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Book review: How to Step Out

How to Step Out

By Craig Dearden-Phillips and Mark Griffiths

Review by Boris Worrall

Inspiring, engaging and informative. How To Step Out provides a comprehensive and accessible guide to those who want to join the small but steady stream of organisations leaving the public sector to forge a brave, new relationship with their customers, communities, staff and commissioners as social enterprises.

The author brings the subject to life superbly by using real-life case studies and packing the book with personal insight and the views of those who have been there and bought the t-shirt. And it’s truly inspiring stuff.

From the achievements of Ali Parsa in setting up a hospital using a blend of commercial and co-operative principles, to small community-based organisations with 25 staff, we see a common thread of innovation, excellence and improved services delivered by engaged staff.

Dearden-Phillips gets the balance right between the practical details of what’s involved and the more inspirational stories from chief executives and service users, while also covering less obviously interesting but vital topics such as business planning, governance and risk. While the scope is restricted to those directly considering stepping out, there is also enough there for other organisations – like my own Orbit Housing Group – exploring their own organisational approaches and relationship with community-based social enterprises.

The book has a slight tendency to be overly sympathetic to the ‘movement’ by citing some examples of ‘best practice’ as exemplars, when, in truth, they don’t always seem to quite hit the mark. Instead it achieves its balance by giving very human and sometimes amusing personal insights from practitioners about the very real barriers they faced and occasional mistakes they made. The one area where I felt it lacked detail was on the options and benefits of different social enterprise structures, something I was personally interested in.

But these are minor flaws in what is an absolute must read for anyone interested in social enterprise as a future model of public service delivery. Only time will tell if this model becomes mainstream, but with the likes of Dearden-Phillips and his contributors, it has every chance.

How to Step Out can be downloaded for free at http://howtostepout.com/

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