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The changing face of social enterprise — Liberty Cookhouse

As part of our Big Lottery ‘Awards for All’ project we’ve been on the hunt for interesting news stories from newer, younger social enterprises that help illustrate new, changing and emerging trends in the sector. 

We’ve been posting these stories on the blog under the overall title of ‘The changing face of social enterprise’ and you can read all the stories we’ve covered so far.

Today’s story concerns a social enterprise idea that is still in the very early stages of development. But it helps illustrate a crucial difference between social entrepreneurs and more conventional business people. Read on and we’ll explain.

For many, the process of social enterprise development is a kind of activism, and is deeply informed by a grassroots, DIY, ‘give it a go’ outlook that permeates all kinds of activism. It may even involve a degree of personal sacrifice.

The social entrepreneurs and community activists behind Liberty Cookhouse are a case in point. Dave Conroy, who has a background in refugee support as well as being a serial food business entrepreneur, has brought this development group together.

“A couple of years ago,” Dave explains, “I started the setup of an idea for a ‘community kitchen’ based social enterprise. Not a restaurant, or a simple catering business. What I had in mind was an industrially equipped commercial community kitchen aimed at refugees and people who want to start food businesses. I didn’t get very far because I quickly got busy again in my freelance work and it’s hard not to worry about paying the bills.”

But the idea didn’t die. Far from it.

“Two years on,” Dave says, “I felt the timing was better, certain things were happening that linked so well with the initial idea so we had to jump. I took the decision to drop to two days a week working from October through to the end of March 2018, spending the rest of the time working with others who want to help make Liberty Cookhouse a practical reality.” There are now over twenty people involved in developing the idea.

The business needs to succeed as commercial operation — of course it does — but for a particular reason. Dave believes that only by being financially sustainable and independent can the Liberty Cookhouse work flexibly and nimbly enough to ensure that it achieves the very best employment and support outcomes for the refugee client group it will support. “This isn’t about getting people onto an endless conveyor belt of ‘courses’,” he says. “It’s about a commercial business-to-business kitchen that can take advantage of new trends in the food market — home delivery, food production for third parties, offering a commercial business incubation space for food entrepreneurs — and turn these into real, ethical employment opportunities for refugees and others who, despite their resourcefulness and determination, are marginalised in the labour market.”

Food business incubators are a huge growth market in the US, where it is estimated that 86% of such facilities turn a profit within three years. The UK so far has no similar movement to support the incubation of food businesses.

The enterprise hopes to establish a space with community partners in Smethwick, very close to the site of the new Midland Metropolitan super hospital. “We believe the new hospital offers a concentration of potential customers of different sorts for special diets, culturally specific food and NHS supply,” says Dave. “There will also be a huge labour force there needing to be fed.”

Dave Conroy, Liberty Cookhouse

Many new trends in the food market at present represent a race to the bottom — low wages, zero hours contracts, and off-site food preparation in ‘dark kitchens‘ run by tech billionaire companies. “These markets trends won’t go away,” Dave says, “but we don’t believe the food sector has to be this way. A co-operatively owned and managed cookhouse can be run ethically, can deliver quality employment opportunities for those who most need them, and can help other food enterprises get off the ground. There is a space in the fast-moving food marketplace for an ethical business focused on quality, value, good employment practices and the creation of fair and equitable jobs. And we believe that Liberty Cookhouse is that business. It’s an idea whose time has arrived.”

 Read the Liberty Cookhouse ‘pitch’ here.

If you have skills, energy and expertise to offer, then the Liberty Cookhouse group want to hear from: send mail to Liberty Cookhouse; send mail to Dave Conroy; Dave Conroy on LinkedIn.

Social Value Portal launches national framework for measuring social value

A group of us were at the first national conference on social value last week. Held in Birmingham and organised by the Social Value Portal, this was a huge event with around 200 delegates.

One of the things we were most interested in seeing was the National Framework for Social Value Measurement, which was launched at the conference. Social value measurement has taken something of a backseat over the past couple of years but the launch of a free national framework and calculator tool puts this firmly back on the agenda.

Will this new framework achieve the kind of national recognition and traction its developers clearly hope for?

“National TOMs”

The framework — called the National TOMs Framework, which stands for Themes, Outcomes and Measurements — has been developed by the Social Value Portal and the Social Value Task Force over the past eighteen months or so, largely in response to the findings of the Lord Young review of the implementation of the Social Value Act. The Lord Young review called for more work to be done to develop a national minimum standard for reporting social value.

At the moment the framework is not comprehensive. It currently uses a basic five themes, under which there are 17 outcomes and 35 measures — some of which have in-built financial proxies which will automatically deliver a financial equivalent that can be attributed to the social value in question.

The aim is to test this framework over the next year or so, gradually populate it with a wider range of outcomes and measures and issue a version 2 framework in 2019.

Simple email registration on the Social Value Portal website enables you to download the guidance and the accompanying social value calculator spreadsheet.

It will be interesting to see the degree to which the framework is adopted. We have only had a fairly quick look at the guidance and the spreadsheets but our first instinct was that it looked over-complex for the average (and especially smaller) social enterprise.

Its natural constituency may be corporates and larger private sector businesses that are keen to capture social value as part of their contracting and bidding for public works, and public authorities that need to use an evidenced framework which will enable them to calculate and compare social value as part of decision-making in the procurement process. It may also appeal to social enterprises that have a designated social value and/or data person in-house able to take charge of putting the framework into practice.

The framework clearly represents an immense amount of labour. We understand that it has been developed largely by academic economists — and the guidance document rather reflects this. It certainly struck us that it could be more user-friendly.

It would be fascinating to hear accounts from others who may be in the process of trying to adopt this new framework.

The framework materials are free of charge.

Social Value Portal

Register to download the National TOMs Framework for Measuring Social Value

The changing face of social enterprise — reflecting on the stories we’ve been gathering

As part of our Big Lottery ‘Awards for All’ project we’ve been on the hunt for interesting news stories from newer, younger social enterprises that help illustrate new, changing and emerging trends in the sector. 

We’ve been posting these stories on the blog under the overall title of ‘The changing face of social enterprise’ and you can read all the stories we’ve covered so far.

Developing these stories has been a fascinating experience because it has also required us to reflect on social enterprise — and especially on the difficulties new-starts face in a period of public spending cuts, massively reduced access to business advice and support, and increasingly complex social and financial pressures.

We thought it would be interesting to take a step back from gathering stories and reflect more generally on the experience to date.

One of the things we have found most interesting — and most significant — is the level of discussion we have had with some of those who have approached us.

Some of the newest enterprises approaching us are at very early stages of development and we have found ourselves discussing some of the most fundamental issues:

» How best to increase income-generation.

» Whether the social mission of the enterprise — the social value it can deliver — represents a sufficiently strong ‘offer’ to attract potential customers or users.

» Even the core focus of the business — after discussion one person told us that she now realised that she needed to completely change the central emphasis of the business as its primary business idea would not generate sufficient revenue.

We’ve said before that the current scarcity of specialist advice and business support for social enterprises — particularly at the new-start, pre- and early-trading stages — means that many new social entrepreneurs are of necessity adopting an almost completely DIY approach. They are having to think deeply about what it is they want to do and how it can be done, and they are prepared to learn from their mistakes. This is a new and much more grassroots approach to social enterprise formation and development.  

While not all of the cases we have so far considered have turned into stories that we can cover we don’t consider this time wasted. Far from it. The entrepreneurs have found the exchange useful — and in some cases plan to make fundamental changes in their business plans as a consequence. On the other hand, we are finding the process offers invaluable insights into social enterprise development in a new and challenging environment.

But one thing that really does merit a particular mention is this. The social enterprise ‘model’ is about trading for a social purpose and it is this trading activity that makes something a social enterprise.

We’re not saying this is being forgotten, exactly, but it does seem that the current widespread usage of the Community Interest Company legal form — which obviously has a very strong focus on community benefit — is causing some to focus disproportionately on the ‘social’  at the expense of ‘enterprise’. In these cases one tends to see a clear plan for delivering on a particular social mission, but much less clarity regarding the goods or services that will enable the enterprise to become sustainable through trading.

While many enterprises depend on a mix of revenue sources — both income from trading and grants and philanthropic funding — the assumption when adopting a social enterprise business model should be that income from trading will grow to become the dominant source of revenue. 

Doing something that is socially useful but which will always require grant or philanthropic funding is not wrong or bad, however. But if this is the route you adopt then you need to have a very clear understanding of where that funding is, how it is accessed, who controls it, and whether you can (or will be able to) meet the requirements of those funders — such as quality thresholds, legal structure, governance, insurances, financial track record, capacity and capability.

So do bear in mind:

» Not all activities necessarily offer a viable basis for trading.

» In developing your social enterprise be ruthless in testing the assumptions you have made about the commercial potential of what you do (or plan to do), and where your future income will come from. 

» Whether trading or accessing grants — or indeed doing both, as many social enterprises do as a means of meeting the costs of different strands of the business — you need to understand how your marketplace works and how you will operate within it.

We’ll write more here about some of these broader issues in social enterprise development, but for the moment we would like to thank all of the new social enterprises that have participated — they have been patient and helpful and unfailingly receptive — and we hope that readers who are following these posts are finding them as instructive and as interesting as we are.

Calling newer, younger social enterprises with an interesting story to tell

As part of our Big Lottery ‘Awards for All’ project we’re still on the hunt for interesting news stories from newer, younger social enterprises that will help illustrate new, changing and emerging trends in the sector. 

We’ve been posting these stories on the blog under the overall title of ‘The changing face of social enterprise’ and you can read all the stories we’ve covered so far.

Every one of the stories we’ve covered has something instructive to say about how the sector is developing and changing.

If you’re doing something new and interesting, we want to hear about it. Tell us something about yourself and your social enterprise and we’ll see how best your story can be featured: send mail or ring Alun Severn on 0121 233 0278. We’ll work with you to develop the story and feature it here on the BSSEC blog.The kind of things we’ll need to know about you are:

» What you do and why you do it.

» The community benefit / social value you deliver or intend to deliver (with specific examples if possible).

» A bit of background — how long you have been operating, why you began, any notable successes or milestones.

» What you want / need from people who read the story — e.g. do you need volunteers, contributors, funders, donors, referrals, partners?

Background to the project — PDF.

 

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John Taylor Hospice says please ‘gift a Christmas’

John Taylor Hospice, the UK’s first social enterprise hospice, is asking local communities to get behind its festive appeal to raise £15,000 – enough to fund running costs at the hospice on Christmas Day.

The hospice in Birmingham provides specialist end of life care for people living with a terminal illness and their families. Today more than 600 people will receive the care they need from John Taylor teams. At the hospice and in the community that care can include 24-hour care at the hospice, support at home, in the Living Well Centre, counselling and well-being, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, pharmacy and complementary therapies.

The hospice is now inviting everyone, not just those touched by hospice care, to join the Gift a Christmas campaign and help make a huge difference for local families.

Read all blog posts about JHT

19-plus? Unemployed? Looking for a career in construction?

Wates, one of the largest privately-owned construction and development companies in the UK, announces Building Futures — a programme to help unemployed young people (over 19s) gain a better understanding of construction as a career choice.

For more information or to apply contact Irina Simrok on 07837 322 329 or SEND MAIL.  

Down flyer as a PDF

Talent Match Birmingham & Solihull — tendering opportunity

This, just in from BVSC, which in partnership with SUSTAiN leads the Big Lottery-funded Talent Match Birmingham & Solihull programme. Talent Match is a five year programme supporting 18-24 year olds in Birmingham and Solihull who are furthest away from the labour market.

* * *

Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull has just announced that it is in the process of procuring two large pieces of work for the final year of delivery. It is requesting quotations from organisations interested in delivering the Marketing and Communication and Learning and Evaluation needs of the programme.

These are two separate pieces of contracted work and the deadline for submission is 5pm on Monday 20th November 2017.

Contract 1: Marketing and Communications

Through the award of this contract, BVSC as the Lead Accountable Body for Talent Match in partnership with Solihull SUSTAiN, aims to secure the delivery of the Marketing and Communication needs of Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull during the final year of delivery.

During 2018 the Contracted Organisation will be the key provider with responsibility for the provision of the programme’s Marketing and Communication activities and services in line with the Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull Marketing and Communication Strategy.

Contract 2: 2018/19 Learning and Evaluation Contract for Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull

Through the award of this contract, BVSC as the Lead Accountable Body for Talent Match in partnership with Solihull SUSTAiN, aims to secure the delivery of the Learning and Evaluation needs of the Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull during the final year of delivery.

The Contracted Organisation will be responsible for evaluating the delivery of the programme until March 2018 and assessing the impact of Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull through a Social Return On Investment, Local Evaluation as well as other thematic priorities to be defined when the need arises, all of which will go towards informing the Annual Report and End of Programme Review.

Further information on how to submit a quote HERE.

Please note that all questions related to these pieces of work will only be answered on In-Tend, therefore, If you would like to quote for this work you must first register.

Talent Match Birmingham & Solihull is recruiting

Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull is recruiting…

Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull is led by BVSC, working in partnership with SUSTAiN and funded by the Big Lottery. BVSC was awarded funding in January 2014 to deliver a five year programme to 18-24 year olds in Birmingham and Solihull who are furthest away from the labour market.

Talent Match Coach x 2
Talent Match Outreach Liaison Worker x 2
Talent Match Employment Liaison Worker x 2

All third sector jobs on the BVSC website

Christmas craft fair at Park Lane Garden Centre

Better Pathways (the new operating name for BITA Pathways) wins the prize for first announcement of a Christmas Fair event. Congratulations!

This, just in…

 

Download the PDF flyer.

PSIAMS Transforming Services for Children and Young People

PSIAMS Systems Limited is a software and IT social enterprise that focusses on whole system solutions to help improve services delivery in the VCSE Sector. Recently, the PSIAMS team have been developing a range of solutions for organisations that support Children and Young People (CYP) in Dudley.

 


iZone, is a searchable directory of trusted, local, support available in Dudley for young people. The site was co-produced by young people and has a strong, iconic graphical theme. Based around the PSIAMS outcomes measurement themes the site provides young people with local, national and mobile services availed to them, in just three simple clicks.

Care and Share, is an online resource for Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs which provides a range of information on services available in the Dudley Borough, including specialist schools. The site is also available to parents and guardians of SEN children and allows them to track and review their progress of an EHCP (Educational Health and Care Plan) application. Care and Share, is also making an impact on business in Dudley, such as, Intu’s Merry Hill Centre  which will be putting the site on its in-centre touch screens and with a small independent Barbers, Labichi’s Gent’s Hairdressing, that has now redesigned services for children with  disabilities, such as, Autism after hearing about the project – read about the initiative here.

In addition, to Care and Share and iZone, the PSIAMS team have created Chatterbox, a sharing platform for CYP professional in Dudley to collaborate and share information on good practice and local initiates across the borough. The PSIAMS team have also built a collaborative system for CYP organisations, as well as adult services organisations, to work together and reduce the pressure on health and social care work settings.

When were asked to draft a participation strategy for children and young people in Dudley Borough, we wanted to find a way of reducing duplication and over consultation. PSIAMS came up with Chatterbox – a professional co-working space where staff and professionals can share information, iZone – a local, trusted, information portal co-designed with children and young people, and Care n Share, a peer to peer special educational needs project for young people, parents and guardians to share their stories and improve support. PSIAMS has created an environment for change. Now we’re providing solutions to the local authority. We’ve got data that is readily available. Case studies in video and what children and young people’s services need in terms of care planning, service improvement, service design and strategic planning.” Nicki Burrows, Children and Young People, Dudley CVS

Care and Share, Chatterbox and iZone have all been developed by PSIAMS as part of their work to develop a collaborative approach to healthcare across the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, allowing the sector to scale and present solutions to divert and reduce the pressure of health services. They recently won an award from the WMAHSN for the work in this field.

PSIASM Systems now operates across: the Black Country, Birmingham, Warwickshire, Shropshire, South Yorkshire and Cheshire.

To find out more about the work of PSIAMS visit PSIAMS.com or call 01384 217055

SCVO’s ‘Meet the Funder’ event makes a welcome return for 2017

This, just in from Sandwell Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)…

Having taken a year out in 2016, Wednesday 22nd November sees the return of SCVO’s Meet the Funder event for 2017.

With a focus on Social Capital and Social Investment, this year’s conference and funding fair will be an excellent learning opportunity; sharing good practice and the experiences of others across all things funding-related. And let’s not forget the opportunity to network and forge productive relationships that contribute to the wider benefit and overall sustainability of the region’s voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

The day combines a keynote address with a number of workshop streams – you can hear directly from funders (including Big Lottery, Ibstock Cory and the Arts Council) about their opportunities, together with hints and tips on how to apply or how about some practical guidance around social media or fundraising from wills and legacies?

And not forgetting our ‘Funder Marketplace’, where you can have a one-to-one conversation with a range of funders, both large and small.
Places are strictly limited to 200, so it really is “first come, first served”: when we reach 200 people there will be no more places released, so early booking is strongly recommended and encouraged!!

Including refreshments and a buffet lunch, the event costs just £20 per ticket for ‘small groups’ (those with an annual income of less than £15,000) and £30 per ticket for ‘large groups’ (those with an annual income of more than £15,000 – incl. statutory bodies) – pricing, particularly for small groups, has been made as accessible as possible thanks to the generosity of our event sponsors (to-date): Big Lottery Fund, Charity Bank and Good Finance.

More on the SCVO website

Agenda and book tickets

Could your social enterprise benefit from a fully funded extra pair of hands?

UPDATE 01/11/17:

Last call for Expressions of interest which must be submitted by Sunday 5th November 2017.

The University of Birmingham is looking for social enterprises to take part in its Enterprising Internships programme.

The University of Birmingham is working with Santander to offer social enterprises in the West Midlands the chance to benefit from the support of a talented student in the summer of 2018.

If you have a short term project or piece of research that you would like to complete but struggle to find the time or capacity for, then an Enterprising Internship could be the answer.

The student will be paid directly by the University via Santander and projects will last one month (20 days). Projects can take place from June 2018 onwards.

Prior to starting their internship, all students will be invited to attend training aimed at helping them understand how to be enterprising, how to make the best impact on your business and develop their enterprising skills.

You must have a base (non-residential) which the student can work from.

For more information, to register your interest or to discuss potential projects, send mail to Helen Hobson, Internship Officer. Please note: Expressions of Interest must be submitted by Sunday 5th November 2017.

Read flyer

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Martineau Gardens seeks new Director

This, just in from Martineau Gardens

Martineau Gardens is a well established 2.5 acre community garden located in Edgbaston. We are a relatively small charity with nine staff and an annual budget of circa £150k.

Spring time at Martineau Gardens, Edgbaston (Photo: Martineau Gardens)

Our gardens are tended by a team of people, most with learning disabilities and mental health issues, who volunteer on our therapeutic horticulture programme. In addition to being a leader in the field of therapeutic horticulture in Birmingham, we run an education programme for local school children.

We also provide opportunities for young people attending local special schools to work at the gardens.

Our current and long-serving Director, Caroline Hutton, is retiring in Spring 2018 and we are seeking a new Director.

Application deadline: Friday 10 November 2017, 5pm.

FULL DETAILS HERE

BSSEC publishes fifth Annual Report

We are delighted to publish our fifth Annual Report since incorporating as a Community Interest Company in 2012 – although it is now seventeen years since BSSEC was first established.

It continues to be very difficult for new-start social enterprises to access free specialist business support and partly as a consequence of this, we are continuing to see small-scale, grassroots ‘DIY’ start-ups in increasing numbers. Availability of the relatively cheap to use Community Interest Company legal structure is also encouraging this.

While this new spirit of independence is to be welcomed, many of these grassroots start-ups are very small indeed and for some survival will be uncertain, as will the ability to build a sufficient customer-base, especially in the early years. There also continues to be a growing appetite in the sector for more informal, peer-to-peer approaches to support, as evidenced by the growing local networks, such as the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter and the North Birmingham Social Enterprise Network.

Download Annual Report.

See all Annual Reports.

In memory of Jane Slowey CBE

Jane Slowey CBE, who died on the 7th October 2017 (photo: Foyer Federation)

Tributes from across the voluntary and community sector are being paid to Jane Slowey CBE, who died on Saturday 7th October 2017.

Many of you will know and remember Jane. She served for thirteen years as the chief executive of The Foyer Federation (whose own tribute is here), but prior to this served as BVSC’s chief executive and of course had particular links with Birmingham where she also served two four-year spells as a Labour councillor.

She is fondly — and movingly — remembered in a long tribute by Brian Carr and other BVSC staff over on the BVSC website. Third Sector magazine online has also paid tribute.

Jane also served as chair of Skills Third Sector and for six years was Vice Chair of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). She was also active in local politics, the youth sector and women’s equality and there will be many at the moment reflecting, as Brian Carr says, on “the trails she undoubtedly blazed — in her own gentle yet resolute way…”

We remember Jane with great fondness and respect and our condolences go to her family and friends.

Social enterprise: all aboard — new think-piece from Hempsons & BSSEC

New think-piece from Hempsons & BSSEC – click to read

It’s always a pleasure when old friends stay in touch — even more when they contact you and say, “I’ve got a great idea for something we can write together to go up on your website,” which is what happened to me a week or two back.

I was contacted by my old friend Simon Lee, whom many of you will remember. Simon now works for Hempsons solicitors in London, where he specialises in advice to social enterprises and charities.

We had a chat on the phone and it turned out that we had both been exercising ourselves about some new and emerging trends in the social enterprise sector. Why is the landscape of the sector changing in the ways currently apparent? What’s driving businesses — and in some cases huge ‘for profit’ businesses — to consider adopting some form of social enterprise model? Can such developments be taken at face value? We also touched on social value and wondered whether social enterprises were losing ground to the private sector in delivering on social value.

We agreed to write a sort of joint ‘think piece’. I’m not sure we manage to provide very many categorical answers but in a sense that wasn’t the point: this was as much about keeping our brains on their toes (if you see what I mean) and trying to interrogate (and perhaps even challenge) some of our own thinking…

We hope you enjoy reading it. And thanks to Simon for taking part in the experiment. 

Social enterprise: all aboard?

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Health Exchange’s CEO Graham Beaumont announces retirement

Health Exchange’s CEO Graham Beaumont has just announced his retirement

Graham Beaumont, who many of you will know, has led Health Exchange since its emergence onto the scene ten years ago. Health Exchange CIC was established in 2007 to deliver a radically different, community-led model of health promotion – initially serving the multicultural and diverse communities living in Birmingham.

And now, with some sadness — and perhaps even trepidation, if one reads between the lines — Graham has announced his retirement.

You can read all about it here in a longish post in which Graham reflects on the changes he has seen — and the demands of growing a new CIC from 23 employees to over 100 with a £3.2m turnover.

It really can’t be all that often that jobs of this calibre fall vacant in Birmingham’s third sector. Graham says, “We are determined to cast the net far and wide across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors to find the very best possible candidate for this demanding role at the heart of the health ecosystem.”

I spoke to Graham yesterday evening and what I said about his retirement was frankly not repeatable on a “family blog”… But the general gist was that his anxieties were misplaced and that many will envy his decision.

I know you’ll join us in wishing Graham every happiness — and anything else he may want from retirement — as and when he actually gets there. 

The closing date for applications is Monday 23th October 2017.

Read Graham’s reflections, find out more about the Health Exchange CEO vacancy.

Mayor supports ART Business Loans — ‘unsung heroes of the local business finance scene’

Mayor Andy Street speaking at ART’s AGM (photo: ART)

Speaking at ART’s 20th anniversary AGM, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street offered his congratulations on ART’s achievements over the past two decades and described the organisation as one of the unsung heroes of the local business finance scene.

Mayor Andy Street said: “I first met Steve Walker, Chief Executive of ART, when I became Chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and was impressed by his knowledge, enthusiasm and determination when it comes to finance for enterprise. Access to finance was always a key issue raised with the LEP and ART was always there – from long before the LEP came into being – persistently working, even through difficult times, to ensure that businesses could access the finance they needed to survive and thrive. ART has made a big difference to hundreds of enterprises and a huge contribution to the local economy over the past two decades. In some ways the access to finance situation has improved in recent years, but there are still issues to tackle.”

ART’s chief executive Steve Walker said: “We are ready, willing and able to do more to fill the gap in the market for loans for small businesses and social enterprises left by the banks. Both research and our experience on the ground show this gap to be bigger than it was in 1997, when we were set up to tackle the issue.”

Steve Walker acknowledges that some businesses are now finding it easier to access finance, but says: “those which are smaller and don’t fit the credit scoring criteria of either the banks or some of the new alternative finance providers, still need ART. We lend up to £150,000 to any type of business, for any business purpose. Our aim is to support local jobs for local people, remaining true to the mission set out by our founding Chairman Sir Adrian Cadbury.”

Sir Adrian’s son Benedict and daughter Caroline attended the AGM along with over 60 ART members, borrowers, introducers, partners and supporters.

Nick Venning, the recently appointed new Chair of ART, said: “ART has £7.5m to lend over the next three years, which is extremely good news. We are set to increase our loan book and are actively seeking additional funding to enable us to support even more businesses. ART’s approach is inclusive. We will continue to help any business or social enterprise in need of funding that in turn supports jobs and the local West Midlands economy.”

For more information about ART Business Loans and its borrowers, or to apply for a loan visit the website or call ART on 0121 359 2444.

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Yet more news from New Zealand — Social Enterprise World Forum 2017

Greetings again from Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017. This follows on from my first and second posts.

I woke up bright and early this morning feeling excited that the conference was moving into ‘practice’ with workshops for practitioners and further conversations on the structural and operating environment within which we all operate. The challenge was to make sure you were in the right place at the right time today, with 27 official workshops, large and mini-plenaries going on! Not to mention the spontaneous groups popping up to discuss what was important to them.

One of the key themes that is shining through in SEWF2017 is the role of social enterprise in the rebuilding and regeneration of cities and communities. In our first plenary, one of the speakers, Andrea Chen of Propeller spoke of the challenges faced by social enterprise in pre- and post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.

The conclusion people are coming to is putting the ‘social’ into enterprise is the next stage of economic development – fascinating stuff and very close to my own heart.

I was very focused today on the workshop I have to deliver: ‘Developing and maintaining a customer base’, one of the biggest challenges for social enterprises. I delivered with Social Traders (Australia) and St Andrews First Aid Training (Scotland). Over the three hours (we delivered it twice) we helped early stage and well established social enterprises to think through the challenges they face in accessing new customers and developing the appropriate systems and processes to grow. I will definitely be repeating this workshop when I get back to the UK and I hope to persuade Michelle Ferguson (MD of St Andrews First Aid Training) to do it with me. It’s good to mix up the strategic thinking with practical activity at a conference and I think they’ve got it right.

The conference is also an opportunity to hear about work in other countries and use those ideas to stimulate work in your own. Something that struck me particularly today was what we heard from Pat Pillai of Life UnLtd (South Africa) about working with children to help them understand social enterprise, developing incubator schemes with schools and supporting school children to develop their ideas into new social enterprises. This was inspiring. Pat has used his work with children to grow 1,200 social enterprises over recent years. He suggests that if children understand enterprise providing social benefit it gives them skills for life.

My final reflection today concerns ‘networks and infrastructure organisations adding value’ and the changing role such organisations have in helping social enterprises start and grow, especially in a time of reducing resources, not just in England but internationally.

This was the theme of a mini-plenary I took part in and my conclusions are that the function of infrastructure support should be to provide information, brokerage, be enablers, support collaboration, provide support and above all develop awareness of the social enterprise sector. The plenary confirmed that networks and networks-of-networks will become increasingly important to the growth of the social enterprise sector, providing access to further markets and income streams, as will a rise in co-working space and self-help groups.

Tomorrow is the last day and the first plenary will kick off with ‘Global Citizenship and Sustainable Development Goals’. It’s another stimulating day and making choices for sessions is going to be hard!

The breaking news is that next year SEWF will be in Scotland – watch this space for more information!!

Sarah Crawley, iSE

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USE IT! programme opens social enterprise challenge with £3K awards; also, forthcoming awareness workshops

This news just in from iSE…

USE IT! Programme — social enterprise challenge

iSE is delighted to announce that applications for the USE IT Challenge are now OPEN. The USE IT Challenge offers existing social enterprises the opportunity to WIN an award of £3,000 to help support the development of a new innovative product or service.

Challenge Criteria
» The Social Enterprise must be 2 years or older.
» The Social Enterprise needs to be based in Ladywood, Soho or Smethwick wards.
» The award is for Social Enterprises looking to develop a NEW product or service and take it to market.

Application process
6 social enterprises will be shortlisted and invited to a lock-in in November. Lock-In details will be shared but to give you an idea, you will work intensely on your product/service idea and at the end pitch to a panel. A winner will be selected by the panel.

Complete the application form.

Submit a 3-minute video telling us about the new product / service and why it should be shortlisted, and send it by email to Mariam Yate as an attachment.

Application deadline is Monday 16th October 16:00 pm.

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Forthcoming social value awareness workshops in Soho and Smethwick Wards as part of USE IT! programme — Pre-booking essential: Mariam Yate 0121 663 1711 or send mail: