Venturefest 2015, April 14th

Our Partnership will be exhibiting in the Social Business Hub of Venturefest East Midlands, in Nottingham, on Tuesday 14th April 2015.

Supporting the Social Business Hub visitors in their exploration of the newly emergent Social Business sector.

venturefestLogoWe will be working with Roger Moors of SEEM in Nottingham, our client, helping to create new pathways to social outcome for mainstream business. These outcomes are no longer the sole remit of the Third Sector in the UK, with many SME’s particularly, being interested in how they can build social outcome into their business profile, delivery and surplus generation.

We can help you achieve these aims.

We work collaboratively with a wide range of organisations across the UK, helping establish new projects and sustainable community business ideas in schools, children’s centres, charities, social business and community enterprises of all kinds.

We have a wealth of experience in business case development, business model exploration, budgeting and business plans – as well as expertise in ethical business operations, marketing and delivery.

We are particularly strong in the childcare, education and literacy sectors. Finding new ways to add value to traditional supply chains and helping to introduce new models of ‘learning and earning’ into traditional institutions and settings.

Bringing together the best of enterprise creation, third sector social gain and mediated management across our whole sector experience. We specialise, as a Partnership, in the following areas…

  • Social Business and Charity Development
  • Education, Early Years and Literacy
  • Funding and Governance Support
  • Web, New Media and original Content Creation

You can still register for your free ticket for Venturefest East Midlands 2015 in Nottingham here.

If you are passing the Social Business Hub, call and see how we might help your business ‘go social’. We’ll be pleased to see you.

See our catalogue of services at Dolphinbookbox here…


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

SmithMartin LLP – diverse connnectivity and services for your project.

Summer redesign…

SmithMartin LLP, project design and delivery...
SmithMartin LLP – taking a refreshing view of your project…

As the summer holidays become a memory in 2013 we have brightened our Autumn reading by installing and loading a fresh new design and layout for ChangeThinking, the news and reflection website for SmithMartin LLP.

We hope we have made browsing the range of our content on the main page easier, with a much more prominent Read more… button to take you to the full articles that interest you.

The individual articles still offer our usual suite of images and downloadable content wherever applicable.

Don’t forget you can check out our other core services at the Partnership, which we have listed below. As the Autumn gets busier and the projects in hand become more pressing as budget finals loom in the Spring, don’t forget that our range of expertise will have some professional support for your social business, school, charity, young people and children’s service or community web need.

SmithMartin LLP:

Project management and development expertise, helping devise governance and management strategy for social business and community projects of all sorts. We have strong expertise in evaluation, social business planning and governance in both charity, education and business settings.


Our community web business, strong in ethical design, hosting and content creation for charities, schools, education settings and social businesses.


You can buy retail children’s books on-line here. We also devise, procure and install all equipment and books for school and community libraries. We can also offer, through the baskets of DolphinbBookShelf , a great way to encourage reading, volunteer engagement and fund raising in any setting. Ask us how.

Books go Walkabout:

Our international authors and young people project. Using new technology to have real time conversations with writers and illustrators across the globe. See more here…

BgW is now a publishing house in its own right – we are always looking for authors with new writing, or  traditional print back-catalogue, coming out of licence, who wish to explore e-publishing and how to get their work into the electronic eco-systems of the major online retailers. Our current theme for 2013/2014 is Writing about AfricaAsk us about eBook publishing here…

Just a flavour of what our Partnership can offer and how our skills mix can help you deliver a development project, capital or revenue. We are alway happy to be the LLP which helps you see your project with new eyes, without any initial commitment.

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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

Renegotiating Value; Bonus or Pro Bono

mf‘Bonus vs Pro Bono’ is the second in a series of Renegotiating ‘value’ seminars and seeks to explore the value of inspirational leadership in business. The seminar will be held in the St Martin’s Hall at St Martin-in-the-Fields (Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JJ) on Thursday 4th November between 4.00 and 6.30pm.

SmithMartin Partnership is pleased to work with Faith in London’s Economy who are delivering this series of seminars concerned with ‘values’ .

Looking at the way our economic system is geared more to the development of wealth for its own sake rather than being socially beneficial and sustainable with a sense of stewardship around our most vulnerable members of the community.

Join us at St Martin’s in the Fields on Thursday 4th November for an interesting and thought provoking afternoon.

The seminar speakers are:

* Peter Hyson (Change Perspectives Ltd) has specialised in leadership development, working with both individuals and strategic teams to boost high performance. He has clients in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. His consultancies have included working with Directors in Professional Services, promoted because of their exceptional technical skills, to adjust to learning people-leadership skills; and a major Organisation Development project with a Government Department to re-assess its work-culture.

He says, “After at least four separate careers, the key theme – and what excites me – is helping people and organisations exceed their expectations, to feel they have power and influence.” These portfolio careers also reflect an eclectic range of business skills and interests, including story-writing, for both business and pleasure and he will shortly be publishing a book about coaching and the “third IQ” – spirituality. His favourite management development insight is “The great coach is the one who brings out the greatness in others” (Nancy Kline)

Baroness Uddin is a Labour Peer and was the first Muslim woman in the House of Lords. Born in Bangladesh and brought up in England, she is an advocate of social reforms and equal rights. A formidable champion for women, Lady Uddin was invited to the House of Lords in 1998 for her contribution to the advancement of women’s and disability rights. She began her professional and political career in the 1970’s, in the East End of London, developing a number of leading edge and well-regarded services and organisations.

Many of these have since come to be accepted as benchmarks for sustainable development and community engagement. Baroness Uddin has served on the Government’s Select Committee on European Affairs and has chaired several Government task forces, under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s office, the Home Office and the FCO. She also chaired the Government’s Task force on Ethnic Minority Women Councilors.

To register for the seminar, which costs £5.00, phone 020 8599 2170 or email

Sue Martin

The Start UpToolkit

startup processes imageWhat is my route to market? Who will buy our product or service?

The website is a great place to begin pulling together ideas for your new social businesses.

Created by Rob Fitzpatrick in East London, we think this web service is a great way to construct, layout and reflect on your social business ideas, or to develop a coherent new business model.

This site provides you with a toolkit, or matrix, which enables you to think about, plan and keep a record of how you are to get your new product or service to market, who is going to buy it and how you will manage risks?

All new businesses, social or otherwise, involve risk and surprising responses to events – the better your plan in the first place, the better you are placed to cope with these unexpected results of your business actions.

A great way to see how system works is to access the ‘instant demo’ section of the site, right at the top of the home page.

It takes you to a demo ‘canvas’ where you can answer the key questions in your business model. You can register with the site and save your deliberations so that you can return later. You can also make your ‘canvas’ public or private too.

A short blog post understates the clarity of thought and potential help that offers. The site plans for additional features and services, like better collaboration tools, make this both a useful tool now and in the future.

Entrepreneurship – social or otherwise

Europa have just released the latest 2009 state of entrepreneurship survey – which interestingly shows that 45% of Europeans would like to be their own boss, if they could.

The EU survey suggests that entrepreneurs are held in lower regard in Europe than their contemporaries in the USA.

The survey highlights the differing attitudes in the US, Europe and Asia to entrepreneurship, but does show that the preference for self-employment remained stable across all regions.

Women seem to lag behind men and young people as a cohort expressing a preference for self employment.

Those surveyed shared their opinions of entrpreneurial individuals as either ‘job creators’ or as ‘exploiters’.

What was not a feature of the survey, to its detriment we think, is factoring in social entrepreneurship or the context of social enterprise as a vehicle for community business change.

Perhaps if more Europeans knew more about social enterprise or social entrepreneurs,  or the impact the sector can have on communities – the range of relative levels of hesitancy to outright distrust of entrepreneurship expressed might be very different.

What do you think?

You can find the survey synopsis here.

The entry pages to the European Small Business Portal can be found here.

Social Enterprise Management
A featured title

Doherty, Foster, Mason et al have produced a great primer for the person intent on mastering the management of social enterprise.

Published in 2009 the book Management for Social Enterprise contains a wide ranging and detailed analysis of many aspects of successful social enterprise management.

It combines not only operational advice, but also gives pointers across some of the ethical issues, corprorate tensions and community reactions that an emergent social enterprise can deliver.

There is also a strong section on financial management of social enterprises, which although created by academics scores well in terms of readability for the lay person. We recommend it.

You can find other books on social business on our SmithMartin ethical business book page…read more here.

By Mr Bob Doherty, George Foster, Chris Mason, Mr John Meehan, Mrs Karon Meehan, Mr Neil Rotheroe, Ms Maureen Royce – published by Sage Publications Ltd., March 2009. (Available from around £20).

Increasing digital participation!

digitalWorldPicThe Digital Participation Fund deadline is approaching. Applications have to be with the fund by 5.00 p.m. on the 1st. June 2010, for this first round.

Designed to support initiatives that increase participation in online activities, get more from already being online and to get help to exploit the real social and economic benefits of being online.

The Fund is open to any charity or incorporated organisation, with the Fund stating that there is likely to be several rounds of funding available over the next three years.

The Fund notes say they are looking for projects of any size, that can be evaluated, replicated and that offer depth and breadth to internet access.

You can get full details of the Fund, the aims it has and all the forms for application here, in both PDF and Word format.

If you are already helping people get access to the online world, or are planning to, check out the Digital Participation Consortium.

Social entrepreneurship – boring?

Nathaniel Whittemore has just published an interesting reflection on the role of business practices in social entrepreneurship. His work appears on the site.

The context of his article was a critique of the management consultancy McKinsey & Co. and their recent debate on whether the language of business is relevant in our sector.

His argument is summarised here…

…talking about “the language and practice of business” and assuming that is a monolith is sort of like talking about “the language and practice of nonprofits” and trying to lump community development initiatives, affordable housing, humanitarian relief, and undergraduate education all together. In other words, it just doesn’t work.

Running our own small business and trying to help others in a diverse range of communities of interest to start social businesses clearly places us well out of the orbit of McKinsey. However, the argument proposed in the piece rings loud and clear to us.

Highly complex and detailed management reporting or business plans, and the knowledge of how to produce them, is clearly an important constituent in delivering effective change in a social business. It goes also to establishing credence and mission based objectives for any organisation.

However, at ground zero of delivery in a local community all strategic analysis and esoteric conceptualising is subservient to the immediacy of solving the current problem, the now of small things.

Not to cope with this aspect of a social business start-up will handicap its development from the earliest stage. We would argue that what makes for the most successfully entrepreneurial organisation is the embrace of theory and methodology BUT coupled to passion, drive and social reformation.

One of our partners, in describing our partnership philosophy, says that we are social radicals but fiscal conservatives.

Not sure that every team member would recognise the model as we believe state spending is an integral part of the enduring social contract, but a great truncation of a sophisticated and socially passionate set of drivers for any group of people who want to effect change – by interacting with diverse communities of interest and power.

As Whittemore has it…

entrepreneurs in general tend to want every single tool they can get in their toolbox. They don’t want to limit themselves to only one approach simply because that’s what has been done before’.

This rings true to us – across the roundabout, under the bypass and into the community centre.