By Robert Ashton
When I started my career in the 1970s there was a clear difference between business and charity. The former was a quest for profit any at any price and the latter, well they were often inspired by prophets and abhorred the notion of profit!
Today, sector boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred. I’m Patron of my local Relate and they earn more than they receive in grants. Any profit made from those who can afford to pay for counselling is used to fund support for those unable to pay. It makes for a sustainable, ethical venture with a clear social purpose.
Corporate ethics now goes much further than tokenistic CSR. What you do as a business now matters more than what you say. Think tank Tomorrow’s Company reckons you can now see social impact reflected in growing shareholder value. And for those that need help to get there, charity Blueprint for Better Business can provide practical help.
But most important of all is to recognise that you are not alone. Running an organisation with a strong social purpose can be lonely. Balancing the drive for impact with the need for cash means treading a narrow path littered with obstacles. Which is why I think Ella Forums have such an important role to play.
Where else can you unpack your current challenges and explore the options with a group of trusted peers? Where else can you discover new opportunities, brought to the table by a speaker from elsewhere in the UK? And so I am determined to establish an Ella Forum in Norwich, a city with a history of leading social change. Both Elizabeth Fry and Edith Cavell grew up here then went on to challenge convention.
There is a perception that Ella Forums is only for charity leaders. My view is that anyone leading sustainable social change should be welcomed to the table. It’s a proven model that delivers results. Why struggle on alone?
Robert is a social entrepreneur, author and Chairman of the Norwich Ella Group