How to set up or evolve any organisation into a charity run social enterprise EG Progreso set up by Oxfam

How to set up or evolve any organisation into a charity run social enterprise EG Progreso set up by Oxfam
We can help you do this for any startup, company or organisation but here are some points…

Overview of setting up the Progreso social enterprise with the charity Oxfam was set up by with an interest free loan by and donations by celebrities such as the actor “Mr Darcey” and “The King” (the kinds speech:) Colin Firth.

I contacted Oxfam and then Progreso when I was researching and setting up a charity run Fairtrade coffee chain and was hoping it would be possible to help them enhance their exciting charity run startup.

I spoke to a number of people at Oxfam about the charity coffee shop that I was setting up before hearing about Progreso. I then managed to speak to the MD of Progresso called Wyndham James. He told me about the exciting work opening new charity shops in different cultures. After finding that Oxfam were doing this great work I decided to change from being a Social Entrepreneur to become a Social Intrepreneur by working with Lewin as the Head Barister and Team Leader. Lewin has gone on to set up the exciting cycling cafe.

The coffee chain gained massive goodwill as all profits were going to good causes and the staff and suppliers were motivated to collaborate and give as much extra as they could out of their own pocket. This coupled with the public’s ferocious appetite to support such a good cause (just like charity shops gain) enabled us to have fast growth from startup to established business over the first few years of social business.

Social Innovation in startups
Here are a couple of the ways I created social innovation in the Progreso startup that maybe of interest. There are many more that I can help you with if interested EG…

1. Introducing recycling on all Metal and plastic waste so the public could learn about and enjoy recycling.
2. Creating extra social enterprise that adds extra value. One example of this is where I got students to donate their old table football tables and installed them in the cafe and collected donations for charity for free games on the babyfoot tables. This added value in many ways.
3. I enabled the staff to get tips but the tips were donations to oxfam (so they can help starving people:)
4. I created viral marketing campaigns using recycled material. One example of this is where we used recycled old bikes and turned them into portable marketing tools (other chains such as Pret a Manger have used bicycles in a similar way since).
5. One soft skills social innovation was to help the staff bring and play their own music when they were cleaning and closing the shop as this raised morale and shared culture.
6. I contacted many organisations about collaborating with them inclucing NESTA and UnLtd and excitingly managed to train unemployed homeless people giving them work and training after asking the Crisis Skylight Cafe team if we could help their unemployed homeless people by getting them to work in the Progreso cafes.

Lessons learned

1. The cafes where doing very good trade relative to previous cafes on the same spots due to the ethics and culture of the organisation and the staff and suppliers were motivated by knowing that everything they did helped generate profit for good causes.

2. The key lesson that I learned was that everyone has different skills and everyone can do amazing thinks if they are educated and empowered to do so. We found this worked well when enabling anyone to suggest ideas or make art pieces to share in the cafe.

3. The other key lesson for any high street retailer is to make sure that rent and product/infrastructure costs are as low as possible. It is very hard to find out if the costs you are paying as as low as they could be. Charity shops often do not need to pay business rates and sometimes get to use shops rent free. It would be great if it were possible to make sure that every charity shop (and social enterprise that donates 100% of it net profit to charity) gets free rent so that EVERY pound of profit it makes can be used to save a life.

4. I have researched and complied lists of many charity startups and social enterprise organisations that are often doing very similar things or duplicating processes/procedures and it would be great to enable any and all of these organisations to collaborate and share their knowledge/learning/funds/abilities in an online space. is great but the website is so tied down with verification issues (ironically so if Facebook/twitter) that it is not usable as a live working document. It would be great to work with others in these sectors to create a simple solutions for this using existing open source software. I have created a protoype at to do this.

5. I stayed with Progreso for the first two years in order to successfully help set up the social enterprise into a sustainable business with steady income. A couple of years after I left the enterprise I heard that it had closed down and was mystified to find out how and why? I contacted Oxfam to find out more details but have not been able to find out. The only reason I can think that the enterprise was closed would be if the shop rents were either too high or raised to a level that was too high which would make even the progreso high turnover not profitable (but I dont know if this was the case)? It would be great if Oxfam and Progreso and Matthew Algie could write a report (or even just a blog post like this) to share the lessons learned from the successes and failures of the enterprise so that others round the world can learn form them.

6. If any organisation that hits trouble no matter how large in enabled to evolve then it will grow stronger. It would be great to work with the same people again to launch a 2.0 version so that it can flourish and grow building on the proven successes. If you would like to do this then do get in contact.

Anyone can do it
1. How is it best to open up and improve any charity shop in any country or culture? Is the best way to set up showcase examples so everyone can duplicate eg and share the best business models eg

2. If you would like any help with setting up a charity enterprise or innovating in your enterprise do contact me for more details at

3. Any existing startup or business can save lives just by agreeing to donate 100% of the net profit to NEW innovative charitable work explains more

4. The key irony is that anyone can have more success and get richer by giving away all profits to innovative charity so everyone gains!

5. How best to enable everyone to help everyone right now? Share information on the web to educate your peers about selfless innovation so we can all compassionately help everyone.

Viral marketing using recycled London bikes promoting the Fairtrade Social Enterprise Cafe Progreso with Oxfam.

About Whymandesign

Creative Social Media Manager. May I creatively help enhance your work with you? I create and enhance innovative products and services using new techniques and technology. I understand the potential of productions that: entertain, educate and empower and are always looking to work with forward thinking partners.

Posted on December 21, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: