Category Archives: Economic Models

Too old, too big…too little used?

Article update: 28.10.2017  – A really sound article on the utility of libraries by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett –  No one needs libraries any more? What rubbish  from The Guardian of Thursday, 26th October, 2017.

In it Cosslet takes to task the political pundit Andre Walker, for his omnipotent vision of the library service in the UK. Namely that no-one visits them anymore and they should all be closed down and the books given to schools.

Is there something Presidential in this decimation of the library service by Twitter?

Rhiannon goes on to thread her story with her use of the public library when young – developing intellectual curiosity, cultural awareness, knowledge of the world and taking up the rich opportunity public libraries offer to graze the landscape of the word, six books at a  time.

We recommend the article to our readers.

Original text: In the Spring of 2015 the Adam Smith Institute published an article entitled ‘The End of Local Authority Libraries‘. As the economic ice age of Osbornian austerity descended upon us, the Press was full of cultural turbulence about the closure and operational rigidity of our national literacy assets.

Although the general  Press attention has diminished, it is telling that the dilution of the library service has continued unabated, albeit with increasingly diminished media currency, as we have been further overwhelmed by matters of political moment in and about Europe, perhaps.

View, print or download the full report here…pdf

Central government, arguably, remains enthusiastic and espouses a positive vison for the library service. The recent report Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021 from the Libraries Taskforce, is almost entirely upbeat about the half decade ahead. They offer a vision of a multiplicity of supported delivery systems for a local library in section 6.3 of the report.

The website Public Libraries News, in July, declared that now ‘there are at least five hundred libraries that are staffed, if not entirely run by volunteers’. On the one hand, this is a sign, we would argue, that there is profound suport for the local library at grassroots level. But it is also a sign, looking at the plethora of continual changes and negative reviews of library services across the country on the website, that there is no clear, effective and equally profound form of new governance emerging for libraries.

One that, at once taps into localism, yet satisfies the need for an eclectic and near universal access to knowledge and leisure, free at the point of delivery for those who need it most.

The trade union Unison are to hold a National SOS Day on the 19th of October, 2017. Save our Services is designed to show that ‘...libraries are a hub and a haven in our communities. They offer a place for people to work, relax, discover and think.They are a source of local knowledge and history and give everyone access to books, DVDs, music and more, for free or at a very low cost.

But libraries also do a lot more than lend books. Many hold events, anything from story time for children to yoga classes for adults. Library workers help people look for work, advise on using IT, organise talks by authors and so much more‘.


The debate, then, continues to have currency. The Adam Smith Institute argued, in its article by Eamonn Butler, that the free market was the solution to the ‘library deficit’ issue, as to be expected. That exemplars of library innovation, in the shape of American organisations such as Library Systems and Services, were to be the saviours of a moribund library market.

However, research shows that the accession of LSSI to the pinnacle of library stewardship has not been entirely successful in the USA. An earlier article in the New York Times shows how both library staff and users, even in the more affluent cities where LSSI has obtained contracts, have been happy to lead protests. Dissenting voices to the ending of  unionised services, diminution of book stocks and antagonism towards the ethics of ‘libraries for profit’.


The City Library, Birmingham

The Butler argument, from the Adam Smith Institute, saw the then new Birmingham City Library building as an example of ossification of service. The £188 million building began to operate on a ‘self-funded’ basis for events, for example, in the context of author events or arts activity. Both previously seen as draws to footfall for the library service. Indeed key activities in a wider cultural obligation for libraries, we would argue.

However, debate about the capital cost of a building in austere times is one thing, but the Institute author’s position somewhat fails to recognise that it is free market policies which have led to the very fiscal landscape that has so diminished the library service.

If a library is battered by exogenous fiscal policy upheaval, it is somewhat unfair to blame the librarian for lack of service, or diversity in activity, surely?

Is there hope for change? We think so.

We were pleased to see that there is widening acceptance by Councils that the community should have control of libraries as a community resource. At the beginning of August, for example, Derby City Council declared for the cessation of control of ten libraries, which will see ‘…the loss of at least 39 library assistants’ jobs and two library managers, of almost 100 staff who work for the authority. Community groups will get £17,500 a year each to fund their own managed libraries until 2022…’


What is concerning, in this case, is the timetable and the level of grant in aid ceded to the community organisations in the City, to effectively manage the transfer and creation of a new community organisation to deliver the service.

More positively again, Bury Council this month have approved a new community asset transfer plan. ‘The new policy means applications from groups to buy community assets from the council will be considered against ‘key tests’ designed to ensure a deal which is best for the council and residents‘. The landscape of community opportunity grows!


However, it is entirely possible, we would argue, to imagine the creation of community libraries as Social Enterprises, where the not for profit governance model delivers a mix of volunteer and employee led services, bolstered by an admixture of social business services to support and maintain the core library provision.

A community cafe, a learning centre, a gardening or horticultural project…the list could easily be imaginatively extended by a dynamic, active community. The whole focused upon the creation of ‘…a place for people to work, relax, discover and think‘, to remind us of the Unison observation.

If the trade union are having an SOS Day, why do we not start a new think-tank movement, LASER – Libraries as Social Enterprise Renewal.

Write to conversationsEAST if you are interested in social enterprise, passionate about libraries and learning and keen to develop governance-sound, community led, not for profit library buildings.

We’ll publish a web site, host a meeting and give the idea traction?

Additional narrative – 20.08.2017

Read more here…

We have just come across a recent article in Wired by Susan Crawford, where she argues for a resurgence in phiilanthropy to revitalise the library service.

In the text, in response to a recent tweet by Jeff Bezos asking for suggestions about a new shape for his giving, she argues for an Amazon/Bezos programme of giving to libraries.

Developing Jeff Bezos’s current long term view of his ‘social investments’ towards, arguably, a philanthropic delivery that would cater for the short and the long term. Mr. Bezos describes his search for a new intitiative ‘…to help people in the here and now’. Our new library programme, as described, would do that, but also cater for the long term too.

Namely a series of Amazon Memorial Libraries, or Bezos Community Cultural Centres, would benefit the communities they were placed in, but they would also create new readers and enhance human capital in the hinterland of their sites, as well as delivering a major philosophical boost to the image of Amazon as a socially beneficial company.

You can read Susan Crawford’s piece on the pages of Wired here.

We understand Jeff Bezos reads every email sent directly to him. We’ll write to Mr. Bezos and make a suggestion supporting a new philanthropic venture into the British library landscape, and explore the models that might be created.

We would argue that history has been kind to the Carnegie model of library establishment, why should not future generations look as kindly upon Jeff Bezos?

Watch this space for an update, even if we don’t get a reply!

Useful links to accompany this article:

Library over-watch!

Use it or lose it! – The Guardian

City Library Birmingham: Image by Gareth Williams - Creative Commons

To the RSA yesterday, in John Adam Street, London, WC2N 6EZ. Between meetings in London we managed to fit in a visit to the lecture by Professor Kenneth Rogoff, deliberating about the existence of cash, illustrated by examples from his new book – The Curse of Cash.

Rogoff: curse of cash cover image
Review or purchase this book from here…

Despite misconceptions in the popular press, Professor Rogoff, he is the Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Economics at Harvard University, argues for the deletion of high value notes from a national currency, not, as is often quoted, the dramatic end of cash all together.

Drawing on his international experiences, Rogoff served as an economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, he argued for the removal of high value notes from circulation as a methodology to reduce criminality and tax evasion.

Rogoff recognised, in passing, the recent currency changes in India, remarking that his advice to Prime Minister Modi would have been to move at a much slower pace, although India’s fiscal motives are not totally clear at present. Cessation of high value notes is now, he argued, a recognisably legitimate lever in the economic tool box, although ideally pursued over a period of perhaps two years, with currency withdrawn in batches of maximum value over that time.

Using the U.S. as an example, evidence was offered regarding the size of bank note holdings in a population – nearly always much, much higher than any official Treasury forecast, he argued.

In theory, in the U.S., every person should be holding about $4,200 dollars in $100 bills for example. However, we were told, current research indicated that only 5% of U.S. citizens ever saw bills of this denomination, and only once a year at that.

A simple show of hands in The Great Room at John Adam Street, saw only four members of the audience having used a £50 note in the last month. This exposition led on to an assessment of the underground economy in Europe. Undeclared transactions making up 16% of the German economy annually, with up to 25% in Italy and Greece. In the U.S., we were informed, this currently runs at about 8%. But in all cases these hidden  economic transactions represent vast sums in the tax ‘neutral’ take of businesses, whatever their ethical make-up.

Cash and culture:

Rogoff referenced the U.S. economist, Neil Wallace, whom he argued failed to see the rise of electronic currency during his seminal economic work in the 1970’s. Now, Rogoff argued, there has been a step change, in young people particularly, for whom electronic banking and cash movements may have become the norm.

This could have resonating consequences for world economies. Governments make large cash transfers and could, he argued use free, subsidised debit cards for members of society  and deliver benefits, refunds and payments to individuals without the repetitious ‘cost of cash’.

In his lecture Professor Rogoff appeared to be a strong proponent of the use of negative interest rates, to stimulate cash investment in business infrastructure, citing Sweden as an example where this policy had energised the real economy.

In rounding off his talk Professor Rogoff, cited the work of U.S. economist Robert Eisner, arguing that Central Banks could also have a role to play in the ‘new attitude’ to cash. The use of technical devices, such as deploying currency held in banking systems using a distinct and different exchange rate.

This was a quietly and elegantly delivered short lecture, drawn from a very telling book, The Curse of Cash, which provoked and underscored an interesting number of new ways of thinking about cash, banking and the cultural and fiscal exchanges between us all.

We recommend it.

The final exortation, light heartedly, was for us to remember that the Rogoff thesis is not about the abandonment of cash, rather its perpetuation in ‘smaller ‘ form.

The Ferengi, we were told, had after all never lost their interest, as free traders of integalactic renown, in gold-pressed Latinum.

You can hire the resources and spaces of 8, John Adam Street for both corporate and social events. A stunning venue in the heart of London, just off The Strand.

Explore the facilities available here

Article sign off image

 The North as a digital, innovative powerhouse for change and growth…


The great Northern Powerhouse concept has it’s detractors, as well as those who warmly embrace vast spendiing on infrastructure projects betwixt North and South. The whole designed to energise a swathe of our country, and its economic and social infrastructure, at a stroke.

Larry Elliot, writing recently in The Guardian, declares that the Centre for Cities think tank has the right view and that George Osborne is wrong. Namely that investment is needed in cities and conurbations ‘North of Watford’ in order to achieve the right mix of enterprise, social energy and innovation.

In his article Elliot looks at the productivity and infrastructure links between several Randstadt and Rhine-Ruhr cities. Already much more productive than similar cities in the North of England, he argues, the real difference is that investment has been made in the cities, not between them.

Whether transport, high speed internet or enterprise culture are stimulated, the key difference on the Ruhr/Randstat axis is the level of skills available to feed growth in research, output and market identification, he argues.

A new RSA report argues ‘… for a departure from the usual way of ‘doing tech’, where digital businesses operate in siloes, often untethered from the places in which they operate. It is within the North’s gift to forge a different path…’

View, print or download this report here…pdf

It is this focus on the sub-region, on the drivers of city based innovation, that when aggregated as evidence creates a new paradigm of achievement for the wider region. The sweeping gesture, the Osborneian grand statement, is proven only by examining the microeconomic context of the city regions as an ensemble, we would argue.

In this new report from the RSA (.pdf), Benedict Dellot et al approach the North of England with this city hinterland and regional sectoral analysis in mind.

The new work, Digital Powerhouse (.pdf), uses the digital economy of the north of England as both metaphor and research instance to examine and make suggestions for development. The findings are striking…

‘…the North’s digital economy is creating jobs at ten time the rate of the region’s non-digital sectors. In the last five years the productivity of the digital economy grew by 11.3%. The figure was 2.5% for the non-digital economy’.  Source: Infographic, p.2 of Digital Powerhouse

The DIgital Powerhouse report makes fourteen profound recommendations to capitalise on the digital premium recognised in the North of England.

These range from the creation of a ‘Procurement Powerhouse’ social enterprise to link tech businesses with public sector procurement processes. An adjunct to this suggestion is a move to persuade public sector commissioners and buyers to declare a ‘problem based’ commissioning approach, affording opportunities for innovators and researchers in the tech sphere to be just that, innovative, in order to get a seat at the table of ‘government spend’.

Similarly Dellot et al call for a new ‘contract portal’,  suggested to bring together opportunities to supply both the public and private sectors with tech innovation. Also on the supply side, the report suggests the championing of ‘tech co-operatives’ in the North. Striving to achieve critical mass and drive to market by tech innovators in the North, through closer co-operation and affiliation.

The regional recommendation aspect of the report make it easy to argue that this research could be the basis of a meta-development framework of policy and practice for any region with growing technology sectors. North or South.

As Eileen Burbidge, Chair of Tech City UK says in the report ‘…this report shines a brilliant light on all the assets and opportunities already underway which serve as a foundation for the growth of the new Digital Northern Powerhouse‘. Source: Burbidge, introduction: p.5 Digital Powerhouse

You can see a fuller RSA narrative on their web pages here. This report is freely available to all on the web.

Article sign off image

Benedict Dellot of The RSA has recently authored a new report on the growing phenomenom of Maker Spaces. There’s one near you…did you know?

The report defines MakerSpaces as ‘…open access workshops, hosting a variety of tools, from 3D printers and laser cutters through to sewing machines and soldering irons’.

These unique spaces attract hackers, roboticists, traditional engineering and technical enthusiasts, along with a variety of arts and craft specialists. There is something of a William Morris, Arts and Crafts revolutionary aspect to their public face. Offering as they do, spaces for making and experimentation in a collaborative and supportive atmosphere.

See more here…pdf

Morris would have it that you should ‘…have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’. Perhaps in the 21st Century, in a MakerSpace context, their motto should be ‘…beautiful, useful and technically collaborative’. (…great sign over every MakerSpace door?…Ed.)

As part of the RSA report (Ours to Master…)a survey finds that people, when asked, express an interest in Maker philosophy and practice, and would be interested in accessing such facilities. The survey found…

  • 26 percent of people regularly make things for their own use, 49 percent fix things that are broken and 21 percent modify products to better suit their own needs
  • 57 percent would like to learn how to make more things they and their families could use
  • 61 percent would like to have a better understanding of how the things they use work
  • 78 percent think our society is too materialistic and our economy too dependent on consumption
  • 43 percent often feel confused by the pace of technological change and struggle to keep up
  • 24 percent would be interested in using a makerspace in the future

You can read more about MakerSpaces on the pages of The RSA. here. (The report is freely accessible to all).

Maker Spaces in the East of England?

Ipswich Makerspace:

‘Ipswich Makerspace is a Suffolk based group of like minded makers who get together to learn, build and experiment with a huge variety of hardware, software, and technology in general’.      (Source: Ipswich Makerspace, December 2015)   See more here.

Chelmsford Makerspace:

‘Chelmsford Makerspace is a non-profit, community of makers in Chelmsford. We are a group of makers and hackers that get together to share tools and knowledge’. (Source: Chelmsford Makerspace, December 2015). See more here…

Colchester Makerspace:

‘We are developing a maker workshop offering affordable access to basic equipment such as workbenches, pillar drills, soldering irons, sewing machines and saws etc’. (Source: Colchester Makerspace, December 2015). See more here…

Cambridge Makespace:

‘Makespace is a community workshop in Cambridge for making and fixing things, meeting people, working on projects and sharing skills’. (Source: Cambridge Makespace, Decembre 2015). See more here…

Hitchin Hackspace:

‘Hitchin Hackspace is a community organisation devoted to providing everyone with a place to explore all kinds of creative technologies and crafts’. (Source: Hitchin Hacspace, December 2015). See more here…

Thank you to Benedict Dellot for another interesting and cutting edge report. It is interesting to see old concepts of craft and sharing being developed in contemporary communities, to deliver accessible, technology related products and learning. ‘Social engineering’ in its purest form perhaps?

We are surprised, in our brief survey of MakerSpaces in the East, to find no representative group for Norwich. If you know of one, use our contact form and let us know. We’ll run a supplementary piece to spread the word about them, if we missed an opportunity to do so here. Happy making! Ed.

Article sign off image


This new research report from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) is a refreshing look at our coastal communities and their economies.

It provides proposals for action, which are leavened through a recognition of history and localised specialist skills. The analysis is elevated beyond the ordinary ‘top down research’ by emphasising the need for socio-political and economic frameworks in coastal communities which re-connect people  with nature and the coastal landscape – a series of contours that are geographical, industrial and philosophical.

The report takes us out of the ivory tower and into the sand dunes.

See your copy here…

pdfIcon4  You can view, print or download a pdf copy of this NEF report here…

Previous NEF research has already looked at how  a low-carbon economy can generate new jobs and economic entities,  that can offer secure, decently paid and satisfying work in a more equally distributed economic landscape. See more here…

The essence of the New Blue Deal is to build on existing initiatives and create a mixed framework of five changes and economic thematic deliveries, which are sustainable, inviting and inclusive to the communities of focus.

  • Ÿ Ÿsustainable fisheries and aquaculture
  • renewable energy
  • coastal tourism and related activities
  • Ÿ innovative approaches to coastal management
  • opportunities to re-connect people with nature

‘For the fishing industry, for example, NEF analysis  shows that restoring UK fish stocks to healthy levels and promoting lower carbon emissions through
quota allocation across the main UK fishing fleets would mean an extra 457,000 tonnes of fish landed each year, leading to an additional £268 million
GVA (Gross Value Added) and a 24% increase in employment, the equivalent of 4,922 new jobs’.

Source: Carpenter, G., Esteban, A. (2015) Managing EU fisheries in the public interest: Results from the Bio-Economic Model of European Fleets. New Economics Foundation. Results calculated using 2010-2012 performance. New jobs estimate is made up of fishing jobs (11%) andprocessing jobs (89%). Retrieved from:

The report looks at a variety of UK locations, with fishing being a key focus of course. However, other work is highlighted. Engagement and partnerships that work across responsible tourism, leisure and recreation.

From Anglesey Adventures, a business working in the outdoor leisure arena, to The Venus Company, working in its chain of cafes to ‘…balance customer needs with environmental and social considerations’. We particularly liked the feature on Learn to Sea, a ‘sea school’ project in South Devon. Using the coastal spaces as an educational resource which informs children and young people, but which also carries forward the ideas of sustainability, economic durability and environmental awareness into the next generation.

Here at conversationsEAST we are incredibly fond of the Suffolk coastline, for example. But we look at areas around communities like Great Yarmouth or Lowestoft, with their long tradition of fishing and livelihoods from the sea. Whilst we recognise that ‘Big Oil’ does provide jobs and technical advancement for some sectors of the community, without doubt, creating a recognisable  influx of highly specialised employees from external sources.

Whilst this fosters economic activity which is vital, it does not reposition those communities to explore, create and sustain their history with their coastline and enable them to encourage the growth of entry level and intermediate skilled work.

The New Blue Deal does.

You do not need to spend long with the NEF document to see, in your mind, how your favourite stretch of coast can become a thriving community – a nexus of education, social and community enterprise, ocean facing and non-exploitative at every level.

We commend this report to our readers. If you would like to explore and track the New Blue Deal there is a new NEF website available here.



This month Benedict Dellot of The RSA has, in the report The Second Age of Small – Understanding the economic impact of micro-businesses, produced a provocative and informative clarion call to recognise the sustaining energy and output of the micro-business in the UK.

See more here…

In his detailed analysis Benedict informs us that the micro-business excels in sectors where relationships are the key to business and operational success. ‘Microbusinesses (excluding sole traders) are 4 percent more productive than the sector-wide average in human health activities, 20 percent in education and 38 percent in social work’.

In a well argued section of the report Benedict looks back at the proto-industrial period, pre-1750, when the notion of industry was tempered by the small, local producer – often the basis of what we might now call the ‘family firm’.

It is the Twentieth Century and The Age of Oil which reconditioned our thinking, the RSA Action and Research Centre argue, to believe that the large corporation is the sole standard bearer for commercial enterprise success.  Writing in the 1970’s…

E. F. Schumacher, who, in his book Small is Beautiful,
lamented that his generation suffered from “an almost universal idolatry of gigantism”, and instead called for “production by the masses, rather than mass production”.

The data presented in this RSA Report underscores the importance of the micro-business to the welfare of the UK economy, as well as recognising that the small business is a driver of social welfare in the localities that they operate in. ‘There is also a geographical element to consider. Evidence shows that small firms are more beneficial than large firms for the local economies in which they operate’.

To those of us who work in the social business sector, helping charities and mainstream businesses to actively adopt sustainable business practices linked to social outcome, we clearly recognise the power of this observation.

The Dellot thesis draws nine principal conclusions from the analysis

1. The UK’s micro business population is booming
2. Many see this as a bad economic omen and a sign of a fragmented labour market
3. But our research finds that micro businesses may help to spur productivity
4. … and innovation
5. … and job creation
6. In any case, the value of micro businesses is not well captured by conventional measures
7. Five key factors help to explain why micro businesses have become more economically viable
8. Rather than be preoccupied with micro businesses we should pay more attention to the activities of oligopolies
9. We can shape our economy – the status quo is not predetermined nor inevitable

Each of them, in the report, is well argued and provides comfort to the small business owner, and should give the nascent micro-business entrepreneur confidence for the future. If you have spent years working for yourself, or have just joined the entrepreneurial drive to create socially minded businesses, then a high level of satisfaction to be gained awaits you.

Micro business employees are the most satisfied workers – Microbusiness employees score highest on most indicators of job satisfaction, including influence over their job, involvement in decision-making and good relations with management.

Detailed, thought provoking and telling in its analysis. We commend the latest Dellot opus to our readers.

pdfIcon4  View, print or download a copy of this report here…


The RSA, in partnership with Google and craft marketplace Etsy, recently held a Self Employment summit. Stimulating debate and reflection about the changing landscape of employment and the rise and condition of those ‘going it alone’.

The short film below offers insights into the various debates on the day and some of the original ideas and thoughts emerging from the discussion…

See the movie on YouTubeSee the original film on YouTube here

The debate ranges across some interesting data, movements in the economy and is awash with definitions. Data seems to show that since the year 2000, the self -employed as a recognisable economic cohort, have increased by 30%. With the self-employed now representing some 15% of the total active work force in the UK.

Between 2008 and 2013, we are told, the self-employed made up a staggering 90% of all jobs created. Even more seismic, in terms of paradigm shift, is the suggestion that by 2017/2018, the self employed numerically, may exceed the total number of individuals currently working in the Public Sector.

For those of us who work across the Public Sector/Charitable Sector divide, this is perhaps not so surprising. As Local Authorities continue to divest themselves of employed core professional expertise in a number of community support, education and housing sectors, the expertise is re-hired as consultants or contractors.

What does set this change in context, however, is not the numeric rise in self-employment, whatever the sector, professional or otherwise. It is the dramatic increase in diminution of turnover.

Steven Toft, who is the author of Flip Chart Fairy Tales, speaking at the one day RSA event, opines that between 2008 and 2013 aggregate income by the self-employed has fallen by a staggering 8 billion pounds.

However you define being self-employed, and there are multiple definitions, in the RSA research, by HMRC and in the national Labour Market Survey – it is clear that there is a re-structuring of the nature of employment wholly under way.

What this movement is not, however, is an attempt to create quality of life, sustainability of earnings or the increase in cultural and fiscal capital that this change might, given the right business environment, look to build over time.

Not all self-employed people strive to be the next Richard Branson, but that for the individual, given this data, the drive might be led by a belief, actual or not, in the achievement of a better work/life balance, access to culture and the arts and an exercise of choice regardless of cost, that corporatism or global capital does not offer. We do not know.

Finally, we would have liked the debate to have extended fully across social enterprise/social business as a new model for the self employed and entrepreneurially minded.  New financial markets and new business models are emerging in these two sectors. Perhaps that is where the real dynamism in the economy is, for those who go it alone?

Other good reads for context:

See our recent article featuring Every Day Employers, an RSA report from the end of last year – offering insights and suggestions to restructure traditional employer/employee relationships. See more here…

See also Salvation in a Start-up, a RSA/Etsy report, from last summer, on the emergence of new micro-businesses. The why and how. See more here…



This is a new report from Anna Coote, the Head of Social Policy at the New Economics Foundation. People, Planet, Power – Towards a new social settlement is an attempt to re-define the shape of economy and community, and how these concepts are leveraged through socio-political and econo-social models onwards through the 21st Century.

A new social settlement?

This NEF report is an engaging, challenging and thoughtful piece of work. It chimes well with current RSA intellectual modelling of the same themes.

pdfIcon4 Download a copy of the report here…

The RSA thought leadership, and the recent strategic review at the Society, led to challenging aims for this year on focus, impact and joining up.

What has emerged has been a three-pronged change aim scenario for the work of RSA Fellows and the Society. This is neatly all encapsulated by the driving force of Matthew Taylor’s keenly edged concept of The Power to Create.

The thematic change aims for 2015 of the RSA are given below…

  • Public services and communities
  • Creative learning and development
  • Economy, enterprise and manufacturing

Reading A New Social Settlement you will find long echoes and a contingency of similar RSA aims and concerns about  inequality, elite power, creativity and community empowerment.

NEF‘s aims for their new settlement are stated thus…

This settlement has three main goals: social justice, environmental sustainability, and a more equal distribution of power. There is a dynamic relationship between these goals; each depends on the others for fulfilment. Addressing them together means aiming for sustainable social justice, which requires a fair and equitable distribution of social, environmental, economic, and political resources between people, places, and – where possible – between generations.

In summation, Anna Coote stresses that the NEF report lays out a new set of goals and objectives, and offers some illustrative effects that can achieve them.

It is though, perhaps more importantly, that the semiotic significance of strategic review at the RSA and the concentration by other leading thinkers on societal change and economic renewal of an equitable kind, all indicate that a sea-change may be under way.

The partiality of tax gatherers, the greed of bankers and the ‘socially neutral’ activities of global business may, at last, be under assault.

Be part of the debate, be part of a movement that puts equality of distribution, whether economic, social or intellectual, at the forefront of its aims.  Be part of the RSA?


Just published, this report offers fresh insights into the conditionality of being an employer, factored through the lens of rising self-employment, business fears about employment and how central government could deploy a mind-shift in its approach to entrepreneurship and the creation of new jobs.

Authored by Benedict Dellot, the report looks across the business landscape and considers three key areas of analysis that cause the self-employed to falter at the recruitment doorway – pragmatic issues, the mindset and the cognitive biases.

A new RSA Report - see more here...
A new RSA Report

Everyday Employers looks at the practical steps that could be energised in order to overcome barriers to employment.

Pooling risk – where recognition exists that not all risk can be avoided, but could be mitigated by establishing collective approaches to insurance, HR or administrative functions.

From hiring to the concept of accessing a workforce – where employees can be shared across a number of organisations.

Boosting supply, rather than stimulating demand – using existing networks, institutions and and networks to create awareness of new jobs and to generate fresh points of contact with work seekers.

From support expansion to support consolidation – taking a fresh look at a large, hyper-active business support nexus. Assessing fitness for purpose and a leaner operational requirement.

… a divergence in opinion is mirrored in people’s attitudes towards crossing the VAT threshold – one potential consequence of employing staff . While 47 percent of business owners not registered for VAT say it would be difficult to operate their firm if they went past the threshold, this compares to just 13 percent of VAT registered business owners looking back in hindsight…

The question of the VAT threshold for small business is used to illustrate the mindset,   perceived assumptions , that can restrain business owners from taking on additional staff. The report underscores this philosophical error by highlighting research into how little the small business actually understands about government policy,  a gap in knowledge which is compounded by the complexity of the existing business support mechanisms previously mentioned.

In the final section of Everyday Employers, the issue of cognitive bias is analysed. This falls into four distinct categories, the whole of which is, it can be argued, a neat proxy for the ‘landscape of fear’ that can wrack the entrepreneur.

Inertia – simply put, the gain from expansion is outweighed by the potential loss that might be created by the process of growth itself.

Control – a business builder increasingly feels they need to control their creation, nearly always over-estimating their own ability to be productive, for example. This conditioning leads the potential employer to inherently distrust the potential capabilities of new recruits to their business.

Short- termism – a lack of planning and an over-focus on the near term. That and the inability of some business owners to step back from the intensity of the day to day running of their business to appropriately plan.

Social proof – we mimic the behaviours and model our organisations alongside those we interact with. If there is no context for the individual and his or her peers that looks at and responds to growth and recruitment, then they won’t do it either.

Benedict’s report, Everyday Employers, also contains interesting data on self-employment, growth and recruitment. Changing or tempering the landscape reviewed above could have a seismic effect the report argues…

  • “The number of self-employed people has increased by 30 percent
    since 2000.
  • Only three percent of sole traders hired someone (and kept them) over the
    5-year period from 2007–2012.
  • Doubling this recruitment rate to six percent would result in an extra 100,000
    more jobs being created (and sustained) over a 5-year period”.

This is a detailed and convincing report, which comes with practical recommendations for business sector change. It also revisits some previous research and uses the data and analysis to support the operational arguments presented in the report.

For the reflective small business person, the practical politician or the profoundly caring policy analyst, this should be the ‘go to’ manual for the next five years.

pdfIcon4Get your copy of Everyday Employers here.






Breaking the Mould, an RSA Report, pdf version...

The RSA have just published a report, Breaking The Mould, which examines the contribution to the SME sector that on-line market places, like Etsy, make to this economic sector.

If you haven’t already…discover Etsy on-line here – shop from independent crafts people from around the world.


pdfIcon4 You can download a copy of the new RSA report here…

The report, authored by the RSA’s Benedict Dellot, emerges from the support that Etsy gave to the recent project The Power of Small. The report defines and conditions the role of e-commerce for the small, entrepreneurial business and assesses how changes in support and on-line infrastructure could further advance the sector.

The UK’s micro-business community is expanding rapidly. Since the turn of the century there has been a 40 percent increase in the number of firms with fewer than 10 employees, and a growth of over 600,000 since the economic downturn began in 2008.

Yet one of the most interesting trends lies behind the headline figures ­ namely the growth in part-time self-employment. The number of people working for themselves for less than 30 hours a week has grown by almost 65 percent since 2000…

The report offers insights, garnered from research respondents, into the sectoral structure of the on-line craft entrepreneur. The data reveals a strong commitment by women business creators to on-line trading and a remarkably large percentage of respondents who had not sought capital investment for their business.

These findings, to us at conversationsEAST, are a clear indication of a strong, yet perhaps under-recognised, female driven entrepreneurial sector and a perhaps less than clamouring call for finance, which government and mainstream lenders would currently have us believe.

The vast majority (91 percent) of sellers are female.  20 percent of sellers report their Etsy business to be full-time, compared with 65 percent who are part-time. 22 percent are employed in a full-time job on top of their Etsy business and 15 percent are in a part-time job. 15 percent are at home looking after dependents, whilst 40 percent of sellers required no funding to get their business started…

The report, Breaking The Mould, also offers the reader some innovative recommendations as to how this sector focus, of on-line craft entrepreneurs, can be supported. (The report, in general terms of marketing, finance and enterprise, is a model of energetic advance for the SME sector as a whole, we would argue…Ed).

The new pathways to enterprise support  include…

  • Recognise ventures in official measurements 
  • This is a vital turn for ONS and government departments who monitor and support trade and industry. Often the core resources to a web business, hosting, network infrastructure, even for the small trader, can lie outside the UK. But the revenue generated and associated supplies and ancillary equipment sales occur always where the entrepreneur is based…and the additional new jobs too.
  • Make business support part of the BBC’s public purpose
  • A great idea. Making the national broadcaster, any broadcaster, sensitive to and supportive of small business is a powerful tool in raising the bar for young people and those who are gender discriminated against. (The emergence of the social sector entrepreneur fits the bill here too. using technology to  promote goods and services on-line, where social outcome, ethics and green credentials are just as important as profit, all would fit well with a ‘public purpose’ remit too…Ed.)
  • Promote the importance of having a personal `brand’ from an early age
  • Managing your on-line presence early is a great way to master new skills, coding, presentation, clarity of thought and is, if done in a structured way, empowering and self resolving for the ambitious entrepreneur. The on-line business is not a ‘second choice’, any more than the on-line personality is any less powerful now, with the ubiquity of computing and mobile devices.
  • Tweak search engine algorithms to highlight smaller businesses
  • Simple. Make the G###le’s of this world prime referees for the SME in any location. The big corporations already have teams of marketers using traditional and non-traditional marketing methods to make their brands permeate the commerce-sphere. Give the little guy and girl a break too!
  • Deepen our knowledge of the therapeutic effects of selling
  • Have you pitched for anything? Have you structured an offer, simple or complex, and won the day. You enter the room as a philosophical five foot tall person, you leave it six feet four! Never under-estimate the power of small, incremental successes in early stage entrepreneurship. We agree. (This is as much about promoting confidence and personal skills as it is in fostering or extending the consumer society. We all ‘sell’ everyday, one way or another, if we are successful…Ed).

This is an intelligent, thoughtful analysis of an entrepreneurial sector undergoing growth and change. Read and help break the mould.

phoneIconYou can download a copy of the new RSA report here…


Image credit:

News Desk image by Markus Winkler, Creative Commons, Unsplash...