I had the great privilege recently of meeting Professor Muhammad Yunus at the launch of my firm's Social Innovation Pioneer competition. What an inspiration! On the off chance that anyone reading this hasn't heard of Professor Yunus and his achievements, take a look at this: http://www.muhammadyunus.org/Home/. Some story eh? Some man.
Speaking at the launch of our competition, Professor Yunus said: "Businesses with a clear social purpose have the power to deliver profound and sustainable change for the benefit of all. I strongly believe that this is the future of business. I'm delighted that forward-thinking businesses like Deloitte, through its Social Innovation Pioneers programme, are making serious commitments to support the development of growth in this sector."
Those of you who have heard me speak will know that one of my favourite phrases is "you will be judged by the company you keep" – we were honoured to get Professor Yunus' support for our Social Innovation Pioneers competition and take seriously the responsibility to answer his call.
So, what was our competition? We invited applications from social businesses throughout the UK, from a wide range of market sectors, to win a business support package comprising access to Deloitte business experts, networking opportunities with the firm's clients and wider contacts, master classes on topics including leadership, business skills and investment readiness, and where appropriate, help in creating a non-executive board as well as access to pro bono support.
We received more than 300 applications and over 200 of our people have been involved to date, with 90 of our most talented people being involved moving forward. I was lucky enough to sit on the final panel that had to select the 30 winners from the 81 shortlisted. But why, might you ask, did I sit on the judging panel? Three reasons: firstly, I am genuinely interested in the whole social enterprise concept since it offers advantages in many areas over traditional donation-based charities. Using business principles to organise and manage in order to solve social problems offers sustainability benefits denied to traditional charities. While not all social problems lend themselves to such models, those that do will enable the donations we make to charities go much further. Secondly, it was an opportunity to meet other members of the panel, in particular Nigel Kershaw of Big Issue Invest. Finally, and perhaps most importantly given my role in Deloitte, it was to send a reinforcing signal to our people that we are serious about this programme and attach a great deal of importance to our association with Social Enterprises.
And yesterday, we announced the winners!
I am delighted that amongst the 30 social businesses that have been selected to be Deloitte Social Innovation Pioneers, there are four from our own region.
From the West Midlands, My Home Finance is helping those unable to access mainstream finance sources, by offering small sum credit in order to tackle the problem of financial exclusion and extortionate high cost lending. With our help and support, My Home Finance can grow to assist more people to take the first step in breaking the cycle of debt and bring about genuine social and economic change to deprived communities.
My Time, based in Small Heath, is already winning awards for the delivery of culturally sensitive professional counselling and support services. 2012 is its 10th anniversary year and it plans to launch a national programme of My Time social franchises to cascade its expertise in professional multi-lingual inter-cultural family orientated mental health services. Deloitte has helped establish a large number of owner-managed franchise networks and operations and My Time now gets the chance to benefit from our experience.
Over to the East of our region, Derbyshire Health United provides a portfolio of healthcare services including out of hours services, call handling and triage, and offender health care. The organisation currently needs to expand rapidly; our experience in helping high growth companies manage the financial and operational stresses and strains is now available to this ambitious enterprise.
The TREES Group, based in Leicester, creates businesses that offer entry level routes into employment to ex-offenders, homeless people and veterans. With Deloitte's guidance, they'll be better placed to replicate their Action Trust programme throughout the UK.
I'm looking forward to seeing how these local businesses and the others outside the region fare with the Deloitte support package they have each now won. Of course, like many smart ideas, there are additional benefits from our involvement with these businesses; in much the same way as our organisation is refreshed and reenergised by the 2,000+ new people we take on each year, our involvement with these pioneers will enable us to learn from them. We want to develop our skills and expertise by partnering with leading social businesses and social business experts, and also give our people the opportunity to get involved in this growing area of the economy which (according to Social Enterprise UK) already contributes an estimated Ł24bn annually to the UK economy.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.