May 31, 2009


Filed under: food — benmetz @ 8:11 pm

abeno for lunch on saturday with paul cheng from venturesomeokinamiyaki, a japanese savoury pancake cooked in front of you with all kinds of ingredients thrown in.  another distinct part of the london food landscape.  all kinds of dishes such as fillet steak sashimi, lots of fresh gyoza, udon, etc, fit round the main event – these multi-ingredient extra thick omlettes with the long name.  makes for a fantastic and highly enjoyable alternative to sushi based japanese…  on museum street opposite the british museum and opposite the photographers gallery on great newport street.  great stuff – and affordable too!


May 28, 2009

the wolseley

Filed under: food — benmetz @ 10:12 am

the wolseley, on picadilly, is one of london’s classic places for breakfast.  straight out of times of yore it’s a venue that has captured and bottled the essence of empire…  diligent service, quality ingredients, quintisesstially british menu, excellent execution.  and they hold back a bunch of covers every morning so you can usually just walk in and get a table.  great stuff!

May 26, 2009

ravi shankar

Filed under: food — benmetz @ 5:51 pm

ravi shankar on drummond street is one of two classic south indian vegetarian restaurants (the other is diwali) that are part of the fabric of london food life.  went there for lunch with aaron periera and got stuck into bhel poori, aloo channa chat, dahi vada and a couple of other south indian classics.  don’t be put off by the lame assed reviews or the tired looking decor – it’s cheap and cheerful and fits into the hiden gem category of indians in london that are really worth repeat visits. go. eat bhel poori…..  smile!

May 24, 2009

Moving on from Ashoka – what excites me and why…

Filed under: life..., projects — benmetz @ 6:47 pm

I’ve recently taken the decision to move on from my role as UK Director at Ashoka and jump back into a world of known unknowns and unknown unknowns (homage to the Donald Rumsfeld soundbite of the week on Radio Four some years ago)!

It’s a little scary but when the development director of a well respected international development organisation suggests kicking off a conversation about creating a role for me the fear begins to turn into excitement!

I’ve spent the afternoon, basking in the sun, and pondering a couple of questions he threw over to kick the conversation off.  Below is a rough and ready selection of some of the stuff I’ve just mailed over to him as it gives a little insight into one possible direction of travel for me…

You asked what excites me and why.

This has been a great question to have a think about right now, as I explore what comes after Ashoka for me.  There are two strands that this question has brought into focus for me: – climate change / environmental issues and ownership structures that drive for-profit-only approaches to business.  To unpick these a little:

The over-riding concern of our time is climate change.  Slow feedback loops means humankind has yet to fully comprehend (in emotional and practical terms) the enormity of the issue.  It’s all hands to the pumps on this ASAP.  While so much of this is presented as a problem (and it is for sure) there are also huge opportunities up for grabs.  I am particularly interested in how to relocalise human activity and supply chains to minimise environmental / climate damage and maximise environmental, social and economic positives.  How we move from long, fragile and unsustainable globalised supply chains to resilient, localised, sustainable supply chains is a question that many development organisations have yet to even comprehend let alone begin to address.  The combination of peak oil, commodity price increases and rising carbon levels will force us to revolutionise how we live.  First mover advantage in so many fields (development being an obvious one) is up for grabs for the more enlightened and progressive of players ready to tackle this question.

Directly linked to this (bear with me!) is my other area of interest.  The current model of capitalism prioritises the generation of profit over all other concerns.  This feeds and perpetuates the cycle of environmental destruction.  I’m keenly aware of the arguments currently underway that we are not in the midst of a recession rather we are at the beginning of an economic ‘discontinuity’ (check John Elkington’s / Volans work on the Phoenix Economy for the best summary I know) that will see a fundamental redesign of parts of the capitalist system.  What the outcome of this discontinuity is has yet to become evident but I believe we have a window of opportunity to reintegrate social and environmental values back into a system that has all but forgotten them.  So questions such as the following are of keen interest to me right now:

  • If we can realise highly distributed financing (think Kiva / crowdfunding at scale) for both new enterprise and the refinancing of existing corporates what implications does this have for the concept of ownership?
  • What values become predominant and what returns do people want when we have millions of people investing hundreds of pounds into companies rather than hundreds of people investing millions each and demanding a financial return?
  • How do we reintegrate philanthropic tendencies, at a financial level, with commercial activity (how do we reconnect the heads and hearts of all these do-gooder high net worths)?
  • Can we monetise, and thereby place on the same spread sheet as commercial activity, social return on investment?  Is this doable at pension fund level where the long term quality of life of investors is considered alongside long term financial return?

I could go on but I guess you get the idea.  I’m no academic or economist but I see a huge game to play here and with pretty much everything at stake right now I’m motivated to find the right organisations to work with and the right host to sit within to play my part in trying to answer these questions.

May 22, 2009

donna margarita

Filed under: food — benmetz @ 10:31 pm

opposite the battersea arts centre is donna margarita.  it’s a good little local italian.  simple, attentive service.  good people.  a bar of anti-pasti reminding me of osterias tucked down side streets in hidden corners of italy.  it’s nothing special – which, in a way, makes it special.  a very good parpedelle soaked in truffle oil with porcini mushrooms – fresh – satisfying – and with the anti-pasti to start the one main was enough for two.  affordable, accessible, friendly.

and as i’m back there tomorrow for day two of the transition conference i guess i’ll be trying the pizza…

donna margarita


Filed under: food — benmetz @ 7:24 am

went to maze last night and had something of an epiphany – but not in a good way.  gordon ramsey has done it again.  he’s commodified what, in theory, should be a fine culinary experience.

maze attempts to take a tapas or tasting menu approach to french-asian fusion and technically it succeeds – perhaps with the exception that about half the food we ate was too dry.  i’m guessing this is because they serve so many dishes they have to precook anything that isn’t served cold due to the high volumes of plates served.

the epiphany = where ramsey fails again and again is he’s taking a supply led approach to his catering.  the customer is pretty much ancillary in the experience.  it seems to be all about hitting some financial target or solving a technical catering challenge.  the analogy with the world of social finance in the uk is startling!  the whole thing is so up its own arse and supply led – the demand side of the equation is almost completely forgotten about!

don’t get me wrong there were one or two of the 20 dishes we ate that were interesting (but never inspiring) but give me a  kebab from the arcola street mangal in hackney anytime (and i’d save £95.50 a head too!).


May 21, 2009

a couple of videos

Filed under: projects — benmetz @ 9:21 am

Courtesy of David Wilcox, founder or social reporter, who I’ve been bumping into at various events recently here are a couple of links to video he’s shot of me.

First he caught me on film presenting to the closing conference of the EQUAL fund, a European Union fund that focussed on innovation in inclusion and employment throughout the EU.  The conference was a classic plenary – positively turgid – so a few of us tried to shake things up, with some result!  Have a look here to see my attempt at getting the delegates blood circulating in the after lunch graveyard slot…

Next David found me at SHINE, the unconference for social entrepreneurs that I helped establish alongside SSE and UnLtd last year.  Here David is quizzing me on what crowdfunding might mean for ownership structures and whether we’ll see a resurgence in mutuals again (here’s hoping)…

I’ll embed the videos at some point – probably when I’ve figured out how to and realise that it’s worth the upgrade…

May 19, 2009

crowd funding for transition

Filed under: projects — benmetz @ 11:29 pm

crowdfunding for transition
In my role at Ashoka we are just starting to work with Rob Hopkins (Rob was elected an Ashoka Fellow this year) to carry out some research surrounding creative ways of financing Transition Initiatives.  The Ashoka team (myself and Catriona Maclay, please see below for contact details) are interested in hearing from Transition groups who are currently in need of finance for upcoming projects. We want to work closely with a small group of projects to support you through the process of securing funds sourced from the across the Transition Movement rather than traditional grant funders or commercial investment.  This is often called Crowdfunding and below I’ve included a few words of explanation and links to explain more.

Projects we want to hear about can range from getting cash together to send people from your recently-formed group on Transition Training, to multi-million pound land developments, and everything in between.

If your Transition Group has a financial need for an activity which:

  • Has already been planned
  • You know the cost of
  • Has clear benefits

……..then we want to hear from you!

Get in touch with us by commenting on this blog post or emailing  We’ll also be at the Transition Conference this weekend (22nd – 24th May) at the Battersea Arts Centre so come and find us there.

And now a few words and links on Crowdfunding
Traditional forms of financing enterprise are incentivised through potential for financial return to investors.  A range of factors including the recent upsurge of interest in social enterprise and ‘more than profit’ business models and the near collapse of the capital markets are stimulating alternatives to for-profit share issues and private placements as methods of capitalising enterprise.  As a response new methods of financing and opportunities to refocus business towards the delivery of social and environmental value are emerging.
Some of these new opportunities are emerging in a field that can broadly be labelled Crowdfunding.  Crowdfunding, “inspired by Crowdsourcing , describes the collective cooperation, attention and trust by people who network and pool their money together, usually via the Internet, in order to support efforts initiated by other people or organisations” (quote from the pbworks wiki on crowdsourcing linked here and above).

The pbworks wiki is a good starting point for background reading.

The Young Foundation Social Innovation Exchange has also produced a good briefing paper on this.

And if you like to read in the old fashioned way then read Jeff Howes book Crowdsourcing

the albion

Filed under: food — Tags: — benmetz @ 10:34 pm

the albion – a great find.  simple high class british food.  black sheep beer.  a bar area, lounge area, dining room and front and back garden.  great wisteria out front.  multiple starters and bar snacks is a good choice (and what we did tonight).  would recommend the fresh deep  fried pork scratchings and the potted rabbit.  the pint of prawns good too.   roast bone marrow sometimes.  anyone would think its a pub version of st john!.
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