Reflections of a Mad Man in Furlough

This morning I decided to trot my dog Molly into the City as my diary is clear.

I had heard on the grapevine that a small Italian Coffee Shop (aptly called Solo Grano) was open for business and was dying for a pukka Cappuccino and as the sun was already blazing at 8.30am wanted to imagine myself in Athens as I should have been had it not been for lockdown.

The City was quiet except for a lonesome street-dweller and a clutch of construction workers pressing on with the development of City Centre flats and student accommodation. The City was clean and bright, its ancient mix of medieval (think Robin Hood) and Victorian splendour standing proud in the morning sunshine.

I’d clocked the little independent Italian coffee shop opening about a year ago, but had never visited. Perhaps habitually I was attuned to grabbing a Costa from the large soul-less café on the corner or worse going for the dispensed version at Sainsbury’s Local. This morning was different – they were closed. Social distancing observed, I bought my coffee for £2.25 (same price as Costa) served by the smiling (and rather good looking) young Roman at Solo Grano – a small wrapped biscuit (nod to our wonderful client the Food Standards Agency) placed beside it and vowed to reward his endeavours by becoming a loyal and returning customer. 

Wondering about in Market Square almost alone other than the local mad MOD (now 75) driving his 3 wheeler version of a Vespa through the fountains fully adorned with badges, St. Georges flags and multiple other paraphernalia, I looked about.

The once heaving big corporate retail brands – Debenhams, New Look, Burton/Dorothy Perkins, Primark, Costa, Starbucks, Café Nero – were closed and empty, their large windows plastered with tacky discount posters, their displays a season old, the goods uninviting.

I wondered (and hoped) that beyond COVID and subject to some real common sense on behalf of the Council in terms of business rates, and taking advantage of all these emerging new flats, now might be the big moment for a resurgence of the Independent and family owned business able to flex and be versatile in times of crisis bringing back truly differentiated service with personality and individualism to the citizens of our City.   I’m in.

SoLo coronavirus update

Image by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pixabay 

We hope you are safe and keeping well. Life is a roller coaster for all of us right now, as we wonder how the next few weeks and months will develop.

At SoLo, we’re operating our usual remote model to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, whilst also staying focused on delivering for our clients.

We’ve been working ‘remotely’ since we founded (nearly 9 years ago now!) and we’re geared up to deliver our work from our desks. We can run planned face-to-face work digitally and are happy to give guidance if you have any questions on how this can work.

Remote working can be a little lonely at times. If you are ever looking for a bit of company you’re always welcome to pop into our virtual office (we’ll send a link!) for a cuppa and a chat. 


SoLo’s Guide to effective remote working

SoLo’s virtual office in action 

Are you working from home for the first time? At Social & Local, we’re seasoned remote workers (nearly 9 years now and counting!) Here are five things we have found make home-working work best.

  1. Create a dedicated workspace: Find somewhere to work that’s free from the interruptions of home life. There’s nothing more distracting than an unmade bed in the corner of your eye or a washing machine bleeping for attention. Even if you don’t have the luxury of a home study, a pop-up desk in a corner of a room can work better than the kitchen table or sofa because it demarks a space that’s solely about work. This helps you to focus on work during worktime and then escape it when you’re done.
  2. Connect (digitally) with colleagues: Make time to connect with colleagues – at SoLo we have a virtual Skype “office” – a daily Skype meeting which we log into for the day to connect with colleagues, foster teamwork and keep loneliness at bay. Regular, scheduled catch-ups over the phone or in the Virtual Office provide opportunities to exchange information informally and regularly, keeping work efficient and focused and ensuring the team is working seamlessly together.
  3. Take regular desk breaks: Create some structure and routine for your day. 8 hours alone at your desk can be a daunting prospect. Research shows that we’re better working in short, intense bursts. That’s why you’ll often find Steph on an 11 o’clock dog walk and Jess making her lunch to the backdrop of the World At 1. Give yourself a structure which includes short regular breaks and schedule a brisk walk if you can. You’ll probably sit more than usual and may need to make time to move. Remote meetings are usually shorter too – another bonus of home-working!
  4. Dress for the day: Though some might relish the chance to stay in PJs all day, we find it helps to get your head into ‘work mode’ by dressing appropriately… Not necessarily in a power suit, but somewhere in between. Being dressed ‘for work’ can help create the distinction between work and home, when there isn’t a commute to do that for you.
  5. Meal plan: Fill your fridge with goodies so that you can make yourself a nutritious lunch. Without the joys of Pret or Itsu on the office doorstep, a few tasty ingredients can quickly be fashioned into a healthy lunch to refuel for the afternoon ahead. Smashed avocado and poached eggs on toast is a team favourite, as well as a selection of weird and wonderful salads.

Remote working can be a little lonely at times. If you are ever looking for a bit of company you’re always welcome to pop into our virtual office (we’ll send a link!) for a cuppa and a chat. 


Millennial Life – boiled down to 5 key things

Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay

Millennials – born between 1980 and 2000 – are both the 20th century’s last generation and its first truly digital one. We spoke to eight millennials from across the UK and boiled down what they told us to 5 key things. 

  1. They are time poor – living away from friends and family (but trying to keep up with them) and working for companies that don’t give them flexibility (which generations behind them will demand as they come of age), Millennials are struggling to fit it all in. Companies would do well to recognize this. As a generation, millennials are conscientious and given trust/flexibility, will deliver for their employers.
  2. They are financially stretched – living with mortgages and lifestyles to keep up with, they are more stretched than the generation above (cheaper lifestyles) and below (no desire to own property). This impacts their ability to live out their values. So, while they might talk the climate change or human rights walks, they aren’t all walking the walk.
  3. Though they have a strong sense of the world’s problems, they feel inert to solve them – probably because of points (1) and (2) above – time and money. This leads to feelings of guilt, compounded by worry that the generations above and below them don’t share their ethical and environmental values.
  4. Brands and organisations could benefit from this complex sense of inertia, guilt and social conscience by making it easy for millennials to behave ethically. Removing some of the burden of solving the world’s problems with products and services that can help them do the right thing, could prove financially and socially rewarding.
  5. Whilst marketers are quick to invest in social media, they need to ask themselves whether it is always the right channel for reaching millennials. Many millennials are scathing about social media and marketeers should approach with caution.


5 things you should know about Adrian Hosford, Non-Executive Director

  1. People and pets: My wife Hilary, 3 grown children Dan, Zara & Anna and 5 grandchildren Alma, Heidi, Rose, Max & Robin.
  2. Favourite (communications) campaign: Strange to say, one of mine – but I was just the Client – the genius was the late David Abbott who created BT’s “It’s good to talk”. Brilliant because it captured the essence of the brand, a fundamental insight, a big profound idea built on a universal truth and a compelling call to action. Solid evidence proved it worked beyond our wildest expectations, helping to change the culture and behaviour of a nation and the bottom line.
  3. Quote to live by: It’s not what happens to you that matters but how you respond – we always have options
  4. Something we don’t know about you: I once lived on the Thames for a damp year
  5. Why the Social Life Matters: People work best when they achieve a balance in their life that works with their priorities and preferences. Judge on their output not the input.

#SocialLife #socialbusiness #social&local 

5 things: society’s biggest issues, according to millennials

Image by stokpic from Pixabay 

Millennials – born between 1980 and 2000 – are both the 20th century’s last generation and its first truly digital one. We spoke to eight millennials from across the UK to find out how they want to live, what stops them, what they view as the biggest issues facing society, and what they think of the generations before and after them. 

  1. Unease around narrowing world views and increasing intolerance for other people’s beliefs is of high concern. One Londoner told us: “Tolerance for differing views is changing and becoming much more extreme. This is linked to people feeling that their opinion can be equal to a FACT.” A participant from Scotland said: “I think we are becoming more isolationist and people are retreating into their own tribes. It’s happening everywhere. There is a lot of division about most issues; a lot of misunderstanding”. C, 32, from Leamington Spa said: “The demonization of groups of people [is a massive problem] with media like the Sun failing to humanise groups of people – trashing immigrants and asylum seekers and Labour voters – we need to get passed this – we are going backwards.”
  2. The gulf between rich and poor was mentioned by a few respondents as one of the biggest issues facing society now, both reflecting and creating this division of opinion and inability to see things from other perspectives.
  3. Climate change (unsurprisingly) rides high as one of the biggest issues the world currently faces (according to millennials), with concern around denial and the amount of education required to turn the issue around.
  4. Social care was also raised, with worry about our unwillingness to look after one another: “There is a considerable unwillingness for volunteering and with a whole generation spending not saving and having fewer children I envisage a pinch point of a big, top heavy population, without the volunteers to help keep going – unless there is significant rebalancing” (M, 32, Manchester).
  5. Inertia, guilt and paralysis are stopping people from being able to act: “I think that the biggest issue is that people don’t know how to make a difference – we have the conscious awareness, but people don’t think they can impact on this and so feel guilty.”

Steph honoured in Timewise Power 50 Awards in hat trick of awards success for SoLo




Steph has been named in the 2020 Power 50 awards: a roll call of 50 powerful executives in the UK – who all happen to work part-time or flexibly.

The award completes a hat trick of awards success for Social & Local, with Stephanie recently named as one of 50 Female Frontier honourees by industry-leading brand, Campaign magazine; and  Social & Local being shortlisted in two categories in the 6th Annual Better Society Awards.

The 2020 Timewise Power 50 Awards have been compiled by Timewise, a flexible working consultancy, following a nationwide search. Co-founders Karen Mattison MBE and Emma Stewart MBE publish a fresh list annually, in order to prove ‘what’s possible’ when you work part time or flexibly.

Steph says:

“What an honour to be recongised for this award, thank you Timewise.

“I set up Social & Local following redundancy from an advertising firm in 2011. At 55 and female I knew there was no future for me in the advertising world. I started to build a vision for the first social advertising business. Witnessing the poor treatment of people in the industry – from terribly-paid, over worked managers to discriminated-against pregnant women, I wanted to do things differently.

“Social & Local was designed to put people at its heart. The idea didn’t float with everybody at the time, but this award just goes to show that the world is finally changing – in favour or more flexible, humane working practices. I hope what I have shown in my own small way is that doing the right thing by your people goes hand in hand with business success.”

Flexible hiring and working practices are integral to SoLo. The entire team works flexibly and remotely to suit their lifestyles. A ‘virtual’ Skype office and good communication between colleagues about when and where they are working ensures that deadlines are hit, and client needs met.

For Steph, this means starting early (6am) with a morning break to walk her dog and visit her husband in his Nursing Home. Others work around the school run and into the evening, maximising time with their children. The result is fulfilled, creative, diligent, professional staff and happy, retained clients.

Timewise co-founder and judge Karen Mattison MBE, who led the initiative from the start says:

Success doesn’t come in one shape or size. With 9 in 10 people wanting or needing flexibility in their next job – it is vital we find and showcase modern day role models to aspire to. Stephanie is blazing a trail – all whilst working part-time or flexibly. Achieving serious success, in less days. Not only proving that it can be done – but how. The Timewise Power 50 exists to award innovation like this. Every person who tells their story openly, helps to make change happen.”


Social & Local CIC shortlisted in 6th Annual Better Society Awards

We’re happy to share the news that we’ve been shortlisted in the 6th Annual Better Society Awards. The news comes just weeks after Steph was named as one of 50 Female Frontier honourees by industry-leading brand, Campaign magazine.

The Better Society Awards celebrate the efforts that commercial organisations make to create a better society, and are organised by the Better Society Network.

Social & Local scooped nominations in two categories: Consultancy of the Year and Impact Company of the Year. We were particularly excited to be recognised alongside huge businesses like RBS, Aviva and Deloitte.

The judges applauded Social & Local’s commitment to social impact, our entirely remote-working model, and the fact that we are one of the only Community Interest Companies (CIC) in the business. We were recognised as an inspiring example of what can be done when business puts humanity at its heart and for proving that a people-centred business model is not only the right thing to do but goes hand in hand with business success.

Social & Local Managing Partner Natalie Richards says:

“We founded Social & Local as a CIC because we felt there was a better way to do business. Our industry – the creative industry – has a poor track record in looking after its people and flexing to their needs. We are proof that anyone can earn a living doing what you’re good at and do good too. We might be a micro business but our mission is big!” 

 The winning companies will be announced on 14 May.

5 things: what the millennial generation thinks of the generation following in its footsteps (Gen Z)

Image by Gary Cassel from Pixabay 

Millennials – born between 1980 and 2000 – are both the 20th century’s last generation and its first truly digital one. We spoke to eight millennials from across the UK to find out how they want to live, what stops them, what they view as the biggest issues facing society, and what they think of the generations before and after them. 

5 things: what the millennial generation thinks of the generation following in its footsteps (Gen Z)

  1. A theme that emerged repeatedly in our interviews is the perceived lack of values held by Generation Z: “From what I’ve seen they don’t seem to have as strong values” (N, 33, London); “I’m not sure that people below 25 really have values, their values are more concerned with how many likes they can get on social media” (C, 32, Leamington Spa).
  2. In the eyes of millennials, Gen Z are consumeristic and looking for “instant gratification”. With saving so difficult and many of the things that previous generations strove for (property) out of reach, they are looking to other forms of consumption to express themselves. As a 32-year-old from Manchester summarizes: “Fundamentally the generation below differs [from us] very much. They are commodity driven – the big acquisition is so untenable and the inability to save enough means that there is a huge push on owning the nice things that can be seen and shown. This generation is much more about having and spending now and not saving.”
  3. Generation Z is also alleged to be lacking in work ethic. One respondent said: “I don’t see a strong work ethic, many of the people that work for me are temporary – not driven by a career.” Another said: “I think they are even more flighty than we are – I manage some under-25s and they’re more kind of – let’s just see how it goes. They feel very entitled e.g. benefits in the workplace, they [unrealistically] feel they deserve pay rises and promotions”.
  4. One respondent from Glasgow was kinder in her view. For her, Generation Z does not lack in ambition, but has expectations about how they will and won’t work: “I think they are as ambitious as we are – but want to work a lot more flexibly. They are more entrepreneurial and want to work for themselves, less forced to go to University and they are able to make decisions more freely”. Lack of resilience (in the workplace and more widely) also emerged in several conversations.
  5. There is sympathy for Gen Z as the generation that has grown up with social media. “I think they are under a lot more pressure because they have grown up with social media at school and university. Social media is no longer innocent – they have multiple Instagram accounts to present different images – they are very image conscious” (J, 30, Glasgow).
  6. While most of the views we heard about Generation Z were negative, some of our millennials were willing to give credit to this generation for its open-minded approach to life – something that millennials might learn from. Our respondent from Glasgow noted that Gen Z is “even more open minded around things like gender and different variants. It’s still a learning curve for me.”

Millennial Life: what millennials think of the generation before them

Photo by Slavomir Ulicny from FreeImages

Millennials – born between 1980 and 2000 – are both the 20th century’s last generation and its first truly digital one. We spoke to eight millennials from across the UK to find out how they want to live, what stops them, what they view as the biggest issues facing society, and what they think of the generations before and after them.  

5 things: what the millennial generation thinks of the generation before it

  1. There is a feeling amongst millennials that their generation is more adventurous and ambitious than the generation that came before it, perhaps even “flighty” or “selfish”. A respondent from London told us: “Previously people have stuck to a path – we go travelling, do things differently from our parents; we are more conscious of our footprint in the world”.
  2. Millennials believe that they place greater emphasis on people and experiences with their friends, while their parents favour material items. They are “very into material things and are more likely to buy from
    big corporations, rather than thinking about where something is made or who made it” (J, 30, Glasgow). Their children, on the other hand, “share feelings and look towards activities for happiness, rather than buying things” (C, 30, Manchester).  
  3. This investment in relationships puts an additional time pressure on the millennial generation, that didn’t exist for their parents, because people don’t tend to live close to friends and family so much anymore. A respondent from Manchester told us: “My friends live all over the country and therefore it takes time to travel and see them regularly. As a generation, we are time poor.”
  4. There is a strong sense of progress, that the millennial generation is more open-minded and more tolerant than its parent’s generation. “My parents’ values are very internal looking, whereas I feel this generation is more outwards looking – we have so much more information giving us the chance to have a bigger perspective” (K, 34, London). “My perception is that my parents have similar values to me, but the generation as a whole is not quite as open to people from different walks of life or backgrounds. [They identify] ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups. They don’t spend time with ‘out’ groups and dismiss them, just because their opinion differs. My generation is more open, tolerant and accepting of diversity” (C, 32, Leamington Spa).
  5. This follows through to the environment. Awareness of the environment is very much considered to be a younger person’s pursuit… “[We are more] environmentally conscious than the previous generation” (C, 30, Manchester).