EVOLVING CHAIR: Connecting Business and the Community
9 September 2014 at 11:09 am
Advocacy for the development of Australia’s budding social entrepreneurs and their enterprises led Paul Bide to become Chair of the board at the School for Social Entrepreneurs. Bide shares his insights in this month’s Evolving Chair.
Paul Bide has a wealth of experience in finance, markets and philanthropy.
Bide started his career at the Reserve Bank of Australia after graduating with an honours degree in Economics from the University of Western Australia. He subsequently spent 13 years at Bankers Trust, then another 10 years at Macquarie Bank where he was an Executive Director and Head of the Debt Markets Division.
He was a member of the Market Governance Committee of the Australian Financial Markets Association (AFMA) from 2005 and its Chairman and member of the AFMA Board from 2007 until he left the finance industry in late 2009.
Last year he joined the Advisory Board of the Australian Office of Financial Management.
What is your organisation and what is the board structure?
The School for Social Entrepreneurs Australia, a company limited by guarantee, supports people and organisations with an innovative approach to solving a social problem seeking to start, or scale up from an early stage, a social venture. Our learning programs cover the key issues those seeking to grow a social business need to focus on. They are practical and non-academic in nature, utilising action learning principles and peer to peer and group learning methods. Our approach centres on establishing networks of knowledge and support for our students in the form of mentors and expert witnesses who add specific business knowledge and personal testimony to course content. Broadly, we are seeking to establish a community of support for emerging social ventures.
In Australia since 2009, SSE Australia is part of a global network of social change makers that includes around 1300 alumni, of which approximately 300 are in Australia. Centred in the UK, where it operates 12 schools, SSE franchises have recently been started in Canada and Ireland. SSE Australia is responsible for its own funding, content and business strategy which all reflect the Australian community’s needs.
SSE Australia’s Board is comprised of 6 volunteer non-executive directors and the CEO, Celia Hodson. An observer from the UK central office joins each Board meeting in order to provide a link to the global network to promote a best practice exchange. The Board meets 6 times a year and is comprised of people with a range of skills and experience ranging from those with experience in the social enterprise sector, philanthropy, venture capital, finance, government and business. Each Board meeting includes a review of all business metrics and strategy execution.
What attracts you to a Not for Profit or for-profit board?
I was attracted to the SSE because it connects those in the community who understand business and can help to those who have an idea that will solve a social problem in their community. I think there are too many “silos” between different sectors in our society and that a flow of experience, knowledge and perspective between the different silos needs to happen more often. The SSE helps reconnect business people with social sector people and in doing so builds capacity in the social sector. I wanted to be part of that.
What is the biggest challenge your board has had to overcome? And how did you overcome it?
We are a relatively new Board and have only worked together for 18 months. It was important that we found our own group “stride” relatively quickly even though on a personal level we were a good mix. I think we became a cohesive group after we had an “away day” 6 months into our time together on the Board. It was an introspective on what we all wanted the key drivers of Vision, Values and Mission to be. The discussions, ultimate commitment to a known common purpose and the understanding of each other from that day have us a framework we all own and it has governed almost every conversation we have had as a group since.
What are your board’s current priorities/goals?
The SSE is currently established in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. We’d like to add Adelaide to that within 12 months and generally establish a larger footprint out of the CBDs of all capital cities. With our community partners, we have delivered our outreach program, Social Change 101, in Alice Springs, Coffs Harbour, Bendigo and Bankstown. We have just received funding for SC101 in Cairns and Townsville and we’re working with potential funding partners for other locations across the country as we speak. Funding our own growth and finding funding partners for program delivery is an ever present priority for all Board members and the executive leadership team.
Is gender balance an issue for your board? Do you prioritise it?
Gender balance, and diversity generally, is an issue for the Board and it is something that we are aware of and bring into discussions and decision making. Our first priority in Board composition is having the right skills we need to be effective. As it turns out, we are pretty close to 50/50 on the male/female diversity measure.
What is your board’s ultimate goal?
The Board’s ultimate goal is that we make our organisation redundant in the communities we work in. If we can help to establish self sustaining networks of support for those seeking to solve social problems and are no longer needed there, we’d be happy. Until then, our goal is build an evidence base of success which to us is a growing and thriving community of social change makers having meaningful social impact. By this we do not only mean our alumni, but also the business, philanthropic and other community leaders that exist around them.
What has been the highlight of your work with this board?
The highlight of my work with the Board is working seamlessly to support the CEO and her leadership team in the execution of strategy and to see our plans turn into something that is happening. Opening up the Perth office earlier this year was big and it was also very satisfying to see the huge amount of development work put into the content of our 3 core programs result in some great program delivery. Welcoming newly graduated students, seeing how they have benefitted from our work and seeing some of their fledgling enterprises become a reality is what we all do it for and it is great to be a part of that.
What are the key sector issues that are being discussed at board level?
A key sector issue we discuss at Board level is the lack of early stage financial support for new social ventures and how the SSE can play a role in developing that. The SSE sees ideas and ventures at a very early stage where the risk of failure is high, just as it is with any new start up. The capital to support the start ups in the social sector needs to be found for meaningful social change to come from the community sector. Sustainable, de-risked, businesses do not just happen or pop up overnight. They need social capital prepared to go on the start up and scale up journey with them.
Right now, there is a great opportunity to make sure this happens with respect to the disability sector. For the aims of the NDIS to be fully realised, we need the creative and entrepreneurial zeal that exists both inside and outside the existing providers of disability services to be tapped into. The shift to a customer driven model of service provision is a great opportunity for change in service quality and customer experience.
Those ideas need to receive capacity building support and the SSE and others exist to do that, but even with that support being available, the ideas won’t lead to much without start up funding being available.
We need to develop better markets in, and an understanding of the need for, venture philanthropy for that to exist. The social impact capital market for ventures further up their development path is well on the way to being established.
Ventures at earlier stages of their life are less well catered for and we need to address that a sector.
Paul Bide will present a Pro Bono Australia webinar on September 11. Find out more here.