Encouraging more first-time employers is a progressive cause

November 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Enterprise 

This is a guest blog from David Rutley, MP for Macclesfield.

A little-appreciated fact is that the vast majority of UK businesses currently employ no one at all. A year ago, then, I secured a debate in Parliament about support for first-time employers. We had often discussed in the House ways to increase employment, or support small businesses, or support large businesses for that matter. What had less often been done, was to talk about the very smallest businesses—the one-person companies, the sole traders, the freelancers. Parliament also tended to debate more often those issues that affect existing businesses, rather than those that are yet to exist. But today, with 4.5million people now self-employed, there is an ever-growing political realisation of the economic importance of the self-employed, particularly the first-time self-employed whom we would like to become first-time employers. The new Everyday Employers report from the RSA is therefore a particularly timely contribution to a public debate that needs to be had.

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The Great War battle that’s still raging today

November 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

‘War is hell’ announced General William Tecumseh Sherman in an address to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy in 1879.

And I don’t think any of us would disagree, whether we have fought in, lived through, or had knowledge of such conflict, no matter how large or small. The odd thing though, is that during these times of strife, the human race seems to be at its most creative and innovative.

The inherent creativity used to create weapons of destruction is astounding. The last century, in particular, has seen the most obscene and efficient methods invented.

We have recently remembered the centenary of the outbreak of the ‘War to end all Wars’; except for the one that followed it, and the next and so on… Read more

6 key take-aways from our new report on stimulating growth among microbusinesses

November 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Enterprise 

Today we launch a new report called Everyday Employers, looking at how behavioural insights might be used to encourage business owners to expand their operations and take on employees. Here are the topline findings:


#1 – The number of microbusinesses is growing rapidly, but the vast majority are one-person businesses

One of the most notable and enduring economic stories of the past few years has been the rapid expansion in the number of microbusinesses, defined as firms with 0-9 employees. Figures released just today show there are close to a million more microbusinesses than there were when the recession first began in 2008. Yet an even more significant trend has been the rise of the one-person business. As the graph below shows, the number of firms with zero employees (i.e. just the owner) has grown by around 70 per cent since the turn of the century. In fact, almost 95 per cent of all the growth in the microbusiness population over the last decade is owed to non-employing firms. Firm size


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Towards a post-extrinsic society

November 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Social Brain 

The public realm faces significant challenges that cannot be adequately addressed by instrumental, utilitarian thinking. By public realm I mean the political economy and all the educational, commercial, civic and media institutions related to it; all of which, of course, have human beings inside them.

This is a hopeful point, not a council of despair. As thinkers like Steven Pinker are fond of reminding us, in some ways the world is not doing that badly at all; compared to much of human history, most of us live longer healthier lives in societies that are more or less functional and peaceful. Still, I’m not the only one who occassionally has the impression that, slowly but surely, we are losing our way.

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Some ideas for taking self-employment to the mainstream

November 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Enterprise 

This blog first appeared on the Progress website, as part of a series of self-employment articles guest edited by Toby Perkins MP, the Shadow Small Business Minister.

Self-employment is growing rapidly. Since the turn of the century there has been a 30 per cent increase in the number of people working for themselves, with an extra 100,000 choosing to start up in business this year alone. The result is that one in seven of the labour force are now self-employed – the highest figure in living memory.

While the debate rumbles on as to whether or not the boom is a ‘good thing’, there is broad consensus that the labour market is unlikely to return to business as usual in the foreseeable future. Indeed, the RSA’s recent report on self-employment, Salvation in a Start-up, argues that high rates of self-employment should be seen as a permanent feature of our economic landscape, rather than a fleeting phenomenon brought about by the economic downturn. The implication is that we need to begin designing policies that go with the grain of this structural shift – whether around housing, welfare or wellbeing.

Past and present governments have taken several steps to support the United Kingdom’s small business community, for instance through the StartUp loans scheme, national insurance contribution holidays and corporation tax cuts. Yet these measures have overwhelmingly centred on supporting businesses as entities in themselves, rather than the individuals behind these ventures. The result is that the majority of the self-employed feel overlooked by policymakers. Our RSA/Populus survey found that only 14 per cent of those who work for themselves believe the government adequately supports people like them. Read more

Big Idea: EyeFocus Accelerator

Disrupting Eye CareEyeCare

Start-up accelerators are going through an evolution, generally becoming more focused on verticals, such as digital health or fintech. I have taken this one step further, establishing an accelerator focused on eye care.

I am testing the idea that a very focused accelerator can offer better support for the start-ups, but also that it can act as a catalyst to build out an ecosystem. In this instance we are building the eye-care innovation ecosystem.

The accelerator is a 12 week program, and therefore a short, focused period of activity around which to cluster people. It is not labour intensive for partners and mentors, yet due to its intensity is very content rich and has high returns for those involved.

The returns are more than just supporting the start-ups. Mentoring is a great way to learn about new innovations, to challenge your own ideas, and to meet other mentors. Equally, our partners and sponsors are getting involved in a very focused networking opportunity. We hope to create value for the whole ecosystem, whilst at the same time offering intense support for our start-ups. Read more

‘To create is to hurt a little’ – a Dutch perspective on creative learning

November 24, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

This is a guest blog written by Richard Gerver and Rik Seveke.

 In a world of growing complexity and accelerating change the creative capacities of people are increasingly important to design our personal and collective lives. If we truly value the development of creativity in our children, we need to redeem ourselves of our addiction to measurable development.

In the Netherlands and the United Kingdom there is little doubt of the importance of creativity. The Dutch minister for Education Jet Bussemaker spoke of ‘capabilities for the future’ at a symposium of the Royal Dutch Academy for Science and said: ‘Education as a source of equipment, capabilities as conditions for imagination and the development of creative rebels. World famous designer Daan Roosegaarde during the opening of the academic year at the University of Twente: ‘Creativity will become our main export product.’ But it isn’t just policy makers or artists who claim creativity as an indispensible asset. IBM’s research with 1500 CEO’s worldwide in 2010 states: ‘Creativity is the key asset for navigating in today’s increasingly complex world.’

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The response to populism should be a deepening of our democracy not an aping of populist policies

November 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Adam Lent 

This post originally appeared as an article in the London business newspaper City AM on Thursday, 20th November 2014.

WHEN the clowns start talking politics, alarm bells should be ringing not just about the state of our democracy but also the prospects for our economy.

Russell Brand’s interventions may have faced ridicule, but it is worth reflecting on why such a blatant attention-seeker should be capturing the popular mood. After all, Brand’s book Revolution sold over 20,000 copies within ten days of its launch. His Newsnight interview has been viewed on YouTube almost 11m times. Read more

UKIP is the formation of a new political elite – nothing more

November 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Enterprise 

It makes for great political drama. Suddenly, apparently from nowhere, a new political force appears. The mould is smashed, politics as usual is over, everything is up in the air. So on and so forth. The media licks its lips. Voters’ ears prick up again. This is pretty much where things are with the rise of UKIP. Will it last? There’s no way of telling but it’s not improbable.

Stepping away from the fray, what would we really see? In reality. There’s nothing new about UKIP. Quite simply, they have spotted a market opportunity and they are exploiting it with a certain degree of skill. That’s the oldest political trick in the world.

A few years ago, Nick Lowles of Hope not Hate and I published a report into the politics of identity, the Fear and Hope report. It identified a group deeply concerned about immigration, cultural change, and the direction of the country. They were both working class and professionals so it wasn’t simply about economics. It is this group that UKIP speaks to in a way that the Conservatives and Labour are increasingly struggling to. That is UKIP’s market opportunity. But they are simply another elite market entrant. Having spotted a market opportunity, they are exploiting it.

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RSA Event: Love, Death, Self, and Soul

November 20, 2014 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Social Brain 

Last night’s RSA event examined a profound yet largely unexplored possibility in the 21st century: integrating a modern reconception of spirituality (grounded in an increasingly sophisticated understanding of human nature) into the public realm. Four speakers – Dr. Jonathan Rowson, director of the RSA’s Social Brain Centre; Claire Foster-Gilbert, founder and director of the Westminster Abbey Institute; Dr. Andrew Samuels, psychotherapist and author of Politics on the Couch; and Marina Benjamin, author and senior editor of Aeon magazine – presented moving explorations of what it might mean to introduce post-religious spirituality into public life. I invite you to watch the full video of the event above, and/or browse highlight quotes illustrating their fascinating perspectives on spirituality and society below:

Dr. Jonathan Rowson

  • The spiritual is broadly [about] 3 questions: what are we, how should we live, and why are we here? And we are beginning to understand [the first question] better, not just from 3rd person scientific perspectives, but from 1st person perspectives as well.
  • Most of the time in this project, when something happened that was meaningful, there was a very deep felt sense, sometimes find yourself really hanging on a word, and it was usually when people spoke from personal experience.
  • The spiritual injunction to “wake up” is grounded in an increasingly sophisticated scientific understanding that we are not only creatures of habit, but habit-forming creatures.

Claire Foster-Gilbert

  • It’s obviously the people, [the] institutions, it’s in the air… this huge longing for depth, for the chance to think about what it is that we’re trying to do as public servants.
  • If I didn’t have 1000 years of Benedictine spirituality to draw on, I would be nothing. I simply couldn’t do it. So what I really want to say is… don’t give up on the old religions. We need them, we need their story, we need their history, we need all the mistakes that they’ve made over the millennia. All the recognitions of the dangers of spirituality.

Professor Andrew Samuels

  • If you change only the material conditions, if you change only the constitutional and legal frameworks, then you can’t refresh the parts that the spiritual bit can refresh. You have to do both, one isn’t more important than the other. Becoming individuated is not more important than the revolution, and vice versa.

Marina Benjamin

  • One of the reasons why religions survived, down the millennia, is because they are themselves post-religious. They change and adapt to the circumstances that we find ourselves in as humans. We make them, we reshape them to our needs, they adapt in time.

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