Designing programs to grow social business to prevent homelessness

After successfully designing and managing Equal Invest, Eastside invited me in to helping design and manage a new programme of social enterprise development in the homelessness sector. Presented with a brief that emanated from the minds of some brilliant, but (at the time of conception) inebriated, social innovators I worked with the partners and the Eastside team to make the vision a reality.

When presenting the initial design response back to the funders, we were happily surprised to be offered double the budget to make it a reality. When presenting the opportunity to sponsor the programme and collaborate in delivering enterprise support to corporate partners, we were happily surprised to have to turn many away. And when launching the call for entries, we were happily surprised to have over three hundred organisations download the entry form and eighty five applications.

Once the applications started rolling in my involvement ended, but I have been humbled by the wild success of the program as a whole, and the individual components such as the events, cross-sector collaboration, and enterprise insights. These social enterprise ‘competitions’ (which actually generate more collaboration than competition) are an amazing way to attract resources to dealing with a social challenge, educate charities about enterprising approaches, and scale the best business models.

Spark is an innovative project developed by Communities and Local Government, The TREES Group, Big Issue Invest (part of The Big Issue group) and Eastside Consulting. Through investment-readiness consultancy, £500,000 of prize money, ‘enterprise insights’ and ongoing mentoring, it aimed to build and inspire social enterprise to prevent homelessness.

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