Sunday, 19 February 2012

The amazing, and yes, pretty radical Lily Lapenna who believed and then proved that kids can manage money

Social enterprises did stunning well in this week's Observer Britain's 50 New Radicals. As Geoff Mulgan, the CEO at Nesta writes, radicalism is "as British as tea and cakes", and so I would add is social enterprise. The joint venture between Nesta, the innovation agency, and the Guardian Group to find Britain's new radical innovators has sparked some lively debate, mostly about the meaning of radicalism. I'm not sure that was the point or do I think that calling these clever people working to make our society a better place radical is the most interesting thing about them.

I happen to agree that what the winners do is radical, because they challenge preconceived ideas about what is possible and inspire us all to see that doing good can really monkey around with established norms. The point is their ideas are new and the blurring of conventional charitable and business approaches makes everyone sit up and take notice. At a time when good ideas seem in short supply, these people are taking the initiative.

Personally I was delighted that half the top 50 were based in London, which might be obvious as the capital is the economy's engine room, but London is also a real hot-bed of social enterprise, hence the strong showing of SEL members. In among the nominees I spotted some of my favourite social entrepreneurs like Emma Stewart and Karen Mattison from Women Like Us the employment agency for women with family responsibilities who want to return to good, but part-time jobs, and Lily Lapenna from the extraordinary MyBnk, which teaches kids to be clever with money the only way you can: by letting them manage it for themselves.

Call them radical, call them the future, just don't call them late for dinner. (Sorry, when I lived in Kentucky that was a favourite local put-down.)


  1. I agree, Allison, that there are some great people, and great ideas, on the list. But, from where I stand, the London-centric nature of the this list, and many other such lists recently revealed, takes the shine off it in a big way. Innovation happens outside of London too

  2. By saying that innovation is strong in one place I do not mean to imply that it is therefore weak in others. I have long since believed that social enterprise is lively in London because of our diverse ethnicity and the complex social needs a dense, often impoverished population sitting so close to great wealth produces. But I recognise that social crisis and innovative approaches to solving the needs deprivation brings about are being developed worldwide and absolutely all over the UK.