A Social Business Christmas

Image: Christmas learning from Barcelona

Preparing for Christmas we realised that although we have a number of active and complex projects moving ahead into 2017, including more international book and author events, web and communications build-outs for community clients and development of our literacy and book projects, we had no homework!

So we have signed up, via the latest batch of FutureLearn subjects, to a course on Social Business and its development, delivered in partnership with the Universat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.

Social Business: a Sustainable Way to Face the Most Pressing Needs of Our Time, as the on-line collaborative course is called, will enable us to test our belief that we are a social business, effectively working as a not for profit company, or rather generating profits with social outcome as the expected significant return.

‘We will begin by defining a Social Business according to Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Laurate 2006. We will look at how a Social Business is different from other similar concepts such as Social Economy or Social Enterprise’.

We hope to see how the theories of Muhammad Yunus match our delivered practice, and to discover how other international social business developers interpret their work through the academic theory and practical dialogue that the ‘Pompeu Fabra course will deliver.

Our course starts on 5th December 2016, so there is still time to visit the FutureLearn pages and to sign up. Read more here

The course is free and lasts for four weeks, but is designed to enable you to both learn and share your experiences in just a few hours a week.

We’ll let you know how we get on. Happy Christmas to all our readers!


Making Ideas Work… training at Canada Water Library


m IMG 0687You know that feeling when you have a great idea but the overload of work just weighs you down? Before that happens, don’t let the idea get squashed…. Build Something you Love!

On March 25th our partnership team spent the day with a wonderful group of people, in Canada Water Library, to do just that… Building Something Special. From ideas and concepts to how setting up an organisation in the right framework will benefit the project immensely.

We were working in connection with Church Urban Fund, Near Neighbours and Rev’d Tim Clapton and the people were all connected with Near Neighbours and working as a faith organisation or in connection with faith groups.

What did we discuss? A huge array of the aspects on setting up an organisation, the ethical stance that community projects have at their core, and the passion for supporting and developing people as paramount.

People had come from different communities in London and their set up organisations included;
World of Faith, Clapton/Hackney Gardening, World Beaters, Future 4 All, Alternatives, iiChild, British Rastafari, Community Organising Malawi, VOTY Project, St Mark’s Dalston Junction.

SmithMartin have created www.enterprisingcommunities.today to provide a continual supply of up to date information.

Pleased to support communities.

SmithMartin Partnership LLP

m IMG 0684

Image: Canada Water Library

DolphinBookBox returns

DolphinBookBox - services from SmithMartin image
All our services in one place…

We have recently re-energised our oldest brand, DolphinBookBox. Some 10 years or so ago this was the delivery mechanism on-line for our community library and book delivery service.

What we have found recently is that, after over a decade of development, our Partnership ‘elevator pitch’ – what is it you do? – was getting longer and longer.

To stop our meeting attendees glazing over, as if they would, we have recompiled the BookBox web site and converted it into a feature suite for our miscellany of Partnership projects and services.

There is a logic to our Partnership offering, with inter-connected themes for all our work.

Our print and design service keys into our community web service, our project management efforts around community buildings key into our skills in governance and policy advice.

Our children’s book business delivery synergises with our international on-line contact project Books go Walkabout, which itself feeds projects into our publishing house activities for new eBooks and recharged back catalogue creation….and so on.

You can see the connections all on one website here, at DolphinBookBox.co.uk

SmithMartin LLP – diverse connnectivity and services for your project.

Having an Idea!

A Wordle - ideas expressed

You know that moment when suddenly the most brilliant idea comes into your head? What happens from then can either make the idea come alive or it remains dormant.

Two young people who have had brilliant ideas and been able to put them into practice are Pavegen founder Laurence Kemball-Cook and Raspberry Pi co -creator, Eben Upton.

In the Royal Society for the Arts publication this Autumn, 2012, they talked about their thoughts on establishing a working model for their ideas. Both are now proven and making great strides in improving lives using technology.

But without the ‘good idea’ even technology is unable to change and improve how we live; although it can be the ‘tool box’ and make the idea possible.

So what are the principles needed? Where does a good idea go from here? How steely are your nerves? Because once your idea takes off it can explode into a hungry world.
And how do you ‘hang on’ to the originality and ensure the idea is not swallowed up by larger and wealthier organisations?

Both Laurence Kemball Cook and Eben Upton share similar approaches; the ideas they conceived were alongside other original work, they had the intrigue to follow the idea, they sought funding which would enable the idea to take shape but not so big that they lost control and they were prepared to deviate in the development when needed.

Pavegen is a new concept using flooring and people’s steps to produce energy.
Raspberry Pi is an affordable credit card sized computer that can be used in schools to teach technology.
Both on their way to success and will make a huge difference to people’s lives.

Lots of ideas are already finding their way into our global technological society. Never easy but if you have an idea, it could be the very one to change the life for someone out there.

Tocare el cielo con dito‘  Touch the sky with your finger tips!

Sue Martin FRSA

SmithMartin Partnership LLP Creative, entrepreneurial and flexible and pleased to work with RSA in promotion of ‘free thinkers‘.

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The Collected Works

We are really pleased to have been jointly instrumental in creating a new collaborative professional partnership in Collected Works.

This new group exercises the creative energy of SmithMartin and WilsonGoodchild.

The latter is a Lincolnshire based consultancy, passionate and reflective about social outcomes, with a different yet complimentary sets of skills from our core partnership at SmithMartin.

Our lived experience as a social business is always to concentrate on the social and community outcome ahead of the surplus that may be generated.

All consultancies need to invoice to survive, with the new Collected Works initiative offers both organisations, we would argue, can find a way to work collaboratively, sharing knowledge and expertise, along with technical resources.

Tim Smith, partner at SmithMartin said..

We welcome new projects in the same way we did before, but see Collected Works, and the joint contribution with WilsonGoodchild, as a way to maximise the social return from our efforts, whilst using economies of scale and different, but complimentary expertise, to undertake bids, join consortia, undertake enterprise development and research projects.

Sharing our ideas and direction of travel, maximising community outcome and sharing revenue wherever we can…

If you are a single consultant, looking to develop a new project, or to add value to existing work, give the Collected Works a thoughtful look.

We’ll be happy to talk without obligation.

Practical wisdom, now more than ever…

We recently revisited the Gel talk, by Professor Barry Schwartz, of Swarthmore College, from the Gel Conference 2009.

This presentation is about the need to embrace, or rather re-embrace, the notion expounded by Aristotle of practical wisdom. The classical idea of ‘virtue’, which is refracted through our modern life experiences and emerges as ‘practical wisdom’ or phronesis

Barry Schwartz at Gel 2009 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

The short film above offers a view of this process, or rather how, in the current economic and socially turbulent times, we have lost or missed the key elements of wisdom in our dealings with each other, the institutions we serve or the people we entreat with.

The ideas expressed are as telling now as they ever were during the banking crisis of 2009.

Educators and childcare specialists can also find insight in Barry Schwartz’s talk – offering some interesting observations, as it does on teaching, rules in childcare settings and the difficulties of parenting.

The key message in the talk is perhaps that, following crises, we seek to implement more and more rules to prevent the crisis recurring. The stronger and stronger reliance on rules, Schwartz argues, ultimately deprives us of the moral skill to successfully negotiate our day to day relationships.

This key idea, having the moral will to do right, is intimately linked in this argument to developing the moral skills necessary to do the right thing.

As the shoot from the hip, reactive policy changes in current education, social care, health and charitable environments occur, it is easy to find parallels in the arguments presented by Schwarz.

What is missing, it can be argued, is the moral will of the actions taken. What effect does this have on a person, on a people, not only on the process, not only on the institution.

Professor Schwartz delivers his points in a humorous and easily understood way – making the power and challenge in his arguments even more telling. See what you think…

(What is Gel? “Short for “Good Experience Live”, Gel is a conference and community exploring good experience in all its forms – in art, business, technology, society, and life”. See more on the Gel website here.)

Saying it cannot be done…

I was given a book mark yesterday by one of my colleagues. It carried the following inscription.

Those who say it cannot be done…

Should not interrupt the person doing it.  

(Ancient Chinese Proverb)

There’s no telling how the wisdom of China came to be on the bookmark, or yet still how to test the veracity of its origins in the short time since I read it.

However, I had been thinking about it through a couple of politically bumpy client meetings yesterday. Having a vision, having scoped alternative courses of action and begun the journey to realising your project, then there should come a time when the nay-sayers or constructive critiques about the original concept should fall gently away…I would wish to argue.

If your project has a sound ethical and inclusive focus, then you should remain true to your vision, realising that new enterprises, of whatever type, are difficult to begin, difficult to make happen and difficult to manage when they go live.

You need that period of buoyancy and enthusiasm in the start-up phase, untrammelled by the gloomy onlooker, to enable you to realise your successful outcomes.

My bookmark reflection led me to two conclusions today.

As an accidental serial entrepreneur in my own tiny corner of existence,  I recognise that occasionally projects do fold in on themselves no matter how good your heart or muscular your approach.

I also chided myself for not saying any of the above during the meeting.

(I think there’s another blog entry in that last line too!)

Tim Smith

Partner at SmithMartin

Learning a language…learning lots more too!

platoImageWe have always liked the Open Culture web site, which is probably the very best of free learning and education media resources on the internet.

We are particularly keen to embed translation into the web sites we build at Thirdsectorweb for clients, for example. So having a language learning resource that is free and readily available on the internet is a great thing…we think.

The Open Culture learn a language pages are here. However, they include much more than just the language per se. You can also dip into cultural aspects of your target language, the majority available on iTunes or as direct downloads from the relevant web site.

What better way to bridge a cultural and geographic gap, than to learn some key phrases in another language? Find our more here.

Just a single click away and just as importantly, freely available in the same formats, are over 400 courses from major learning institutions.

Whether your interest is law, the classics, history, journalism or philosophy – there is a wealth of knowledge and research experience freely available to you here.

Explore your mind…in the company of others, at no cost.

What the internet was really built for…probably.

(Image: Plato - Creative Commons/Public Domain)

Social entrepreneur – five cornerstones



Starting a business, social or otherwise, is a leap of faith. Faith in yourself or your team, faith in your product or service and faith in your audience, customers or community of interest.

Below are some basic tenets to help your vision endure, each element when applied well will add to your chances of success, generate turnover and increase your capacity to generate surpluses…


1. Get your governance model right:

Whether you want to be a limited company, by guarantee or shareholding, a charity or a management committee within an existing organisation, dedicated to providing a service – then working hard to research, take advice and recognise the rationale for the way your organisation is structured will pay huge dividends later on.

2. Really know why you are doing it:

Understanding why your business and governance is structured the way it is tempers what people will think about your service. Clarity here will not only help you build effective internal management processes, but will also add to perceptions of your value with your customers or client base.

3. Share the knowledge:

Be open and honest with yourself and amongst your fellow board or committee members. Work hard to make sure that the clarity you have is shared and understood by all. Keep good minutes, business records and accounts – share them and talk about them together. Don’t have a ‘closet controller’ at the table.

If you are in the not for profit sector, have a new service and a shiny new web site – use it to publish that ethical procurement policy, use it to explain where your profits go, use it to make sure your mission is evident in your strapline. Don’t assume we will know.

4. Suppress the ego:

Charismatic, energetic and driven project leaders are part of start-ups. The hunter-gatherer can be a great asset when looking for new markets and new product opportunities. Remember though, that in businesses of all kinds the more pastoral, contemplative team member also has their role to play and skill set to offer.

Be bold by all means, but don’t be a bully.

5. Accept the risk:

Risk is part of any entrepreneurial activity. It’s not why you do it, but processes, people and products are never infallible. If you have energetically and intelligently pulled together your team, implemented your processes and delivered your service, then you will also know when the nerve endings are starting to jangle as failure or missed targets approach.

Embrace that feeling and use that same energy to drive forward the next phase of your business development.

Accepting risk doesn’t mean you have to be an Horatio on the bridge, lonely sword in hand facing the ravenous horde as they approach. By sharing and being open you can reach out for advice and help…there’s plenty out there.

(SmithMartin LLP provide ethical business, governance and distribution advice and support across a wide range of social enterprise, charity and private sector businesses.

Our web service writes effective, income generating copy and provides fault free, secure, best value software and hardware solutions – we are your enterprise ‘in the cloud’).

Social change or social stagnation?

This short film, in the masterly RSAnimate series, features the ideas of Renata Salecl, a Slovenian social and legal theoretician.

Her key argument is that choice in current society suppresses social change. That burning with the desire to consume in the capitalist system, we develop a critique of self, rather than of society.



Our need to choose and consume, based on a sense of needing to belong, needing to not upset colleagues, friends or other social contacts, leads us to develop a false sense of being in charge of our own lives, but which drives us to feel a sense of failure at our poor choices or inability to acquire what others have.

Notions of class war or class identity, for Salecl, are replaced by inadequacy.

Freud determined that malaise in civilisation is mirrored by malaise in the individual. However, the issue with these over arching conditional statements about communities in the capitalist world, is that they are based on the perception that everyone has choice, that every economic player has the access to the modes of action that allow the fulfillment of choice.

Is this wrong? Does everyone have the same economic and social functionality to act? We think not. Economic power, social status and educational achievement have still not reached par for everyone. It is a structural deficit that inhibits social change not choice.

To see the cake is to recognise confectionary. To have no income, or insufficient income, means that cake today or tomorrow is merely an ideal for many.

Still, another great film. What do you think?

You can see another RSAnimate film on changing educational paradigms on our blog here