- Geof Cox's Blog
- The dark side of the social enterprise boom...
- What would a social enterprise economy look like?
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- Where does social enterprise fit in postcapitalism?
- Can social enterprise save public services?
- Greece, France - making enterprise more social...
- Small is the new big!
- Social impact is no longer an option for big brands
- What on earth is Social Enterprise UK doing?
- Asset Based Strategy Matrix
- Copyright infringement is NOT theft
- Impact2 Social Enterprise Conference
- Not So Grim Up North
- CASE's 30th Birthday
- Guardian Blog
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- The Performance of Socially Responsible Investment
- Social Investment – or the Emperor's New Clothes
- Such a definitions mess that NOBODY can now clear it up?
- Social Enterprise Mark... or Social Enterprise Brand?
- Why social enterprise needs its own approach to intellectual property rights
- Does the social enterprise movement lack leadership?
- Business models based on greed and exploitation
- Not many jokes...
- NHS Social Enterprise Spin-outs - the real story
- Will tendering ever work for social enterprise?
- Learning from the Open Source Movement
- The Guardian & Social Enterprise
- The focus on a few kinds of social enterprise is blinding us to a bigger picture
- What do social enterprise and chocolate have in common?
- From Albania Again
- Guardian Social Enterprise Summit
- A conflict common to many co-operatives...
- Social Enterprise in Albania
- 2010 social enterprise visit to Russia - 1
- Day 2 in Rybinsk: -18°c
- Post 3 from Russia - Back to Moscow
- A typical question...
- Sounding like David Cameron...
- Do structures stymie social enterprise?
- 'Right to Request' tender collapses
- The number of 'social enterprises' just doesn't add up
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- What is social enterprise?
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 1 - Moscow, Schekino and Kaluga
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 2 - Rybinsk
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 2 - Vyshniy Volochek & Ostashkov
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 3 - Moscow & Aleksin
- Ostashkov Conference, October 2008
- Selected old blog entries
- Public Service Transformation
- Organisational structures - and restructuring
- Doing social enterprise
- Knowledge should be free
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- Джеф Кокс, информация на русском языке
2010 social enterprise visit to Russia - 1
When I got into the car in Rybinsk this morning Victor pointed to the temperature displayed on the dashboard. Although it was a beautiful sunny morning and not even particularly early – about 9am – the outside temperature was still only -16°c. Victor told us about a previous visit to Rybinsk, when even he had found it so chilly he ran to the car. When the dashboard lit that day the outside temperature read -42°c.
Over the last two years I've been advising Oxfam on the role social enterprise might play in their anti-poverty work in Russia. At first this was focussed on strategy: understanding the legal/financial environment for social enterprise, the resources and capacity of the NGOs for disadvantaged people Oxfam is working with, what external support might be available, and so on. Now at last the work has moved on to what for me is a more exciting phase: real social enterprise development work.
Last year I met a group of people from the 'Big Family' NGO in Rybinsk who were creating a network of homeworkers to manufacture felt products. It was work ideally suited to housebound, single parent and hard-pressed families. Among them was a very talented designer, Pavel Gavrilov, whose felt characters had such personality they almost told you their own back story themselves. I immediately knew they would sell in the West, or anywhere there was significant disposable income, but the simple lack of economic activity in most of Russia (outside a few big cities - which are booming) made it impossible to realise anything approaching the real labour time they embodied.
How to solve this problem?
I approached it by bringing together two kinds of business model:
- fair trade, and
- merchandising (book and movie tie-ins)
First, incorporate some of the characters in a book aimed at children and sold through the Oxfam shops and other sympathetic retailers – this book itself being a wholly ethical product - and second, set up a 'fair-trade' style supply chain mechanism to take the felt characters from disadvantaged home workers in Rybinsk directly to the shops to sell alongside the book.
The idea is that they acquire sufficient added value to pay the homeworkers at least the average wage in Rybinsk, because they both reach a market with more disposable income and gain the emotional attachment people have with characters in a well loved story. I have never presented this idea to anyone without acknowledging how difficult it will be to pull it off – not least to create a great story starting only with the characters; yet everyone I have spoken to has loved the idea, including Oxfam, who have now brought me out to Rybinsk again with a writer and publisher,, to initiate the development of the story for the book.
There are two main reasons for this I think...
- You only have to look at the characters to see them living and breathing in a successful story; and
- There is actually in this idea an attempt to move fair trade models up to a whole new level.
More of this in my next blog – but obviously Oxfam, as one of the fair trade pioneer organisations (they were among the founders of Cafedirect) saw in this approach an initiatve whose ripples might spread far further than the poor Russian families who will be its immediate beneficiaries.
So, after flying into Moscow at the weekend – fortunately just in time for the Maslenitsa pancake festival - and a Monday of meetings in the Oxfam office there – we traveled yesterday the 500k through the beautifully frozen Russian landscape, northeast to Rybinsk.
Read my next post from Russia here.