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This is a guest blog from Steve Coles FRSA, social enterprise expert and Fellowship Councillor who recently led us on a journey of love at one of our regular Social Entrepreneurs Network breakfast meetings.

This is a guest blog from Steve Coles FRSA, social enterprise expert and Fellowship Councillor who recently led us on a journey of love at one of our regular Social Entrepreneurs Network breakfast meetings.

My name’s Steve and I love my wife, my sons, being a Fellow of the RSA, being outside, my work, my friends, Jaffa Cakes and those that turned up to the recent Social Entrepreneurs’ Network meeting.  We’d gathered for the monthly meeting of the Network and the topic for discussion was the role of love in social enterprise.  Love was in the air.  In fact, lots of different kinds of love were in the air.

mumfords quote cropped

Over the last few months, Intentionality CIC, (the social enterprise and well-being consultancy that I founded four years ago), has been conducting some research into the role of love in social enterprise as a motivator, shaper of organisational culture and business model, and the means and method by which personal and social change for the better comes about.  David Floyd, a researcher, writer, blogger and FRSA, conducted 11 interviews with social entrepreneurs, commentators and supporters of social enterprise, and wrote up his findings for our ‘think piece’: Social Enterprise - What’s love got to do with it?  It was this research that provided the theme of the June breakfast meeting.

Having got tea and coffee, the group started by discussing quotes on love from writers, philosophers, leaders and artists, and sharing what made them think, what inspired them or what they disagreed with.

Short stories were told of the concept of ‘Ubuntu’  and the importance of community, of examples of care shown on crowded public transport, and of the impact when a young apprentice ‘felt loved’ by the organisation supporting him.  We considered the role of religion in love and the cynicism, or discomfort even, that might arise in talking about love within some institutions or public services, such as schools or prisons.

We discussed what love might look like in organisations and how or why it could make a positive difference.  Some of the group conducted a ‘thought experiment’ to approach the theme from the opposite direction – what would a school/business/charity look and feel like without love?  Pretty terrible probably.

Unsurprisingly, some of the seeds for this project were sown at, and through, the RSA.  For example, Colin Crooks talked about the importance of patience in creating jobs for young people at the Social Entrepreneurs’ Network. In February Dr Philip Roscoe talked about theTrue Cost of Economics' and shared thoughts on grace, and the RSA’s Connected Communities programme really got us thinking about community assets.

After much fascinating discussion and insights, we concluded by reflecting on four common principles that emerged from the report and from the discussion.  It seems that love-based businesses and organisations:

  • Put people first: genuinely caring about their staff, customers, beneficiaries and others, and being committed to helping them flourish
  • Understand the importance of relationships: recognising that friendships and relationships of varying sorts contribute significantly to well-being and that ‘love’ is the means by which people - perhaps particularly those with complex needs or who have been let down by systems of support - can be empowered, included and given ownership
  • Share: giving away ideas, methods and models so that others can use them to deliver more positive social change
  • Draw on and emphasise abundant (rather than scarce) resources: making the most of things that are, in fact, often abundant in communities – respect, kindness, patience and compassion.


journal cover

It turns out that love (in its various forms) is, in fact, all around us and it may just be an ancient key to better ways of doing business and creating change.

To download a free copy of Social Enterprise: What’s love got to do with it? please visit the Intentionality wesbite

Steve Coles FRSA

Follow him @steve_coles

Steve Coles is a Fellow and an ‘At -Large’ member of the Fellowship Council.  He is the founder and Managing Director of Intentionality CIC.



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