So what exactly is social entrepreneurship in nursing?

Joanne Bosanquet - CEO

Joanne Bosanquet, FoNS Chief Executive

It’s been a very busy and enlightening few months in my new role, 5 to be exact. Can I still say it’s new? Probably not! I’ve motored past my first 100 days, I have fed back to the Board about what I believe are the most important priorities for us and right now (with a little bit of help from my trustees), I am getting ready to undergo probably the most significant professional development journey in the last few years.

I’ll give you a clue – You know when you go for a job and you look at the job description and think “Mmmmm, not sure about that particular bit”. It bothers you, and then you decide to go for it anyway and you can sort that bit out when you get there? In my case, it was the bit about charity finance. This is not an area well covered in traditional nursing education, so when you take on a chief executive role in a charity, you really just have to jump right in and engage in a spot of experiential learning from your amazing accountant and Board Treasurer! I did just that and it led me to enrolling onto the Innovating For Growth Programme run by the British Library (who’d have thought?!).

I am on an intensive 3-month business development programme with other small to medium size businesses (SMEs) that are at that pivot point, the point of scalability. It’s a tricky time for SMEs. Often they fail because they haven’t considered a whole range of factors that can make or break them.

As a chief executive of a nursing charity and a registered nurse, it’s not my comfort zone, well I didn’t think it was until I attended my first workshop where I met other business ‘owners’. FoNS is the only charity on this programme and therefore the only one who has a Board of Trustees and a Chair, never mind a President, Vice President and group of distinguished Patrons. The rest are comprised one or two entrepreneurs, running a business in a lean fashion. We all have very distinct products but we all have one thing in common; it’s all very new and exciting and we are social entrepreneurs.

So what am I learning so far? Well, I am starting to think like an entrepreneur. One of our trustees is a social entrepreneur and since I joined FoNS, we’ve had the most brilliant discussions and planning sessions about ‘stuff’. He has blown my mind on occasion but that’s OK once you get into the swing of it.

So what is social entrepreneurship? To me, it is a freeing up of the mind. It is creating a space to be creative, innovative and open to opportunity. It focuses the mind on one’s values and it enables you to concentrate effort where it’s needed. It is focused on agility too and responding to current and future societal changes. And it is wrapped around the desire and drive for social good. It’s amazing who else is out there! Once you start looking, you find a myriad of like-minded individuals who are striving for something similar.

Nursing Entrepreneurship is growing here in the UK. I asked my nursing journalist colleague to have a look for me and she found a handful of examples, and mostly focused around inventions and devices for use in the health care field. I do know a few nurse leaders who I would classify as entrepreneurs. These are like minded nurses who are motivated to see a need for change so have gone out to do something about it.

So, what’s the big deal? The beauty of being in the 3rd sector is that there is a 3rd way, as my fellow charity chief executives reminded me recently. Look at Social Enterprises, Community Interest Companies, and then look at how many of them have a nurse at the helm, or at the very least in the executive team. We’ve been leading the way all along, we just don’t shout about it. But we do need to shout about it because there is a whole world out there that welcomes us in with open arms. Look at the NNBA, The US based National Nurses in Business Association. This is where we need to look, to follow their lead. There is an overt sense of belonging and generosity to support one another to grow and flourish. A celebration of success in entrepreneurship. They have an association! And they have a conference too!

This is my 2nd call to action (see my last blog for my 1st)! I urge all nursing and midwifery entrepreneurs to stand up and be counted. Let’s have a conversation. We need awards for entrepreneurship. We need more articles, symposia, fellowships and graduate entrepreneur schemes like the one at South Bank University. We need to partner up with social entrepreneurs and see where it takes us. I have recently started a fantastic conversation with Jeremy Scrivens (@JeremyScrivens) and Greg Allen from Future Care Capital (@GregAllenUK), both thoughts leaders. Follow them on twitter and LinkedIn. There is a fantastic set of blogs about social connectedness, collaboration and coalescing #FutureofWork.

In the meantime, I’m always up for a twitter chat. Get in touch via @MrsBosanquet

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