The Chicken Equation
_A business woman’s guide to a creating _
a better social footprint
Copyright © 2017 by Margaret Bligdon-Boyt. All rights reserved.
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cover image credit: Dreamtime.com
It seems a long time ago now but I used to write features – I wrote mostly about frou frou lifestyle stuff but whenever I got the chance I relished the chance to tackle the more serious women’s issues. In writing about the lives of women from all backgrounds and circumstances, I gained an insight into the stark differences in the lives of women and the factors that contributed to them. From being born in a country that does not respect or recognise women, to making bad choices and not having the support to make better choices, or seeing your home become a war zone. I became aware of my own fortune, which was strangely comforting in my own times of struggle. My problems never seemed so big as I laid in a clean, safe bed every night! I became increasingly concerned about my social footprint – What could I do to help women who are bringing up children in the most awful conditions? I could write about them and give insightful talks at women’s events so that other people would understand and do something, but that wasn’t enough. I was a single mother, so flying out to help build a school or volunteer with an aid charity wasn’t an option. What I could do and indeed what I still do, was donate a percentage of my business income, time and skills to charities, both local and global.
One of the global charities I chose was the Oxfam unwrapped shop, which supports the Oxfam ‘Earn a Living Program’ – I could buy chickens that would be sent to women who don’t have the luxury of a social security system, so that they could feed their families and build a business with any surplus. I could also donate money to pay for teachers and healthcare professionals to be sent out to remote communities. There are so many charities with so many ways in which to donate and help but it was the chickens that resonated with me. Sending aid packages is all very well and necessary in the first instance but providing sustainable tools is the best long term strategy. It goes way beyond social equality, it creates social equity and that creates lasting change in the world.
[_A chicken costs £10 – _]
[_I spent more than that on a Nail varnish that I haven’t even opened yet! _]
THE CHICKEN EQUATION
1 chicken feeds a family
2 chickens create excess
Excess becomes a business
Business funds education
Education lifts a community
When a woman in a small village in the developing world is helped, she is able to support her children usually by being able to pay for an education, these children are then given an alternative to picking up guns or drugs and they in turn will help their community.
[_A simplistic view? _]
Not at all, it is actually happening now, all over the world.
[*Why is this book a business woman’s guide *]
[*and not for business men? *]
The ideas that I present in this book are for everyone and indeed if everyone put them into practice, we would be a long way down the road to social equity across the globe.
I merely present this as the business woman’s guide, as that is my perspective. It is also my experience that, women are the best place to start when changing anything from the colour of curtains to the lives of other women. We are intuitive and empathetic by nature and we see the bigger picture. It is women who are, in many cases, best placed to effect change, because they are already doing it at grass roots level.
*The effect of educating women *
Educated women, educate their children and educated children put their education to use and raise the fortunes of their community. I don’t necessarily refer to education as an academic achievement, but in a more general sense of learning about the options that she has and how to make the most of those opportunities.
Women are the social change makers both in the lives of their children and in their communities.
Educate a man and you educate an individual
Educate a woman and you educate a family (nation)
So do we have to be a feminist to change the world?
When you think of a feminist, what comes to mind? A placard waving activist, or a perfectly presented business woman who is at the top of her profession?
You would be right on both counts to some extent. In reality most feminists sit somewhere in the middle. Most don’t even think of themselves as feminists, they are just doing what they do.
Personally, I am not keen on putting women into a feminist box.
What we refer to as the feminist movement is actually not one movement; it is a collection of movements – women and men from all walks of life advocating change in the lives of their children, their community and across the world. From teaching your daughter that it is ok to have an opinion, to helping to educate girls in oppressive regimes, these are all feminist movements.
Women in Liberia made a huge political difference, not by fighting and shouting but by wearing white in a culture that prides itself on bright colours. The women sat in silent protest. When activist Leymah Gbowee threatened to take her headdress off in front of a policeman, intent on evicting her, who was not her husband, he backed away fearing a curse. There are also reports of the women imposing sex strikes. These quiet actions successfully brought an end to the civil war in 2003.
I am continually inspired by the story of a Muslim woman who risks her life to educate women and girls. When asked why she still wore the dress of her male oppressors, she stated that whilst wearing the hijab she was invisible and could move freely in her work. Proving that we sometimes have to work within the very situation that we are trying to change.
It is this ability that women have to be soft, intuitive and resourceful, that we succeed in ‘making the best of a situation’. We run successful businesses and careers around children and running homes. We nurture relationships and build ‘tribes’. Those skills are transferable.
Why worry about our Social Footprint?
I am not so worried about my carbon footprint as much as I am about my social footprint. Recycle, use less petrol, stop opening the fridge and we save the world. Great stuff! It’s pretty much second nature to us all now. But what of the atrocities happening in the world that we just saved?
As a mother and grandmother, I worry about what sort of world that my children are growing up in. I also know that I am capable of making a difference; I am just one woman, so in a physical sense my impact is not overwhelming but when I stand with other women something incredible happens – my voice is added to the voices of other women all over the world, amplifying the voices of the women who went before us.
*We not only have all these movements happening right now, *
*we also have actual movement in perception, *
_*in education and in change.* _
_The media likes to tell us otherwise, _
_but there are many many many great things happening, _
they just get hidden behind the more sensational editorial!
There may only be a small percentage of women in government across the globe. But there are millions of us who are not constrained by political manifestos. That’s not to say that it’s not important to have women in government. It absolutely is. Woman in government are essential, especially in growing economies. But, one woman saying ‘NO’ on her social media page is important too. Two women saying ‘NO’ is a movement and three is the start of real change. The numbers may not be entirely accurate, but you get the idea.
Madeleine Albright (The first female US Secretary of State) said during an interview that there is a special place in hell for women who do not support women. I believe that may be true, and that hell might just be the society that we leave for our children.
Women supporting women is the substance that does and will continue to change lives. I’m not talking about buying products from each other at a networking meeting in a posh hotel. We need to look at the bigger picture. Of course, we should be supporting each other at a local level, but for the price of one more cup of coffee we could also be supporting women in the developing world who do not have access to clean water, let alone a startup loan. Mentoring a young person in our community who has a good idea but no idea how to make it into a business, costs us nothing but time.
Giving is a key to Happiness
Here is the good news … giving is one of the keys to happiness that the gurus are always shouting about.
Research into brain function says that we are hard-wired for love and compassion. So it’s not all about individual success – our communities and society flourish when people look out for each other.
When we’re kind to people we know it strengthens our connections with them and provides a source of support. Research shows that we may benefit from giving support more than those receiving it – and we’re also more likely get support in return when we need it. This may not be like-for-like support, or even from the same person, but being kind to others builds a wider support network which increases well-being all round.
Doing kind things for strangers helps build co-operation, trust and a sense of safety in our communities. It also helps us to see others more positively and empathise with them. These are the foundations of a thriving local community and a flourishing society – one which builds well-being all round.
_In this book I explore the bigger picture and try to explain how we can improve our social footprints. We are so lucky that we live in a country where our voices are heard, a country where we can be educated and where we can become financially independent. _
So, do we not have a responsibility to share
[* our comparative wealth, experience and education?*]
CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME
I have heard it said many times that we should stop sending aid abroad and start looking after those who are struggling in this country. So what can we do to make this happen? Elect the right people? Lobby parliament? Give to local charities? Probably all of those. Anything political is going to take time. Giving to charities is important as many charities rely solely on donations. The recent economic climate has seen government support to many charities reduced to pennies, if at all. Grass root charities are suffering. Charities that are supporting local youth and children are having to close their doors every day. It is here that we can make an immediate difference. Supporting local charities is beneficial all round.
Why Supporting Local Charities is good for Business:
How can we help?
It is very easy to throw a pound in the pot and consider ourselves to have supported the charity, but what if we went one step further?
Take a look at your business – do you provide a service that a local charity currently pays for? Do you have a skill that would be beneficial? Could you use your contacts to host a fundraising event?
Back in the day, when I was starting my PR and marketing business, I met someone who became my mentor. He was very fond of quoting the following;
Truly successful people will give you their secrets and help you because they do not feel threatened. People who tell you that they are successful but don’t tell you how they did it are probably not that successful or doing something dodgy.
Giving someone your support and advice to boost their endeavours is along the same lines as buying a chicken. You are giving someone the tools to stand on their own two feet. Knowledge is valuable, it is a useable resource. It also grows and and expands as it is passed on.
A bit of a buzz word amongst the new breed of trendy businesses. From Open Source software to green products, they are all flying the social enterprise banner. Many of the large international charities now come under the social enterprise banner. They run a successful commercial business which funds the work of the charity. Can we as small business owners become social enterprise guardians too?
The website Social Enterprise.org.uk gives the following guidelines
Social enterprises should:
These guidelines are aimed, primarily, at the business models that are purely social enterprise, but it is entirely possible for us to take the essence of them and make a small part of our business into a social enterprise. Many big retailers set aside several of their products as a charity item. For instance the pink items sold in support of breast cancer awareness. Could the profits from one of your items be used to fund a mobility aid for a local child or provide the funds for a much needed service?
Social media is full of families looking for help to buy equipment that is not provided by the NHS or charities raising funds to keep the doors open.
Although when one embarks on social enterprise, the motivation is compassion and not profit; there is no reason why the project should not welcome publicity. If there is no publicity, how would people know that they can buy the product that helps to purchase that vital piece of equipment? If that publicity then generates sales of your other products too, so much the better, social enterprise cannot be sustained without sales and you cannot sustain a social enterprise if you are unable to put food on your family table. And, of course, it has to be said that the more successful that you become, the more support you can provide to your chosen charities and causes.
The local press is always looking for happy news stories. This would not only generate publicity for you but also for the family or project that you are supporting and hopefully this would lead to other people getting involved.
A GLOBAL IMPACT
The world needs you … yes you!
We find ourselves in an increasingly complex world where occasionally the lines become blurry. Politics and big business seem to be more visibly entwined. We can redress the balance by grounding our businesses on compassion and humanity.
In my introduction I gave the example that inspired the title – A chicken. It doesn’t have a political agenda, it just scratches around quite happily and lays eggs. Those eggs literally change lives.
As an independent business woman, you are the perfect antidote to the big business bullies and the loaded political manoeuvrings. You set the standard and the example for the next generation. You too can lay eggs!
Women all over the world are being left to pick up the pieces as illness, war, poverty and famine go on around them. In the most deprived of circumstances women are doing whatever they can to feed their children. There is no force stronger than the force of nature that is a woman protecting her child.
[_In her mission to protect her child a woman will start with environment – she will create a safe place. _]
Can you imagine what a difference that would make in the world if women were encouraged to do that on a larger scale. If these women were supported in stepping out of their immediate environments and continued making safe places in their communities and beyond. Of course, there are a great many women who have already done this and they have made huge gains for humanity.
[*So what can you do? *]
The most obvious answer, as it is the inspiration for this book, is to head over to the Oxfam unwrapped website and buy a chicken …. or perhaps a goat! It is also the most immediate solution.
For long term goals, join an organisation like Amnesty International or Women for Women and gather information. Find out where the problem areas are and pinpoint where you can help the most. By joining these organisations you are also supporting their work, whilst you work on your own strategy. It costs just £3 a month to become a member of Amnesty International.
One idea that I have found really interesting is the Granny Cloud. A project that uses the reading talents of English speakers to read to children in developing countries via Skype. The term Granny is just a cuddly word to convey the message, but the volunteers are actually from all genders, age groups and backgrounds. How marvellous would it be spending an hour a week reading your favourite stories to children that would appreciate and lean so much? (I can confirm that it is very marvellous and a great use of my time).
_Education is vital in preparing the next generation _
_and giving them a positive global awareness _
can only strengthen their place in the world.
Loans not handouts
As with the sustainable support model that comes from providing a live chicken, that will continue to produce food, rather than one bag of grain that will run out after a few days, companies offering sustainable funding sources are also gaining momentum.
So many women around the world are blocked from gaining funding because of circumstances or just because they are a woman.
There are gifts of equipment on the oxfam unwrapped website, but if you would like a more personal experience, you might like to consider a project like Lendwithcare. You can see who you are lending to and what they achieve with your help. Once your investment is paid back you can either withdraw it or use it again by supporting someone else. Your £15 could be turned into thousands of pounds. That is a lot of full tummies and educated children. It is also a lot of people who don’t have to turn to crime or violence to feed there families.
This is a big one – spending your holiday volunteering your skills abroad. Organisations such as VSO give you the opportunities and the support to be hands on in your quest for a better social footprint.
Every one of the people that I have spoken to about their experiences volunteering has expressed how it changed their lives. It gave them a new perspective and the experience has filtered into their lives and businesses at home.
PASS THE WORD AROUND
We all spend a great deal of our business and personal life online. This is where some of our most important conversations are held. From emails organising new stock to arranging drinks with friends, our online presence is sometimes stronger than our offline presence. For instance, I probably know less than 10 actual people who I speak to every week. Yet when I post on my blog, an average of 200 people read what I have to say. Not the high figures that the top social media influencers attract but still not bad for little old me sitting in her home office sharing her thoughts.
So, this is the best place to keep your social enterprise visible and transparent. This also means that you not only have to reflect your business but also your social enterprise. Which means you may have to pull your business socks up. Show people that you mean business and that business can support a social enterprise that people can put their trust in. You also have to become knowledgeable on the background of whatever or whoever you are supporting. AND you will need to keep abreast of all the background and political twoing and froing that may affect your cause. In black and white this all sounds a bit daunting and a lot of work, but it isn’t really, you are probably already doing it to some extent. The very fact that you are interested enough to read this book, tells me that you are already exploring the ideas that would support your social enterprise.
To be a voice of change and an agent of transformation, one of the most important tools in your hand will be information. The world is going into another form of revolution, this time around, it is not industrial or even technological, the new revolution is information. The revolution is being driven by big business. Big businesses have access to and influence on, the media as well as our pockets. Choose your media well.
The fastest way to influence others, is to show them what is happening. Most people live by what they can see and touch. But there is this overwhelming influence of the media in modern society. It feeds us not necessarily false information but it is not rounded information either. We are likely to be lead down a path by media bias and sensationalism. We are told what is hot and what is not. We are told that grass root initiatives are not working, when in fact those working at grass root level know that they are. They also know that a little more funding and influence would make all the difference.
If we are to fly the flag for change and enlist others to the cause, our message must be clear and un biased. The information that we share and react to should be fact checked and scanned for political agendas.
Or maybe it shouldn’t ….
Maybe we should leave in the agendas, maybe we should use political and emotional bias to further the cause that we are supporting?
[_That is how marketing works, right? _]
I will leave that conundrum with you. I suspect that you, like me will use your discretion and use both options.
Unfortunately, in the pursuit of publicity one must often compromise on certain points of principle. I am going to give an example in social media as, realistically this is where the most profitable marketing is done. A social media influencer that likes your product should not be dismissed just because you take exception to their stance on a certain issue. If that stance is in favour of child slavery, you should move on. However, if you can take a deep breath and look past that issue for the good of promoting your cause ….. my advice would be to do that. Do not compromise your principles or those of your cause but do be flexible enough to use the stepping stone. In my experience, most people have their heart in the right place, their mouth just gets a bit carried away from time to time!
*CHAPTER FOUR *
As we have already discussed, financial benefits are not a bad thing when running a social enterprise or pursuing a more dedicated social footprint. If you have decided to give away 10% of your profits, obviously the more profits you have, the better your donations.
_There are tax benefits. _
[_If you as a limited company donated £100 you would save £20 in corporation tax. _]
[_An individual or sole trader you can donate under Gift Aid, if you donated £80 out of tax paid money the charity can then reclaim £20 from HMRC. _]
So therefore in both cases the charity has received £100, but you have only spent £80.
Amounts will vary for higher rate tax payers, so its always advisable to speak to your accountant and work out a plan to make the most of your donations.
_These amounts are also subject to change if the tax rates change. _
With Thanks to Simon Young
at Aysgarth Chartered Accountants
In the last chapter of this small book I am going encourage you to leave lasting footprints: leaving a real legacy behind. The way in which we change the world and more importantly, create lasting change is by building up and supporting those who you can pass the baton on to.
*Build up people, invest in people, improve people, and believe in people. You cannot do it alone, recruit an army, inform them, teach them, *
*train them and unleash them. *
Your army may very well be you and Janice who heard you talking at a networking event and thinks that you have a point. David faced Goliath on his own, armed only with his faith in a single stone. Whilst I don’t want to involve religion (religion is often the reason so many people are in such dire circumstances). A little faith in yourself and a fair wind go a long way.
Make your social footprint a USP (unique selling point) for your business. Modesty is not going to get your message heard. Shout about it, use it in your marketing. Encourage other business owners. Look for suppliers who also seek out a better social footprint. In fact build a relationship with those businesses that will nurture cross over marketing and mutual support.
The people that you help will also be part of your army. How powerful is it that you have helped a woman to educate her children, children who may well have gone on to pick up guns. Now those children pick up books, they follow careers and in turn educate their own children ….
That is quite a legacy!
In this book I explore the bigger picture and try to explain how we can improve our social footprints. We are so lucky that we live in a country where our voices are heard, a country where we can be educated and where we can become financially independent. So, do we not have a responsibility to share our comparative wealth, experience and education?