Engaging Communities in Enterprise

26th September, Euston, London

More enterprising communities are stronger, wealthier, happier and more sustainable. Aren’t they?

The advantages are obvious.

So why, when we’ve explained the benefits of enterprise so carefully, and offered all the help and support any budding entrepreneur could possibly need, are we not mowed down in the rush as enthused and energised communities respond to the call?

  • What holds them back?
  • Why don’t they ‘get it’?
  • Why don’t more people clamour to take up enterprise services?

This one-day workshop will help enterprise practitioners better understand community engagement, to see it from the customers’ point of view, and bring their skills to bear to overcome barriers and resistance to change. It will help you to make connections, get working relationships established and developed, and offer services which respond better to communities’ needs.

This is a day of theory and practice facilitated by Mike Chitty and Anne Sherriff. Mike has been involved in enteprise development for over 20 years. Anne has a strong background in engaging communities in regeneration.

What will you learn?

You will go away from this day better equipped to understand the drivers and barriers influencing the extent to which people in disadvantaged communities will engage in development initiatives.

We will also give you practical insights and strategies to make the most of the drivers and minimise the barriers.

After this day you will be able to plan your interventions more effectively, developing ambitious but achievable goals that deliver results.

Using enteprise lessons from Britains got Talent, horses and their riders and young people from some of the most challenging estates in Leeds we will help you to explore the human stories behind the enterprise agenda and the multi-dimensional nature of the enterprise challenge.

After this day you will re-think how you make initial contact and go on to build effective working relationships with individuals and communities.

BLOG READERS DISCOUNT: Readers of this blog still qualify for the ‘early bird’ discount – save £100

Who should attend?

This event is for you if your job brings you into contact with local communities as a:

  • community development worker,
  • enterprise officer,
  • trainer or community facilitator,
  • manager of enterprise or other community development projects;
  • provide marketing or PR support to community projects;

The day will also be highly relevant if you work for an agency which is seeking to address worklessness or promote enterprise as a way of tackling disadvantage in local neighbourhoods, or if your role involves developing community enterprise.

To find out more and book your place click here.

Business Plan – A, B, C and D

The unfortunate truth is that most entrepreneurs make far more money and get much more fun out of plans  B, C and D than they ever get out of plan A.

This is because good entrepreneurs learn quickly and are flexible.

They especially learn not to be seduced by a plan that is wonderful on paper but just does not work in the real world.

Are you ready to move to plan B?

Evaluating Enterprise in ‘Deprived’ Communities

One of the most comprehensive pieces of evaluation work done on a wide range of projects designed to stimulate enterprise in deprived communities was the Evaluation of the Phoenix Development Fund – a piece of work that was completed by Peter Ramsden in July 2005.

The Phoenix Fund was a flagship £189 million fund administered by the Small Business Service running from 2000 to 2008 developed in response to Policy Action Team 3 paper on ‘Enterprise and Social Exclusion’. 

The terms of reference for the evaluation set out five key questions that the evaluation would address:

  1. Did the PDF encourage fresh thinking?
  2. How effective have specific project type approaches been?
  3. To what extent have projects to help particular sections of the community been successful?
  4. To what extent has the Fund helped to engage mainstream providers?
  5. Has funding helped to build capacity?

Overall the conclusion of the evaluation was that the fund had been a success. Using a reflective action-oriented approach the PDF contributed greatly to the growth of knowledge and experience of business support to encourage inclusive enterprise. There is now a considerable body of documented knowledge of inclusive approaches to business support. This compares to the situation in 2000 when it was reported by SBS that there was ‘too little knowledge in this field’.

If you are involved in an enterprise project aimed at working in disadvantaged areas I would commend the evaluation and the lessons learned reports highly!

Just to whet your appetite:

Models of delivery – critical success factors:

  • Regardless of type of programme envisaged, the needs of individuals must be central; be prepared to flex from the original programme specification if needs be.
  • An inclusive and holistic approach to developing the skills and confidence required for individuals to move ‘forward’ really works, as does the use of coaching, specialist sector advisers, peer or other supportive networks etc.
  • The above takes ‘longer than usual’ amounts of time and investment in relationship and trust building; be realistic about what can be achieved in a very limited life programme.
  • This can also be more costly but needs to be weighed against the longer-term benefits of clients/users coming off benefits (for instance).
  • Investing time in building positive relationships with mainstream business support agencies is crucial and can lead to a change in mainstream culture and provision, leading to potentially more productive partnerships and win-wins.
  • Well-designed and holistic enterprise support can also add significant value by providing optional routes into employment and further learning for individuals who feel enterprise is not for them at the present time.

You can find more here.

Happiness at Work

Maslow' Hierarchy


“Our traditional organizations are designed to provide for the first three levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; food, shelter and belonging.  Since these are now widely available to members of industrial society, our organizations do not provide significantly unique opportunities to command the loyalty and commitment of our people.  The ferment in management will continue until organizations begin to address the higher order needs: self-respect and self-actualization.”

Bill O’Brien – CEO Hanover Insurance

What significantly unique opportunities do you offer to your employees?


  • Interesting work?
  • Great rewards?
  • High levels of respect and autonomy?
  • Challenging, creative an dsupportive leadership?
  • A compelling vision?
  • The opportunity to do meaningful and rewarding work?
  • What can you do to make your employee offer more compelling?
  • How can you ensure that you provide an environment where they can fulfill their dreams?


Enterprise – A Journey from A to Z

Enterprise is a journey from A to Z.

Except there is no Z.

The journey just keeps going on.

But imagine for a moment that ‘Z’ is finally having a stable secure business – that does what you need it to do.  And that the enterprise journey is from A-Z.

The truth is that most, if not all, of our enterprise support services only go back as far as ‘W’.  ie they only  engage people who already have an idea or an aspiration that they want to do something about.  And the support service implies that there is a logical, rational (if typically dull) process called business planning that will get you safely from W-Z.  (Never mind that this is an untruth that misleads clients about the fundamental dynamics of enterprise.)  We have spent a lot of time and energy on supporting the transition from W-Z.  We have short entrepreneurship programmes, advisory services, planning software and templates.  This is not where the vast majority of human enterprise potential is lost (although even at this late stage we still manage to waste a lot!)

The real waste is in the majority of people that never make it as far as ‘W’.

How do we get  the vast majority who do not see themselves as enterprising to recognise the role that enterprise skills and behaviours can play in their personal pursuit of progress/happiness?

My argument is that if we can ‘unstick’ some of these very stuck people (especially with reference to ‘deprived communities’) we will start to build a ‘pipeline’ for enterprise from ‘where people are at’ (usually a-d) on the enterprise journey rather than where we would like the be (W).

Of course this does not fit the policy goals for instant enterprise…but it does reflect the reality of human growth and development and what we know about enterprise – that it takes time to learn how to do it well.

One of the challenges in communities that are ‘low on enterprise’ is that they have an inordinate number of ‘precontemplators’ – people who do not see enterprise/business as relevant to them.

They may watch Dragon’s Den/The Apprentice and be sickened at the prospect of moving in those circles.  So when we ask ‘Have you got a great business idea’ their instant thought is ‘No! Yuk!’

The other large constituent in these communities are contemplators who have thought about it but decided ‘No’.  Often because they don’t think they have the skills because we still promulgate the myth that you need to:

  • be financially literate
  • have good reading and writing skills,
  • be articulate, visionary, powerful and persuasive,
  • have a great product,
  • be a strong marketeer and great at sales and
  • be a fully fledged finance director

to succeed at the enterprise game.

Precontemplators and contemplators are the groups that effective outreach needs to engage to help them re-consider the reality of enterprise – what is is and how it relates to them and their dreams.  At least if we are to really start transforming the enterprise culture in disadvantaged communities.

We also need to recognize that failure (lapse and relapse) is an inevitable (almost) part of the enterprise journey.  It is part of the learning process.  If you are Richard Branson then people pick you up from the failed budgie breeding project and the xmas tree farm and encourage you to try again.  If you are from a poor non working class family the response is more likely to be ‘bloody typical of you to F**k that up as well’.

Few of our services help clients to prepare for failure and put it into context on their enterprise journey.

Few services pay serious regard to the power of the peer group and how that can be managed.

Outreach is not just about going to the places that mainstream support fears to tread.  It is about presenting enterprise in a very different, much more accessible and engaging way.  It is about understating the psychology and motivations of the client and and building a bridge to enterprise that starts from where they are at.

Enterprise as a Process of Becoming – the Emergence of Identity

Enterprise is not about business and entrepreneurship.

It is not about premises, finances, business plans and swots.

It is a process for human development.

It is a way of exploring:

  • who I am,
  • what my potentials are/might be, and
  • the kind of future that I could create.

It is way of living – of becoming.

Enterprise can be a catalyst, a framework, for the emergence of identity.

We need to develop enterprise programmes that pay serious attention to these issues of identity development and the process of ‘becoming’.  Enterprise as the emergence of identity.  There are links here to other ways in which some people find their identity – gangs, drink, knifes, drugs, crime etc and enterprise as a ‘diversionary’ activity.  A ‘substitution’ product if you like.

The education system doesn’t take identity seriously –  so there is a really interesting vacuum that the enterprise industry could step into if it could learn to re-position itself and become experts in developing human potential rather than the mechanics of the business plan.

Why do Managers Duck People Management?

This piece of research caught my attention recently;

“While 84 percent of organizations know that workforce effectiveness is important to achieving business results, only 42 percent of those surveyed say managers devote sufficient time to people management.”

What stops managers from spending time on developing workforce effectiveness?

Why do so many managers ‘duck’ managing people.

  1. Some managers don’t think it’s their job – ‘I am here to make sure that widgets get out the door on time and on budget.  I expect people to manage themselves.’
  2. Some managers don’t have the tools they need – Few managers are trained in the systems and processes that will help them to develop the potential and the performance of the people that they manage.
  3. Some managers believe that conflict comes with the territory – and would prefer to avoid it for as long as possible – Many managers fear that ‘managing’ people leads to conflict and conflict leads to poorer performance.  ‘People management’ is synonymous with ‘managing underperformance’.  Few managers have a positive, engaging and developmental management approach that thye know will work.

For me the managers job is not about ‘managing people’.  It is about providing them with a relationship to the organisation that allows them to develop their potential and to do great work.

In my experience managers that work systematically on building this relationship and then use:

  • feedback,
  • coaching and
  • delegation

to develop each persons contribution to performance very soon become outstanding managers recognised as leading high performing teams.

However it does take time – perhaps 60-90 minutes per week for each person managed to do the most effective job.  But the returns on that investment can be enormous – I would estimate productivity gains per person to be in the region of 25-40% within 6 months.