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Robert Owen, social and co-operative entrepreneur

Phil Beardmore writes today’s guest blog

We promised more about co-operatives — and today’s informative guest blog comes from Phil Beardmore, the secretary of Co-operatives West Midlands, a sustainability consultant and social entrepreneur.

Today he writes about the great co-operative and socialist pioneer, Robert Owen.

Robert Owen, social and cooperative entrepreneur by Phil Beardmore

Like me, you may have recollections of learning about Robert Owen in history at school, and his attempts to build a utopian community at New Lanark in Scotland. I didn’t really know much more than that until I recently visited New Lanark, now a world heritage site that brings to life the role of Robert Owen as a pioneer of social enterprise and cooperation, mostly through the words of children who lived in the village.

Robert Owen was a wealthy individual from Wales who in 1786, along with David Dale, set up a model village on the banks of the Clyde with a mill, housing, shop, and a school. It was progressive in many ways – shorter working hours, better working conditions, schooling, health care, housing quality – compared to the condition of the working class elsewhere at the time.

Robert Owen was a social entrepreneur, not merely a philanthropist — New Lanark was a business with a social purpose, not a charity. The business traded for a profit, and used the profit for social purposes such as providing decent housing, health care and a shop that sold food and essential items at prices that working people could afford.

If you get the chance to visit New Lanark you will hear how Robert Owen was viewed as quite remote by his workers — they regarded him as having strange ideas which they didn’t understand, but they felt that he was “on their side”.

Robert Owen (1845) by John Cranch

There was no involvement of the workers either in terms of economic or democratic ownership of the enterprise. In this sense New Lanark was not a cooperative in the sense that we later came to understand it, as defined by the Cooperative Values and Principles.

Unsurprisingly New Lanark was subject to a great amount of hostility from those who saw it as too radical. Owen decided to sell the business and move to the United States, where he saw more opportunities to achieve his goals. There, Owen met like-minded people, and he aimed to use the proceeds from selling New Lanark to set up a new model community in Indiana. The new community, provisionally entitled New Harmony, did not see the light of day, as Owen and his would-be collaborators could not agree on a number of issues.

Owen wrote extensively on his experiences and got involved with other movements, including early trade unionism. His reflections greatly influenced the Rochdale Pioneers – who created the first modern cooperative in Rochdale in 1844. What made Rochdale different from New Lanark was the implementation of what we now know as the second and third Cooperative Principles – Democratic Member Control and Member Economic Participation — which today characterise every cooperative in the world, making them a distinct form of social enterprise.

The Rochdale Pioneers, and generations of cooperative entrepreneurs since, have been greatly influenced by Robert Owen’s evolution. Both the New Lanark way of doing things, and the Rochdale way of doing things, are still relevant. As Birmingham proudly celebrates being recognised as a social enterprise city, we should be recognised as both a social enterprise and a cooperative city.

Phil Beardmore
Secretary, Cooperatives West Midlands

My trip to New Lanark was organised by Central England Cooperative — I am an elected member of one of its Membership and Community Councils.

Find out more about what co-operatives are doing in 2018 — take a look at Co-operatives UK, the national representative body for co-operative enterprise, Co-operatives West Midlands, the co-op representative body for the region, or The Hive website and online forum for co-operators.

Co-operative enterprise in Birmingham

Co-operatives — which are owned and controlled by their members — represent a particular sub-set within the broader social economy. Co-operatives operate in all  sectors of the economy but the co-op model is especially suited to any kind of mutual, membership-based enterprise where shared services or shared ownership offer important ways to ensure greater fairness and a better deal for members, employees and users alike. 

The national membership body for the sector Co-operatives UK, has just published excellent data for the sector in 2018, which shows that the co-op sector in the UK is alive and well, with 7,226 independent co-operative enterprises, and a combined turnover of £36.1 billion –- up more than £800m on 2017 levels. The sector is also a significant employer, with almost 235,000 people earning their livelihoods directly through co-operatives.

This should be welcome news to anyone who feels a commitment to co-operative values.

In Birmingham there are around 90 co-ops, most of which are fairly small. But this shouldn’t be taken as meaning that the number of co-operators in Birmingham is small — nothing could be further from the truth. Because co-operative enterprise in Birmingham includes three of the giant retail co-operative societies — Central England Co-operative, Midcounties Co-operative, and the Co-operative Group. While the the Co-operative Group is nationally the largest co-operative society, most of Central England Co-operative’s stores, members and workers are in Birmingham.

Birmingham also has the large Citysave Credit Union . Credit unions are essentially saving co-ops and a number of important Birmingham employers — including Birmingham City Council, the NHS, Aston University, Birmingham Settlement and Legal & General — trust Citysave to provide safe and protected savings and ethical, fair priced loans for their employees.

In total, there are over 49,000 co-op members in Birmingham and the city’s co-ops have a combined turnover of over £23m, and manage members’ funds worth almost £50m.

Co-operative success stories include renewable energy (Community Energy Birmingham, Power For Good, and Chase Community Solar); the growth of co-operative housing in both Redditch and Wales; and local worker co-ops such as LOAF and Birmingham Bike Foundry. Recent months have also seen The Phone Co-op, the only ethical and mutually owned telecoms provider, cement its twenty year growth by merging with Midcounties Co-operative.

Co-ops in the city are supporting the Birmingham Social Enterprise City initiative and we want to ensure that the co-op sector of the social economy has a better profile and is more widely understood as we move forward with Social Enterprise City plans. To this end we’ll be bringing you more co-op news, so stay tuned.

Find out more about co-operatives

If you want to find out more about what co-operatives are doing in 2018 take a look at Co-operatives UK, the national representative body for co-operative enterprise, Co-operatives West Midlands, the co-op representative body for the region, or The Hive website and online forum for co-operators.

ART Business Loans, pioneers of social finance in Birmingham, celebrate 21 years and announce new social investment campaign

L-to-R: Dr Nick Venning, Ed Mayo, Dr Steve Walker

ART Business Loans (ART) welcomed Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, as the keynote speaker at its 21st AGM this September.

Ed Mayo talked about the value of Community Development Finance to the economy and the importance of community economic development. “The process of working with local people makes a real difference,” he said. “We are seeing new values-based movements growing as the public sector steps back. This is relevant in terms of the economy and Brexit, because we’re going to have to encourage entrepreneurship and see real bootstrap development.” He continued: “It’s tough to be a non-bank in the lending market, but ART started with an idea about what it wanted to achieve, and the impact it wanted to make — and can now tell some inspiring stories about the difference it has made to thousands of businesses.”

Ed Mayo, along with community finance activist Pat Conaty, a co-founder of ART, helped research and write the influential community finance report Small is Bankable, published in 1998 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

ART’s chief executive Dr Steve Walker, said: “We are on track to lend £2.5m this year, but have the capacity to lend up to £4m. When we launched in 1997, we were supported by true social investors — whose only return was knowing the impact that their investment had had on the local economy. In addition, we are now also able to offer a financial return in the form of Community Investment Tax Relief and will be looking to raise at least £500,000 from individual and company investors in this financial year.”

ART’s Chair, Dr Nick Venning DL, announced: “Twenty-one years ago ART pioneered a model of raising money through social investment to be lent locally. We are now about to launch another pioneering campaign to raise money from investors looking to use their money to achieve a social as well as a financial return. This will be via the Ethex social investment platform.” 

Anyone interested in the investment opportunity can register to find out more on the ART website or by sending mail.

Young people in the West Midlands — get your voice heard on employment and education

A dozen organisations working together as the Inclusive Growth Partnership** are running 3 youth innovation workshops in Birmingham next week and currently in fully recruiting mode for young people.

The workshops are about…

What Works For Young People?

Who should attend:

  • 16- 24 year olds
  • Recently employed or looking for a job. 
  • Thinking about what a career might look like for you or your generation?

 

The organisers want your opinions, views and stories on what employment and education opportunities are out there.

Join them for a relaxed and creative session exploring these topics with other young people in your area. This is a chance to influence what happens in your city, for you and for all young people. Participants will receive:

  • £10 voucher
  • Blurb for your CV
  • Get your travel paid free
  • Get a certificate of participation
  • Help drive change in your community
  • Free refreshments

 

The events are being held as follows — click the links for more information and to book:

Chelmsley Wood (26th September) 
→ Sparkhill (26th September) 
→ Washwood Heath (27th September) 
→ Dudley (28th September)

** Organised by: O2, Accenture, Movement to Work, Prince’s Trust, Big Lottery Fund, Cabinet Office, West Midlands Combined Authority, Youth Employment UK, DCMS, Beatfreeks, UnLtd

Fair by Design — why being poor costs more and how you can help tackle the ‘poverty premium’

Those who have less pay more — for energy, insurance, and finance. Being poor costs more. This is called the Poverty Premium. Fair by Design, the movement to tackle this poverty premium — the extra costs of being poor — is launching its campaigning arm today.

The campaign is based at The Barrow Cadbury Trust and is funded jointly by the Big Lottery Fund, Big Society Capital, Comic Relief, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Social Tech Trust and The Tudor Trust.

You can support the campaign by tweeting your choice of the sample tweets below and accompanying infographics:

@FairByDesign roadmap to end the extra costs of being poor launches today https://bit.ly/2NhTUMV Read 3 things Businesses, Regulators and Government should do to end the #PovertyPremium

People on low incomes pay more for energy, insurance, and finance. New campaign @FairByDesign’s Roadmap explains how #PoorCostsMore and how its unjust and unfair,  #PovertyPremium https://bit.ly/2NhTUMV

For more campaign information: 

Fair by Design          

#FairByDesign    #PoorCostsMore    #PovertyPremium       

Send mail to FbD     T: 0207 632 9060 and press enquiries: 07931 507 873

Download Being Poor Shouldn’t Cost More: A Roadmap for Tackling the Poverty Premium 

→ Download infographics: [1] Microwave rent-to-own costs; [2] £780 Poverty Premium; [3] Road signs; [4] Polling 25-34 year olds with families.

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Late but ‘live’ — final thoughts from SEWF 2018, Edinburgh

As Sarah noted in her previous post, she may now be back from Edinburgh — and with a lot of catching up to do — but there is still a lot of value in sharing what she learnt from this year’s SEWF. We agree, and so here is her last post from Edinburgh.

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This is my last and final post from SEWF 2018.

All week I was feeling a kind of creeping worry that on the last day I was speaking twice in front of peers I hugely respect and a world audience of social entrepreneurs. My first session was a panel presentation about ISE’s work as an infrastructure support organisation and included the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter, and our work on clustering for procurement and supply chains.

My colleagues on the panel were from The Akina Foundation in New Zealand, NeOOne Foundation Malaysia and Josiah Lockhart (wearing social enterprise tartan) from Firstport in Scotland.

The interesting point about this presentation was that in England we don’t get governmental funding for social enterprise development and our ability to provide support depends on our own resourcefulness — whereas countries new to social enterprise development (and some older ones) are well-resourced through statutory bodies. It made me realise just how far in some respects England has fallen behind in the support it has available to help the sector grow.

My second presentation concerned ‘Social Enterprise Place’. This was a Masterclass filmed for future reference! Hopefully it will stand the test of time never mind my constantly changing hairstyles!

For me the key to future social enterprise growth is collaboration, social enterprise awareness-raising and access to opportunities to trade — all of which underpins the work being undertaken in Birmingham and Digbeth, both of which are now social enterprise places.

It was great to have a platform to speak about this and to get people to consider that by working together we can do so much more!

It was a great World Forum and the day ended with bag pipes, music, dancing and celebrations and announcement of next year’s SEWF 2019 to be held in Ethiopia.

This year we had 15 representatives from Birmingham attending — let’s hope next year we can at least match this and continue to learn from others and share our work on the international stage.

Thanks for reading!

Signing off, Sarah

See all Sarah’s posts from this and previous SEWFs

Late but ‘live’ — more from Social Enterprise World Forum 2018, Edinburgh

This — a little late, but we’ll call it ‘live’ — just in from Sarah Crawley who has been blogging from Edinburgh about what she is hearing and learning at SEWF 2018.

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Writing from Edinburgh, Sarah says:

Sorry this is slightly delayed but I still want to blog about the experience and learning of the SEWF 2018.

Thursday — the middle day of the conference — is where the key themes begin to merge and we start to understand the issues that are really interesting people this year.

There has been a radical change with very little conversation about the social finance economy and much more focus on running an effective social business, looking at different contexts of operation rural and urban, western, northern, eastern and southern economies and different business models.

Something which was really interesting is that we are seeing an increase in social enterprises where the sales of products unrelated to the social problem being solved are doing very well. Examples we heard about were Brewgooder, craft beer label that donates 100% of its profits to clean water projects around the world, and Madlug, which sells rucksacks and school bags on a buy one give one to a child in care basis, so that these youngsters have a proper bag for when they move home — most at the moment use black bin liners!

The other really strong theme has been the use of technology to support the business delivery. I heard a great presentation from the Jaipur Rugs Foundation which uses a technology platform to link local village rug producers to take the rugs to market — fascinating!

The conference itself has been incredibly well organised with nearly 200 speakers from all countries attending delivering key notes, masterclasses , debates and workshops. The task of getting to every workshop over the three days — and in some cases  even hear that particular social entrepreneurs were due to speak — has been a challenge, but that is in the nature of large international events such as this.

The Brum delegation (see picture below) has been getting together as frequently as we can to exchange ideas and learning and see how we can bring this back to our Birmingham Social Enterprise City work.

More tomorrow about the last day of SEWF 2018 and my presentations on The Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter and Birmingham as a Social Enterprise City.

Sarah

See all Sarah’s posts from this and previous SEWFs

The Birmingham delegation

UnLtd to host event for social entrepreneurs working in access to employment — join guests for drinks/networking

On the 16th October 2018 UnLtd will be hosting a peer learning event for social entrepreneurs who work in Access to Employment.

The event will bring together social entrepreneurs from across the UK, as well as people in government and mainstream business, to address barriers to scale at both the individual and system level. Attendees will include those on UnLtd’s Thrive programme, its Impact Fund investment ventures and other ventures working in Access to Employment.

After the main business of the day participants will move on to The Pitcher & Piano for drinks and networking — and you are invited. If you are involved in any way in access to employment provision, then this is an excellent (free!) opportunity to exchange experience, find out new ideas, and meet other Access to Employment providers from across the UK.

No booking is necessary — just turn up and join UnLtd and its guests for drinks and networking from 5pm at the Pitcher & Piano, Brindley Pl, B1 2HP.

Live from Social Enterprise World Forum 2018 — Edinburgh, day 2

Blogging live from this year’s Social Enterprise World Forum in Edinburgh, Sarah Crawley has just sent her latest update.

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Well it really has been an amazing start and I hope the next two days are as good as Wednesday was!

Scottish musicians and especially drummers formally opened the Forum bringing the 1400 people together from 45 nations. To give an idea of other countries’ commitment to social enterprise there are over 140 people here from Canada, over 60 from New Zealand and 150 from Taiwan! Quite impressive and in fact 53% of the delegates are international.

There were three plenary sessions yesterday following the opening speeches from politicians and one completely stole the show. Work has been going on in Scottish schools to help young people experience social enterprise. This presentation was awesome and covered two examples that both started with the issues young people themselves wanted to address — one from a primary school and the other from a secondary school. Both understood that they needed to trade if they were to solve the problem and d this in way that would make their efforts sustainable.

The primary school took as their issue family integration. It is a multicultural school with many nationalities represented: often the language spoken at home is not English (or Scottish!). This group started a café and baking session on Friday afternoons in the school and raised money for family activities. This has led on to additional intergenerational work.

The other idea involves reducing plastic waste and is very clever — and this, by the way, came about as a result of the young people themselves steering, not the adults!

This group identified that there needed to be water points around Edinburgh to reduce waste from plastic water bottles and their business raised money to develop a map of water bottle refill points with signage. This work continues and is growing.

I think these young people can teach us all something.

It would be good replicate some of this work in Birmingham and work with young people so they can solve their own issues using social enterprise.

Sarah Crawley (left) with Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

Other sessions yesterday covered inspirational social enterprises. An amazing one from Indonesia where they have worked to establish a more effective marketplace for over 900 indigenous farmers, supporting their businesses and growing their income to encourage young people to remain in farming. Across Asia young people are moving to cities for work and 1 million farms are being lost a year. This woman is doing amazing work!

My final highlight was my invitation to Edinburgh Castle to the welcome session by Nicola Sturgeon. The real understanding by Scottish politicians of social enterprise, its role in the economy, community and regeneration, is really impressive.

For those who are interested and who like me have never been to Edinburgh Castle, I was really surprised at how high and how very steep its location is — definitely built to stop invaders!

Signing off —
Sarah

See all Sarah’s posts from this and previous SEWFs

Edinburgh Castle and Castle Rock — evidence of human occupation since the Iron Age

Live from Social Enterprise World Forum 2018 — Edinburgh

As we wrote in this post, the Social Enterprise World Forum has returned to the UK after 10 years of travelling the world, one continent at a time, and this year’s host city is Edinburgh.

As in previous years, Sarah Crawley has kindly offered to do some live blogs so that those of us who haven’t gallivanted off to Scotland can share the excitement. It’s her first day’s account — here goes.

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Sarah has just posted this:

I arrived at the World Forum full of excitement, really looking forward to an action packed four days of networking, new idea harvesting and meeting inspirational people.

My week started early with a meeting of leads for all the Social Enterprise Places. There are now 26 recognised SE places in the UK, mostly in England as well as some new additions internationally. Both Digbeth and the city of Birmingham are Social Enterprise Places, representing the sector’s commitment to working together to grow the businesses within them, catalysing their impact in a ‘place’. It’s a fabulous initiative and iSE are proud to be secretariats to this work.

The meeting was fascinating — the places are enormously different — with geographically small areas like Digbeth or Alston Moor, towns and Boroughs like Hackney, cities (Plymouth) and regions (Cornwall), and a mix of rural and urban areas with their distinct characteristics.

The challenges, however, are the same, with each ‘place’ wanting to grow their local social enterprise sector to maximise impact. Although the ‘how’ might be slightly different, it was great to share learning, ideas and to inspire one another.

At 4pm we boarded a coach with a group of visitors from Taiwan, to be given a tour of some of Scotland’s trailblazing social enterprises. Some of the SEWF2018 Board Members and I went to celebrate the launch of Callander as the first Scottish Social Enterprise Place.

Sarah outside the SEWF18 venue

It was a fabulous evening of traditional Scottish dancing, not forgetting the customary bagpipes and display from the local children. It was great to see the young people benefiting from the SE Place, the Outlanders – a local clan in full kilts, a Scottish Minister and of course all of the sector supporters.

What a great start to the World Forum, we’re looking forward to what day two has in store!

Sarah

See all Sarah’s posts from this and previous SEWFs

Read more over on the iSE website

 

Birmingham Black History Month 2018 — launch announced

The Blackstory Partnership is back for the third year running with this year’s Black History Month, running for five weeks from the 24th September to the 4th November.

The launch event is on the evening of Tuesday 25th September at Town Hall, Victoria Square, and is free.

More information and bookings here.

BSSEC publishes sixth annual report

We’re very pleased to publish our sixth annual report covering the financial year 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2018.

We have continued to support and promote City Drive, annual celebration of social enterprise in Birmingham, which has gone from strength to strength, thanks largely to iSE’s efforts and the time and energy its many participating social enterprises and supporters put into the week-long series of events.

During late-2017/early-2018 we were also successful in securing a second Awards for All grant which we have been using to help promote the work of newer, younger social enterprises.

We have also continued our work on social value, for which we gratefully acknowledge the financial support of The Barrow Cadbury Trust.

Membership has increased from eighteen to nineteen with the addition of recovery charity Changes UK, which is making considerable use of user-led social enterprise formation in its programmes.

The wider operating climate continues to be extremely difficult for many social enterprises, as it does for businesses generally, but we continue to be impressed by the vigour and optimism we see in the sector. The appetite for social enterprise – for trying to do things differently, for trading with a social purpose – is not diminished in Birmingham and Solihull.

See all Annual reports on the BSSEC website
Direct link for Sixth Annual Report

Calling social enterprise and third sector employers — could you use an extra pair of hands?

University College Birmingham business school is looking for charities, businesses and social enterprises in Birmingham that may be able to offer voluntary work experience for students in the next academic year.

UCB’s business school students study Marketing, Events, Finance, HR and Admin amongst other areas and are motivated to gain crucial employability skills, such as team work and organisation.

Last year students exceeded their own expectations in the workplace and employers were impressed with the effort the students dedicated to their placements.

There are two placement models. Students on the Business course are expected to complete 50 days or more with their employer (including day release and block weeks) and can therefore work on longer term projects and build long term relationships.

Students on the Business Enterprise course are expected to complete 10 days+ of work experience during the academic year, and this offers a shorter term option both for them and for employers.

Hosts receive support from UCB at every stage in the work experience, including selection, the aim being to match students’ skills and experience to your opportunity.

If your enterprise would like to host a UCB placement student please call Nicola Machin now on 0121 232 4157 or SEND MAIL.

Birmingham Social Enterprise City — what can you and your enterprise do?

Outside of London, Birmingham has the greatest single concentration of social enterprises. Now, building on our success in establishing the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter, social enterprises in Birmingham have set their sights even higher and have now secured SEUK’s official recognition of Birmingham Social Enterprise City. We celebrated this at the grand closing ceremony of City Drive 2018.

There will be a grand launch of Birmingham Social Enterprise City on the 15th November 2018, but as we move towards that date we now need to do more to begin to realise the ambitious plans the partnership has set out for Birmingham Social Enterprise City.

The action plan for  Birmingham Social Enterprise City has FOUR KEY AIMS:

(1) To ensure that Birmingham Social Enterprise City is widely acknowledged and widely understood amongst mainstream media, public and business community.

(2) To co-ordinate and increase support for social enterprise start-up and sector growth.

(3) To build a new alliance for social change and community benefit across the whole of the social economy — social enterprises, ethical businesses, trading third sector, social mission businesses and the private sector.

(4) To stimulate employment and training opportunities especially for young people in social enterprises in Birmingham.

Under iSE’s leadership a steering group has been set up but more active members and more active social enterprises that want to be part of driving forward Birmingham Social Enterprise City are urgently needed.

Birmingham Social Enterprise City won’t happen just because we say it will. It must be a collective endeavour with as many social enterprises as possible making a contribution wherever they feel able.

Here are some ways you and your enterprise could get involved:

» There will be rolling campaigns to promote Birmingham Social Enterprise City (Aim 1). Perhaps you and a group of like-minded enterprises can lead on an activity?

» Clusters of social enterprises will be encouraged to work collectively to focus outcomes and impact on specific social needs or problems (Aim 2). Perhaps you can take a lead in a cluster you belong to?

» The Birmingham Social Enterprise City steering group should form the basis for a much wider and more active and campaigning alliance for social change and community benefit (Aim 3). How? Who has vital new ideas for achieving this?

» And there are plans for events to promote working in social enterprises — especially targeting young people (Aim 4). Perhaps this is core to your enterprise’s work and values and you can lead on an early campaign?

Download the action plan and have a look to see where your social enterprise can make a contribution.

Please send offers, ideas and pledges of support to Sarah Crawley — SEND MAIL.

Watch this space for further news of Birmingham Social Enterprise City.

Changes UK is recruiting

Birmingham’s fastest growing recovery charity, Changes UK, which is making great strides in  helping establish user-led social enterprises as part of its support programmes, is recruiting.

There are three vacancies:

Social Enterprise Manager
Location: Recovery Central, 9 Allcock Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B9 4DY
Salary: £30,000 per annum pro-rata
Hours: Permanent/Full Time

Deadline: 7th September at 5pm

Full details, job description & how to apply

Operations Manager
Location: Recovery Central, 9 Allcock Street, Birmingham and other Changes UK properties as required
Salary: £35-£40,000/annum
Hours: 37.5 hours/week

Deadline: 15th August at 12pm

Full details, job description & how to apply

Office Administrator
Location: Recovery Central, 9 Allcock Street, Birmingham and other Changes UK properties as required
Salary: £17,950 pro rata (Dependent on Experience)
Hours: A flexible 30 hours a week is worked which may include occasional evenings.

Deadline: PLEASE NOTE — the deadline for applying for this post is TODAY, Friday 10th August

Full details, job description & how to apply

New research finds that devolution deals are doing nothing to address women’s inequality

Some may argue that what follows has little to do with social enterprise or the wider third sector. I disagree. Inequality is of critical interest to all organisations that are committed to giving practical expression to equality both in what they do and in the employment practices they operate.

And this is why Making Devolution Work for Women: West Midlands Data Report, new research just published jointly by BVSC, The Fawcett Society and West Midlands Women’s Voice, is so important. Focusing on the West Midlands, one of the ten devolution deals so far struck with the government, the report looks at devolution through the lens of gender equality and finds that judged against any measure you might care to choose — employment levels, skills, pay, caring responsibilities and, yes, even transport (such a prominent feature of the WM deal) — devolution is not delivering for women.

The report finds that women in the WM are paid on average 13.9% less than men. They are also less likely to be employed than men — there is a gender ’employment gap’ of 12.4%, wider than the UK, and widening while the UK gap is gradually closing. Only 10% of better paid jobs in the WM are advertised as flexible and thus more likely to accommodate women with caring responsibilities. And perhaps needless to say, all of these factors hit women from BME backgrounds hardest. White women have an employment rate of 67.8% across the WM, but amongst women from all BME groups the employment rate is only 48.5%. Black and Black British women have an employment rate of 56.8% while amongst Pakistani and Bangladeshi women this tumbles to only 35.7%.

We also know from TUC research published in 2015 that the West Midlands has a major problem with low pay, including entrenched low pay hot-spots across the region.

But this research is important for other reasons too. While the WMCA is making substantial efforts to engage more widely in developing policies that will meet its inclusive growth agenda this research offers a practical starting point to anyone who might be struggling — like me — to work out what priorities one should expect to see “inclusive growth” addressing. It also performs a further huge service. For too long ‘devolution’ has been the preserve of local government policy anoraks; the publication of this data gives us a much needed critical framework in which to assess devolution, and the importance of this cannot be overstated.

If we are to have economic growth policies in the West Midlands capable of promoting inclusive growth then this surely has to mean policies that actively reduce inequalities rather than widen them, as seems so often to be the outcome when economic growth is the primary or over-riding consideration.

I think it’s fantastic to see BVSC, The Fawcett Society and West Midlands Women’s Voice working together on this and everyone involved should be congratulated. 

One final point must be made, however. If this report is treated only as a stick with which to beat the WMCA, its impact will be limited. The task now is surely to try and ensure that its concerns are embedded not just in every aspect of the WMCA’s policy-making apparatus but also in its politics.

 BVSC — More about Making Devolution work for Women.

 Fawcett Society — More about Making Devolution work for Women, plus FULL REPORT; plus INFOGRAPHICS.

Infographic from Making Devolution Work for Women

 

 

 

Fuse — social enterprise start-up support

iSE runs a number of different FUSE social enterprise start-up programmes throughout the year. The programmes are for people who want to develop a business that is financially sustainable but also (and importantly) delivers a strong and measurable social impact.

The Fuse is for social entrepreneurs, innovators and change-makers near trade or at early-start stage that want to fast-track their social enterprise, grow networks, develop collaborative opportunities and develop sustainable businesses that create social impact.

What to expect

iSE will work intensively over a period of 5 months, supporting you through group pow-wow sessions which will be practical and focused around developing your social enterprise.

Topics covered include the business model canvas, developing a robust social mission, building a community and networks, social media and marketing, understanding numbers, funding and alternative social finance, social impact and developing your pitch.

Sessions will take place every other Tuesday from September through to January. Timings are TBC. There may be other events that fall outside of the programme that you can attend, and these events may be shared with people from other programmes.

FUSE doesn’t happen by itself and iSE works with a number of funders and sponsors who understand the power that social enterprise can have in changing lives and communities. Because of this sponsorship, The Fuse programme is free for you.

You will be receiving the equivalent of £1,500 of valuable business support. FUSE programmes are always oversubscribed and it is impossible to bring in “substitutes” later.  iSE therefore asks that participants agree to attend all sessions and complete the programme.

FUSE is a programme that grows, changes and learns and you will be asked to help with this. iSE will ask you to fill in simple evaluation sheets at the end of each session and at least once in every programme an iSE team member will ring you to check how things are going.

If you want to be part of the FUSE programme you must complete an application form by the closing date of the 22nd August 2018. If shortlisted you’ll be invited for an interview (in person or by Skype).

iSE is a social enterprise itself that has been trading successfully and supporting the social business sector in Birmingham and the West Midlands for the past 15 years and its small team led by CEO Sarah Crawley is passionate about how the value created by social enterprise can drive change in our local communities.

iSE looks forward to working with you and wishes applicants every success.

Download the PDF

Send mail to Mariam Yate for more information

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Applications open until 28 September for UnLtd’s accelerator, Thrive: Solutions for an Ageing Society

UnLtd’s latest social accelerator programme, Thrive, will help over 25 ambitious social ventures a year to grow and scale-up activities. Social ventures developing solutions in two distinct areas will be supported:

» Improving access to employment for those distant from the labour market.

» Developing products and services for an ageing society.

Thrive offers six months of intensive support with the opportunity to secure investment of up to £50,000 for your social venture, either through UnLtd or its partners.

Read the full details.

The changing face of social enterprise — Crafting4Good CIC

Today, as part of our continuing series of changing face of social enterprise stories we look at something very different — a very small, very young social enterprise with a brilliantly simple business idea that deserves to succeed.

The government estimates that the market for crafts goods is worth over £400m a year, and that this market has doubled in the past ten years. Making and selling craft items, then, is a substantial sector of the economy. And of course crafting is also immensely pleasurable, with well-documented benefits in terms of personal wellbeing, mood and self-satisfaction.

But I don’t believe we have yet seen a crafting business adopting the Community Interest Company structure and operating as a social enterprise. Until Crafting4Good CIC, that is.

Started by Adele Sweeney and incorporated only in March 2017, Crafting4Good, based in West Yorkshire, is a very small but growing social enterprise with a fascinating story — one that speaks volumes about what motivates people to start social enterprises. But this story is also a little bit different because it also illustrates the relief that some people experience when they eventually discover that trading in order to deliver social benefit is a path that many others have embarked on and that they are not alone.

“I worked for myself for ten years at home while a single parent battling depression, in the days before working from home on the internet was ‘a thing’,” Adele explains. “Creating a website and an online community paid the bills and got me through. A shop selling digital craft downloads grew out of it all and I was inspired by how our customers and members said we made a difference to them, with our convenient creative activities they could download, print and make when they wanted some creative me-time.”

But the decision to become a CIC came from a chance exchange with an accountant. “He said I needed to be more aggressive in getting more money out of our customers,” she says, “but this wasn’t how I worked and I told him it would need a ‘personality change’ if I was to do that. I was more interested in what the customer could get out of crafting than in maximising their ‘spend’.”

She went home feeling pretty fed up and disillusioned. “I thought I shouldn’t be in this game at all. And then I Googled charitable businesses — and discovered a thing called ‘social enterprise’ that I never knew existed, but was exactly where I felt I should be and what I’d essentially been doing. This was such a relief that I almost cried. I wrote about it here.”

I discovered a thing called ‘social enterprise’ that I never knew existed…it was such a relief that I almost cried — Adele Sweeney

But in many ways this was only the beginning. Adele was amongst the finalists applying for places on a School for Social Entrepreneurs programme but was unsuccessful. Eventually, after contacting local councillors she found her way to local support and information agencies and got some help in registering the CIC.

She describes Crafting4Good as follows: “Creativity is good for wellbeing, but sometimes those who could most do with a bit of creativity can’t afford to buy fancy craft supplies or are prevented due to their circumstances.  What we’re trying to do is enable ‘Robin Hood creativity’ — getting those who can afford to craft to help those who can’t.” The company does this by supplying crafts resources to individuals, community groups and charities, by working with voluntary and community sector partners to take creative activities into places where they don’t usually happen, and — when resources allow — by providing free craft materials that have been donated to the company.

The CIC sells printable craft products and templates from its online store and uses its surpluses to enable those who are more disadvantaged to get involved in crafting — people in homeless hostels, for example. It is also keen to work with others in the charity, social enterprise and voluntary sectors to enable creative activities in local communities.

The enterprise has to make some difficult decisions, however. “Recently,” Adele explains, “we were funded by a local community centre to have some office space for six months, to ‘get us started’. That first month in our new office revealed a lot. It made me realise that we have to focus more on trading, but it also helped us understand how we could usefully change our plans for outreach and community work. We’re not a charity that’s here to give stuff away and provide help for free because we can’t sustain that. But we do want to enable those in more disadvantaged groups to try craft and creative activities for themselves. We now think that the way forward for us is as a supplier of resources to others in the third sector. After all, many organisations and groups offer craft classes so why reinvent the wheel? We’ll supply ‘the parts’ instead.”

Adele believes that working like this will create lots of opportunities not just to generate sales but also to work in partnership with those who share Crafting4Good’s aims of making crafting and creativity more accessible and more inclusive.

How you can help

If you are interested in what Crafting4Good CIC is trying to do, there are several ways you can help:

» Help Crafting4Good raise its profile: “We need online contributors and volunteers such as blog writers on arts/crafts, mental health, recycling/green issues and how they can all relate to wellbeing and creativity,” Adele says.

» Volunteer social media and SEO skills: “We need people who are able to volunteer their marketing, social media, SEO and eCommerce skills to help us online. It’s far too much for one person and the couple of volunteers we have. It could be so much more!”

» Donate supplies: “Anyone with surplus craft supplies that can be used in a community setting — we would love to receive your donations! We have one company who sends us their end of line stock — this clears their shelves and means they don’t have clearance lines hanging around. If we could get more companies doing this it would be great.”

» Sympathetic suppliers: “We’re also looking for sympathetic suppliers of eco-friendly crafts goods who will supply us on a small order/sale-or-return basis.”

» Corporate sponsors/donors/partners: “We’re also looking for more corporate donors and partners to work alongside — there are loads of opportunities for businesses and organisations to get involved and be seen to be delivering community benefit.”

» Funding: “And of course, funding, to help us get bigger premises to start our mini creative distribution centre would be awesome!” Adele says.

Send mail to Adele Sweeney

→ Crafting4Good

Read all our changing face of social enterprise stories

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Big Issue Invest announces dedicated investment for social enterprises & community businesses in the Midlands

Power Up Midlands is the third iteration of Big Issue Invest’s early stage investment programme. Up to 15 social enterprises and community businesses across the Midlands will be able to access funding and support.

Power Up Midlands is aimed at early-stage social and/or community enterprises in the geographical area of the Midlands. The offer is open to all legal structures and consists of up to £50,000 debt financing accruing at 5% per year.

The loan has a capital holiday period of one year with loan lengths expected to be four years. Big Issue Invest’s corporate partners — Barclays and Experian — will support applicants with mentoring and business support, including financial modelling and other ad hoc business services and functions.

The support element of the programme will consist of a two month period with bi-weekly meet-ups to develop the investment proposition in partnership with the business mentors. Investment decisions will be conducted at the end of this process.

The programme is for those that have a patient capital requirement as they develop their product and service offering. Big Issue Invest is also keen to identify social businesses looking to lock in their community structures and would be happy to support them with this through its partnership with Power to Change.

For more information and to apply — Power Up Midlands

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