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New Start / CLES

Robert wrote monthly articles for New Start magazine - a toolkit for regeneration practitioners. It's since been combined with CLES (Centre for Local Economic Strategies), an independent think-doing organisation, for which Robert writes online blog content for. You can browse his CLES articles here.


13 Nov 2013
What's the difference between a parish council and a trade association?

Robert recently spoke at two different conferences to two very different audiences.

1 Oct 2013
Community Land Trusts mean everyone can be a winner

Done correctly, setting up a community land trust means that everyone can be a winner. Isn't that what the future is going to be all about?

19 Aug 2013
You can write good grant applications, but can you close a deal?

After writing a book called 'How To Sell', Robert has become a very picky buyer.

15 July 2013
Did you fail your 11 plus?

I failed my 11 plus. I did it on purpose to annoy my dad. It's a long story, best left untold.


13 June 2013
Beware the lady in a green quilted jacket

My thought for today is this: if we could inspire those ladies in green quilted jackets to champion localism, things would really start to move.

17 May 2013
Death by acronym

You see, once ordinary people understand the challenge, and start to support it financially, the challenge changes. People talk about how and when, not if and where.

15 April 2013
Roads or housing? Which is your priority?

The pension schemes need to invest competitively and see their return. We all need to see them investing in social housing.


18 March 2013
A spoonful of sugar

Giving to charity without any tangible return is a bitter pill for any organisation to swallow. Philanthropy is for families, not firms. As you set your sights on raiding the corporate coffers, remember what Mary Poppins taught you; that 'a spoonful of sugar' really does help the medicine go down!

11 February 2013
Can I tell you about my problem with wind?

It seems to me that Government needs to take a longer term view. It needs to work with the wind industry to align feed-in tariffs with the actual equipment and operating costs. Both sides want the same thing, so why the mismatch?


05 February 2013
How many new homes can local pension pots fund?

Time I think for everyone to stand demanding pears - well, not fruit pears, but pairs of houses everywhere their local government pension pot can afford.

21 August 2012
The street and social enterprise

I’m in Lisbon. I mention this not to boast about my summer holiday, but because what I’ve just seen doesn’t happen in the UK. Well, not as starkly. You see we’re more politically correct than Portugal. We also (for now anyway) have a more sophisticated social support system.

25 July 2012
A fix for youth unemployment you can bank on?

It’s not often you attend an event where the venue is a perfect metaphor for the message. And even more unusual when it’s completely coincidental. But that’s what happened in Norwich earlier this week, when the Big Lottery briefed local third and public sector people on a new and potentially exciting initiative.


15 June 2012
Big is not always beautiful

Of course for government big is always beautiful. The same I suspect is true of the big banks. Both want to say they’ve enabled big sums to be given to big organisations to make big differences. The inconvenient truth however is that big charities have big overheads and big picture vision.


21 May 2012
Musical beds

I’ve spoken at a few housing conferences now. Perhaps they like the way I remind them that housing associations are social enterprises. They certainly are perfectly positioned to play a significant role as all strive to rebuild damaged communities


16 April 2012
The answer's on a postcard

Councils are of course also encouraged to spend locally. Too often though they take the safe procurement path and divest swathes of front line activity to companies like Capita or Serco.


12 March 2012
Who needs competitors with friends like these?

It’s not a faith issue at all, but one of the double standards across the social enterprise and charity landscape. Why else would one hospice open a charity shop in a small town when another hospice already has one? This is the kind of competitive behaviour you get from Tesco and Starbucks, not organisations you’d expect to collaborate.


21 February 2012
Let's make it personal

You see for the right people, who do the right thing; social entrepreneurship is never for personal profit. You know that because of the choice they have made to ignore more lucrative corporate work to focus on doing what they do.


18 January 2012
Can public services learn from the newspaper industry?

This week I realised that this metamorphosis of the newspaper industry is in fact a metaphor for Big Society. How many organisations do you know, working in education, health or social care that find themselves facing these same pressures?


19 December 2011
Let's plough the fields and scatter!

It is however a time when we need to recognise that nature controls us and not the other way around. We cannot conjure food out of thin air. We have to compromise.


25 November 2011
We need to talk about Terry

Find the Terrys in your community. Listen to them and nurture their activism. To create tomorrow’s Britain, everyone needs to talk about Terry!


27 October 2011
Is the fiddler really a rogue?

CSR and social enterprise are destined to marry and, in time, it will become an equal partnership. The corporate groom will be well resourced and adaptable. The third sector bride compassionate and able to steer her husband’s endeavours to where they can truly blend social impact with commercial strength.


26 September 2011
Are you lighting fires or counting the biscuits?

Becoming more commercial, taking some modest risks and worrying a little less about the rulebook is the only way most will stay afloat.


17 August 2011
Stripes and stars

To me, the London riots were symptomatic of how the people are coping with what I call the ‘Big Reality’. We’re at the end of 50 years of affluence and material wealth.


18 July 2011
Ever tried batting for the other side?

Both sides have little staff time for innovation and business development. Yet only by finding time to understand each other’s agenda better, can truly sustainable success result.


05 June 2011
Spare tyres and Big Society

So, is the demise of the spare wheel a step towards an uncertain future, where risk is re-introduced because it makes economic sense? Discuss.


03 May 2011
Do you like diced carrots?

We’re going to see a lot more community shops created over the coming years. Plunkett expect the number of new openings to exceed 40 this year alone. So where’s the supply chain to make them different, profitable and appealing to local shoppers?


06 April 2011
Big Society open or shut?

As one door closes another can open; but only if you get everyone involved. To me, this is what Big Society is all about.


09 March 2011
Making cakes or building walls?

I suggested that members had to move away from behaving like truck drivers delivering wet cement and start lending their own recipes for success.


09 February 2011
Big Society hot or cold?

I suspect that as Big Society slowly turns from political rhetoric into practical reality, we’re going to encounter more controversy.



Download articles from New Start magazine;

Key workplace issue- Sales

Key workplace issue- How to be Yourself

Key workplace issue- Compromise

Key workplace issue- Trust


Key workplace issue- Outcomes vs Outputs

Key workplace issue- Marketing

Key workplace issue- Wellbeing

Key workplace issue- Work morale

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Ethiopia- burning sun and blistering heat

You can kill someone with a sickle, but most of us cut grass with them

Is PC making us plod, or should we just say things how they are?

If you want to build your enterprises there's plenty of experience available

Only by taking control can you improve your chances of success

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