Social Enterprise Canada

May 26, 2014

Part 2 Scaling-up advice and caution from Artscape Toronto

In this interview, the ENP-CA news service continues a conversation with Artscape president and CEO Tim Jones on scaling up, based on his organization’s success and continued aspirations in this realm.

This is an edited and condensed version of the interview. To read Part 1, click here.

What’s your perspective on the use of the language scaling up?

Tim Jones

Tim: I don’t know, what else would we call it? Growing your impact, maybe. It’s something that we think about a lot. The more work we do, the more interest we generate in (that work). We’re now looking at creating independent affiliates in other markets starting in Canada, but it could go beyond that.

There are a number of our partners and funders who are interested in that (scaling up) as well.

What advice would you give to other social enterprises interested in scaling up?

As you’re growing you really have to pay attention to your governance structure and how your board and committees function and who you recruit to be part of those.

Our experience has been that recruiting a few key board members has been hugely helpful in terms of continuing to grow the organization. People have had a transformational impact on what we can do both in terms of the knowledge and talent that they bring into the organization, but also external connections and help to raise funds.

So I think that’s a key part of scaling up, is attracting the right volunteer leadership to help you get to where you want to go.

The other thing you’ve really got to pay attention to is how do you grow in a way that creates new opportunities for the talent that you’ve got at a staff level, so that people can grow with you and managing that from a human resource point of view. If you’re constantly growing and changing, that can be stressful for people, but also creates interesting opportunities for them. So really paying attention to the human resources function and the morale of your team, and spending time and energy and resources is super important.

Can you give an example of that?

One of the things that we’re working on as we grow is how do we really delegate more responsibility, how do we empower our staff to take more ownership and responsibility of their area of work. So that’s been a way that our growth has both required us to do that, because otherwise you get a bottleneck that happens in the organization in terms of decision making with senior staff members, but it also helps engage people more deeply. When people are more engaged and empowered they perform better and the organization does better. That’s often a challenge that organizations have, is how do you let go of some of the responsibility, decentralize your decision making somewhat, empower people, have the confidence to do that, so that people can truly thrive in their jobs.

Any cautions for social enterprises interested in scaling up?

There’s always the challenge when you’re growing and taking on new opportunities, that you can lose touch with your vision, mission and mandate.

That’s something that you need to be really mindful of. We try to avoid those challenges having a really clear strategic plan and a process of evaluating new opportunities against it.

You’ve already mentioned some of your future plans already. Anymore to add?

The big thing for us right now is looking at establishing those independent affiliated organizations in other markets.

That’s a new direction. For many years we’ve been seeking to build and share knowledge and empower other people to do this kind of work through mentoring and coaching and these other kind of knowledge-sharing platforms. We’re now at a place where we feel it’s important to play more of a hands-on role.
It really means figuring how to create organizations that operate under the Artscape name in other markets, that also have the independence and ability to chart their own course. That will be an interesting and fun challenge to sort out.

Effectively we’re calling them independent but affiliated organizations in other markets.

How do you see yourself contributing to the scaling up of other social enterprises going forward?

We’re very keen on this whole staying connected and part of the conversation around social enterprise. There aren’t a lot of examples of arts-focused social enterprises.

I really feel that the world of social enterprise has a lot to learn from the world of the arts, and the world of the arts has a lot to learn from social enterprise. And so that’s one of the things that I’m trying to do through our work is help build those connections and foster more awareness and understanding between those two. We straddle both areas, but I think there’s not a great understanding in the arts world of the power of social enterprise. People are very much stuck in the get-a-grant, deliver-a-program mindset. Similarly in the world of social enterprise, I think the arts are sometimes seen as a frivolous activity, although many of the problems and challenges, the wicked challenges that the world faces have a cultural dimension to them and culture and art can be a catalyst to help change things. I think if social entrepreneurs understood that better, they would be able to accelerate their work. So I’m keenly interested in the conversation between social enterprise and the arts and how we can help facilitate that, and where scaling up is possible, I think that’s part of the conversation too.

I was invited to the Schwab network this year through the Social Entrepreneur of the Year designation. So that’s one of the missions that I’m on as I meet other people in that network, to try to explore that area, either through the various forums that the World Economic Forum puts together or things that we’ll be organizing at Artscape.

This story is part of an ENP-CA news inquiry on scaling up social enterprise. To learn more, click here.

To join the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #scalingupsocent

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This interview is part of an ENP-CA inquiry on scaling up social enterprise. To learn more, click here.

You can also particiate via Twitter using the hashtag #scalingupsocent.

Writer: Michelle Strutzenberger

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