Posted by: bevmeldrum | September 10, 2008

Listening to … Gladius Kulothungan

Gladius Kulothungan

Gladius Kulothungan

Two years ago in June I was attending the Social Enterprise Research Conference at the London South Bank University and during the morning break on day 1 (yes, these things run for more than one day!)

I ran into Zoe Portlock who was just finishing the B.A Social Enterprise course we run. I asked her how she found the proceedings and she took about a whole minute to answer, “ Hmm…….interesting!”.  Now I knew Zoe to be a very smart, intelligent and knowledgeable individual already leading a community project that trains disabled persons for employment in East London called The Tower Project and hearing her speaking in mono syllables about social enterprise research today got me thinking.

The next day I asked her what she found particularly interesting at the conference and what she said was a kind of a revelation to me. She said “ I don’t know how much of all they discuss here has a direct relevance for practitioners in the field”.

Peter Watherston, the founder of First Fruit, a social enterprise in East London, echoed the same sentiments when he once told me, “I avoid these academic discourses on social entrepreneurship because I am not able see the whole point of these exercises”.

For me, who is at a mid way point between practice and studying practice – I used to run social enterprises but research them now as well teach about them – these responses were indicative of a possible gulf between the world of the practitioner and the universe of the researchers in the social enterprise sector.

Being part of the Centre for Institutional Studies, at the University of East London, that tries to look at how institutions today try to address social problems, I thought of the idea of having the practitioner take centre stage and making their concerns and issues the focus of attention for academics, policy makers and network organisations was not only timely but important as well. This whole conference has developed from that simple idea when we were able to get together three other practitioners to shape the idea further.

The success or otherwise of the conference is in the hands of all of you I guess!



  1. I also spend much of my time feeling like I’m a practitioner that uncomfortably wears the disguise of an academic sometimes. However, I do like to think that most of the research out of there on social entrepreneurs and social enterprises is practically relevant … maybe it just needs to be translated into the language of practitioners.

    We toyed with the idea a few years of a journal on social enterprise research that would take the current research and re-write it in the language of practitioners so that it become something we could relate to and that would be useful.

    Maybe now is a good time to resurrect that idea?

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