Community Action Network

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Community Action Network (CAN) is a charity that says it

supports social entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses and maximise their social impact. We provide office space, business support and funds.[1]

Part of the Mezzanine

CAN has in the past been a partner of Demos, another "third way" think tank.[2] Both CAN and Demos have offices at The Mezzanine, a building in London which houses a number of supposedly independent think tanks and charities that engage in "social entrepreneurialism". The building provides floorspace at cheaper rates than most landlords.[3] These organisations overlap in personnel and exchange funding, some of which comes from the National Lottery, or Big Lottery Fund, as it is known.[4] They benefit from the think tank-led policy shifts towards an "individual entrepreneurialism" backed by big business, a shift from a political perspective working for fundamental changes into what they term venture philanthropy.

CAN's funders have included the BBC, Coca Cola, BT Cell-Net, and British Gas.[5]

Much of what CAN does appears little different to lobbying. For example in 1999:

Ten young social entrepreneurs, all sponsored by the Coca-Cola Youth Foundation, were recently taken by CAN to Number Ten Downing Street. This is part of a programme of activities which CAN is implementing to inspire and encourage them to develop their social entrepreneurial skills further. They meet Geoff Mulgan of the Policy Unit and discussed ideas and issues that concern them. Geoff has given the group and all CAN members e-mail access via CAN HQ into the Policy Unit so the dialogue with government can continue.[6]

CAN was set up by the Reverend Andrew Mawson (Baron Mawson), Adele Blakebrough, and Helen Taylor Thompson.[7] Blakebrough is CAN's director and the partner of Demos's Ian Hargreaves.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

As of 2009 Mawson is the president of CAN.

Mawson was assisted in setting up CAN by Peter Thomson[8]. Thomson is an Anglican priest who is credited with introducing Tony Blair to Christian Socialism, "a movement which espouses faith based social action".[9] Thomson wrote a foreword for Andrew Finan's book Corporate Christ, which, he says:

provides a new look and a new perspective on the life of Christ: how he built awareness of his message; the unique PR techniques he adopted; the 7 sales principles used to win converts; the management techniques used to turn 12 ordinary men into a crack team of disciples; how he sowed the seed for the creation of the most powerful and important movement the world has known...[10]


"Partners and supporters" listed on the CAN website in 2009[11] are:

ACEVO | Adventure Capital Fund | Bain & Company | Bates, Wells and Braithwaites | British Telecom | CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) | Ernst and Young | EVPA | Impact | NCVO (The National Council for Voluntary Organisations) | Offices of the Third Sector | Panasonic | Permira | Precise Media | PR Newswire | ProspectUs | SEC (Social Enterprise Coalition) | SEL (Social Enterprise London) | Social Enterprise Magazine | Sony Europe | Source Design | SVG Capital | The Big Lottery Fund | Third Sector Magazine | Unltd


  1. CAN website, accessed February 2009.
  2. "Finance", Demos website, accessed February 2009.
  3. "CAN Mezzanine saves sector over £2m every year", Social Enterprise Coalition Newsletter 11-12, p. 4
  4. "Partners and Supporters", CAN website, accessed March 2009.
  5. Transcript of speech by Reverend Andrew Mawson, "CAN: Objectives and Activities", DINF website, accessed March 2009.
  6. Activity, CAN-zine May 1999, accessed in web archive March 2009.
  7. CAN Founders, CAN website, accessed March 2009.
  8. Peter Thomson, ISX website, accessed March 2009.
  9. "Tony Blair's Leap of Faith", Interview by Geraldine Doogue with Tony Blair, Compass, ABC Television website, accessed February 2009.
  10. Peter Thomson, Foreword to Corporate Christ by Andrew Finan, Management Books, 1998.
  11. "Partners and Supporters", CAN website, accessed March 2009