: George and his mother]

Wendy Hudson
(WA) is Manager of PolicyDevelopment and Quality Assurance at Alzheimer's Australia WA, and a long time advocate of self-directed care.

Colin Peterson (VIC) is Finance Manager of the Cerebral Palsy Support Network.

Sherryn West (QLD) is Business Services Manager for Micah Projects, developing individualised support arrangements for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness and mental illness.

Brian Wild (VIC) lives in Echuca and, together with his wife Lynne, manages the support packages of their adult sons with disabilities.

Livia Auer (ACT) is carer and legal guardian of her 32 year old sister Melanie who has an intellectual disability, and has recently begun managing Melanie's support package.

Peter Baker
(QLD) is Professor of Medicine at the University of Queensland's Rural Clinical School.

Annette Herbert
(SA) manages a support package for her 32 year old daughter Renee who has cerebral palsy and life threatening epilepsy.

Maree Ireland
(VIC) is a person with multiple disabilities and coordinates a project on self-directed approaches at field - furthering inclusive learning and development.

Ruth Davey
(SA) is a Director of Community Support and parent of a daughter with an intellectual disability participating in Phase 1 of self-managed funding in SA.

Christine Regan (NSW) is a parent of a 33 year old daughter with Down Syndrome, is Senior Policy Officer for Disability for the New South Wales Council of Social Services, and is secretary of the NSW Council on Intellectual Disability.

Leslee Hogan (QLD) lives in Atherton in Far North Queensland and manages a support package for her 25 year old son Paul who acquired a severe brain injury at the age of 20.

Kerry Hawkins (WA) is a family carer for her husband who has schizophrenia.

Suzette Gallagher (VIC) has managed her 45 year old son Shaun's disability package for 20 years.

Suzanne Haydon (NSW) is an innovator and film maker and carer for her ageing mother.

Deb Shipman
(NSW) lives in Coffs Harbour and is developing self-directed supports in ageing and disability through Mid North Coast Community Care Options.

Ian Bruce
(SA) is is a volunteer social advocate with experience in business who has managed a consumer-directed EACH package on behalf of his sister.

Miriam Dixon
(NSW) is CEO of Parkinson's NSW.

Sue Harrison
(VIC) is a parent of a 26 year old daughter with intellectual    disability and mental health issues, in receipt of a small respite package

Tracey Forster (VIC) is Manager of Self-Management Support at Goulburn Valley Health in Shepparton.

Coralie Jensen (NSW) is a parent of an adult son with an intellectual disability, and Chair of Side by Side Advocacy.

Sharon Van der Laan (WA) is Executive Director of the Genetic Support Council WA.

Jennie Somerville (NSW) is a survivor of mental illness and advocate for self-directed services in mental health.

Galina Kozoolin (VIC) is Aged Care Manager at South Eastern Region Migrant Resource Centre.

Ali Ayliffe (SA) is Manager of Care Services for Older People at UnitingCare Wesley.

Sam Mauchline (QLD) is a parent of a 40 year old son Paul requiring 24 hour support and care.

Jennifer Mollett (NSW) lives in Wollongong and has worked on self-directed services in New Zealand.

Vern Hughes (Convenor VIC) is a parent of two sons with autism and mental illnesses and Director of Social Enterprise Partnerships.


Volunteer  Three roles available with the Centre for Civil Society

The Centre for Civil Society is experiencing huge growth in the scope and scale of its activities. If you are looking for a volunteer role that is intellectually stimulating and practically challenging, we want to hear from you.

We have three roles for which we are seeking to appoint volunteers. Applicants are invited from all states and territories, for varying time commitments.

  • Events Organiser - assisting in the organisation of forums and conferences
  • Writer - mentoring and support is available in writing news and opinion pieces on various topics which fit the Centre's agenda
  • Administrative Assistant - assisting in various administrative, financial and database management tasks

If you have an interest in any of these roles, please send a CV along with a covering letter on your interest in the work of the Centre to Liz Stewart.

Organising by Federal Electorate
CLICK HERE to register in your electorate (there is no cost).

On registering, participants will be connected to an online forum in their electorate, and will receive access to resources and guidelines for local activity.

CLICK HERE for more information. 


August 1/2 2011: Fire and Rain: Social Innovation and Leadership in Natural Disaster Management and Emergency Services.
National Conference Melbourne 1-2 August 2011.  



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Charles Leadbeater, Jamie Bartlett and Niamh Gallagher have authored this highly influential Demos Report on Self-Directed Services and Personal Budgets. This small publication is set have a lasting impact on social policy debate for many years to come.

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"The Left and Right have been as bad as each other. The Left has allowed its distrust of markets and endless faith in government to obscure the importance of civil society. The Right has been so focused on replacing the state with markets that it has forgotten how to cultivate a trusting society.

This is the politics of the absurd. The Left identifies with the good society but rarely talks about the mutualism and trust between people. The Right recognises the importance of moral obligation but gives the impression of trusting market transactions more than civil society."

Mark Latham, Mutualism: A Third Way for Australia," 1999.

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The Centre brings together people in each federal electorate (150 electorates around Australia) to work locally in engaging our communities and our  representatives in an agenda of respect, empowerment, inclusion.

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Charles Leadbeater, Jamie Bartlett and Niamh Gallagher have authored this highly influential Demos Report on Self-Directed Services and Personal Budgets. This small publication is set have a lasting impact on social policy debate for many years to come.

Charlie Leadbeater

Click here
to read Making It Personal.


brings together people in each federal electorate (150 electorates around Australia) to work locally in effecting change and influencing policy and opinion, with a special focus on disability, mental health education,
and family carer issues.

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