‘Talking Stalking’ — West Midlands Police invite businesses to attend a free one day event on ‘Stalking and Harassment’

Sentinel is a West Midlands Police initiative which aims to raise awareness of hidden crimes in order to better gather intelligence, support victims and tackle perpetrators. 

On Wednesday 28th March 2018 West Midlands Police Sentinel will be hosting a FREE conference to raise awareness of Stalking and Harassment and especially the risks this presents in the workplace. It is keen to promote this event to businesses and employers.

Stalking is far more common than most people think. Research has shown that of those stalkers who are not actually colleagues nearly half will present at their victim’s workplace. This creates risk not only for the victim but also for other staff who may have to interact with the stalker if they do turn up to the premises.

A stalking policy is important for maintaining a safe environment for all members of staff. If there is one in place for members of staff to use, it will help to ensure that issues/incidents are dealt with in an appropriate way and minimise risk to both the stalking victim and their colleagues and/or manager. This conference will help you spot the signs of stalking and harassment and will equip you with the knowledge you need in order to protect staff and ensure their safety and best support victims of stalking or harassment.

Join West Midlands Police on 28th March 2018 at Tally Ho Sports and Social Club, Pershore Road, Birmingham, B5 7RN between 9.00am and 3.30pm, to learn more about how you can safeguard your staff from stalking and harassment and improve the efficiency of your business.

Agenda & speakers include:

West Midlands Police Journey: Detective Inspector Jennifer Bean, WMP, Force SPOC for Stalking & Harassment.
Conditional Caution Interventions: Inspector Nicola Lloyd, WMP, Criminal Justice Services.
Commissioning Specialist Services: Nikki Penniston and Sara Ward, Black Country Women’s Aid.
CPS Case Studies and Lessons Learnt: Jason Corden-Bowen.
National Centre Domestic Violence (NCDV) and Civil Interventions: Karen Payne.
A Victim’s Perspective: Holly Taylor-Dunn, University of Worcester.
My Story: Forensic Psychologist Kerry Daynes.
Cyber Stalking: Emma Short and Professor Jim Barnes, University of Bedfordshire.
Work based/business Stalking & Harassment, Employer’s duties and responsibilities and safety planning: Rachel Griffin- Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

This event is free.

To book a place please email the West Midlands Police Events Team — send mail.

Article on managing stalking in the workplace, Rachel Griffin, director, Suzy Lamplugh Trust





School for Social Entrepreneurs Midlands — new support & grant programme open for applications

This, just in from the School for Social Entrepreneurs Midlands

Social Enterprise Learning Programme + Grant + Mentor + Peer Support

Applications to the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs programme opens on Monday 5th March with a closing date of 26th April 2018.

The programme is free to attend and is for anyone who is committed to helping people in need or improving the environment. They must be in the early stages of setting up a social enterprise, charity or impact project to make it happen.

This programme will help them:

  • Learn how to set up and run your organisation: 14 learning days, spread over a year.
  • Fund your project with a £1,000 grant.
  • Get to know other social entrepreneurs, who’ll support your plans and help you through tough times.
  • Overcome challenges with the support of a one-to-one mentor.


SSE Midlands is running a number of Information sessions where you can find out more about the programme, talk to previous participants and get some tips and advice on how to apply to secure a place. These information events take place as follows:

Birmingham, 7th March – 5:30 to 7:30 book
Walsall, 14th March – 2:30 to 5:00 book
Wolverhampton, 22nd March – 2:30 to 5:00 book
Coventry, 27th March – 5:30 to 7:30 book

Or for more information or to apply directly, go here.



Facebook — SSE Midlands

SSE Midlands — LinkedIn


University of Birmingham announces ‘Start Up Connections 2018’ — free event for start-up ventures of all types

This, just in from the University of Birmingham Careers Network…

Start-up Connections 2018

Thursday 15 March, 5:30-8:00pm, University of Birmingham

Discover the funding, support and talent available to you during an informative & vibrant event…

Greater Birmingham is an exciting hub of start-up activity and we are delighted to invite you to attend, Start-Up Connections, which will allow you to explore:

Funding: Discover a range of funding opportunities for your business from various organisations in the region, including the University and the Local Enterprise Partnership.
Support: From office space to developing your first app to exporting, there are a number of support organisations to meet that can help you achieve your goals.
Talent: The University of Birmingham is consistently ranked amongst the top universities for talent – meet students who are interested in working or interning for a start-up like yours and find out how we can support you in recruiting top talent for your start-up.

Organisations exhibiting include:

• Santander
• Dept of International Trade
• Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership
• Google Digital Garage
• Federation of Small Business
• Green Gorilla Apps
• University of Birmingham departments (B Start-Up, Business Engagement, Internships and Mentoring)


To find out more about the event — send mail


UnLtd announces drop-in session to publicise its Thrive programme

UnLtd has just announced  that it is holding a drop-in session to promote its Thrive programme.

When & where: Tuesday 20th March 1pm-3pm at the UnLtd Offices, Unit G2, The Arch, Birmingham Area, 48-52 Floodgate St, Birmingham B5 5SL.

Thrive is UnLtd’s new social accelerator that helps ambitious social ventures to scale-up their activities. It offers successful social ventures six months of intensive support with the opportunity to secure investment of up to £50,000 for your social venture.

Join UnLtd for a relaxed and informal drop in session — your chance to hear about the programme from a member of the Ventures Team and ask questions, speak to a participant of a recent Venture programme about their experiences, and network with other social ventures doing a similar thing to you.

UnLtd will also be providing some nice refreshments.



iSE & Women’s Enterprise Hub team up with a special ‘launch your website’ competition for International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, iSE and the Women’s Enterprise Hub are sponsoring 4 women to attend the Launch It! Workshop. A workshop designed to help you develop and launch your website in a day.

When: Thursday 8th March, 10am-4pm (lunch included).
Where: Impact Hub, Walker Building, 58 Oxford Street, Birmingham, B5 5NR.
Cost: £120.00, sponsored by ISE if you win the competition.

How to enter the Competition:

Answer the 2 questions HERE.

About the workshop

If you’re looking for a modern, simple (easy to maintain!) website to get your new business started online, this course is perfect! The workshop will take you through each step from purchasing a web address, to setting up contact forms and taking payments.

Who’s it for?

Freelancers/Self-Employed/Startups/Small Businesses/Side Hustlers. If you’re in the service industry and looking to showcase your expertise and services online.

What you’ll get

At the end of the training course, you’ll have:

A modern website that looks equally as fabulous on your smart phone as it does your computer.
Information on how to get beautiful images for your website, for free.
A website connected to Google Analytics, so you can learn more about your website visitors.
A website submitted to search engines inc. Google.
Guidance on how to add forms and take payments from customers.
Access to a Facebook group to discuss your new website, get feedback and share ideas and tips with other women in business.

What it isn’t

If you’re looking to set up an ecommerce store or provide sophisticated functionality, then this isn’t the course for you. Women’s Enterprise Hub can help you with all of those things at Ask Ada, but ‘Launch’ courses are for those looking for something simple to get them started.

What you’ll need

A PC or laptop connected to the internet. You’ll need the latest browser installed on your computer for security reasons — you can see the latest versions of web browsers HERE.

The tools used are free, but if you want to have your own web address e.g., there will be an additional cost of approx. £20 depending on the name you choose.

SEND MAIL to Mariam Yate if you have any questions.

Social Enterprise World Forum 2018 — get ready for Edinburgh… Discounts available for WM contingent

Sarah Crawley has asked that the following is made widely known to clients, friends and supporters of ISE and BSSEC.

You will recall that last year Sarah spoke at and blogged from the Social Enterprise World Forum in New Zealand, as she did in 2009 from Australia. Many of you read those posts and were excited by the new ideas and trends she wrote about. 

Well, there is exciting news just in about SEWF 2018. Read on for Sarah’s message…

The Social Enterprise World Forum returns to the UK after 10 years of travelling the world, one continent at a time. Edinburgh is this year’s host city and the event takes place between September 12th-15th.

The World Forum is an astonishing event and one that should not be missed by supporters of social enterprise. Thousands of practitioners from every industry, every continent, will be converging on Edinburgh to discuss, learn and share.

There are likely to be over 3,000 delegates and tickets sell out fast.

I have been lucky enough to arrange a 10% discount for a group attending from the West Midlands — it has to be registered separately through me. I’m also keen to have a West Midlands market place within the overall market place and am looking for social enterprises that have something to sell and promote suitable to local, national and international markets.

I am delighted to have been asked to be a speaker, which is an absolute privilege, however it might be great to splinter group for half a day where we explore a topical issue bringing in participants from other countries.

Please do get involved, it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet social entrepreneurs from across the world and learn loads! Let’s show everyone what a vibrant sector we have here in Birmingham and the West Midlands.

To find out more about SEWF 2018 in Edinburgh, how the discount package works and opportunities in the social enterprise marketplace please send mail to Sarah Crawley at iSE.

Thank you —

Sarah Crawley

You can read all Sarah’s posts from New Zealand 2017 and Australia 2009 to get a flavour of the excitement of SEWF.

Mentors play a special role in the USE IT programme — and iSE wants to recruit more

For the past 12 months iSE has been working on an innovative new project, USE IT! (Unlocking Social and Economic Innovation Together). We’ve written about the programme extensively elsewhere on this blog, most recently in this post.

One of the lessons of the USE IT programme iSE is that matching new and emerging social enterprises with a mentor is proving especially beneficial.

iSE now wants to increase the pool of mentors it can draw on. Mentors come from all backgrounds and all walks of life, and all parts of the community. Perhaps you have what it takes to be a mentor?

Read the full story over on the iSE website and contact Simon Veasey for more information: email; 07983 559266 or 0121 771 1411.

Read the full story about the first twelve months of the USE IT programme.

More about the Soho Social Enterprise Network.

USE IT mentor training workshop (photo: iSE)


Could your community building be suitable for Community Energy Birmingham’s next phase of large solar power installations?

This just in from Community Energy Birmingham…

Community Energy Birmingham is a renewable energy co-operative that funds, installs and operates renewable energy in community buildings in Birmingham. We are a community benefit society with an open membership and we are run in accordance with cooperative values and principles. We are run by a voluntary board that is elected by the membership.

We are looking for the right type of partner organisations with suitable buildings in Birmingham for our next phase of large solar power installations.

If your building is suitable then we are interested in working with you to install solar power on your building. There would be no upfront capital cost for you. You would buy some, or most, of your electricity from us, at a lower price than you currently pay your electricity supplier.

If you think you are the right type of partner for us then please click here to answer a few questions. Your building should be located in Birmingham. For general enquiries about this project please send mail to Simon Baggaley.

University of Birmingham seeks internship opportunities for arts, law & social science students

The University of Birmingham is committed to developing and strengthening links with businesses in the region, as well as supporting the growth of young talent for the future.

As part of its commitment, its Careers Network offers two placement modules for College of Arts and Law and College of Social Sciences students. These modules require students to undertake a short-term placement (40-100 hours) as the basis of their assignments.

The University’s Placements Team is keen to engage with an array of employers — including social enterprise and third sector employers — who would be keen to offer a placement. Placement providers will be required to:

  • Offer a structured project/piece of work that the student can work on.
  • Provide support to the student throughout their placement where required.
  • Lead on the recruitment process (e.g. shortlisting applications, undertaking interviews and providing feedback to unsuccessful applicants).


The Placements Team will be on hand to support all providers, from initial discussions through to post-placement debrief and feedback. The modules offer a great opportunity for employers to gain additional support, whether that’s to undertake a short term project or engage in a key piece of research, and share knowledge and experience with the next generation of business professionals.

The students work on bespoke projects that are tailored to real business needs; their contribution could support you in taking your business to the next level, while also bring new ideas and enthusiasm to the workplace.

If you are interested in this opportunity, please send mail to Sarah Hughes, placements officer, University of Birmingham.

Sarah Hughes on Twitter.



Jericho and The Bridge partnership — helping women escape from life-controlling addictions

Since 2011, the Jericho Foundation has been working in partnership with The Bridge, a non-profit organisation bringing hope to men and women recovering from drug and alcohol addictions while also serving the needs of those exiting prostitution.

An outreach from Oasis Church, Birmingham, The Bridge run three supported accommodation houses in the city, providing support in recovery, right through to re-engaging with employment and establishing independent living.

One of The Bridge’s houses

One of these houses is The Timbers located in Moseley, close to the Jericho offices. A hostel specifically for women and girls, Jericho provides voluntary work placements for Timbers residents, in addition to other Bridge clients.

During the six-and-a-half years that Timbers has been running, a total of 81 girls have come through the project, with an average stay for each resident of ten months, the lowest time being a few days and the longest stay eighteen months.

All came with drug and/or alcohol addiction and were referred by prisons, community addiction teams, rehabs and other support agencies specifically for women. As part of their recovery all clients are supported to engage in voluntary work and/or training, provided through local colleges, support agencies and local companies or charities including Jericho.

Another benefit of the service provided by The Bridge is increased contact with family including children and for those where it is safe for them to do so, this can be an important part of their ongoing development in building positive, healthy relationships. Like many other charities in Birmingham, The Bridge has faced challenges due to changes in statutory provision in the recovery world. However, because it has broadened its reach across the Midlands, referrals for the whole project have been on the increase.

Find out more about the Bridge here.

→ Find out more about the Oasis Church Birmingham here.

#birmingham #charity #socialenterprise #news #volunteering #drugabuse #backingthebridge #TheBridge

iSE takes on interns to map social enterprise tourism opportunities in USE IT area

For the past 12 months iSE has been working on an innovative new project, USE IT! (Unlocking Social and Economic Innovation Together). We’ve written about the programme extensively elsewhere on this blog, most recently in this post.

iSE has just announced that it has now taken on two University of Birmingham interns to help map social enterprise tourism opportunities in the USE IT area.

L to R: interns Rebecca and Molly

Molly and Rebecca, the two interns, will be completing original research on social enterprise opportunities for tourism in the USE IT project area. This will include studying good practice in tourism social enterprises internationally, nationally and locally, and an analysis of demographics and trends in the project area.

Their internship will culminate in a report for USE IT on potential tourism opportunities for social enterprises in the USE IT area.

Read the full story over on the iSE website.

Read the full story about the first twelve months of the USE IT programme.

More about the Soho Social Enterprise Network.

We’re still on the look-out for 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.

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.

→ Every one of the stories we’ve covered has something instructive to say about how the sector is developing and changing. In this post we reflect on some of the things we have learnt from covering these stories so far.













Social entrepreneurs and USE IT — catalysing social change in Birmingham

For the past 12 months iSE has been working on an innovative new project, USE IT! (Unlocking Social and Economic Innovation Together).

ISE’s role in this three-year project, funded by ERDF as part of the UIA programme, is to work in Ladywood, Handsworth and Smethwick to grow the social enterprise sector, linking local organisations to new markets, linking them to new building initiatives, tourism opportunities and the chance to supply local residents (food, health, creative etc).

Support is delivered through a range of activities including one-to-one support, events, markets, workshops, mentoring and our enterprise skills development programmes.

iSE’s focus has been to work at a very grassroots level, with local individuals and groups, who are looking to change the communities in which they live. The partners iSE is working with have been great at supporting and introducing people to the new Soho Social Enterprise Network (started April 2017) which runs bi-monthly with an expert speaker at each event. Everyone with an interest in social enterprise is welcome to attend these network meetings.

Throughout 2017, in the first 12 months of delivery alone the following have been achieved:

  • 8 new SE start-ups.
  • 3 grants to local social enterprises through our Enterprise Challenge Fund.
  • 3 local markets selling social enterprise products and services.
  • A programme of workshops and support around social value and how to describe the work of social enterprises.
  • A crowd funding workshop.
  • A new consortia development to support access to new business opportunities.


Read the full story about the first twelve months of the USE IT programme.

More about the Soho Social Enterprise Network.

USE IT marketplace event (photo: Janet Gray, Feed My Creative)

Social impact researcher needs market research participants — can you help?

We have been contacted by ex-government policy researcher Kate Sweetman who is developing a new social impact/social value reporting consultancy.

Kate is currently engaged in market and feasibility research to fine-tune her business idea. What does the ‘offer’ need to look like in order to best meet the needs of organisations whose budgets for social research and impact reporting may be limited?

Please help her by downloading and completing a market research questionnaire.

Completed questionnaires can be returned to Kate by email: send mail to Kate Sweetman.

Thank you for helping.

USE IT social enterprise support case study — Complete Kidz


In 2017, iSE launched an exciting opportunity for social enterprises based in Ladywood, Handsworth and Smethwick to apply to the USE IT Social Enterprise Challenge.

This initiative, made available through EU funding, offers a grant of up to £3000 to support and enable social enterprises to develop a new product or service that will help diversify their income streams.

Complete Kidz CIC, one of three successful applicants, has been awarded £1000 to be used to refurbish its facilities and make them more accessible to children who have special needs. This new equipment will enable the organisation to access new contracts in Sandwell and provide better facilities for young disabled children.

Founded in 2011, Complete Kidz is a community interest company providing services to improve the health and well-being of children, young people, parents and families in the Sandwell and wider Black Country areas. Its mission is to inspire and develop health and education through innovative and imaginative activities involving sport, music, drama and art. This is accomplished through engaging children and their parents and encouraging them to adopt a healthy lifestyle. All the activities are provided in a safe environment, where participants enjoy themselves and achieve meaningful personal outcomes.

The USE IT programme has helped Complete Kidz invest in improving its facilities when attempts to find funds elsewhere had proven unsuccessful. Jo Haydon, the organisation’s CEO says: ‘Thank you for the funding through the USE IT! Programme. It will be gratefully received and will help us to develop our care suite. We tried a number of places for this funding, you have really helped us! ‘

Read more about this case study.

Read more about the USE IT! programme.

Children enjoy a Complete Kidz outing

‘Thrive’ — UnLtd launches new social ventures support programme

UnLtd has just announced that it has launched a brand new UK wide, three-year Accelerator programme called ‘Thrive’.

Thrive will provide 6-months of intensive support to social ventures addressing ‘Access to Employment’ and wanting to scale up quickly, with an opportunity for these social ventures to access social investment after the support period if it’s appropriate to them.

The programme will support 20 social ventures each year and the call for this year is now open until 27/03/18. The deadline for full applications is 24/04/18 with the support starting on 01/07/18 for 6 months until 21/12/2018.

Each venture will get support from a dedicated Venture Manager. There will also be peer-to-peer networking opportunities, high level connections, and access to appropriate finance. Support is tailored, but is built around:

  • Business planning, financial modelling & strategic advice.
  • Raising capital
  • Developing routes to market
  • Accessing specialist advice
  • Developing governance
  • Evidencing impact and refining your theory of change.


Don’t miss this. You can find out more and submit your online application HERE.

Next DSEQ network meeting considers HS2 disruption with guest construction speakers

This, just in from iSE and the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter

The Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter networking meeting is upcoming on Tuesday 13th February 2018, 8.30am to 10.00am.

We recently completed a successful consultation with members of the Digbeth Social Enterprise Network about HS2 disruption. The feedback we received highlighted the worries that social enterprises in Digbeth have around the construction of HS2 and Curzon Street. The primary worry that was raised was around traffic congestion and a disruption to car parking.

To help talk through the construction process we have invited guest speakers Rachel Johnson from HS2 and Ryan West from the Laing O’Rourke / Murphy Joint Venture (LM JV).

Rachel Johnson is the HS2 Community Engagement Manager for Curzon St Station and Interchange Station. Rachel has been with HS2 since January 2013 focusing on stakeholder and community engagement. Ryan West is the Community Engagement Manager for LM JV, who are responsible for delivering the enabling works for HS2 in ‘Area North’ – the 80km stretch of the HS2 route through the West Midlands. Both Rachel and Ryan will be providing an update on progress so far and the next steps including an introduction to Laing O’Rourke’s plan of highway works.

Hosted at iSE’s office, this DSEQ meeting will provide an informal environment for those interested in social enterprise to meet with social entrepreneurs and other enterprises to share knowledge, make new connections and gain valuable insights form sector experts.

Please send mail to Paul Barnes to book your free place – places are limited so please book early!

The changing face of social enterprise — Impact Hub Birmingham

At Impact Hub Birmingham

For the last two and a half years, a repurposed factory in Digbeth – the creative heart of the city and Brum’s first officially recognised Social Enterprise Quarter – has been home to a new player in social enterprise: Impact Hub Birmingham.

Impact Hub Birmingham is part innovation lab, part business incubator, and part community centre. It is part of a global network of over 100 impact hubs now growing in over 40 locations around the world.  Over 15,000 people are members of these hubs. Impact Hubs are physical spaces but they are also more than this: they are communities, a collective movement committed to building a better, fairer and more just world — through activism, entrepreneurship, campaigning and rethinking.

The range of organisations, institutions and individuals who work from and in partnership with the Impact Hub has continued to grow since the record-breaking crowdfunder #EpicBrum nearly three years ago, when 580+ backers pledged a collective total of £65,000. It was this funding that enabled work to begin to transform the Grade II listed space at The Walker Building in Oxford Street, Digbeth. 

The connections and collaborations have continued to grow from there through hosted community events, from weekly Food for Thought and Pot Luck Lunches to Digbeth Trade School (an open learning community pioneering new methods of exchange and barter) and Open Project Nights (weekly open evenings for activists and ideas people). Impact Hub Birmingham also prioritises work in key fields such as radical models of childcare, urban economics, health, social entrepreneurship, the role of artists in society, and tech and data for good.

 Highlights from a packed second year at Impact Hub Birmingham include producing the biggest TEDx the city has ever seen, launching the first Parent Membership of any Impact Hub in the world and welcoming 1000s of people through its doors to use the workspace, host or attend an event or just drop in for a coffee.

Why Impact Hubs are significant

Impact Hubs represent a movement of some significance for two key reasons, I think. First, their supporters, users and members have a predominantly younger age profile, and they are exceptionally diverse — socially, culturally and politically.

And second, and perhaps most important, Impact Hubs can be seen as part of a new practical expression of social engagement and a new way of approaching social change. While radical in ideas and purpose, they lie outside the conventional structures and models of social activism and perhaps precisely for this reason have the potential to enfranchise and empower a new generation of activists.

BSSEC has now held several events at Impact Hub Birmingham and those who attend never fail to comment on the venue, its facilities and the stylish, light-flooded interiors that reflect the informality and energy of the Hub. We  find that people seem to engage well there — they come along and they want to participate; they feel part of something special. Put simply, when we hold events at the Hub we get more out of people.  We think that in just a few years Impact Hub Birmingham has become a significant new force in social enterprise in the city.

How you can help

If the Impact Hub model is new to you and you want to find out more, Impact Hub Birmingham is offering a wealth of opportunities to get involved. You can:

Sign up for a tour.

Try out a space at Impact Hub Birmingham and investigate its various membership options.

Relocating your team? Consider Impact Hub Birmingham — book a chat with one of the directors.

Host your event at Impact Hub Birmingham.

Impact Hub Birmingham  Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 6.30pm
Walker Building 58 Oxford Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, B5 5NR
Send mail for the Impact Hub Team


See all posts tagged ‘THe changing face of social enterprise’








The changing face of social enterprise — YMCA Birmingham

YMCA Birmingham’s Chris Bryant Centre, Erdington (Photo: Sam Bagnall)

If you were to ask people to name an important new player in the social enterprise sector, I’m not sure that YMCA Birmingham would necessarily be the first name that would come to mind. But this just shows how outdated our views about ‘charities’ sometimes are.

As part of a new plan for growth, income diversification and sustainability, social enterprise is now central to YMCA Birmingham’s business model — so much so, in fact, that five years ago the organisation appointed Laurence Chilver as director of its social enterprise portfolio.

“From our award-winning architect designed conferencing centre and community hub at Six Ways, Erdington — completed in 2015 — we now operate six social enterprises and almost 120 flats,” explains Laurence Chilver. “The accommodation includes 83 flats offering supported living for 16-25 year-olds, a smaller number of 2-bedroom flats for young lone parents, and 34 affordable flats at The Vineyard for people of all ages. Our social enterprises include a state-of-the-art conferencing centre for corporate and community events, Eden, a bright and airy coffee shop, a personal and professional development training department, and three nurseries — one in Erdington at the main YMCA building, one in Great Barr and one in Solihull.” 

YMCA Birmingham’s accommodation, its nurseries, its training and education service, its conference centre and the Eden coffee shop all generate revenue that is applied to YMCA’s services for young people.

Eden coffee shop

Emma Rhymes, YMCA Birmingham’s community engagement officer, now helps promote the organisation’s conferencing offer at the Chris Bryant Centre. She is a passionate advocate for this side of the business because she knows at first hand what it helps YMCA Birmingham achieve. “When you work for a charity, people sometimes think you don’t really know about the lives of the clients it exists to support,” Emma says, “but in my case that isn’t true. I began as a YMCA tenant, living in supported accommodation. Then I volunteered as a receptionist and then eventually applied for my role — and ended up getting the new conferencing centre ready to open.”

Emma believes the YMCA directors took “a leap of faith” in choosing her for the job. “There were others with much more experience in the conferencing sector than me,” she says. But I think she does herself a disservice. I think the directors saw her common sense, commitment and ability to deal with people, and recognised that she would become a powerful ambassador for the organisation.

There is a further synergy too between the enterprise offer and YMCA’s social impact. Social enterprise director Laurence Chilver explains: “You can help charities in more ways than just by donating to them. You can do business with them — and this means we can use our social enterprises to deliver even more community benefit. For example, our training department is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Housing, and it provides professional development courses for all sorts of social housing staff and organisations. But the surplus from this also means that we can provide employment support and personal development training for young people, for local jobseekers, and for lone parents wanting to get back into employment.”

Emma Rhymes gives another example: “We also encourage local service providers such as the NHS and other charities to use our venue facilities. Sometimes this means we can develop even more opportunities in partnership with others — having them deliver a periodic service from our building, for instance, or offering local community events.” Surplus from the conferencing centre is also used to help fund free events at the centre several times a year, aimed especially at local families and young people.

When YMCA directors were budgeting for conference centre equipment they were surprised when Emma asked them to include the cost of a bouncing castle. “They asked me what on earth we needed that for,” she says. “I told them it was so that we could offer weekend children’s birthday party bookings for local families.” The organisation was sceptical but children’s birthday parties are now one of the biggest sellers at the centre and it now plans to develop this aspect of the business even further, offering weddings and graduation parties — both markets that have already been tested and shown to have strong potential.

Targeting the business-to-business market

The organisation is especially keen to expand its conferencing offer to the corporate sector because it sees huge potential in this market.

“The biggest challenge is marketing the venue effectively to the corporate sector,” Emma says. “First of all you have to get them interested and so in the new year we’ll be focusing on promoting the centre’s offer to local businesses. If we can get them to take an initial look we know they’ll be impressed with the venue — it’s fresh and bright and the facilities are state-of-the-art. I’m confident that once businesses see what we offer and the professionalism of our services, they’ll be back.”

Social impact certificates

Emma also recognises that the corporate sector is increasingly aware of delivering social impact and creating social value, and she has a clever plan to capitalise on this.

“Businesses want to deliver social impact too,” she says, “whether as part of their corporate social  responsibility or because they want to be seen to be delivering social value when tendering for public sector contracts. We’re planning to give our frequent customers a social impact certificate every few months — it will spell out what their spend with us has helped achieve.It’s a way of saying thank you, but we also believe it will be useful to clients who want to demonstrate to their own stakeholders that they have a sense of social responsibility and use their spend to achieve social impact.”

Laurence Chilver agrees. “I think the social impact certificate idea genuinely is something a bit different,” he says. “We’re not aware of any other social enterprise doing this and I think it’s a terrific idea.”

How you can help

You too can do business with YMCA Birmingham and ensure that you buy for good. Meet your friends for coffee and cake or a light lunch at the Eden coffee shop; treat the kids to a birthday party complete with bouncing castle; encourage your place of work to use YMCA’s Chris Bryant Centre for its next event.

To find out more about YMCA Birmingham’s conferencing and events facilities send mail to Emma Rhymes or call her on 0121 478 4259 or 0771 474 1263.

YMCA Birmingham

YMCA Birmingham — accommodation

→ YMCA Birmingham — conference centre

YMCA Birmingham — nurseries

→ YMCA Birmingham — training & education

→ YMCA Birmingham — Eden Café


















John Taylor Hospice unveils plan to extend services, increase volunteering and launch JTH shops

John Taylor Hospice, the UK’s only social enterprise hospice, has just unveiled its latest three-year strategic plan.

This sees the organisation planning to increase and widen its community engagement and volunteering programmes; maximise income from commercial services, donations and fundraising; and extend its clinical services so that it can support more people with other complex conditions, such as motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, heart failure and other end of life conditions.

JTH also plans to launch into high street retailing with a new emphasis on JTH shops as a means of generating revenue.

You can read the full story on the JTH website and download the three year strategy here.

John Taylor Hospice provides specialist care for people living with a terminal illness and their families (Photo: JTH)