Happy 4th Birthday Intentionality!

Yes, it’s Intentionality’s 4th birthday today (the 23rd April 2014). To celebrate this occasion, we felt it was a timely moment to take a brief look back on the last four years and also to look forward to the year ahead.

As the founder of Intentionality and the dad of two boys, aged 6 and 4, my experiences with Intentionality are not too dissimilar to those of being a parent.  Over the last four years Intentionality has been a joy to watch grow, but it hasn’t been short of teething problems and growing pains either. It’s kept me awake at night, it’s continually developing its understanding of language and outlook on the world, and it’s learnt an awful lot.

There’s far too much to tell to be able to go into any depth here, but I wanted to share a few of the headlines of the last four years, in no particular order:

  • Growth: We’ve doubled in size every year for the last few years (from a £25k turnover in 2011-2012 to £50k last year.) We’ll be close to a £100k turnover at the end of the 2013-2014 financial year and our team of staff, Associates and Directors has grown too.
  • Team: We’ve built a great team of Non-Exec Directors, for whom I’m incredibly grateful, as they offer an inordinate amount of support, expertise, enthusiasm and wisdom. We also have a great team of staff and Associates – Amy who holds everything together, and Adrian, Jess, Lloyd, Neil, Rachael, Steven and Tim, along with other partners and advisors. The range of experience and expertise between them is incredible and ensures that Intentionality is far better than it would be if just left to me.
  • Networks: It’s been an incredible few years of getting more and more involved in the worlds of social enterprise and well-being. Over the last four years, Intentionality and I have engaged with Social Enterprise UK (I’m a member of SEUK’s Council of Ambassadors representing social enterprises), with the RSA (where I’ve been really pleased to be part of the Social Entrepreneurs’ Network and the Catalyst social enterprise funding panel), with the SROI Network and the Social Impact Analysts Association, and participated in discussions about implementing well-being measures in policy and procurement, hosted by the Alliance for Useful Evidence.

As for what we’re doing now, we’re currently in the middle of a research project to explore the role of love in social enterprises, asking the question ‘Social Enterprise: What’s love got to do with it?’  We’ve interviewed, and are interviewing, some brilliant social entrepreneurs, insightful observers and challenging thinkers on the subject and will publish (free of charge) a ‘think piece’ in mid-June.  We’re interested in this because we remain as obsessed as ever, if not more so, with the intent of increasing the well-being of individuals and communities through social enterprise. We are also increasingly aware that inclusion, welcome, trust, safety, second-chances, listening, care, friendship and attention make a massive positive difference to those with complex, multiple needs and all might be feint facets of ‘love’.

I could choose lots of things to reflect on when it comes to what we’re learning, but here’s the ‘biggy’.  Thanks to a blog by Jeremy Nicholls (Chief Executive of the Social Return on Investment (SROI) Network) and to the incredible privilege of chatting with him in person at OxfordJam this year, I (and we) have spent a lot of time thinking about whether the word ‘impact’ is the best word to use in describing what we do, and whether ‘value’ would be better.  The big problem being, as Jeremy describes, that there is something violent about ‘impact’ and that what we’re actually interested in is doing something of value and, more specifically, although perhaps implicitly, of real value to particular people.

And finally, what next? Well, we’re looking forward to working with UnLtd’s BVC2014 cohort and with the next Wayra UnLtd and Fast Growth cohorts this year, along with our projects with current clients.  We’re also interested in exploring how we might work with procurers/commissioners in implementing the Social Value Act and putting an emphasis on well-being into practice on the ‘demand side’ as well as with social enterprises on the ‘supply side’ of the equation.  We’re also excited about the possibility of launching a social value and outcome measurement platform, which we’re exploring at the moment and which we hope will help social enterprises better tell their story of change and keep the creation of positive personal, social and environmental value as the focus of their intent and culture.

Thanks for your support,

Steve Coles