Social Enterprise London (SEL) is a world-leading provider of training, networking, research and consultancy for social enterprise.
The Transition Institute supports a growing network of people involved in forming new models of public service organisations, through inspiring, community-building, sharing best practice, collaborating and enhancing communication.
Can you tell us a bit about your work?
I run an agency that is a development organisation for social enterprises. We have over 3,100 members and we support them with training, information, advice and consultancy.
Is social enterprise a form of business that leads to connecting people and making borders unnecessary?
Yes! The energy created by connecting people that otherwise wouldn’t be connected and finding a way of working together is the nature of social enterprise. That definitely connects peoples and obliterates borders.
What is your experience of working across borders?
I’ve been all over the world with SEL and social enterprises are everywhere, whether or not they operate under this name. Every country, regardless of its economic or political background has them. They find it easy to work with each other and to connect regardless of the context, as they share the same principles and ideas.
What are your biggest professional achievements?
I’m proud of launching the Social Enterprise Journal. It’s an emerging centre of excellence around new models of public service delivery and it’s the only journal that provides scholarly articles about social enterprise. It has an international audience and publishes articles about social enterprises from around the world.
I am also proud of the Transition Institute that I founded in partnership with NESTA and which I currently chair. Since we started we’ve managed to connect with many partners, such as the Co-operative, ACEVO and RSA [Royal Society for Arts]. This is the first platform in this country that sets benchmarks in research in the social enterprise engagement with the public sector. It provides a space where the critical issues of public sector services engagement can be debated and helps others tackle the obstacles to sustainable, independent public services.
Prior to SEL you were the CEO of WEB (Women Education in Building). Some people would find your desire to promote women’s education in the construction trade surprising, given the traditional gender-based division of labour. Do you think that gender within the Third Sector matters?
Women’s education and building have a lot of in common. They both challenge people’s perception and are all about new ways of thinking. And in that sense I’ve been consistent. It is different being a woman in any walk of life. You need to be a little bit better, and this applies both to the 3rd sector and construction business.
What is your understanding of ‘connecting women across borders’?
It’s really vital to connect women. Women struggle to achieve the same level of confidence as their male counterparts. Making connections is vital to provide women with a platform and network through which they can gain self-belief that will enable them to work through all of the obstacles. Networks are crucial to help women understand their capabilities, persevere, learn from each other and be inspired with other women’s stories of success, in order to to take control of their lives and work towards their own success.
What would be your top tip for someone who wants to make meaningful connections in the Third Sector?
You need to make sure that you make a difference. You may have something in common with other people, like you both want to make a business with women, but if you are not advancing their position, if you’re not helpful, you’re not going to build a strong network, people are not going to address you when they need something. Focus on making a difference to people’s work.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Never give up. Just have a courage of your conviction.