Do You Suffer From False Humility?

There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance.

But there is an even thinner line, between demonstrating your value and a lost opportunity.

To explain what I mean properly, let me share a definition of False Humility, through a recent meeting I had:

I met with a great colleague of mine for coffee a couple of weeks ago – I first started working with this person about 15 years ago on a project called First Class Youth Network with about 20 others, where we were mentoring young people from inner city communities.

This particular project connected over 1000 young people together from Birmingham, who had been virtually written off by society, yet had so much talent. As their slightly older peers from those communities, we decided to come together, give back and help them to realise their talent through entrepreneurship and employment opportunities with the professional services and third sectors.

Anyway, we were discussing our respective journeys since then, and deduced that a strong value that has helped us to succeed, is our humility.

Yet, we both realised that being humble has also resulted in lost opportunity to do more for others – we agreed that humility should not be lost, but at the same time, there is a balance between doing good and ensuring you are evolving and progressing because you are promoting the impacts you have made; the more successful you become, the MORE you can do for others!

My colleague mentioned having a similar discussion with another person, who coined the phrase ‘False Humility’ – the notion of under-playing your own value, in order to please others, regardless of whether they appreciate your value or not.

The real truth, is that you do not have to lose your humility, in order to be clear about what you are good at and the value you can provide for others – you simply need to be able to share WHY you are good at what you do, and WHY you wish to add value through what you do!

So, why is all this relevant to you?


  • When was the last time that you really analysed the IMPACT that you have created for your customers, and STILL felt inferior?
  • Do you ever feel like you are trying to please others, even when you KNOW they are not appreciating what you can do/offer/provide?
  • When was the last time that you created a story or narrative, that explained your WHY and the impact you have created for others, simply, clearly and in a way that cut through the traffic and social noise?
  • Are you quick to be self-deprecating, rather than stand behind your convictions?

In the words of Marianne Williamson and so eloquently shared by Nelson Mandela, I paraphrase:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Being humble is a value and trait you must NEVER lose, as it enables you to stay grounded and focused on providing measurable value for others.

But having false humility really helps no one, least of all your potential customers or you.

Till the next time,



Why You Need To Get Out Of Your Own Way!

One of the hardest things to recognise as an entrepreneur, is when YOU are the reason why your business is not moving forward.

Sounds harsh, but it is true!

As the architect of your vision and the source of the solution to the problem you wish to solve, it is natural and correct to put in the hard work needed, to make it happen!

But, this can also be the very reason why you can also become the blockage. Your passion can blind you from the reality of where your business is at, if you do not have the self-awareness to see that all may not be well, or there is much more for you to do.

As a current member of the free Birmingham ESpark Programme, a fantastic accelerator programme who are currently recruiting, I have found myself in this position.

Nearly 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur is great, but i must say that this programme makes you realise that you have not prepared you for the mental, and spiritual shift that it takes to go from someone who (I think!) has done and is doing good things, to someone who is about to #GoDo monumental game-changing things!

I realise that it is easy to become conditioned by your experiences to date, both good and bad, whether you won’t to be or not. It is also easy to assume that you can separate emotion from logic on the spin of a penny!

So how do you learn to ‘get out of your own way’ to open up the opportunities to maximise your potential, as an entrepreneur?

Lose the ego – contrary to popular belief, ego is not a bad thing. According to the Oxford Dictionary, ego means ‘A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance’ – as an entrepreneur, self-esteem is essential to succeed; if you don’t believe in yourself and your idea, then why should anyone else?

But at the same time, you need to be self-aware enough to know when you are allowing your emotions (based on how you view yourself) to tip the balance towards resulting actions that have a negative impact on the business i.e. I have great time management skills, so I’ll do it later…sound familiar?

Embrace vulnerability – linked to ego, vulnerability is often seen as a negative quality. Your ego can encourage you to believe, that vulnerability makes you weak and ineffective.

The reality is that acknowledging vulnerability breeds humility – an acceptance of what you can do, and what you may need to improve on.

As an entrepreneur, this is key to identifying the areas where you need  support from others i.e roles that others are better at doing than you are / they enjoy more, guidance and the benefit from the experience of others such as mentors etc.

Speak to yourself, properly – what happens if you tell yourself, ” I can’t do it, it’s too hard for me, why I am i so stupid?” You start to believe it.

If you tell yourself “I will find a way to..,…I have the potential to achieve ANYTHING I put my mind too!” You start to believe this too!

The brain has a wonderful way of believing what you tell it to believe. The body has a wonderful way of acting in the way that your brain believes and tells it to do. So be mindful of what you say to yourself.

Your thoughts create feelings. Your feelings create actions. Your actions give you the results you deserve.

So think positive…and get out of your way, today!

About Joel:

Joel is an award-winning entrepreneur, speaker and consultant for the professional services sector and universities.

He brings a reality check to the journey of being an entrepreneur, and helps organisations to integrate entrepreneurial thinking into their board level diversity, commercial and CSR strategies.

Amongst other awards, in 2015 Joel was voted as one of the Maserati 100 Top UK Entrepreneurs, for his work in giving back to others.

You can contact Joel online: 

@joelblakeAGP, or

The 5 Things That CEO’s Fear Most About CSR

scared ceo

CSR and the subsequent level of social impact created, is fast becoming a ‘must do’ subject within boardrooms across the globe, which is making business leaders (who are used to the traditional focus of pure wealth creation) a little uncomfortable.

As CSR becomes an increasingly important driver for strategic and commercial growth for forward-thinking and socially-aware businesses, it means that CEOs are also having to change their own personal perception and mindset, towards what once was regarded as a ‘nice thing to do’.

Businesses are ultimately set up to make a profit (what they do with that profit, is their own choice) but the context of profit in a more socially-conscious world is expanding rapidly.

When I founded the Annual Birmingham CSR Summit in 2011, the whole premise of my idea was to encourage more strategic conversations about what CSR truly means to the modern day business and to broker more cross sector relationships, based on the sharing of best practices.

I decide to partner with the CSR Network Thrive and in 2012, we launched the 1st Annual CSR Summit asking one simple question “Do businesses truly see CSR as something critical?” – June 2015 will be CSR Summit number 4 and we will continue to focus on the win/win result of opening up strategic growth opportunities for businesses, whilst creating a more strategic and long-term approach to CSR.

I firmly believe that this ethos increases the chance of long term impact in society, not just a one off activity that makes people feel good for the day!

In our business, we help key decision-makers within the business to unlock the entrepreneurial potential of their staff, aligning personal values, wants and needs with that of the business, and combine that with a more strategic and embedded approach to CSR.

We come across many reasons why companies find it difficult to view and embed CSR as a strategic driver for growth, and prefer to view it as an expense and a ‘nice thing to do.

Here are my top 5 factors that would enable decision-makers to implement a more strategic view of CSR, that creates both long-term commercial AND social impact in society:

  • Create a collaborative company vision – Leaders need to set the ‘corporate frame of CSR’ but give all stakeholders (including staff, customers and suppliers) more opportunity to ‘paint the picture’ of what this means for the company. Encouraging their personal and social inputs into a corporate vision, would help to increase motivation and productivity, as they would ‘own’ the future of the company’s CSR agenda.
  • Embrace the fear of what the future may look like – Fear is a psychological state of mind that inhibits action. For the CEO / Executive Team that wishes to become more strategic with CSR, it can affect the culture of the business. It is important for CEO’s to work with others to create strategies that could be implemented if the specific ‘fear’ came true – that way, if it happens, you know what to do and therefore there is nothing to fear!
  • Watch the accepted language of the company – Positivity is key in any business. So often, the context of what is being said is open to interpretation, so it is important that the desire to change and what it means for the company and staff, is clear, communicated effectively and that the feedback channel you employ, gives you confidence that it was received well.
  • See change as evolution, not revolution – Change is the only thing in life that is constant, and this is no different in business. But strategic CSR includes a transparent and inclusive integration of personal change, to achieve corporate change. It is essential that leaders promote a collective approach to change, detailing why change is important but how this will affect each and every person.
  • Decide to learn the lessons that you don’t want to be taught – Executive teams are used to ‘how things have always been done’ and it is an imbalance for them to have to learn new ways to achieve the results they are used to. The transition can highlight their own inadequacies that they had learned how to hide, or indeed, open up new opportunities that are not feeling confident enough to take advantage of. But tough lessons, breed maturity and the power in learning from them is priceless, so adapting to the aftermath of learning, is crucial for survival.

The world of CSR and Social Impact, has changed.

I simply hope that some CEO’s make the decision to change too – that way, society will truly prosper because businesses will finally regard CSR as an long-term investment, not a short-term expense.

Till the next time,


Joel Blake is an award-winning CSR Strategy Advisor, Motivational Speaker and Entrepreneur. He is the Founder and Chief Executive of Cultiv8 Solutions, a leading CSR Advisory firm for the professional services sector. He has over 15 years of experience in CSR Strategy Development, Diversity and Entrepreneurship. You can learn more about Joel Blake by visiting

How To Unlock The Value Of Social Responsibility!

How much is Corporate Social Responsibility valued with your business?

I would wager that you would answer this question with a resounding and positive statement of passion, vigour and intent, which is both articulated and emotive.

But the clue to the answer I am really seeking, lies within the question itself – how much is corporate social responsibility VALUED within your business?

Let me elaborate with a story:

There once was a king who known for his generosity within his kingdom. He gave money to the poor and needy, he invited his citizens to share their views on how he ruled, provided jobs for many and he even created wonderful social games, where the people could compete equally with the most senior of his court!

His reputation for doing good was shared throughout the land and his way of doing good was modelled by other kings in many kingdoms far, far away! Furthermore, his citizens paid their taxes on time.

One day, a great famine swept through his kingdom.

It affected the lives of his people and caused the King great confusion and fear. He found himself pondering over the survival of his kingdom.

But he also did not wish to change the perception that others had of him. He knew that the perception that people had of him was crucial to his survival, not matter what.

His generosity became linked to making sure the most senior of his court were happy, that people still said great things about him, that his citizens still paid their taxes on time.

As the famine took hold, he began to realise that the people loved him no more. Great stories of his generosity were no longer shared, the people’s voice was of negativity and scandal and they found new ways to entertain themselves, without the permission or blessing of the court.

The king scratched his head. “What is happening?” he exclaimed. “Do I not do provide what my people need?” he asked.

There was a knock at his door, “Come in” he said. In walked a young lady dressed in rags, her face hidden by a veil and carrying a small basket.

The king was shocked. He was stunned as to how this disadvantaged looking person had waltzed past his security, direct to his inner most sanctum of the castle.

“Who are you and what do you want?” the king shouted in a voice that echoed a sense of authority and arrogance.

“I want nothing, my lord” she replied. “Except, to share one small thing”.

“What is it” the king asked, his face producing a frown deeper than the neighbouring valley.

She looked up at him, “I would like to tell you how to win back the love of the society you serve and ensure your kingdom becomes prosperous again” she stated her voice full of boldness and confidence.

The king sat up in his throne, his heart pounding with anticipation. “How, pray tell!” he said, eagerly awaiting her reply.

The lady raised her chin and with a sense of passion and adventure, she threw off her rags, to reveal herself – she was dressed in the most expensive silk, bore a necklace of priceless value and her face was radiant and full of life.

She reached into her basket. She pulled out an abacus.

She began moving the beads of the abacus from side to side as she spoke…

“It is simple, my lord. When you give or invest into the lives others, it is important that you measure how much the impact of what you do, provides for others. The value of doing good lies not in what you feel the people need, by what the people feel to be of most value.”

The King smiled, “Please continue my dear” “The people do not want your charity” she said.

“No?” the King asked “Am I not helping them by giving?”

“The people do not want to feel as though they must rely on you, as that creates inferiority, a sense of helplessness and an only temporary reprieve from their misery” the lady explained, he eyes fixed directly into the eyes of the King, as if she was studying the depths of his very soul.

“What the people truly need is an investment into a future they can share with you. They want to know and feel that if a famine came again, you would share your last piece of bread with them, your last sip of water, the last breath you take. Let this abacus remind you of the importance of measuring the real impact of what you do, to both preserve your kingdom and the society you serve.

She handed the abacus to the King.

“Make the people the heart of your business and you will not only win back the reputation you seek, but more importantly, the people will enhance that for you by choosing to invest their skills, experience and understanding with you. You can integrate this learning into your plans to grow your kingdom, and make you prosperous forever!”

With that, she turned and left.

The King stood up. A feeling of liberating calm fell over him.

At that moment, he realised this simple notion – the traditional way of giving to others is admirable and has some short-term value.

But real social value is based on upon the integration of the people at the heart of what you do and in measuring what that means from all aspects. By doing so, commercial success, reputation and a long-term social impact become the norm, not the destination.

Nothing is more priceless than the enriching the lives of the people you serve.

Till the next time>


About the author:

Joel Blake is an award-winning Entrepreneur, Business Speaker and Social Impact Investment Advisor, with over 10 years of experience in advising corporate firms on their investment into Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Strategy.

He is the Founder & Chief Executive of leading social impact consultancy, and has other business interests within the fields of start-up funding and entrepreneur development. He is the Chairman of Career Academies Midlands Advisory Board, a qualified Corporate Governance Practitioner specialising in Social Responsibility and holds a number of Non-Executive Board Directorships across the private and third sector.

Joel is the Founder of the Midlands CSR Summit, an annual think-tank conference started in 2012, that brings together the region’s leading C-Suite executives to share best practice on sustainable social impact solutions for the benefit of businesses and wider society.

In 2010, Joel was awarded a prestigious BYPY Award for his work in CSR Strategy Management for professional service firms, was voted 02 X Award Finalist 2009 for Entrepreneurship and has recently been made a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts.

You can connect with him via twitter @joelblakeAGP

Why Social Responsibility means more than just a nice fat cheque!

The pursuit of profit is the aim of any normal business, whatever the connotation of word means to you.

A capitalist viewpoint may be that profit provides opportunity for growth and for repaying your proverbial organ grinders.

But capitalism, in its raw form, has been held up to the light as the backbone of businesses is scrutinised by CSI’s within customer markets, future workforces and supply chains, all looking for the fingerprints of your social values, demonstrable ethics and inclusive work practices.

After over a decade of experience in helping corporates strategically invest in communities and wider society, I am still frustrated to see that Corporate Philanthropy is still being culturally accepted as real Corporate Social Responsibility.

But what is the difference between Corporate Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility?:

  • Corporate Philanthropy has a very narrow focus.

This typically relates to when a company undertakes social activities (normally through staff-led initiatives) that result in giving away money, time and/or resources to support a social or charitable need – charity bike rides, improving local parks, reading clubs for primary schools, pro-bono staff volunteer days etc fall into this category.

Whilst I agree that such activities are relevant, admirable and have value, they do not tend to be integrated with sustainable impacts measurements, but rather a focus on employee engagement, anecdotal stories, PR & brand awareness and ‘feel good’ shared experiences that are feed into the mouth of social media, and are positioned eloquently within End of Year CSR/Citizenship Reports.

  • Corporate Social Responsibility activity has a wider focus.

This targets more strategic issues that affect the environment, consumers, human rights, supply chain, sustainability and transparency for the greater good of the world at large. Businesses that integrate social responsibility into their company vision and core activities, acknowledge that their business processes have an impact beyond the company and integrate CSR strategically, across all levels of the organisation.

In this way, you receive all the philanthropic benefits above, but social impact also underpins the strategic focus for the future growth of the business.

Social Impact becomes a strategic investment for the company, that meets both commercial and social needs, not just a ‘nice to do or to have’ expense.

This misunderstanding of this simple notion, has created the cultural norm within the business community, of patting each other on the back for a job well done and a disconnect between what has been earned through CSR activity and the impact that this really has, on the agreed beneficiaries of such activity.

To be fair, I do personally know a number of senior business leaders, who are trying to change this culture within their corporate boardrooms and who do genuinely ‘get it’, from a more long-term strategic investment point of view. But for many, the ‘outside world’ of social impact is misinterpreted as being just about social enterprises or charity work.

I have seen it all – based upon their own conditioning and life journey, many leaders find it difficult to face inadequacies in their knowledge and understanding, utilising authority and power to delegate such responsibility and in unfortunately, in some cases, not really giving a s**t.

Many still see social impact as an alien concept and simply don’t know how to shift from the historical way they have run their business to date. Actions such as the 2% CSR rule in India, & the EU CSR directive of companies with over 500 employees are just two evidence pieces, that are causing companies to think differently about their business.

Whether business leaders want to accept it or not, future growth lies in the ability to embrace a new paradigm of what I call, Executive Social Leadership (ESL), enabling them to integrate this positive disruption into the practical application of business strategy, in order to compete in a rapidly changing global ecosystem.


I believe that if  key decision makers can understand what the financial ROI of their own social impact is, in relation to the bottom-line of their own business, alongside developing a more entrepreneurial organisational culture focused on social impact, then it will give them the confidence to articulate the business case for MORE investment into society, with their boards, shareholders, staff, suppliers, communities, funders and other stakeholders connected to their business!

In conjunction with the CCEG, we help companies to achieve this by calculating their  Social Earnings Ratio – a single number multiplier that:

  • Calculates and converts your Social Impact into £UKmillions
  • Calculates social impact as a percentage of your company’s overall net worth
  • Can benchmark your company against local, national and international competitors
  • Can translate data from over 1,000 other social impact measurement tools in financial terms

By focusing on the numbers only (there are more than enough social impact tools that measure everything else!), I have seen business leaders eyes light up, the passion in the heart grow and their love for humanity become rediscovered!

If you would like to learn more about the Social Earnings Ratio, feel free to learn more here or get in touch!

The more businesses understand what their social impact numbers mean, is the more that, I believe, society will receive the type of sustainable investment that can REALLY help our societies to prosper for the long-term, not just for one day.

I also look forward to the day when I no longer have to see staff come out in their socks and sandals, just so that they can feel all kum-ba-yah for the day too!

Till the next time,


Why Social Impact Should Be Agenda Item No 1!

As we are all strive to grow, post the horrors of the recession, I see businesses all clamouring to demonstrate their values, ethics and how they are contributing to the development of society.

But, don’t you think that the world of business has been guilty of leveraging the notion of ‘doing good’, without realising how much untapped potential they have to actually make a sustainable long term impact?

I believe that the more companies measure their social impact in clear financial numbers, that senior directors, boards and shareholders can understand, the more confident the organisation would feel about investing MORE into activities that meet social needs AND provide long term business sustainability. That is the REAL win/win!

Why do I passionately believe that?

Because in any business, the numbers do not lie!

It is essential that social impact is viewed as a board level strategic driver of growth for businesses. Yes, I know that it feels uncomfortable to view helping society, in hard commercial and monetary terms, but that is the language that boardrooms need to be discuss this subject in, in order for more investment to be made into society.

CSR, Social Responsibility, Citizenship, CR whatever term that your business likes to use, is often seen as a business expense – an expense that brings some form of intangible value to the business.

Often, this value is based upon PR and Brand Awareness, as the value of good news can be priceless if it is utilised correctly.

Culturally, social impact has been regarded as ‘something that we just do’ or ‘helps to bring out staff together’ or ‘makes us look good’…don’t get me wrong – the ‘feel good factor’ that CAN inspire others to take positive action.

But I’ve never been comfortable watching businesses promote good news stories via simplistic, easy to deliver models of CSR activity that they can hang their hat on for PR, especially when nothing pulls the heart strings of customers more, than doing something good for the community!

Simply put, it is not sustainable to base long-term social impact, on high levels of ‘feel good factor’ alone.

Here are three reasons why Social Impact needs to articulated in numbers:

Business who evaluate their return on investment more accurately, can identify where they can make the most social impact: Some companies may be better at meeting one type of social needs, over another. Without knowing the direct impact in bottom-line financial terms, it is difficult to know where that may be, long term.

New cross sector partnerships can be formed to meet social needs, in innovative ways: Articulating social impact in financial terms, can reveal gaps and missed opportunities where positive impact can be compounded within the community. This can help grass roots organisations who have the local networks, links and access to work in partnership to fill those gaps where larger businesses cannot.

Your numbers always tell the real story: Profit can mean different things, to different businesses, in different ways. But the hard facts and figures on any investment, whether it is about meeting corporate objectives or social needs, tell you what is really happening and also reveals what needs to be done.

That is why I decided to focus on the largest contributing business sector in Birmingham and have launched the Cultiv8 SV50 campaign, to find, measure and promote the Top 50 Professional Service Sector firms by their level of social impact!.

For information on this, feel free to get in touch.

Just think: how much additional investment could we ALL bring to the city to our meet social needs and help our communities prosper, if our businesses had financial clarity on how much they actually help those less fortunate, within our city?

Ladies and gentleman, this is now possible to work out…

Till the next time,


Birmingham, UK – The City Where Good Business Means Doing Good?

What do businesses need to understand, in order to create a successful cross sector, integrated and strategic CSR programme for a whole city?

This is a question that I was pondered whilst sitting in the audience, at a recent ‘CSR City’ event held at Pinsent Masons, Birmingham. A number of city organisations were also presented with their certificates, as new signatories of the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility.


With a number of business leaders from a number of Professional Service sector firms in attendance, the event, at times, became a self-congratulatory stage promoting individual projects and activities, but it WAS great to hear about some of the good work that is being done and the impact it is creating for others in the community.

I was also pleased to hear the agreement in the room that the business sector (professional services was the focus at this event) have a clear responsibility to use their resources and capacity to do more for society and that our local authority, is willing to put resources behind a strategic city-wide response to meeting our cities social needs.

But if I’m honest and based on my experience, I think there is a storm ahead..passion, a ‘feel good’ factor, pats on the back and great speeches is one thing..but what do the numbers on social impact at board level, say?

Let’s look at some key factors that the business leaders in attendance DID NOT KNOW:

Now, you may be thinking “this is all global level activity, so how does this have a local impact?”

Fair question, but this is about understand the factors of the ecosystem that businesses are a part of and the future impacts to come, even if they don’t know it yet.  Let me focus on one key factor: Money.

CSR / Social Impact / Citizenship / Social Responsibility or whatever term you may wish to use, is often regarded as something you should not connect to the notion of making money or profit. It’s taboo, it’s not moral, it’s not the done thing…personally, I believe therein lies the problem.

I believe that if businesses both view and integrate social impact as a strategic investment tool of growth for the business, then I believe real sustainable change will take place in society and within communities.

Here are my reasons why:

  • If a business invests money into ANY business activity, it must measure the return on that investment, to ensure the best amount of value is being achieved. CSR / Social impact is no different.
  • If social investment is measured in hard business numbers and the results are positive, then this will give confidence to key decision-makers within the business, to INVEST EVEN MORE into communities.
  • Financial metric analysis forces key decision-makers to strategically review CSR strategies, methods of measurement and stakeholder relationships focused on sustainable business growth, and more importantly, sustainable impact that must be achieved in order for ALL of society to achieve!

This is why we have already launched the Birmingham SV100, a new league table that will rank the Top 100 Birmingham companies from across all sectors, based upon their Social Earnings Ratio (SER).

This process has already started, and we are inviting companies to contact us to learn how they can get their own Social Earnings Ratio Score, for inclusion onto the Birmingham SV100.

Simply put, for every pound spent by a business on CSR, we measure much money their social impact adds to their company bottom-line. We also measure social impact as a percentage of the companies overall net worth and a few more bits and bobs..

I am determined to help businesses embrace social impact more strategically, so that together, we make Birmingham the ‘CSR City’ of Europe, a place where good business means doing good – hmm, that has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

3 Reasons Why Social Impact Should Be A Strategic Tool For Growth!

Doing good is fast becoming a strategic imperative for forward-thinking ambitious businesses.

For years, there have been stories in the media, questioning the values and ethics of businesses. CEO’s are being held to account for their actions, brand values are being tested and social impact is fast becoming an item of serious debate.

But are business, and corporates in particular, ready to receive the emerging benefits of bringing social impact into the heart of their business?

This was a key question on Friday 6th June 2014, when we held our 3rd Annual CSR Summit at Aston Business School, UK. Our theme was Social Innovation, looking at how businesses can use social impact as a disruptive tool for commercial growth and corporate venturing with small SME’s with niche capabilities.

From CEO’s to charities to social enterprises to public sector organisations to big businesses, the mix provoked healthy debate and the sharing of insight and experiences. Cultiv8 launched its preliminary Social Value Report which highlighted the first phase of research in conjunction with the CCEG, into we convert Social Impact into tangible financial metrics in £millions for companies – it was interesting to see the faces in the audiences, when we explained that disruptive innovation allows us to measure a companies social impact in £millions, without needing the companies permission AND its legal!

Cultiv8 CSR Summit Picture

I would have loved to have seen MORE corporates there. We had a few but it got me thinking – are corporates REALLY AWARE of the opportunity that social impact provides them, their stakeholders and the future of their business?


Here are three key benefits that I believe are so often overlooked:

– Social connectivity can identify leadership potential: Social connectivity is about connecting hearts and minds together, which is an invaluable skill that corporate leaders need to have. Leading people is hard at the best of times, but connecting with others through a genuine appreciation of their values and their own external perspective, empowers that individual to embrace challenges more readily, therefore increasing productivity and, more importantly, sourcing positive solutions because they know you care about THEM.

– Niche businesses can fill the gaps that are leaking money from the business: System failure is often masked by ‘corporate arrogance’ and that arrogance, often results in missed opportunities. If more corporates were willing to embrace smaller companies who have the access, networks and niche experience on the ground, then many corporates could reserve the funds and resources that use to fix ‘burst pipes’ caused by old traditional and hierarchical thinking.

– The numbers tell you the story, if you believe the numbers make sense: Social impact is often regarded as the ‘kum-ba-yah’ of business; the warm and fluffy feeling that oozes through the company; the icing on the proverbial cake at the end of the financial year!

But if the numbers created by social impact are looked at through commercial eyes, how would that change the focus of the business? I believe so!

This is why we license software that gives companies their own Social Earnings Ratio score. Our software allows your company to:

  • Measure and report your companies’ social impact in £’s figures
  • Measure your social impact as a % of your companies’ overall net worth
  • Benchmark your company against your competitors and across private, public and third sectors seamlessly

I think ambitious businesses need to think long and hard about what ‘being social responsible’ means to them – in their defence, many have been and are doing wonderful things for the good of society. But the time has come, for there to be a more commercial and strategic approach for investing into social impact.

If a company can articulate what social impact means to their bottom-line, then maybe they will decide to invest even more to meet growing social needs – would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Till the next time, J



Joel Blake AGP is the Founder of Cultiv8 Solutions – learn more about him here.

Cultiv8 Solutions is an award-winning social impact consultancy based in the Colmore Business District, Birmingham UK. 

They believe that Banking and Finance companies (or any corporate) have the greatest opportunity to create impact for their shareholders. But more importantly, for their communities. 

They help these companies convert doing good, into a tool for growth and meeting social needs sustainably.

To learn more about how they can help your company:

Email –

Web –

Stay Humble, Keep Winning!

They say there is a fine line between self-confidence and arrogance. I agree with that.

The line between them is the age old notion of Humility ‘the quality of having a modest or lower view of one’s own importance’.

As i travel through the infinite landscape of cyberspace, I seem to be constantly hit by asteroids of arrogant BS from every direction – it seems like humility is fast becoming an underrated trait in life and business.

Marketing who you are and what you do feels like someone has placed a trumpet next to my ear and is blowing it as hard as they can, rather than playing a nice tune that I would be happy to sit back, listen too, and may just convince me to buy the ticket for the main performance!

The worst thing? If we are being honest, we all have been guilty of being that annoying trumpet player, at some point in our lives!

Ever had a time when you thought you could not secure that deal, but you got your head down, made it happen then proclaimed yourself king or queen of the world?

You look at yourself in the mirror, give yourself a wink and then proceed to tell your mom, dad, aunty, uncle, your kids, your cat, your pet parrot ..whoever who would listen, that you are the mutts nuts?!

You get that X-Men Syndrome, like you have extra powers that make you that little bit better than other mere mortals! I guess when times are good, when everything you touch turns to gold, it becomes easier to believe your own hype.

I know I have done that before and then blamed every man and his dog for it all going wrong, until I realised that I had to humble myself and accept responsibility for the results I achieve.

You see, humility in business is essential, because business is all about relationships. People have and people will always buy from people first.

Therefore, it is important to step back and self-reflect on how you are presenting yourself to others – what is your personal brand? How do others see you? What are your key values? Are you living from your values? Are you creating long lasting foundations, to build upon for the future?

Self-awareness and an openness for learning, allows you to grow – it is hard for anyone to maximise their potential WITHOUT having the experience of both good and bad results.

I know that being humble can create a fear within you, of being seen as ‘too soft’ or ‘too wishy-washy’.

But being humble turns your vulnerability into a strength, because it allows you to truly connect with who you are and the purpose that you are focused on achieving. In our business, we help our clients to be real about who they are, so that they can be clear about the social impact they want to create for others.

Being honest with yourself gives you a liberating sense of clarity about how you are able to do what you do and more importantly, why.

Finally, humility gives you a sense of authenticity that attracts others to you. If people are not attracted to you when you are being your real humble self, then maybe they were not the right person or people for you in the first place, and that in itself, is a good thing for everyone.

So next time you see yourself in the mirror, smile at the person looking back at you with a sense of thankful appreciation.

Till the next time, J

Big Things Grow From Small Ideas!

In 2011, I felt frustrated with what was being accepted as appropriate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practice.

My frustration was based on what I was seeing within the private sector in particular – in previous posts, I have alluded to the societal acceptance of corporate staff doing what i can ‘one-hit wonders’ of CSR Activity.

Charity walks, painting school fences, picking up rubbish in a park etc which are all noble activities, but ones where I always find myself questioning their true relevance, if they are not created as part of the board level strategic plan for growth, and therefore given more importance than just a community engagement initiative!

Also, it was becoming more and more acceptable for companies to benefit from positive publicity from a brand awareness and PR perspective, but internally, not being able to demonstrate the return on investment to the company, in order to have an internal benchmark that will encourage them to increase their contribution to society.

In my experience, I feel that the majority of social impact measurement tools, are not designed to measure the impact in key financial metrics that C-Suite executives are looking for i.e What is the benefit of our social investment, on the bottom-line of our business? What much value does CSR create for our business per £ spent? What is the benchmark that we need to achieve, in order to increase our social contributions and to help more people in society?

So I decided to do something about it..

At Cultiv8 Solutions, we license bespoke Social Impact technology software to our clients that:

  • measures their social impact as a % of their companies overall net worth.
  • measures their ROI on CSR Spend.
  • benchmarks their social impact against their competitors.

In regards to the wider context, I asked myself two key questions:

  • What would happen if I was to put the leading Corporate Social Responsibility professionals from the Midlands, across the public, private and third sectors in a room, to share best practices, knowledge, skills and experience?
  • How can I identify and access all these CSR professionals, all at once?

After a little research, I contacted the Chairman of Thrive, a voluntary collective of like-minded business and community professionals in the city.

Over a chat at the wonderful Urban Coffee, I spelled out my vision to him – he understood that my focus was on driving sustainable change in our region for the benefit of all our citizens, but to also helping companies embrace the wider strategic benefits of social investment.

I also stated that I’m not here to beg for his support and I will achieve this with or without his help!

Over that coffee, I became the founder of the Annual Birmingham CSR Summit – my simple idea that has now become the regions leading think-tank conference on Corporate Social Responsibility!

After a year of collaborative working between Cultiv8 Solutions and other business leaders within the Thrive Network and Aston Business School, we launched the first Annual Birmingham CSR Summit with 75 of the Top 100 CSR Professionals in attendance.

In 2013, we ran the second Annual Birmingham CSR Summit with 85 in attendance.

On Friday 6th June 2014, we will have run our third Annual Birmingham CSR Summit.

Here are the 4 key personal learning  points that I wish to share from this journey, so far:

1) Create the frame, but empower others to paint the picture – Giving others a sense of ownership, often leads to more innovation of the original idea.

2) Stand up for what you believe in – the passion for what you do and why, will see you through the negativity, hurdles and challenges that you will encounter on the way.

3) Nip things in the bud quickly and move on – leaving things to fester will only undermine what you all are trying to achieve.

4) Share the success – Be proud of what you started, but give equal praise to those who helped you on the way. They deserve it and it is only fair.

Whilst I am so proud of what has been achieved, It has not been easy – there have been times when the summit was seen as the property of other organisations, times when I have had to defend partner organisations when people wanted to rubbish their name, and even times when I have felt that my involvement was being phased out, even though I am the Founder of the Annual Birmingham CSR Summit!

But I have accepted that if the idea is achieving its goal, then it is ok to let go!

To achieve success, there must be a balance between recognition and evolution and that sometimes means allowing others to take the original idea and evolve it further than you could by yourself – that does not mean that the core reason must be lost and that is something that I will always and you should always fight for!

Till the next time, J