Posted by: bevmeldrum | December 23, 2009

A Goodbye Message from The Tool Factory

A large part of what I do has been as part of the team at The Tool Factory. So I thought it was only right to post their Goodbye message as they shut down at the end of 2009. It’s been an absolute blast working with them and although it’s sad that’s it’s come to an end, it’s been great fun, we’ve achieved a lot and we are all excited about what the future holds!

“We have had an amazing and fun 4 years but the time has come for us to move on and do something new.

The Tool Factory will be closing its doors on 31st December 2009.

We have made this decision based on a number of factors.

E-News Writer
Firstly, one of our suppliers – the social enterprise that provides our E-News Writer is shutting down due to the recession. This means as of Christmas Day we have lost one of our key products.

Business Plan Writer
We have also in the last year been involved in a long, drawn and expensive legal battle with an ex-partner of The Tool Factory who suddenly announced that he was claiming ownership of the copyright of our Business Plan Writer tool.

Our intention, this time last year was as the Partner left, just to hand over the copyright of the tool from The Tool Factory to this individual so that they could continue to develop it, which we believed they would do a good job of. All they were required to do was arrange for us to be able to buy licences which would enable us to sell the product.

The individual concerned was unhappy with this proposal and instead brought in their legal term claiming they owned the copyright themselves.

We do not agree with this and no evidence has been produced to show this to be the case. However, as this situation has been dragged out for over a year, despite our attempts to resolve it quickly, we are having to walk away.

We would rather spend our money on supporting social entrepreneurs than wasting it on a seemingly never-ending legal battle. It means losing our Business Plan Writer tool but we’ll just go on an build something better anyway.

Bev is Moving On
In the new year Bev Meldrum will be moving to South Africa as her husband takes up a job there.

Bev will be working with social enterpreneurs in Cape Town and will continue to develop new tools and resources. They will all be available, along with Bev’s blog – For More Than Profit – on the new website from the 1st January 2010.

The Future
All of our free tools and resources will continue to be available online. They’ll all be moving to a new website from 1st January 2009. We will all be continuing to work with social entrepreneurs and developing new tools and resources – these will also be available on the For More Than Profit site from January.

Social Impact Tracker will continue to be available from Cunamh ICT – contact Peter for more information.

You can also keep up to date by following us on Twitter. Currently our username is The Tool Factory although this will automatically change to For More Than Profit in January. Bev is also on Twitter.

Thanks for all your support and do keep in touch – we’d love to hear how you are getting on.

All the best.

The Tool Factory Team

Posted by: bevmeldrum | December 15, 2009

Encouraging a Culture of Encouragement

One of the Third Sector organisations I’ve done some work with recently is facing a real challenge in terms of their leader. Their leader just can’t give a compliment.

I spoke to one member of staff that had been there nearly 5 years and they could only remember the leader complimenting them on their work 2 or 3 times in that period. Any compliments tended to get followed quickly by criticism.

Even in the ‘What Are the Candidate’s Strengths?’ section in job references this leader would write a positive comment, and then in the same sentence follow it with ‘but …’ and then proceed to share their insights into the negative characteristics of their team member – all within the ‘strengths’ section!

Why does the leader do this? In this case, it seems they just don’t realise the power of encouraging staff, and instead see their role as one of highlighting weaknesses and giving criticism. To them, the way to grow a staff team is to criticise so that the staff can develop and improve and get it right next time.

What Happens When We Don’t Encourage

A leader that just doesn’t encourage their staff will find that there’s often not much trust or faith in their leadership. The staff follow the leader because of the position they hold not because of their belief in the individual leader. When a leader doesn’t encourage, staff feel discouraged.

The example of this particular Third Sector organisation is a case in point. Trained professionals, with years of experience on the job, were left feeling like they had lost all their confidence. Their belief that they were able to do a good job, that they had found their calling was gone – they just had no evidence that the leader thought they were doing ok, let alone doing well. None of the staff team were growing in their roles or personally, in fact, they seemed to be going backwards in terms of their self-confidence and their professional development.

What Happens When We Do Encourage

One of the reasons it’s good to encourage others is that it is just a good thing to build people up and celebrate their achievements – it just makes sense. If you build staff up then you can expect to see their commitment to and faith in the leader grow. Teams are built this way – if they are encouraged to encourage then a sense of ‘we’re all in this together’ follows soon after.

Individuals are built in this way. Growth in an individual comes from encouragement followed by a challenge to develop further. How sad for organisations where staff leave either as the same person they were when they starterd, or a shadow of their former self due to a lack of encouragement from their leader.

As an employer one of your aims, surely should be, to enable each member of staff to grow and develop into a better, more capable, more skilled person during their time with you?

Of course leaders have to be sincere in their encouragements – staff will quickly spot any meaningless and empty words.

Encouraging Encouragement

If I was working with the leader in the organisation mentioned I would encourage them to say something encouraging to each member of staff, each day. They could use a check-list to ensure they don’t forget anyone.

This would feel incredibly false to begin with, but very soon it would become a habit. It doesn’t mean that the leader would have to make sure they encourage each individual member of staff on a daily basis. Once they’ve got the hang of it they could cut it down. Although is that really such a bad thing, to make sure that as a leader, you encourage each member of staff daily?

At first it might be difficult to think what to say – so maybe a cheat sheet of phrases they could use would be a good idea:

  • “that is really good, thank you”
  • “you did a really great job on Thursday in that meeting”
  • “thank you for supporting me in that situation”

If the member of staff hadn’t done anything that day that could be commented on, I’d encourage the leader to think back to something that person had done recently that they hadn’t yet complimented them on.

  • “I was just thinking about the training you ran last month – the feedback was very positive, well done.”

Of course, all this assumes that the leader has recognised that they really do need to start encouraging their staff on a regular basis and are willing to learn how.

That isn’t always the case.

What do you do when you are working in an organisation where the leader refuses to encourage staff and instead only criticises?

Option 1: Leave – Do you really want to stay in a job where you are not growing and developing, and all that is said about your work is in the form of a criticism?

Option 2: Lead from the Middle – If you aren’t getting encouragement from above why not change the culture from within and start encouraging those around you, including the leader themselves. Maybe it will rub off on those above you.

John Maxwell calls this ‘leading from the middle’ of an organisation in his book 360 Degree Leader – a great book for anyone who wants to learn how to lead be a while not actually holding a leadership position.

Why not start encouraging the other staff you work with on a daily basis? Encourage them to encourage the others on the team. Regardless of the leader’s view on encouragement that doesn’t mean that you can’t fill that gap and ensure that your workplace is an encouraging, supportive and challenging place to be!

Posted by: bevmeldrum | December 11, 2009

Creating opportunities for social entrepreneurial success

I’ve just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers. I always enjoy reading his work – I really like the way he pulls apart concepts that society tends to accept, such as success in this case, and then analyses how much of what we believe is actually true.

In the case of Outliers, Gladwell looks at what we believe about success and then deconstructs it to draw conclusions, some of what are quite surprising. I won’t spoil all of the surprises now.

What particularly stood out to me was that much of success is about access to opportunities. It’s not so much that I didn’t realise this before – it’s more than I hadn’t really thought about the significance of it in relation to supporting social entrepreneurs to achieve success.

Gladwell uses the example of Bill Gates of Microsoft. Gates attended a private school that had just so happened to have bought a PC terminal and ran a computer club (very uncommon in 1968). He spent hours learning how to use it. At university he had access to another mainframe and spent many hours, staying up all night on a regular basis, learning more about these computer systems.

Of course there are other factors for Bill Gates’ success but the one that interests me the most is access to opportunities. If Gates hadn’t had gone to that school, that had bought that mainframe, that had allowed students use of it; had he not gone to that university and hacked the system to allow himself unrestricted, free access then would he have been the success in the field that he is?

As someone who supports social entrepreneurs the question I’m now asking is how can create access to resources and support on social entrepreneurship to more people. Do we make it free? Do we use others mediums to deliver our offerings? Do offer more local on the ground support and less national (expensive to access) support? What are the options we haven’t explored.

An example of a successful programme that has bought new opportunities to a whole new group of social entrepreneurs is the BA Social Enterprise programme at Bromley-by-Bow. In partnership with the University of East London and with funding from the London Development Agency, the Bromley-by-Bow centre offered a degree programme in social enterprise to local people, many who are working in the Third Sector, who wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do a degree any other way.

If social entrepreneurship is a creative response to social need, then shouldn’t support for social entrepreneurs should be creative in its approach? As we missing opportunities to help create successful social entrepreneurs because we are tied into rigid models of service delivery ourselves.

As we, here at For More Than Profit, get ready to re-focus our energies on supporting social entrepreneurs in a completely new culture – South Africa – one of things we’ll be looking at is how we can ensure that as many people as possible have access to the opportunities we, and those we work with, are able to provide. What an exciting future is ahead of us!

Posted by: bevmeldrum | December 10, 2009

Open communication can be risky

Leaders in social enterprises, and any other organisations or community, have a choice of how they choose to communicate with those they are leading.

Those that choose a more open form of communication will find they have taken a riskier route than those who try to limit the flow the information shared with those they are leading, but the benefits f the first are greater.

On one extreme take a community leader who chooses to use an open model of communication. What does this mean? It means that the leader keeps the community up to date on what is happening. Stories of success and stories of the challenges the community face are told.

Notices are given, emails are sent, newsletters created, websites updated. Blogs and tweets keep members of the community up to date on what is going on in near real time.

When things are going well the leader allows the community to share in the successes, in fact often they attribute the successes to the community itself, rather than themselves. It’s all about the growth and development of the community they are leading, not for their own glory.

When things go wrong what does this leader do? This leader will admit challenges that are being faced within the community,  or problems that the leadership are facing. They won’t go into details – there’s no need to. But they will admit when there are things that need to be addressed. They will take the approach that the community together will address the challenges they are facing.

Standing up and saying ‘there is a problem, and we are working together to address’ is a gutsy thing for any leader to do but the benefits are substantial.

A leader that chooses an open approach to communication finds that those they are leading commit to them, are loyal and follow them for who they are – rather than just the position they fill. They feel part of the community, part of what is going on, valued and respected.They will follow the leader wherever they go. These leaders are referred to as Level 5 Leaders by the author and researcher Jim Collins.

On the other end of the scale is the leader that tries to restrict communication to those things that make them and the organisation look good and only allows communication with the community to come through them.

These leaders often don’t see a need to communicate what is happening in the community to its members. They will pass on the basic information – dates and times of events and meetings, but little more – even this communication will be managed carefully. Even on long-term community projects minimal updates are given. When successes are achieved if they are communicated they are often done so in a way that focus on the success of the leader, rather than the wider community.

The problem with this approach is that members of the community feel disconnected. They will often respect the position of the leader, but won’t commit to the person.

When issues arise in the community and nothing is communicated gossip starts. Gossip that could easily be stopped by a more open approach to communication. Simple really. Trust is lost in the leader.

If you want to be a Level 5 leader, one willing to act with humility and honesty, focused on the success of the community rather than your own success it takes guts. It also takes a willingness to address your own issues, however painful that might be. For the sake of the communities you are leading, this is your responsibility. As a leader you will be held to a higher standard – if you choose to be a leader, you choose this life.

Posted by: bevmeldrum | September 22, 2009

Your Spiritual Discontent

African childrenAs I’ve been reading Mission Inc. I begun to ponder how we find thing that is ‘our calling’. The week before last I was speaking at a residential weekend that was looking at just that topic – 20 people came together to think about what their calling might be. It was an amazing weekend.

If we can spend our time living out our calling in life, addressing those issues that make up our ‘spiritual discontent’ and using our talents and strengths to do it then we will be the most fulfilled, exhilarated and happy individuals on the planet. That’s certainly the place I want to live my life!

In the last post What brings you to social enterprise? I was talking about how our own personal journeys often create the direction of our calling. For Kevin Lynch it was drug and alcohol addiction for Julius Wall Jr. it was:

“a combination of business, priesthood, leadership and advocacy”.

For me it’s about empowering others to reach their potential and I’m at my happiest, my most effective and my most fulfilled when I’m able to work towards achieving this.

As much as our own personal journeys have influenced the direction of our calling our ‘Spiritual Discontent’ has fuelled the fire.

What is Spiritual Discontent?

“fueling the fire that ignites your personal vision”

Spritual Discontent is the idea that we each an issues that when we are confronted with it a passion rises up inside of us and we long for a society where that issue is resolved. It’s that in society that we see and that we just can’t stand seeing.

For me its seeing people unable to achieve their potential because they are under-resourced or held back by a lack of knowledge or emotional issues that remain un-addressed. That is my Spiritual Discontent.

For the astute of you you may be feeling you’ve heard some of this before. This post is a result of my thinking around the topics of Holy Discontent (Bill Hybel’s thinking around this is the most developed) and Brian Draper’s work on Spiritual Intelligence (being aware of the spiritual realms of our being in the way that we are now aware of our Emotional Intelligence after Daniel Golman’s work).

How do you discover your Spiritual Discontent?

Consider the following questions.

  • I am passionate about …
  • When I look at society I can’t stand to see …
  • I truly think it’s unacceptable when …
  • I can’t imagine that it is right that …
  • I don’t want to live in a world where …
  • I will not stand by and watch the unfolding of …
  • I feel most satisfied and fulfilled when I’m focused on …
  • The most heart-wrenching experiences I’ve endured include …
  • There are certain experiences that always seem to increase my energy for living …
  • Certain people have the same effect; they tend to be …
  • If I could make a difference in one aspect of the world knowing that I could not fail it would be …
  • It might seem silly or insignificant, but one world-changing dream I’ve always seemed to carry is to …

[adapted from My Holy Discontent]

Once you’ve begun to identify your holy discontent the next step is to consider how your unique talents and strengths can enable you to have a real impact in your community. More on that another time.

Books to Read


Mission, Inc.: The Practitioners Guide to Social Enterprise by Kevin Lynch & Julius Walls Jr.


Holy Discontent: Fueling the Fire That Ignites Personal Vision by Bill Hybels


Spiritual Intelligence by Brian Draper

Posted by: bevmeldrum | September 17, 2009

What brings you to social enterprise?

road through forest“What Brings You Here’ is is the question posed at the beginning of Kevin Lynch & Julius Walls, Jr.’s book Mission Inc: The Practioner’s Guide to Social Enterprise which I’m currently reading.

The two authors then summarise their own journeys and how they ended up running social enterprises.

Kevin Lynch was also an entrepreneur from the early days of sub-contracting out his newspaper delivery job to his sister’s for a lower wage than he was getting to set up his own ad agency. He struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for a number of years during that time.

Kevin talks of the spiritual reawakening he had as he went through the Twelve Step recovery programme as part of Alcoholics Anonymous as being coupled with a social reawakening as he realised the corruptness of industry he was in.

Without spoiling too much of the story he was introduced to the Social Venture Network in the US, focused his work in the ad agency on the social sector and then made a move to Rebuild Resources. Rebuild Resources works with addicts and alcoholics giving them jobs in the businesses they run.

The other author, Julius Wall Jr, work in a chocolate factory in Brooklyn, New York for 12 years where he ended up in a management position – it was unusual at the time for an African-American to have such an opportunity. He left to set up his own chocolate company, spent time training as a priest and then ended up volunteering at Greyston Bakery. He stayed on at the organisation working as a consultant and then Director of Operations. He is currently serving as CEO and President of the Greyston Foundation.

He describes his work today as:

“a combination of business, priesthood, leadership and advocacy … my experience have shaped me into someone who wants to contribute my energies, skills and efforts toward positive, life-changing impact.”

That got me thinking – what brings me here? What brings other social entrepreneurs to this point in their journeys?

What are our stories and how have they led us to a point where we are wanting to dedicate our lives to bringing social change and using social enterprise to do it?

For me the key things in my story really centre around the fact that all I ever wanted to be while I was growing up was a teacher. Back then I was thinking in terms of primary kids – but then after 2 years at Uni doing that I realised how bad I was at it. All through my teenage years I volunteered in children and young people’s work.

I then came across the issue of homelessness and spent the next 7 years working in that sector. Firstly, working directly with the homeless people helping them to take steps forward towards a stable and secure life. Then I moved to teaching local community groups how to work with homeless people. It was here I discovered social enterprise – when we ran out of funding and had to look to generating income to survive. I spent a thoroughly enjoyable 2 years doing a part-time MA in Social Enterprise at the University of East London because of that.

The next part of my life involved working with charities on their organisational development, business planning and social enterprise development. This then became The Tool Factory which is where I am today – developing resources and software for social entrepreneurs and teaching social entrepreneurs on the University of East London’s BA in Social Enterprise.

Looking back, and following the themes of my life the focus has been on supporting and empowering others. This is where my Personal Mission Statement has come from:

“to empower others to achieve their potential”

Mission Inc: The Practioners Guide to Social Enterprise

For me I’m at my happiest, my most effective and my most fulfilled when I’m able to work towards achieving this. There are two other elements to this – my calling, I suppose you could call it – my ‘spiritual discontent‘ and ‘my strengths‘. I’ll post on those over the next week.

For now though, the question to consider is this:

What brings you here?

Ponder on that for a while and then Read the book

Posted by: bevmeldrum | September 16, 2009

Is Social Enterprise the answer in South Africa?

I suppose it depends what the question is?

If the question is What can create employment, improve public services and make the most of the inherent entrepreneurial spirit found in communities within South Africa? … then yes, one of the answers will be Social Enterprise.

I’ve have a growing interest in South Africa – mainly due to the fact I’ve had the opportunity to visit twice this year and meet social entrepreneurs working out there, and because we are based in South West London where there are more South Africans than Brits. We are well-versed in the ways of the braai and Springboks.

All of the staff past and present, bar one, at The Tool Factory have been South Africans. But more on that another time.

My interest in social enterprise in South Africa has been re-awakened with the launch of UnLtd South Africa and their upcoming study tour there. I’ve booked my place already.

I am a big fan of UnLtd. What seems like many years ago, The Tool Factory’s predecessor 2amase was founded with an UnLtd Level 1 award. I really like the way they work with on the ground with social entrepreneurs, providing a mix of finance and support – both more general mentoring and access to technical support. If you haven’t kept up with what they are doing just spend some time on their website reading through the profiles of their Award winners for inspiration.

There are some very interesting things happening over in South Africa in relation to social enterprise already:

Me’Kasi Clothing Range – supporting a housing project for teenage boys in Cape Town [we’ll be launching their t-shirts here sometime before Christmas]

Hillcrest Aids Centre Jewellery – amazing beaded jewellery made by the women who are part of the project [we still have some jewellery left from an event we ran – contact me for a price list]

Social Entrepreneurship in South Africa – the brainchild of Max Pichulik, a mixture of post from South African based social enterprise and other things going on across the world that are useful to social entrepreneurs based in South Africa

Southern Africa Sustainable Development Initiative – the guys here are also very involved at the University of Cape Town teaching on their enterprise programmes and supporting entrepreneurs (including those of a social persuasion), one of the projects they are working with is a construction social enterprise to based in one of the townships

Connect-123 – this organisation runs volunteer and internship programmes across the world in February 2010 they are running a semester long social entrepreneurship study programme with the University of Cape Town.

These are just a few of things I’ve come across happening around social enterprise in South Africa – does anyone know of anything else we can add to the list?

What I’m hoping for from the study tour next year is the opportunity to see what is already happening in the way of social enterprise in South Africa. Consider if there’s anything that we’ve learnt in the UK that would work, and what things we do here that just won’t work over there.

And of course, it’ll be the middle of summer when we go so it would only be right to spend some time on the beach!

Posted by: bevmeldrum | April 29, 2009

Social Impact – Our Approach

simAt The Tool Factory, the social enterprise that I run, there is a lot of discussion about this topic of Social Impact Measurement.

When we talk to organisations about Social Impact Measurement the most common response is that it just feels like there is now this extra thing they need to do in relation to their monitoring but without having access to the necessary resources to implement it.

The purpose of this free e-book is help you make sense of what social impact measurement is, how it could work in your organisation and how you implement it without having to spend 10K or more on a consultant.

We take the view that every social enterprise and voluntary organisation from the smallest
to the largest can be measuring their social impact. Long gone are the days when just saying that we were doing a ‘good thing’ would secure any funding. Today, quite rightly, funders and investors want to know that the investment they make is going to be making a real difference.

There has been a lot of discussion over the last few years about measuring the social
impact that social enterprises and other Third Sector organisations are making.

Funders, government, investors and corporate bodies are interested in making sure their investments have the greatest impact possible and are looking for ways measure this.

But this is not the only reason why it is good to measure our social impact. The real benefits from this process are those that are created for the organisation itself – not the funders that support it.

If we, in the sector, found a way to tell the whole story of the impact we are having – not just a series of  numbers about how many people walked through our doors – we would have an incredibly powerful tool that would:

-enable us to improve our credibility and encourage people to believe what we say
-inspire and motivate our staff and volunteers
-encourage us to continuously improve our services
-communicate to other stakeholders how great we are
-form the basis of effective and powerful publicity materials, funding applications and press releases.

This is the real power of measuring our social impact – enabling us to market our organisations, inspire our staff and volunteers and attract more funding and investment.

At The Tool Factory we work with organisations of all sizes from the smallest community groups, to the largest of national organisations, from pre-start ups to well-established charities who have a decades of stories to tell.

We believe that each one of these organisations can be measuring their social impact – however small or new they are.

Different sizes and types of organisations will require different tools. However, if we take the approach that as an organisation grows and develops it can build additional complexity into the social impact measurement system that it is using to meet its new needs as a larger, more developed organisation.

For example, a small local social enterprise may find the SROI (Social Return on Investment) tool is not appropriate at the current time. But if they introduce a Social Accounting model now, then when they grow and become more sophisticated as an organisation they can build on the model they are already using and introduce the additional concepts of the SROI approach.

For small organisations we often suggest that they start by measuring just one indicator – maybe related to one activity they are running; just to get them started. Once the organisation is used to this they can then add more indicators and grow their social impact measurement model.

In fact, if we can encourage all new organisations to build social impact measurement into their organisations right from the very start we will, over time, have a sector in which social impact measurement and reporting is the norm.

Let’s just get every organisation started on doing some level of social impact measurement – we can build on it from there.

We’ve just launched a free e-book An Introduction to Social Impact Measurement: A Practical Approach to help answer some of these questions and to encourage more organisations to start measuring their own social impact. As part of the download process we are giving people the opportunity to help us measure our social impact.

Free copies are available from here.

Posted by: bevmeldrum | April 9, 2009

Social Enterprise in South Africa


Photo by Bev Meldrum – Sunset Beach, Cape Town

I’m just back from a 2 week trip to South Africa. We weren’t planning to go out and meet social entrepreneurs but they kept appearing out of nowhere!

On the Saturday after we arrived in Cape Town we went with some friends into a couple of the townships. We first went to visit a centre called Beth Uriel. It is home for 34 teenage boys – guys that lived in the townships and who had either got into trouble, or were mixing with the wrong people or who didn’t get much support from their families.

The guys move into the house where they become part of the Beth Uriel family. They are all put through school – with lots of help from volunteer tutors and then encouraged to go onto college or into work.

tshirts-11As part of their fundraising efforts they have set up a social enterprise to generate income. The guys have designed a clothing label called Me’Kasi. A term that means ‘my home’ or ‘my place’.

The Tool Factory has gone into partnerships with the guys at Beth Uriel and will be selling the t-shirts through our website.

To have a sneak preview of what we are going to be able to offer visit the Me’Kasi website.

We also had the change to meet Phil, a social entrepreneur, working on a project that makes high quality shoes and employs local women. But maybe more about him another time.

Have a look at more of my photos from South Africa

Posted by: bevmeldrum | February 3, 2009

Re-Launching For More Than Profit

It’s been a while hasn’t it?

Today I’m re-launching this For More Than Profit blog – we thought we’d have a makeover at the same time. What do you think of the new theme?

The focus of the blog is changing slightly too. I’ll still be focused on the world of social entrepreneurship – I am more passionate about that than ever before. But I’m currently in the middle of my PhD on social enterprise and reading some really interesting pieces of research and thinking. It will be those that we will be discussing – pieces of research that might be of use to us practitioners as well as the academics who wrote it.

There may not be as many posts but hopefully there will be some interesting ones that will generate some discussion.

I’m looking forward to the coming year … it should be an interesting journey.

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