Outputs from Platform Coops Now! 2020

I’ve just rediscovered some files which were produced as part of the Platform Coops Now! 2020 Incubator.

There may be some value in sharing so I’m duplicating the info here.

Document: Progress and Communications

The purpose of this document is to provide an explanation of my thinking throughout the process of undertaking the assigned tasks and producing the required deliverables.

This explanatory detail is provided as my project is already advanced beyond the idea generation and justification stage of this course. Retroactively completing the tasks without explanation of how it connects to my current stage of progress seems an empty gesture.

I’d also like to express that when I first started on my journey to build Socially Enterprising in 2014 things like the Platform Toolkit did not exist. In much the same way as Mondragon have provided an outline of possible tools and approaches which may be useful in progressing an idea forward — I had to do all of this for myself, judging which tools and information had value and which didn’t according to my task at hand.

It’s probably also worth mentioning that Socially Enterprising has also gone through a number of maturations as my knowledge and experience increased over several years working within local government and with civil society.

What I started with then is a long way from where I am now.

How it all began…

Socially Enterprising began as an idea for a platform which allowed people who wished to improve their community to collaborate with other people and to raise funds online.

I’m going to explain a few terms at this point.

Active Citizen — An active citizen is someone who cares about their community enough to change it.

Active Citizenship (Individual) — Active citizenship means people getting involved in their local communities and democracy at all levels, from towns to cities to nationwide activity. Active citizenship can be as small as a campaign to clean up your street or as big as educating young people about democratic values, skills and participation.

Active Citizenship (Organisation) — Active citizenship refers to a philosophy espoused by organizations and educational institutions which advocates that members of charitable organizations, companies or nation-states have certain roles and responsibilities to society and the environment, although those members may not have specific governing roles.

Social Action — Social action is about mobilising ‘people power’ in communities to bring about positive outcomes in society.

Social Action Projects — Social action projects are carried out for the good of others. They are principled, well-planned and make use of local and global links. They bring together people, organisations and networks to improve well-being for the wider community and those who might otherwise be marginalised.

I had been involved with a British Council programme to develop Active Citizens in the UK and the drive to develop a platform came from me recognising that a suitable platform did not exist that would enable others to more easily become active citizens themselves and engage in social action and social action projects.

This was my starting point.

Part 2 — Session 2: Deliverables & Task List

Community Development — The United Nations defines community development as “a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems.”[1] It is a broad concept, applied to the practices of civic leaders, activists, involved citizens, and professionals to improve various aspects of communities, typically aiming to build stronger and more resilient local communities.

Community development is also understood as a professional discipline, and is defined by the International Association for Community Development as “a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes participative democracy, sustainable development, rights, economic opportunity, equality and social justice, through the organisation, education and empowerment of people within their communities, whether these be of locality, identity or interest, in urban and rural settings”.[2]

Community development seeks to empower individuals and groups of people with the skills they need to effect change within their communities.

Place-based — Place-based working is a person-centred, bottom-up approach used to meet the unique needs of people in one given location by working together to use the best available resources and collaborate to gain local knowledge and insight. By working collaboratively with the people who live and work locally, it aims to build a picture of the system from a local perspective, taking an asset-based approach that seeks to highlight the strengths, capacity and knowledge of all those involved.

During development of the idea I came to a number of realisations;

• the broader definition of ‘Active Citizenship’ (covering both individual and organisational) could help to include a wider set of actors and organisations from Civil Society, The State, and Business and by doing so also create a connection with their resources, assets and strengths.

• the term ‘socially enterprising’ could be used as a more inclusive definition of ‘Social Action’ encompassing citizen led actions as well as pro-social/environmental actions, decisions and behaviours being made businesses and organisations.

• that the wider meaning of ‘socially enterprising’ as being creative, collaborative, social and resourceful could be developed into a socio-economic-cultural paradigm that could act as a powerful counter narrative to ‘business-as-usual’ and ‘self-interest’.

• the platform could be centred around the needs of broad definition ‘Community Development’ to help localise the experience and shift the language from academic ‘social action’ to more common usage ‘community’, ‘community benefit’, ‘community projects’.

• that localising the platform allowed ‘place-based’ public sector initiatives to become connected easily into the platform structure, narrative and strategy.

At it’s core Socially Enterprising the platform is still about active citizens (which could be any person or organisation) effecting change in the world and it’s interesting to see that although the idea has developed and matured — the core concept can still be reduced to the DNA Molecule.

*Note the DNA Molecule is a tool developed within Mondragon University.

Problem Framing

In the ‘Socially Enterprising Outline Document v0.1’ (which shouldn’t be difficult to find and provides much more detail and explanation) I frame the problem by providing a definition of the platform and then the need which it addresses as follows:

What is Socially Enterprising?

Socially Enterprising is an online platform which brings together communities, civil society, businesses and the state and allows their strengths, assets and resources to be made available for community and social good.

What is the need?

There are lots of things that people, organisations and businesses can do or try that would make a difference to their community but there is no single place for them to learn what they can do or how to go about it.

There are many organisations, charities and social enterprises already working in communities but their work is seldom visible to those communities or even to each other. Possibilities to work together are being missed all of the time.

Local authorities need to do more with less whilst still meeting their statutory duties. Local partnerships and collaborations allow everyone to play to their strengths but there is no common infrastructure in place to support them.

Civil society could do much more for communities but it has no scalable way of reaching, communicating and collaborating with multiple locations.

Businesses are willing and able to support local communities and local people but there are few methods available to make this connection.

All organisations have skills, knowledge, assets and resources that are underutilised and could be used to benefit their local area.

The Socially Enterprising platform puts in place the connectivity that brings communities, civil society, the state and business together around the shared purpose of making a difference to people’s lives and local areas.

This connectivity leads to improved; communication, collaboration, learning, intelligence, distribution of ideas, use of assets and resources, and generation of social value.

In doing this we;

• help communities to improve their local area and local lives

• create positive relationships between local people and businesses

• enable innovative collaborations and partnerships

• help to unlock the latent potential within our society

Part 2 — Session 3: Deliverables & Task List

Part 2 — Session 4: Deliverables & Tasks List

• Value Proposition Canvas

• Develop your Value Proposition Statement

I’ve already produced a diagram which I feel demonstrates much of the information and thinking which is being asked for in the Stakeholder Map and Ecosystem Canvas.

The diagram allows us to see the stakeholder types and what types of assets and resources each is able to contribute to the ecosystem and at the same time what value and benefits can be realised from their participation and involvement.

Please note that I’m not going into full detail here as to do so would be quite an involved process in its own right. So stakeholder groups will be being missed as well as, I’m sure, many other points!

The purpose of the diagram is to illustrate who and how communities, civil society, the state and businesses could work together and what they they would add and gain from doing so.

It is there for conveying top-level detail and unpacking at a later stage!

It should hopefully suffice for the purposes of the Stakeholder Map and Ecosystem Canvas.

Value Proposition

Socially Enterprising is an online platform which brings together communities, civil society, businesses and the state and allows their strengths, assets and resources to be made available for community and social good.

But here goes…

Our platform, narrative and services

Help(s) individuals, communities, civil society organisations, the state and businesses

Who want to benefit local lives, society and the environment

By reducing the time and effort required to discover and work with with each other And connecting them with assets, funding, learning and resources which will enable them to fulfil their aims

Part 2 — Session 5: Deliverables & Tasks List

• Your first paper prototype

For the record I am from a digital development background and have detailed and practical technical and business knowledge.

As of 2014 I had also been trained in Active Citizenship through a British Council programme, participated in community and social action work and projects, and also had reasonable and broad knowledge of the needs and trends within communities, civil society, businesses and the state through my involvement with an educational charity that specialised in ‘international development education’ and ‘global learning’.

I was confident of the usefulness of my platform idea but I also performed months of research and investigation to validate my thoughts.

Although all of the documentation and guides available at the time of idea development were to work with paper prototypes etc. This did not match with my own competencies, knowledge or experience.

Additionally I was a team of one with zero resources other than my own personal time. It made sense for me to apply my know how and expertise to actually build something that worked and demonstrated the practicality of the idea and approach.

After much research I settled upon a set of open source software and tools which would enable me to develop the platform, provide all of the functionality that I was looking for, and crack a number of technical problems that I would need to solve to meet the needs of the project.

My MVP thus always was a fully operational prototype.

This is available online at — https://sociallyenterprising.org

Part 2 — Session 6: Deliverables & Tasks List

I’ve used the online Miro Business Model Canvas template as it’s easily shareable.

Here’s the link — (since expired)

An image is also provided on the next page.

I haven’t yet tackled the Platform Business Model Canvas and would guide readers to the overview document which should help answer questions.

Founder of Socially Enterprising / Commoner / Mostly Unemployed.