Archive | November, 2013

Innovation. the Big Society, and the “dazzling goose”: tea at the House of Commons

26 Nov

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Tea at the House of Commons was quite a treat (after you got through the 45 minute security): cream scones & champers at 4 o’clock seems a pleasant way to encourage democratic participation.

And the raison d’être? – Chi Unwurah, Labour’s Shadow on the Big Society, was sponsoring a Ford Foundation session on Financial Governance for Innovation & Social Inclusion (#fgisi), very ably chaired by Mariana Mazzucato.

The speakers were a motley crew. They have an entirely legitimate concern about value extraction rather than value creation by parts of the financial sector (i.e. theft to the man in the street) and a focus on the role the state can play in fostering innovation (lots of good examples from US and elsewhere). Their main link seems to be Ford Foundation funding – while there was a call for a co-ordinated policy response to the issues they were raising it’s difficult to see how this would work in practice.

It’s often the one-liners I take away from these events. This time, I thought the best one was from Ngaire Woods. “Beware the dazzling goose” she said – referring to the financial sector, and its ability to dazzle politicians with its complexity and promise of taxable capacity. She (and others) also had some good suggestions as to what sunglasses to wear: try seeing it collectively with others (e.g. the EU, now even the Swiss) who are less dazzled. And keep the rules to regulate it simple.

Some data for the globe-trotting social entrepreneur

11 Nov

Doing Business 2014

Ever wondered how long it would take you to start a new business in Suriname? 208 days apparently – at least, according to the World Bank report shown above. Worth a look – plus the blog commentary on it at