The Editors' Post: Why every social entrepreneur needs a 'Simon'

Our SE100 winners share secrets to overcoming self-doubt and tell us why it's all about family. Plus, the awkward questions facing a social entrepreneur when the very institution she's trying to change offers funding, and the latest from the AVPN Global Conference in Bali.

An online awards celebration is never quite as, well, celebratory as a real-life gathering. So we were pretty gutted to have to turn yesterday’s NatWest SE100 Awards event into a Zoom meeting at the last minute, due to the rail strikes this week.

But it was still lovely to have well over 100 people joining us to find out the winners of this year’s top prizes. When Lisa Stepanovic of Social Ark switched on her camera to accept the Equality Champion award, she was still laughing at her organisation’s group chat, which was going “a bit nuts” she said. Social Ark helps young people from under-resourced east London communities to develop social businesses of their own: Lisa described them (pictured above) as “a family, through the thick and the thin”.

One of our Leaders of the Year also gave a powerful sense of the “family” that plays such an important, if sometimes unseen, role in social entrepreneurship. Daniel Brewer, CEO of Resonance, described his first 10 years of “self-doubt and just about earning a living”, which changed when he was joined by his colleague Simon Chisholm as a co-leader. “The thing that I’d encourage all social entrepreneurs, all entrepreneurs frankly, is find yourself a Simon, because what we found is we make better decisions together,” he said.  


Awkward questions – and the power of a network

Leading a social enterprise also involves dealing with some big dilemmas, as Migrateful founder Jess Thompson shares in this week’s Awkward Questions column. Should we work with institutions we fundamentally disagree with, if it has potential to have a positive impact? Is it ok to sometimes accept money from the ‘bad guys’? Or is tackling the root cause of the problem always the most important thing to consider? 

There are no easy answers, but Jess’s reflections – triggered by an offer of funding from the UK’s Home Office – may just help you if you’re in a similar situation. Read her piece to find out what she ultimately decided

Migrateful is just one of many social enterprises that exist to support refugees, asylum seekers and/or migrants. Recently we heard from two others: Breadwinners and The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network, whose staff and programme participants shared ways that you can help newcomers to the country. One takeaway: don’t underestimate the power of personal networks – sharing yours can make a big difference to fledgling entrepreneurs or job-seekers. 


An Asian decade 

Also this week – it’s been a busy one – we’ve got stories for you from the AVPN Global Conference. The annual gathering of social investors in Asia is a huge event, and this year’s edition also ties in with the G20 Summit. My colleague Julie Pybus reports from Bali, Indonesia: find out why AVPN wants this to be the “Asian decade”

And here in the UK, I found out why the civil society minister, Nigel Huddleston MP, is so keen on social impact bonds (also, confusingly, known as social outcomes contracts) – even if some aren’t as convinced by the numbers.


This week's top stories

Asian social investment should leapfrog world, AVPN Global Conference is told

UK PM champions social impact bonds – but are claims in Big Society Capital report justified?

UK social enterprise champions revealed at SE100 Awards