Walton - Investigating social entrepreneurs’ information needs
Investigating social entrepreneurs’ information needs Dr Geoff Walton Staffordshire University
What we are going to do today• What is social enterprise?• Context – local and national• Theory – Information behaviour – Information literacy• Methodology• Findings – Social enterprise support – Social entrepreneurs – Analysis• What role for librarians in supporting social enterprise?• Concluding remarks
What is social enterprise?• Some figures - UK • 68,000 social enterprises, worth £24billion, employing 800,000 people• A definition – ‘‘Social enterprises are businesses with a social purpose. They have social aims, trade in markets and reinvest their profits to benefit communities of place and interest” (Social Enterprise West Midlands - SEWM, 2012, p1)• A rationale – ‘[social entrepreneurship] strives to intervene in broken markets in an effort to repair them and places the public interest ahead of the private’ (Kickul & Lyons, 2012, p4) not unlike the Rochdale pioneers of the 1840s• Some examples – The Big Issue, Divine Chocolate, The Eden Project and Jamie Oliver’s restaurant chain Fifteen
Local and national context• Conurbation of Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle- under-Lyme – lower than average number of people who are self-employed, setting up their own business or developing social enterprises. – Stoke-on-Trent has the lowest rate of VAT registered businesses per capita in the West Midlands and nationally is 9th lowest (Cities Institute, 2009)
Theory• For the sake of completeness this research is underpinned by the Information Behaviour theory and model devised by Walton & Hepworth (2011) and the model of Information Literacy reported in Walton & Cleland (2013)
Research questions1. Are existing and potential social entrepreneurs experiencing an information gap?2. If a gap does exist, in what ways is it different for existing and potential entrepreneurs?3. If a gap does exist, in what ways can this be addressed via an information literacy (IL) programme?4. Which IL approach will best suite these participants?5. In what ways can answers to 1-4 feed into shaping more effective information provision for social enterprise in the future?NB This presentation addresses 1, 3, 4 and 5 for existing entrepreneurs only
Participants• 14 third sector organisations• Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)• Two partner universities• Students Union• 10 social enterprises/entrepreneurs
Findings: social enterprise support• Information provision – Recognised and perceived as ‘unco-ordinated’ – Stated need to: – ‘share what knowledge and skills we have as an arts charity and take part in peer-to-peer support’ – Create ‘strategy group to define provision framework for social enterprise ‘• Perceived information needs of entrepreneurs – Lack of awareness of what constitutes a social enterprise, ‘businesses doing social enterprise but totally unaware that they are’• Information needs identified by support organisations – Business planning – Accountancy advice – Marketing – HR – Mentoring – Financial advice• Or ... • ‘survey existing clients’
Findings: social entrepreneurs (1)• Information gap? – Described by one informant as a ’void’ – Feelings of this gap or ‘void’ in the areas of • Management ‘being a manager of a social enterprise is challenging’ • Governance – especially how to upskill trustees who are ‘local people [...] generous in nature [...] but lacking in business expertise’ • Business planning – ‘a local housing association with a big social conscience willing to help me for free’ • ‘Finance’ – ‘a major headache’ – idea of a ‘funding calendar’ to identify when certain funds become available? • General awareness of what social enterprise is and that the concept is ‘cloudy’ • ‘Mentoring’ • ‘Training’
Findings: social entrepreneurs (2)• Information behaviour: – Networks • highly social endeavour ‘we formed a union, if you like, of similar organisations’ • These networks lead to third sector contacts – often initially signposted by friends – ‘I was told about X through a friend’ – ‘Y has a finger on every pulse’ – ‘I find I’m always picking people’s brains’ – All information found was for highly context specific tasks for example finding relevant funding bodies such as Esmee Fairbairn and the Lottery ‘Reaching Communities’ funding strand to ‘ensure sustainability’
Findings: social entrepreneurs (3)• Information literacy – Finding information • ‘Self-help’ searches for information • Services such as mediated searches – – ‘X did a project search for me’ – ‘I like to speak to a knowledgeable person at the end of a ‘phone line’ – Information discernment • tacit approach to evaluation of information – participants could not articulate how judgements were made other than by ‘feeling that it was right’ • Verification sought in other ways e.g., from key contacts for found information, ‘X looked at it for me’ – Using/communicating information • ‘Creating executive summaries for reports’
Findings: Analysis• Similarities in perceptions of needs? – To increase awareness of social enterprise – Finance (managing and securing investment) – Mentoring – Business planning• Differences Social Enterprise Support Social Enterprises Accountancy Governance advice Training Marketing HR
What role for librarians in supporting social enterprise?• Group work: – What role should librarians (public or academic) have in supporting social entrepreneurs? – In the light of these findings, make suggestions regarding how their current practice might address the needs of social entrepreneurs more effectively. – What might an information service for social enterprise look like?
Concluding remarks• There is a general information gap regarding the concept of social enterprise both within social enterprises themselves and the wider world• Social entrepreneurs have a specific set of information needs• There is a clear need for a targeted information service that is both advocate and provider
References• Kickul, J. And Lyons, T. S. (2012). Understanding social entrepreneurship: the relentless pursuit of mission in an ever changing world. London: Routledge.• Social Enterprise West Midlands (SEWM) (2012). Social financing fair programme. Birmingham: SEWM.• Walton, G. & Cleland, J. (2013). Strand 2: becoming an independent learner. In, Secker, J. & Coonan, E. (eds.). Rethinking information literacy: a practical framework for teaching. London: Facet.• Walton, G. and Hepworth, M. ( 2011). A longitudinal study of changes in learners’ cognitive states during and following an information literacy teaching intervention. Journal of Documentation, 67 (3), pp449-479.