Eastside Social Enterprise Blog

About Eastside:

Eastside is a business consultancy that provides services to civil society organisations. Adopting a business-like approach, we help social organisations to explore how they can improve their sustainability whilst continuing to grow their impact.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Good Merger Guide launches

On October 25, Eastside launched The Good Merger Guide as a practical book to help Chief Executives and their Boards to implement mergers in civil society.

I’m really pleased that Eastside is supporting this publication. We wanted to put a practical guidebook together that would address the nitty-gritty of how to do a merger and debunk some of the myths that prevent more happening.

Download here for a free copy. 

The Guide is written by Richard Gutch who has recently project managed the merger of three disability charities, and is published in partnership with recruitment specialists,

The book outlines three distinct stages of a merger and draws on lots of case studies showing how other Chief Executives have addressed dilemmas and challenges during mergers.

The guide illustrates how many of the risks associated with merger can be managed through careful planning.

I hope that the book will help to shift attitudes and encourage more organisations to consider a merger. As some of the examples show, a smart merger can be transformative and change the scale and viability of organisations almost overnight.

We are also running a series of free workshops where we will discuss the detail of the Guide and help colleagues to think through and apply lessons to their own organisations. There will be a chance to hear from the author at the event too.

If you would like to book a place at one of these workshops please respond as soon as possible:

November 26thLondon

November 27th Manchester

Please let us know if you would like a free copy by emailingzara@eastsideconsulting.co.uk


Thursday, 13 September 2012

It’s been a summer of great collaboration and partnerships

Matt Knopp writes –

So the Olympics and Paralympics are finally over and we can all now reflect on what has been a unique and fascinating summer of emotional highs and odd feelings of patriotism that have gripped even the most hardened cynic. What struck me most was how many people talked about being proud. Proud, a word we don’t often hear to describe the collective. Proud of what we achieved both as a nation in staging the games and in winning all those medals.

I started to think about these achievements and all the collaborations that made it possible. For every gold medal, there are coaches, medics, physios, teachers, mentors, friends, families and yes, governments and funding streams. Behind every individual victory there is a story of unique sets of partnerships and collaborations that made it all happen. No one can win a gold medal on their own. Never was there a better visual motive of this pride in collaboration than seeing thousands of people do the Mo-bot sign in adoration of a man who only came to this country at 9 years old speaking no English, seeking safety from a war torn Sudan. How many people helped Mo realise his talent and become a national icon?

It helped reminded me what, in our small way, Eastside is trying to achieve with Partner Up; a way of bringing together people and organisations to find a way of making them more than the sum of their parts. Perhaps to do extraordinary things, but certainly reminding ourselves that in the end it is about the individuals we are all committed to helping who perhaps one day, with the right help, might be the next Mo Farah. We need collaborations to have a chance of exceeding our expectations and of being truly proud of our achievements.

Often we hear of failed charity partnerships and how organisations have been put off further ventures due to these past failures where trust has broken down. It is so important to pick yourself up and try again and believe that working in collaboration is really the only way to counter the challenges of fewer public contracts and smaller budgets.

More and more we are creating relationships between like-minded organisations, initially cynical but now seeing the possibilities when ego, mistrust and self-interests are cast aside for a vision of the bigger picture. It’s often a long road with many bumps but we’re proud to be a part of that journey.

Matt Knopp is a Director of Eastside
Richard Litchfield is currently on holiday 

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Mergers: We’re not that desperate!

Regrettably, we hear this reaction frequently when we speak to charities about mergers. This common refrain is surely driven far more by ego than what is in the best interests of the service users. It also lacks appreciation of the wide variety of mergers and the different structures that are possible.

This perception of merger as a refuge for the desperate goes along way to explain why we continue to see so few mergers happen (the Charities Commission reports only a few hundred each year across the sector).

Some leaders in the sector, though, are bucking this trend and are undertaking mergers to achieve transformative change.

Take for example Paul Doe, CEO of the Shepherd’s Bush Housing Group (SBHG), who took the opportunity to invite a charity, Staying First, providing housing advice and home improvements, to become part of the Shepherd’s Bush Housing Group, as a wholly owned subsidiary. This provided Paul’s organisation with a secure, high quality supply chain, as well as providing a mechanism for applying for charitable funds for new projects. SBHG pay the charity’s backroom service and office costs and in return Staying First provides a range of services at an agreed price including adaptations, painting and decorating and debt advice. Staying First has grown from having a turnover of £300k to £2.5m.

This type of arrangement is a win-win and shows how a smart merger can be transformative for all parties. We’ll be sharing more examples and insight from sector leaders, within the Partner-Up network, who are willing to take risks to develop these kinds of arrangements.

This case study has been reproduced from an interview undertaken by Richard Gutch. 

Friday, 18 November 2011

Partner-Up goes live

On Wednesday, 100 guests joined us from across the sector at an event to launch Partner-Up that was hosted by Eversheds.

Partner-Up is an independent marketplace where organisations can explore partnership options safely and receive support in making these new arrangements happen.

I was pleased with the event. We had a good turnout, with excellent speakers and the discussion was lively.

Each of our speakers talked candidly about the challenges that prevent more mergers/collaboration happening. Among other things, they pointed to the fact that charity leaders can often have an excessive attachment to either their corporate or personal brands at the expense of the long term interests of beneficiaries and that Board’s often show a lack of strategic foresight. Both points resonate strongly.

Since we ‘soft’ launched Partner-Up at the start of the year we have collected information from about 200 charities on their interests around mergers and there are 30 organisations that Partner-Up is actively helping to find partners.

For further information on these opportunities visit the website or contact Alex at: alex [at] partner-up.org

Saturday, 23 July 2011

"What's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable"

This pithy statement by JFK could be seen as an epithet for how social sector organisations approach mergers and collaboration. This despite an interesting result of a quick Google search: “social enterprise competition” yields 39,800 results versus 358,000 results for “social enterprise collaboration”. There are nearly 10 times as many web-pages extolling the virtues of collaboration for social enterprise rather than competition. Yet despite the rhetoric meaningful collaboration - especially mergers - remain the exception not the rule across civil society.

This is backed up by research by the Charity Commission which shows that as few as 9% of charities have considered ‘collaborating, forming a consortium or merging with other charities in response to the economic downturn.’ It is worrying to read that 77% of charities which turnover more than £1m have not even considered these issues. Our research shows a different pattern, certainly amongst large charities in the UK, with nearly a third considering merger. ‘Considering’ and ‘doing’ are two different things however and the call to action to collaborate effectively requires a ‘will-do’ rather than ‘would-like-to-talk-about-it’ attitude.

Different reasons are cited for why alliances so often go awry: ego, cultural differences, trustee disinclination. One factor that is important and often taken for granted is actually finding the right partner. Frequently we find partnerships have been formed based on a loose arrangement of geographical or personal convenience rather than a qualified strategic alignment.

In response to this we have launched a service called Partner-Up – www.partner-up.org. Simply put it is a matching service for civil society. Organisations are able to discuss their needs and select other organisations they would like to speak to about specific partnership opportunities. We do offer toolkits and resources to support collaboration and mergers, but the real value is in brining together partners that want to work together rather than talk about it. We believe that this will forge effective partnerships: ‘What’s mine and yours is negotiable’.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Payday Loans

I was interested to read an article this week in Civil Society News about MP Stella Creasy attacking the Wellcome Trust for investing in what she believed to be an unethical “payday loan” style lender. She is at present trying to bring in legislation to curb the ability of payday loan companies to charge exorbitant fees.

I live in Brixton and was sad to see more payday loan places open on the high street last year as more people struggled to keep their heads above water. However, instead of spending a lot of time bringing in legislation why can't our politicians spend more time encouraging enterprising social lenders into the marketplace with more competitive, more ethical offers? Why haven't more Credit Unions and other forms of fairer finance been more successful while payday loans taking huge fees, ripping off their customers seem to grow year on year? There must be some sort of gap between what social enterprise finance lenders offer and what the customer wants? Why else would someone pay huge sums to get money advanced? Surely it can't just be consumer ignorance and ease of access. If it is then there is a lot the government could be doing to help people manage on low incomes and at the same time build the social lending sector apart from just throwing legislation at the market.

By Matt Knopp