Doing a great deal more - why we buy social

Poached Creative is a writing and communications company that builds social value into everything we do. We're proud to have provided the campaign creative for Social Enterprise UK's new year-long campaign: Do a great deal - BUY social.

As well as ensuring our communications services and training programmes create genuine opportunities for unemployed and disadvantaged people, we look beyond our own activities to see how our business can have a social impact elsewhere.

To run effectively, we need training for our staff, CRB checks for our volunteers, environmentally responsible printing services and ethical banking. Buying these services from other social enterprises means we can make an even greater impact across communities. Over the last three years we’ve found a few brilliant organisations to work with and we’re always on the hunt for more.

Who do we buy social from?

A youth media agency that develops young disadvantaged people into careers in the creative industries, Mediorite is our delivery partner of choice for youth and media projects. Together we have worked on the BBC Radio One Hackney Academy, Peabody’s Staying Safe campaign, Social Enterprise UK’s Buy Social campaign, Discover Young Hackney festival materials and communicaitons support for local charity Off Centre.

Print co-operative Calverts provides high quality, environmentally sustainable printing services and has supported us with poster campaigns, art exhibitions, marketing materials and more.

A bank that puts social change, social benefit and community involvement at the heart of its business, Unity Trust Bank provides our day-to-day banking services.

Youth charity SkyWay provides a place to go and positive activities for Hackney’s young people as a real alternative to gang culture. Its enterprise arm provides super-fast, no fuss CRB checking services for our volunteers and new recruits.

Training and development for volunteers and staff are a big part of our commitment to the people who make up Poached Creative. Social enterprises Striding Out and Social Spider are two training providers we’ve recently used to build skills within our team. Supporting Striding Out means we’re also empowering young people to achieve their potential, while Social Spider’s work on mental health issues and community journalism is close to our hearts.

Who does a great deal more with us?
Social Enterprise UK used us for the design and messaging for its new year-long Buy Social campaign.

Business in the Community and arc buy our web content, report writing and photography services.

Westway Development Trust used our writing and editing services for its 40th anniversary book.

Seamless supports people who are sight impaired, have disabilities and who care for others. We developed their website and marketing materials and support them with events and PR.

LKMco works across across the education, youth and policy sectors to ensure all young people receive the support they need to make a fulfilling transition to adulthood. We designed their latest report into teachers and their unions.

Transitions supports highly skilled refugees through their transition to full-time professional work in the UK. We’re supporting them with their communications strategy and messages for employers.

Healthy Planet benefits from our blogging and PR support.

London Centre for Social Impact helps grassroots organisations make a lasting difference to their communities and used us for their print marketing materials.

Camden Calling refers people to our training programmes.

We also work for charities, housing associations and local government. See our online portfolio.

Join the campaign - blog, tweet (#buysocial) or write about your social buying habits and let Social Enterprise UK know. Download campaign materials and find out more on the Buy Social campaign web page

Find out how our sister social enterprise Mediorite gets social enterprises into its supply chain. Read Lucy's blog.

Putting the enterprise into social enterprise

“Not limited by the resources currently in hand” is how J Gregory Dees, known as the father of social entrepreneurship education, describes one of the characteristics of social entrepreneurship.

He goes on to explain that social entrepreneurs are skilled at doing more with less and at attracting resources from elsewhere – drawing in partners and collaborating with others.

There are, of course, other more common characteristics: a mission to create and sustain social value goes to the very core of social entrepreneurship. This is what defines the growing number of social enterprises in the UK – estimated at more than 68,000. According to Social Enterprise UK, the national membership body for social enterprise, a substantial 39 per cent of them are concentrated in the most deprived communities (compared with 13 per cent of SMEs).

Social enterpreneurs are, as if by definition, social first.
It’s the entrepreneurship that proves evasive. For those with social values as their raison d’etre, it becomes a means to an end, part of the fight for survival in an economic climate where funding and compassion are fast drying up.

In time, it’s very likely that the difference between those social ventures that survive and those that fail will be the entrepreneurial element.

J Gregory Dees’ description above brought to mind a friend and colleague who, for me, embodies the collaborative, resource-mobilising characteristic so well. Lucy Ferguson runs a youth media agency, Mediorite, out of an office we share in Hackney, London.

Read the full article in ISBE's Enterprising Matters e-magazine.

Co-creation and how to go about it

One of the more recent terms to surface in the social sector is ‘co-creation’, sometimes used interchangeably with ‘co-production’. Organisations like Nesta use the terms to describe the process of designing products or services with the people who are going to use them. Only occasionally are the term and techniques used for communications.

What is co-creation?
Co-creation basically means collaborative creation. At Poached Creative and we define co-creation as designing creative assets alongside the people we are trying to reach.

This could be:
·      young people producing anti-crime campaigns for their peers
·      people with learning disabilities building an accessible website
·      homeless and unemployed people creating a blog about their experiences.

More than a focus group
Traditional focus groups get people together, test some ideas and usually leave it up to the creatives to accept or ignore the feedback. In co-creation the ideas and content are generated, tested and approved by the group. They retain collective oversight of the product or service through the development process.

Top creatives will be involved with the process so they can hear from the audience first-hand  and bring in the professional view..

In addition to creating something that they care about, participants will also gain or practice skills in communication, team work and pitching/presentation.

The process
1. Meet with audience members. Often this will be a mixed group of different audience members, including staff and stakeholders. The workshop looks for consensus on the following questions:
·      What do we know about the issue and audience?
·      Why does it matter to us and what matters most?

2. Find the message, media and channel. Planning is the key to any successful communications project and this stage provides the foundation for PR and distribution plans. The group explores the following questions:
·      Where will our audience be, how do we reach them?
·      What’s it about? How would you say it to a friend?
·      What does success look like? How will we know when it’s good?

3. Get creative. Often this stage will take place with creative professionals – eg. writers, designers, filmmakers or photographers in the room. It will:
·      Look at what’s already out there, research content
·      Design/write/film/create social media

4. Critical feedback. This is the point where the creative is tested  with different audience members. Participants will ask the following questions:
·      Does this work? What do other people think? Are we missing something?
·      Feedback and input from stakeholders/experts
·      Amend and seek sign off

5. Launch and promote. This stage is all about getting the product out to the right people through the right channels and enlisting the help and contacts of everyone in the group.

6. Evaluate and feed back. Involving the group in evaluating the success, based on criteria agreed in stage 2, is crucial for the learning process and also to improve future products.

Co-creation techniques
Co-creation from Poached Creative starts with an audience group and a brief or theme. We facilitate groups using a range of techniques to engage them in the creative process over anything from two to twelve sessions.

Some of these techniques include:
·      open discussion, brainstorming and mood boarding
·      creating audience personas
·      future basing
·      SWOT and PEST analysis
·      distribution and PR planning
·      action planning, assigning roles and tasks
·      presentation/pitching and critical review
·      documenting progress and building networks through social media

“Co-creation isn’t about happy-clapper brainstorms and blank sheets of paper, it’s about well-channelled creative energy and structured tasks that meet a business challenge.”
Sense Worldwide (2009) The Spirit of Co-Creation: Risk-Managed Creativity for Business

For more information visit:
Poached Creative's co-creation page

Reduce and reuse - have we come full cycle?

Volunteer and past trainee Richard Bastian is blogging for our clients Healthy Planet and has had a piece featured on the Independent website. 

Fifty years ago the British wartime ‘make do and mend’ attitude may not have leapt to mind when considering the environment, but in 2012 the principle of reuse is experiencing a revival.
London residents alone throw away 20 million tonnes of waste each year according to the London Community Resource Network, which estimates that recycling or reusing these resources could stop 150 million tonnes of annual carbon emissions.

Consumer companies are forever selling us new goods and the rise of cheap fashion in high street stores had reduced the incentive to mend old items. However, designers such as Wayne Hemingway, who has turned old cola bottles into umbrellas, and From Somewhere’s Orsola de Castro, who turned banned Speedo swimsuits into designer dresses, are making reuse more fashionable.

Read the full article on Independent blogs.

The value of social value

Even though the words 'social enterprise' have been removed from the final version of the Social Value Bill, which has now passed through Parliament and is set to become law, it is undoubtedly good news for social enterprises like Poached Creative.

Falling awkwardly between charitable and commercial (like many genuine social enterprises), we're ineligible for a lot of funding. What's more, our philosophy is confusing for business people and charities. "So, you work harder and your profit margins are lower because you're training people as you go?" asks the business person. "I don't get it. Charities pay you for communications?" says the charity worker. Yes to both!

Our video trainer Adam oversees a young camera person, Ondre, reporting for
Discover Young Hackney. Photo by Emma Gutteridge.
We're providing a service that charities and public bodies need and are willing to pay for. And my argument is that because we're closer to the people they're trying to reach (we work alongside homeless people, people with mental health issues, people with criminal records, long-term unemployed people and young people to co-create communications) we're better at it than the big agencies.

Recognition of social value, rather than just competing on the lowest price for government contracts, will help us a lot.

Yes, there's the need to more clearly define 'social value' and social enterprises will need to be clear and transparent about how they deliver additional social value with any public sector offering. But I hope this will give us the foothold we need to step up our public sector delivery.

If it works the public sector, business and society will be better for it.

Read more about the Bill on the Civil Society website.

Find out more about what Poached Creative can do and how we deliver social value.