One In Four magazine

Posted by editor 11/11/2013 0 Comment 21032 views

oneinfour

 

One In Four magazine was set up by Social Spider, an idea from social entrepreneur David Floyd to help people create change through writing, publishing, training and research. By Figen Gunes.//

One In Four magazine is published quarterly and written by people with mental health difficulties. The magazine is edited by Social Spider director, Mark Brown, who had the idea for the publication based on his own experiences of mental health difficulty. The magazine celebrated its fifth anniversary recently and Answers From Big Issue wanted to find out more about its challenges.

AFBI: What are the difficulties involved with running a social enterprise magazine?

Some of the difficulties we’ve faced running One in Four are just the difficulties of running a national magazine as a small independent company, rather than a large publishing conglomerate. In particular that if you’re launching a new magazine, you generally need to be able to lose lots of money in the first year (or early years) while the magazine establishes itself. You can do that if you don’t have lots of money but that also means that you’re unlikely to have a big budget for promotion.

The additional difficulty we’ve had, as a social enterprise producing a magazine about mental health, is that there’s a gap in the market – there’s lots of people who want and need better information about dealing with life’s challenges while experiencing mental health difficulties – but there’s not a clear market in the gap: there aren’t enough people who want to pay for that sort of magazine.

On top of that, a key aim of One In Four is to get information about mental health to people who didn’t know they were looking for it – so wouldn’t go online and type ‘information about mental health’ into Google. To do this we want to make copies of the magazine available for people to pick up for free in public spaces such as libraries and community venues.

There’s not an obvious commercial model for doing this. It’s extremely difficult to sell advertising in mental health publications to anyone other than other mental health organisations.

AFBI: What are the challenges of working with people suffering from mental health problems?

The challenges of working with people experiencing mental health difficulties (to produce a magazine) aren’t necessarily any greater than the challenges of working with anyone else – as long as we’re successful in communicating what we do.

It’s an important principle of One In Four that writers are paid to write for the magazine and that they write articles they’ve been commissioned to write and agree that their work can be edited. That’s a different situation to charity mental health newsletters who publish people’s writing on the basis of giving them an opportunity to express themselves and tell their story.

While everyone who writes for One In Four has direct experience of mental health difficulty they’re not ‘beneficiaries’ of the project, they’re professional writers providing a service for readers.

AFBI: As the founder of Social Spider, what are you aiming to do for society at large? What answer do you provide in your field?

Social Spider has been going for 10 years and we’ve developed and worked on a wide range of different projects and services over that time. What all the different aspects of our work have had in common is that they’ve all been about providing people with the information they need to make positive change happen – either in their own lives or in the wider world.Our current activities are publishing, writing, training and research work in the fields of mental health and social enterprise. Over the next year we’re hoping to develop some new projects looking at how people can develop self-help approaches to living with mental health difficulties – both in terms of policy work and in terms of supporting the development of new businesses. We’re also hoping to do more work on social investment and social innovation.

AFBI: What do you think of the Social Value Act? How widely is it known by social enterprises? Is it effective in terms of creating more work for social businesses?

The Social Value Act is a positive development. The fact that public sector agencies in England and Wales now have to consider wider social value in their commissioning processes will hopefully create more opportunities for social enterprises to win public contracts.

It’s not a magic solution to the problems social enterprises face in winning contracts. Social enterprises certainly won’t start to get contracts just for being social enterprises. Even in situations where councils and other public bodies choose to make additional social value a big part of their tendering process, social enterprises will still have to prove that they can deliver (both the service itself and the additional social value).

Unfortunately, the underlying problem for social enterprises hoping to take on public contracts is that the median turnover of a social enterprise in the UK is £187,000. The Social Value Act only applies to contracts valued above the EU procurement threshold, which in most cases is £173,934. Public sector organisations avoid giving contracts for more than 25% of an organisation’s turnover. So the chances of most social enterprises winning most public sector contracts (on their own, rather than as sub-contractor to someone else) will remain pretty small.

This doesn’t mean that public sector bodies can’t take social value in smaller contracts if they choose to, though. While the direct impact of the Social Value Act may be fairly small, it is an important statement that public sector commissioning and procurement isn’t just about getting the lowest possible price.

AFBI: How can other social enterprises get help from government institutions?

The government supports lots of organisations and programmes that provides support to social enterprises. These include the Social Incubator Fund: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/10-million-social-incubator-fund-launches – which funds support for and investment in new social enterprises.

The Investment and Contract Readiness Fund – http://www.beinvestmentready.org.uk/ – supports social enterprises to bid for government contracts.

There’s also Big Society Capital – funded through ‘reclaimed assets’ – which has £600million to invest in intermediary organisations that invest in social enterprise: http://bigsocietycapital.com/

Different bits of government are interested in different bits of the social enterprise sector so, for example, the Cabinet Office has a ‘Centre for Social Impact Bonds’: http://data.gov.uk/sib_knowledge_box/centre-social-impact-bonds

Under the previous government, regional social enterprises support organisations, such as Social Enterprise London, were funded through regional development agencies.

Regional development agencies were abolished by the Coalition government and, partly as a result of this, most regional social enterprise support organisations are either smaller than they were or no longer exists at all.

http://www.oneinfourmag.org

 

 

 

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