Community Wealth Building is an increasingly popular approach to local economic development in the United Kingdom

Community wealth building (CWB) is a philosophy and approach to local economic development that is packaged into a coherent and marketable model. CWB is gaining traction in the UK.

CWB aims to promote economic activity and investment in local areas and enable equitable economic growth. It opposes the idea of extractive economics where wealth is taken out of communities by national and multinational corporations. It rather promotes generative economics and embraces concepts like localism and new municipalism. This involves prioritising local matters and increasing the autonomy of local municipalities or councils.

The Scottish Government has embraced this concept and is busy embedding it in policy.

This article introduces CWB and reflects on its value and limitations. It will be interesting to anyone involved in sustaining and growing a local economy. I wrote it to contribute to the discussion about CWB.

The opportunities and dangers associated with a large and lucrative source of income

Our organisations all desire to achieve a big and profitable source of income from a friendly client, funder or investment. It helps to stabilise their financial situation and creates a foundation for growth.

However, these situations all carry a hidden risk – that our organisations become too dependent on this income stream and too distracted or complacent to do anything about it. I can tell many stories of organisations blindsided by the loss of this income for a multitude of reasons. While some organisations recovered, many closed down or became a shadow of their former selves.

Organisations must therefore be mindful of the risks of having a single large contract or income stream. This risk is higher where this income accounts for a significant proportion of overall income, seems reliable, and when you must shift how your organisation operates to accommodate a client or funder.

This article will explore the advantages and disadvantages of a good single source of income. It also provides some ideas for how you might mitigate the risks associated with this favourable situation.

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation is a useful tool for understanding the challenges facing communities in Scotland

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) is an excellent tool for getting a sense of a street or community in Scotland and its levels of deprivation and poverty. Other countries would benefit from creating their own versions of it.

The SIMD is used a lot by charities, foundations and policymakers. It is a combination of several poverty-related indicators drawn from official statistics.

It is also a common language for discussing the levels of deprivation in an area. I regularly use the SIMD in my work in Scotland which involves helping charities, social enterprises and community groups to improve their strategies and understand their beneficiaries.

This article introduces the SIMD, explains how it works and what I think of it.

Good implementation is more important than social innovation

Social innovation aims to find new and powerful ideas and approaches that can change the world. This is a worthy pursuit since we always need better ways of doing things. There are plenty of capable organisations that support social entrepreneurs to develop and refine their innovations. 

However, a social innovation is worth nothing without a capable organisation to implement it, a supportive and enabling environment, the right mix of funding, a large dose of perseverance and a measure of good luck. This is where the hard work comes in.

Framework for writing a strategic plan for a charity or social enterprise

Here is a framework to help charities, nonprofit organisations and social enterprises to write their strategic plans. It focuses on ‘writing’ the plan rather than the strategic planning process which consists of workshops, conversations, strategic exercises and desktop research.

There is no correct format for a strategic plan. This framework sets out my thoughts on strategic plans and my preferred method of writing them. These insights stem from decades of working with such plans.

You must choose a format that works for you and your organisation. Some organisations will pick the bits that enable them to write a concise plan of under 10 pages, whereas larger and more complex organisations might choose to respond to all the prompts, and write a more comprehensive plan of 20 pages.

Treat this article like a menu and use whatever parts of this framework make sense to you. Adapt or discard the remainder. This framework is detailed so that it can offer you an array of choices.

‘Heroes’ versus ‘programmers’: two common archetypes of entrepreneurs

There tend to be two types of entrepreneurs that I encounter in my consulting work. There are those that strive to be in the middle of the action and build their organisations around them. Then there are those who strive to build their organisations to be separate from themselves like a piece of software.

Nowadays I think of these dichotomous archetypes as ‘heroes’ versus ‘programmers’. Framing them in a positive light makes this model more useful and easier to communicate.

This article explores these archetypes, considers when they are an asset or liability, and reflects on what we might learn from them.

The likely impact of the cost of living crisis in the United Kingdom on charities and social enterprises and what they can do about it

The ‘cost of living crisis’ refers to the rapid inflation of core essential goods and services that constitute a sizable proportion of household budgets in the UK. Its impact will be especially severe among low-income households who tend to rely on social grants. These households are likely to experience greater debt and poverty. The government is scrambling to limit the fallout. The cost of living crisis has afflicted the UK since late 2021 but has recently gained more media attention as its consequences become evident.

This article focuses on the likely consequences of this crisis for charities and social enterprises. It also suggests six sets of tactics that organisations might use to survive this crisis, become more resilient and increase their impact.

Strategy & social enterprise glossary

We’ve designed this glossary to help social enterprises and non-profit organizations in South Africa think clearly about their strategies and business models.

Strategic clarity involves clear thinking, and clear thinking requires clarity of language. Many of us also rely too much on jargon, which clutters our minds and encourages lazy and fuzzy thinking.

Here is some of the terminology that I regularly use in my consulting practice and lectures, and my short descriptions of what each term means in simple English.

The OODA loop can help your organization to become more adaptable

The OODA loop is a mental model that can help organizations to adapt to changes in our environment. It explains how we observe our surroundings, orient ourselves, make appropriate decisions and act accordingly.

This model is especially useful for leaders who want their organizations to thrive in our interconnected world where unforeseen events appear rapidly on the horizon. Recent events, including the Covid pandemic and riots, have caused devastation in South Africa. These events impacted our organizations and our lives. The future is unpredictable and has more surprises in store for us.

I have closely observed which organizations have been able to adapt to shifts in their environment versus those that have floundered. Those that successfully adapted were able to cycle effectively through their OODA loops.

This article explains the OODA loop and shares tactics that organizations can use to become better at defending against threats and unlocking opportunities that emerge through changes and shifts in our environment.

This article is a long read of approximately one hour for the average reader. I wrote it intermittently over the span of a year and a half during South Africa’s ‘lockdown’ due to the pandemic. The examples I cite will reflect my work in the field of socio-economic development, as well as my interest in history and military science, which is where I came upon the OODA loop. Nevertheless, the insights will also apply to leaders of all organizations.

Tool for mapping the business model of your non-profit organization or social enterprise

A business model is the unique recipe that an organization uses to earn income and serve its customers and beneficiaries (or participants in the case of a non-profit organization or social enterprise). A business model typically describes what an organization is offering its customers and beneficiaries, as well as its inputs, processes and method of earning income and profits.

Business models design is about configuring the building blocks of an organization so that it is feasible (can work) and viable (can sustain itself).

It is not uncommon for entrepreneurs to play around with different configurations for their organizations until such time as they find one that works.

When unpacking complex and multi-dimensional business models, I prefer to adopt a relationship-orientated approach where I examine all the different parties that are involved in an organization and how they will work together. Only then do I dive into its inner technical workings such as its activities, financial model and legal structures.

Here is a tool that closely resembles the types of questions that I ask social businesses and non-profit organizations when I start to unpack their complex business models. I hope this tool will assist you to interrogate your own business models.

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