Archive for the ‘Social issues’ Category

Collaborator Profile: David Irwin (Northhumberland, UK)

April 22, 2012


My name is David Irwin, based in Northumberland. I am a social entrepreneur, and a consultant in enterprise and economic development working with clients such as DANIDA, Department for International Development, Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, World Bank, Gates Foundation and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. I work with organisations that wish to develop initiatives, in turn, to help new and growing businesses. I wear lots of hats, including trustee of Sunderland Youth Enterprise Trust, a member of the Investment Committee of Oxfam’s Enterprise Development Program and a Visiting Fellow at Teesside University Business School.

What is exciting you at present?

Most of my work at the moment revolves around helping trade associations in their attempts to influence public policy – in Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania. Most need considerable help, and governments tend to be capricious, but they can make a difference and the impact can be considerable when they get it right.

Top three tips on collaboration

1. Share information and network widely. Too many organisations, especially in Africa, see information as power – but passing on information is not like giving away money. You share the information, but you still have it as well, so now many more can benefit.
2. Be especially generous in sharing information with the public sector as they often do not have access to accurate information and so base decisions based on perception rather than on reality.
3. Proactively look for opportunities to collaborate rather than waiting – you might wait for ever.

Collaborative projects?

I am particularly interested in what it is that makes some trade associations successful while others are much less successful, not least because identifying the characteristics and features of success will make it easier to offer training programs so that all can benefit. I would be interested in thoughts about what leads to success for trade associations in developed countries.

David Irwin, Partner, Irwin Grayson Associates – – mob +44 7785 901020

Asylum Seeker Policy a house of straw! (Bogong is baaaack)

October 18, 2011

 Bogong, our resident political analyst, has returned from an extended stay in Japan, and is incensed at the politicisation of the asylum seeker issue.

 Poor confused Bogong! Walking around Parliament House there is so much heat-generated by the boat refugee question. Forgive the pun, but the tide is turning and the Left factions would love to desert the sinking ship of failed refugee policy. Thank God, because it’s a third order issue.

What are the bigger issues facing us? productivity and competitiveness; improving the tax system; improved health infrastructure; dealing with an ageing population; getting the balance right between coal and green energy; exacting a contribution on windfall profits by miners; finding a path to get alienated indigenous communities into the mainstream. And dare I say it – getting on with a national broadband network.

 On the economic management side, we have solid employment and most of us live comfortable lives challenged only by who will win the football finals or whether we can buy a decent chardonnay for under $20. So why the obsession with refugees and where do they rank in the big issues?

 Since there are 1.1 refugees for every 1000 Australians, Bogong doesn’t feel threatened by a stealth invasion. While we should do everything to stop them, we have had little success. Offshore processing has not worked. Towing the boats back into international waters has not worked.Naurudid not work. As forMalaysiawe will probably never know.

So are our efforts worth what we the taxpayers are shelling out? What we do know is that offshore processing is very, very expensive and we should be asking more about the cost and the opportunity cost. The Department of Immigration is saying offshore processing is about 10 times the cost of onshore processing and admits the last group of refugees fromNauru– most accepted by us eventually – cost over $1 million/refugee. This year, processing will cost close to $1 billion.

 But facts and cost benefit analysis is anathema to the government and opposition. Having determined that they will compete to beat it up and push every possible scare mongering button, they have gone to the third estate to have their prejudices vindicated.

Why? Well since this is an era of poll driven policy, the ignorance of many ordinary Australians is there to be manipulated. Not addressed in the sense of an education policy but ‘manipulated’ to encourage uncertainty and fear and to turn ignorance into a vote for the ‘toughest’ party. And the media’s attention is up for grabs.

 This house of straw is starting to fall down. Much of the media is conceding that boat refugees are not an Armageddon – although News Limited from its ‘moral high ground’ continues the campaign. The High Court caught the Government totally asleep! Trying to change legislation has brought out the worst in the PM and the Leader of the Opposition and the attempt at an unholy alliance alienated the Greens and Labor’s left factions which have both long supported an onshore solution.

 Does anyone remember Carmen Lawrence (WA Premer, Labor Party President, federal MP) who resigned from shadow cabinet in 2002 because her Labor colleagues adopted a “brutal and inhuman” asylum seeker policy? Now, instead of embracing onshore processing and community care as a humanitarian and cost-effective outcome, it is being forced on a reluctant Government. Let’s hope that there is now less need to scare the western suburbs electorates, and that we can move on to more important policy challenges.

 Cockatoo readers would be surprised at how many MPs from all sides would like that to happen.

Lifetime care for people with a disability (BEST PRACTICE)

July 14, 2010

Australian politician, Bill Shorten, is talking up the idea of national lifetime care and support system for those with disabilities, and he is awaiting the Productivity Commission enquiry.

Our reading of the terms of reference is that the PC will be take a clinical look at things, and ‘compassionate’ issues like lifetime care won’t get much of a run. This will be a shame because life is tough for those with disabilities, and their carers. The better prospect might be the National Disability Strategy being released shortly.

 In this context, local stakeholders have first-hand experience, and hence the opportunity to leverage initiatives if they see fit. To my mind, if Shorten is talking about lifetime care, then local groups might pursue what he actually means, and take things from there. It presumably means physical and mental health, education and training, work, leisure, aged care etc. From our recent research it seems that Sweden is implementing some smart agendas in the disability field.

 It was also interesting to note that in April in Madrid, EU tourism ministers agreed to facilitate ‘the access to holidays to groups with impaired mobility or those who are socially and/or economically disadvantaged.’ This could take many forms, and it will be interesting to track progress.


Angles for Cockatoo members

  • §          If you’ve an interest in this field, the EC work should be on your radar. Tourism and leisure surely fits within a lifetime support system of all developed nations.
  • §          The hot spots might be those towns already strong in aged care, with the infrastructure in place, and close to the major cities to avoid lengthy travel. The hosting of a disability conference might be the trigger? Contact us to chew the fat. 


OECD promotes social enterprises (BEST PRACTICE)

May 9, 2010

Government agencies around the world are grappling with the problem of creating jobs for at-risk groups. The primary cause is that labour-shedding has escalated in the last few years. The driver is the corporations ruthlessly reviewing all operations to protect their shareholder values.

A side effect has been the emergence of the social enterprise sector i.e. non-profit organizations that generate revenue to finance their social mission viz. employing disadvantaged people, creating career paths for youths, running mentoring programs, caring for the homeless and needy.

In some countries, the tax-free status of religious organizations and philanthropic agencies has helped, and mega-capitalists (Gates, Branson, Forrest) are stepping in with open cheque books. But most corporations and institutional investors are only willing to fund social enterprises within tightly defined corporate limits.

The LEED Group (OECD – edited by Antonella Noya) has just released a very valuable report, “The Changing Boundaries of Social Enterprises” (270 pages), that explores this increasingly important field. For example, it canvasses specific policy measures that could be supported by governments at different levels to facilitate the integration of social enterprises into the economy e.g.

  • Fiscal incentives to attract investors e.g. tax credits, subsidies.
  • Public procurement measures based on socio-environmental criteria.
  • Public-private community partnerships.
  • Financial advice, labour market training for employees as well as social finance intermediaries.

Angles for Cockatoo members

We reckon there is a huge gap in our collective understanding of how social enterprises can be nurtured. The OECD study is a great first step – we need more analysis and policy development. If you agree, contact us and we’ll work out how we might stimulate things.

Canadian Youth Business Foundation (BEST PRACTICE)

April 15, 2009


The Harper Government is investing $10 million in the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.


This is a national charity getting a lot of attention of late – it provides start-up mentoring, financing, resources to help young Canadians, aged 18-34, create their own businesses. Founded in 1996, it supports youth who would not otherwise realize their full potential and launch a business. 


Modeled after the UK’s Prince’s Trust, CYBF has been recognized as one of the most efficient organizations of its kind globally. As such, CYBF is often called upon to mentor youth entrepreneurship programs in other countries.


CYBF provides business start-ups with loans of up to $15k and on-line business resources. Loans below $7,500 are repayable over 3 years – above that level, the repayments are over 5 years. Year 1 payments are interest-only. Initial start-up fee of $50 plus $10 monthly administration fee.


The difference is the mandatory world-class mentoring program. CYBF individually qualifies, interviews and trains every volunteer mentor, hand-matching each with a CYBF entrepreneur for 2 years during the critical start-up period.


Delivery partners are located across Canada and most sectors are eligible. Last year CYBF funded 400 new start-ups – total to date of 2,800 companies. They have created $300 million in sales, $69 million in tax revenue, $33 million in exports and 15,000+ jobs.  On average, each new company creates 5 jobs.  CYBF has an impressive repayment rate of 95% – received money is reinvested in the next wave of entrepreneurs.


Contributed by Mark Marich (USA)

Are YOU a social entrepreneur?

March 19, 2009


Former WA Industry Minister Mal Bryce has introduced us (via Peter Kenyon) to an amazing book on social entrepreneurs entitled “The Power of Unreasonable People” by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan. (Harvard Business Press 2008) Sub titled “How social entrepreneurs create markets that change the world.”


The book describes Social Entrepreneurs as people who:


1.     Shrug off ideology and regulation

2.     Focus on practical solutions

3.     Innovate

4.     Do social value creation and SHARE

5.     Jump in without waiting for back-up

6.     Have unwavering beliefs in innate capacity of others

7.     Have dogged determination

8.     Demonstrate real passion for change

9.     Have a great deal to teach change makers in other sectors

10.  Have a healthy impatience (don’t do well in bureaucracies)

India’s business schools focus on social entrepreneurship

October 17, 2008


Business schools in India are introducing initiatives to merge the needs of the corporate world with those of non-governmental organizations.


It follows a summit on entrepreneurship at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, which outlined the importance of social entrepreneurs as agents of change in society. Initiatives have been launched, including the development of the infrastructure of small villages via education.


Go to

Corporate Philanthropy – what works

March 18, 2008

The Kauffman Foundation in the US has referred us to a survey by McKinsey & Co. in respect to global corporate philanthropy.

MCKinsey says the aims are of most corporations involved in philanthropy are similar – to enhance the corporate image and brand, build employee leadership, enhance employee recruitment and retention.

The most effective corporate efforts align their philanthropy with social/political trends relevant to their business. Top-quality programs also emphasize collaboration with other corporate partners, other philanthropists, community groups etc.

(The corporate sector in A/NZ is notoriously stingy. Anyone know the reasons? Less advantageous tax treatment? No Bill Gates role models?  – Editor)

Go to “The State of Corporate Philanthropy.”

Mauritius view of global issues

March 8, 2008

Mr. Nikhil Treebhoohun, now with the Commonwealth Secretariat we believe, is a very agreeable chap who was a keen participant in clustering initiatives when he was the CEO of the National Productivity & Competitiveness Council in Mauritius.

A few years back he wrote a very good thought piece based on his attendance at the World Cluster Congress in Paris. His take included the following.

  • The Congress was organised jointly by OECD and the French government and the assistance was quite impressive both in terms of the number attending (some 1,000) and the quality of the participants. The Congress was opened by the French minister for spatial planning and the environment, who stressed the need to take on board the social dimensions of development. One important element was her commitment to build alliances with countries of the Zone de Solidarité Prioritaire so as to ensure that developing countries are not further left behind by the movement towards globalisation.  
  • The case of local clusters is notable not just because of the economic benefits for the performance of firms but also because it draws our attention to the presence of a different entrepreneurial and local culture. 
  • This is based on a higher degree of inter-relation between economic and social ties.  The fact that enterprises are located together in the local territory helps to generate trust and a willingness to co-operate, which makes for a qualitative difference between networking locally and networking at a distance.
  • Secondly, there are trust relations among enterprises.  The case of transition countries shows how vital trust is to any form of coordination, which was often destroyed during years of undemocratic rule.
  • Thirdly, there is the notion of partnerships between private and public actors.
  • Fourthly, there is enhanced visibility of local actors and of the civil society. This is demonstrated for instance by the increased visibility of networks of women entrepreneurs at a local level.
  • Fifthly, stronger representations of collective local interests is important. This also involves closer links to the authorities.
  • Sixthly, agencies need to think about a new approach, where the actor is a group of enterprises, rather than an enterprise as an isolated economic actor.
  • Last, a new relationship between territorial proximity and the use of new technology is warranted. 

Some of the ideas and lessons that were discussed at the conference include:

  • The SPL (systèmes productifs locaux) is a concept being promoted by the French as their own variant of the Anglophone clusters and the Italians industrial district. The main difference between the cluster and SPL is that the French see SPL as encompassing social issues – i.e. the SPL are clusters aimed primarily at community development as a means to combat unemployment.
  • There was total consensus among all participants that there is no blueprint for cluster development.
  • Whereas at TCI Glasgow the general feeling was that a cluster could not be built from scratch, at least one dissenting voice was heard in Paris which mentioned how, starting from an idea to develop sport fishing, Chile ended with an aquaculture cluster employing 30,000.
  • France is going to help LDCs set up clusters.
  • Clusters are built on trust -managerial and knowledge resources are needed – clusters need to be embedded in the social and community model – clustering is a means for empowering local entrepreneurs – must move from firm to industry thinking – need for a local delivery mechanism and an anchor institution – information flows must be freely available and accessible e.g. US government has no copyright on information it produces.                                                             

‘Social cohesion’ measured

October 18, 2007

From our archives, we have identified some very relevant research at a time when the rich-poor divide is getting a lot of airplay.

John Thwaites, the Minister for Victorian Communities in 2004, flagged the work initially. It  emanates from the University of NSW (Professor Tony Vinson) where social cohesion factors have been analysed in two postcodes, one in each of NSW and Victoria. Three factors were measured:
§          Community engagement, including levels of volunteering. Volunteering is seen as important because the initial establishment of ‘social bridges’ may engender other sources of cohesion, such as trust, and further establishment of support networks.
§          Social and support networks e.g. how many people have someone to turn to in a crisis?
§          Social participation e.g. how many are actively involved in sport, recreation and community groups?  

Professor Vinson then matched an overall level of social cohesion against a number of outcomes like unemployment and imprisonment.

He found that in postcodes where there was low social cohesion, there was a strong correlation with imprisonment. There were also strong correlations with unemployment and with young people leaving school early.  

These might not seem earth-shattering findings. But things would really come into focus if social cohesion indicators were measured across many communities. Agencies would then have the hard data to REALLY address social disadvantage. This is a ripe field for local government to take a leadership role.

The federal Department of Family, Community Services & Indigenous Affairs (Australia) is open to ideas in this area, so if you’re working in this field and would like some leads, send us an email.