Action plan for Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter published

iSE has just published the results of the first social enterprise survey undertaken in the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter, along with the Quarter’s first action plan.  The two reports are available here.

Survey results — headlines 

The survey revealed that there are over 50 social enterprises in Digbeth and the surrounding area with a combined turnover of between £15m and £20m. The sector is characterised by small and relatively young enterprises:

  • 60% employ fewer than six staff.
  • 52% turn over less than £100,000 a year.
  • 64% have been trading for less than ten years.
  • Over 21% were set up in the last three years.


Over 20 trade sectors are represented in Digbeth alone. The four most heavily populated sectors are:

  • Education & training 58%
  • Youth services 30%
  • Arts, culture & heritage 33%
  • Community development & regeneration 33%

The use of voluntary effort emerges as a key factor in how many social enterprises unlock additional social value. 82% of social enterprises in Digbeth depend on the contributions of volunteers in various aspects of their work with around 970 volunteers  donating over 7,000 hours every month – some 84,000 hours a year. If this voluntary labour were valued only at the West Midlands average hourly wage, it would be worth almost £883,000 a year.

Action plan

The survey has been used to inform the DSEQ action plan. This marks an exciting new approach to social enterprise development not just in Digbeth but in Birmingham.

Over the next three years, the DSEQ plan will prioritise activities that will have a real impact. Priorities include:

  • Helping SEs in Digbeth access the HS2 supply chain.
  • Creating training and employment opportunities for local people in social enterprises.
  • Promoting Digbeth as the Social Enterprise Quarter of Birmingham, developing its membership offer and continuing to research and plan development over the next three years.
  • Providing access to premises, hot-desking and meeting rooms.
  • Improving the visual appearance of Digbeth, including identifying a high profile clean-up or environmental campaign which can unite the local community.
  • Business support to address issues of growth for SEs and the provision of start-up support.
  • Access to resources, including sponsorship deals, EU funds, special project resources.
  • Partnership development, including targeted work with local Housing Associations, schools and local businesses, and continued work with Birmingham City Council officers to ensure that the DSEQ is embedded in BCC policy, strategy and priorities.


Read more about these exciting new developments in social enterprise development.


Free workshops on achieving the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility

Localise West Midlands in partnership with FinditinBirmingham is offering FREE workshops for social enterprises, third sector organisations and public sector bodies to learn more about the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility and how to apply for Charter status.

Dates, information and bookings.

Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility.


SEUK launches new social value ‘hub’

Social Enterprise UK has just announced the launch of a new hub website bringing together the best in social value materials and resources.

We have barely begun to explore what’s there, but we have also started to upload some of the main materials BSSEC has produced.

In future you’ll continue to find our social value resources here on this website, but also on the Social Value Hub.

Read all our materials on social value

Birmingham City Council and social value

→ Useful resources

→ Report: Evidencing Social Value: TheElephant in the Room.

→  Report: Social value — one year on

→ All blog posts tagged ‘social value’

The Digbeth Trust is recruiting…

Temporary Business Development Grants Officer

Purpose of position: To contribute to the development and delivery of a business support service for Enterprise Catalyst clients.


More information.

3 Temporary Business Development Coaches

Purpose of position: To contribute to the development and delivery of a business support service for Enterprise Catalyst clients from the pre-enterprise stage, starting with engagement, leading to the client starting up their business and sustaining and further developing it up to and beyond 12 months.


More information.

Two more free social value workshops

The_Digbeth_Trust_–_Are_you_interested_in_winning_contracts_from_public_authorities_As part of BSSEC’s continuing work funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, the Digbeth Trust is holding two FREE workshops…

Are you Interested in Social Value and how it applies to contracts?

As part of BSSEC’s continuing work funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, the Digbeth Trust is holding a FREE workshop on understanding and reporting on social value in the context of access to education, training and employment. More information.

Date: Wednesday 30th July 2014
Time: 10:00am – 1.00pm
Venue: The Bond Company, Fazeley Street, Digbeth

Places are limited and booking is essential. Please call Kieran Clarke on 0121 753 0706  or send mail.


Are you interested in winning contracts from public authorities?

Then you need to know about Social Value and what Measurement Tools are available. As part of BSSEC’s continuing work funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, the Digbeth Trust will be holding a FREE workshop to explore the various measurement tools available and their appropriateness.  More information.

Date: Thursday 7th August 2014
Time: 10:00am – 1.00pm
Venue: The Bond Company, Fazeley Street, Digbeth

Places are limited and booking is essential. Please call Kieran Clarke on 0121 753 0706  or send mail.

iSE’s RBS-funded Flying Start programme for women social entrepreneurs seeks mentors


iSE is looking for women to be social enterprise mentors…

  • Do you have experience of running or working for a social enterprise?
  • Could you help an aspiring social entrepreneur in their journey?
  • Have you got skills and experience which you can use to help others?


iSE’s Flying Start project aims to support and encourage more women into social enterprise. We are currently looking for inspiring female entrepreneurs who would like to be mentors, providing guidance and support to help other women move forward to the best of their ability.

As a Flying Start mentor you will have the opportunity to use your skills to support the next generation of female social enterprise leaders while gaining valuable skills, experience and personal satisfaction. Mentoring can be extremely rewarding and can open up networks and new markets for your social enterprise.

For more information ring or send mail to Elizabeth Barker 0121 771 1411 or  go to Flying Start.

News below of Flying Start’s forthcoming branding masterclass. To book for this event ring Marija Sakalauskaite on 0121 771 1411 or send mail.

Hurd quits in reshuffle with “love and respect” for sector “undimmed”

Nick Hurd - outgoing minister for civil society

Nick Hurd – outgoing minister for civil society

Nick Hurd, who served as minister for civil society for the coalition government’s first term of office, has fallen casualty to what some are calling Cameron’s “cull of the white males”, and others “getting rid of the old lags”.

Third Sector refers to him as “quitting”, while gently hinting that his opposition to HS2 — which will run through his constituency — may have put him in Cameron’s bad books.

Whatever you call it, space is being made for younger men and especially women in an attempt to put the cabinet on a war footing for the next election while also addressing its age and gender imbalance.

Hurd apparently tweeted that the sector had sometimes driven him nuts but that his respect and love for it and its work were undimmed.

I never thought I would say this, but in desperate times the sector was fairly fortunate in Hurd. On the few occasions I met him he seemed to approach the job with a far greater relish than many would have had, and at no time did you get the impression that he considered “civil society” an irrelevance, convenient merely as a stepping stone to a greater office.

More here in Third Sector…and many other news sources of your choice…

Update: Hurd’s replacement has been announced: Brooks Newmark, MP for Braintree, a former government whip and an MP since 2005. Third Sector profiles him here.


Upcycle says ‘I will’ to new market

Castle Vale TRA’s new furniture recycling social enterprise, Upcycle Birmingham, is going from strength to strength.

Not only have donations of furniture for refurbishment and sale been far greater than expected, so have sales. In fact, growth has been so rapid that the business has recently taken more space on the OYO Business Park having already outgrown its initial showroom and workspace.

And now Upcycle has found a burgeoning new market in the unlikeliest of places: weddings.

Approached initially by the Midlands Events Company, event management specialists based in the Custard Factory in Digbeth, Upcycle provided a number of pieces that were urgently needed for wedding parties that Midlands Events was organising. Owner Katie Russell was “amazed and delighted” with the results. “Upcycle become my favourite place to mooch and my brides are delighted,” she says.

With the wedding season well and truly underway, Upcycle is finding that demand for bespoke vintage and shabby-chic decorative pieces is soaring.

Manager Judy Tullett says, “The wedding market has certainly taken us to the next level, enabling us to grow much more quickly than we anticipated and move to bigger premises, but everything we do is still about supporting local people into employment and training and all the donations we receive and all of the sales we make are used to that end.”

To donate or find out more go to Upcycle Birmingham or send mail to Judy Tullett or call 0121 747 5932.

Upcycle says "I will" to the bridal market - a recent vintage centrepiece

Upcycle says “I will” to the bridal market – a recent vintage centrepiece


“Upcycle has become my favourite place to mooch and my brides are delighted” Katie Russell, owner, Midlands Events Company

Upcycle launch

 → More on Upcycle

New push to increase use and understanding of social investment

Social Enterprise UK has teamed  up with the BIG Lottery ‘Big Potential‘ programme and the Social Investment Business to produce a range of online resources aimed at increasing the use and understanding of social investment.

BIG Potential is the lottery’s new three-year, £10m grants programme which will make grants to eligible voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations “with the aim of improving their sustainability, capacity, scale and social impact”. What that means in practice is helping them prepare for social investment, partly by drawing on support from an approved list of ‘investment readiness’ support providers. This fund is intended to complement other initiatives, such as the Cabinet Office Investment and Contract Readiness Fund (which from the 3rd July 2014 is restricting new applications to health and social care organisations).

The resources — which include a new explanatory guide to social investment and a series of short and very well produced video case studies — are here.

The video case studies are extremely interesting and include Birmingham’s own My Time CIC.

The single most useful item is the new guide. If you’re trying to catch up on social investment and orientate yourself in this bewildering new marketplace, this is the place to start.

What I most like about the guide is that it is forthright. Social investment is not for everyone. It is aimed primarily at trading organisations because these have the potential to create a surplus and hence repay investors. Not all third sector organisations can or should be trading organisations. Some voluntary and community activities realistically can only be funded by grants and donations. These are important messages and it is right that this new guide should spell them out clearly and honestly.

Most social investors will expect you to be able to both articulate your social impact, and explain how you measure it. Have you tried and tested your work, and measured the results?  – Social investment explained, The Big Lottery Fund (June 2014)

One of the key messages I took from the My Time CIC film comes from Big Issue Invest’s Danny Wilson. Starting at 1:58 Wilson says, “we are looking for organisations who provide high social impact as well as — we hope — some financial return. My Time had a very clear articulation of what it is they did. If you said to  them, ‘how are you making the world a better place?’, Michael [Lilley] was there with five or six answers straight away.”

This made me sit up and take note because all too often social enterprises and many other types of ‘social mission organisations’ struggle to to provide a clear articulation of what they do and the social benefit this activity delivers. I’ve been involved in two extensive social enterprise surveys in the past nine or ten months that have amply confirmed this problem. And yet it is this — this clear articulation of purpose and results, if you like — from which everything else flows. If you haven’t already done so, try it. Get your people together for an hour or two and pose the question. “What do we do and what does it achieve?” I bet you end up with more answers than there are people in the room.

Anyway, I’m glad to see new resources and advice around social investment being produced by sector organisations such as SEUK and Big Potential — rather than by social investment providers. Call me old-fashioned, but I think this may offer us a more objective account of social investment.

Social investment is not a grant or a donation. It is money provided to enable your organisation to generate more income or be more effective: growing your business, putting in place better systems, doing more social good, and repaying the investment in the process.  – Social investment explained, The Big Lottery Fund (June 2014)


Birmingham-based equality and human rights charity brap seeks new Trustees


Charity Trustee Vacancies at brap (unpaid volunteer positions)

Are you concerned about equality in the UK and looking to do more than pay lip service? Do you have the passion, skills, and strength to do what’s right when everyone tells you it’s wrong or doesn’t matter?

Equality and human rights charity brap is looking for new Trustees.

There are two positions available:  Trustee, and Treasurer.

Brap says, “becoming a board member for brap is an opportunity to be part of a national movement to rethink approaches for equality and human rights.”

Interested?  You can get all the details plus backgrounds documents and application forms here.

Deadline for completed applications is 5pm 4th September 2014.

Forthcoming events at St Barnabas Church Centre

Forthcoming events at St Barnabas Church Centre include…

Tickets for the Birmingham Community Gospel Choir charity concert can be bought at the centre, reserved by phone (0121 306 4820) or go online.

And in July and August, St Barnabas hosts a ‘could you run your own business’ session. Register by phone (0800 093 4089) or send mail.

New law recognises co-ops and community benefit societies, does away with IPS

For many this will be a rather arcane debate; others will revel in it. Co-operative law seems to get people that way.

Third Sector Online carries a story today about the passage into law of the  Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014.

The new law recognises co-operatives and community benefit societies in law, while doing away with the old umbrella term (which was little understood) of Industrial & Provident Society.

According to some — including our own David Alcock at Anthony Collins Solicitors — this is a good thing and clarifies usage of these historic legal forms.

Also in favour is James Wright, policy manager at Co-operatives UK, who is quoted as saying: “This is the first time cooperatives appear in a coherent legal form, so it will make it easier for people to understand what they are. When social entrepreneurs are looking to set something up, the co-operative option is now more prominent; it’s not a case of ‘what the hell is this IPS thing?’”

Read more in Third Sector Online here.

UPDATE: Our dear friend Simon Lee dropped me an email to say: “It probably won’t make much of a difference to most readers but, technically, the new Act is ‘in between’ at present. The text of it has all been agreed and gone through the relevant process for it to become law but it is not in force till 1st August this year – in that sense, people still have another 3 weeks or so to keep talking about IPS if they want to!”

Opportunities to tender

There are two opportunities to tender currently detailed on BVSC’s website (click links for relevant pages/documentation]:

→ Tender — to prepare a Social Return on Investment analysis: £3,500.00 inc VAT; closing date 12:00 noon Fri 18/07.

 Tender — to research and produce BVSC’s State of the Sector report: £22,000 to £25,000.00 inc VAT; closing date 12:00 noon Fri 18/07.

More social value news

Social value seems heavily in the news today…

Social Enterprise UK has just published a new report called Communities Count: The Four Steps to Unlocking Social Value. This calls on more local authorities and housing associations to adopt written policies on social value and have a named individual to manage and oversee it. Third Sector Online covers the story here.

→ While Chris White MP — the man behind the social value Act — says that although it may not yet be fulfilling its full potential, this doesn’t mean that the legislation needs strengthening. What it really needs is more time for testing and trialling. Again, Third Sector Online covers the story here.

→ And Social Enterprise WM has introduced a new social value section to its website here.

Another voice on social value

There’s an interesting item over on Vicki Fitzgerald’s Inside Outcomes blog in which she explains her own perspective — based on more years than she cares to remember working in public and community health — on social value.

It very much echoes comments we made here in a post covering the roundtable event on social value that we ran on the 19th June.

Graphic courtesy of Finditinbirmingham

Graphic courtesy of Finditinbirmingham

Essentially, Vicki argues that governments come and go, but providers — social enterprises, the third sector — “keep on going, delivering, helping and making real changes to peoples lives. They know what works, and now they have the opportunity to put that knowledge into a framework for performance and accountability. It needs to be simple, clear,consistent and shared. It needs to be presented in ways that commissioners recognise, understand and value. if providers lead it they can shape it.”

I agree, of course.

In our report of the roundtable event we said:

  • Providers and purchasers lack not just standardised methods for measuring and reporting social value, but also a shared language for articulating social value.
  • There is still some doubt about what commissioners and purchasers want to know – i.e. are they concerned primarily with counting social value ‘outputs’ (e.g. number of apprenticeships created), or are they more concerned with being able to assess the social impact derived from these additional social value outcomes?
  • Relatively little is being done within local authorities to assess whether transferable evidencing and monitoring methods might already exist in other parts of the organisation – e.g. in Supporting People commissioning.


So you see, we are very much in agreement.

And that’s good, as far as it goes. But  formulating a way out of the present impasse needs more than that. That’s why as part of our current Barrow Cadbury-funded work we’re delivering workshops for social enterprises which include diagnostics followed up with individual support to start formulating a social value framework tailored to the organisation.

It’s a bit too soon to report on what’s coming out of these workshops (they’re still running), but we will, because we think there will be some significant learning that can be shared — good practical stuff, and there frankly isn’t a lot of that around.

In the absence of a single ‘industry-standard’ methodology — and I’m not sure there will ever be one — I think we have to press on doing what we can to support the sector in getting to grips with social value. Limited and piecemeal as some will argue such efforts are, I don’t see another way.



Can you help?

Do you have office or retail-type space that isn’t fully utilised? If so, you may be able to help — please see below.


Small “not for profit” credit union type organisation based in Birmingham City centre is looking for either retail or office space for 3-4 desks (300-400 sq.ft).

Will consider sharing. Please contact Tony Raybould on 07861 236080 or send mail.

Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter launches new website

Click to go to the new DSEQ website


Launching today, the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter now has its own website!

You can still get news and updates about the Quarter on the BSSEC website here, and read all our posts tagged ‘Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter’ here, but from now on we’ll also be providing links back to the new DSEQ website wherever possible.

And don’t forget, the next Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter market will take place on Friday 27th June 2014. Be there or be square!

For more information or to book a stall ring Marija Sakalauskaite at iSE on 0121 771 1411 or send Marija mail.

Government publishes 2014 update on growing the social investment marketplace

Today the government published its 2014 update on growing the social investment marketplace. The report sets out progress against the government’s 2013 commitments and plans for the next 12 months. These include:

  • Making it easier to be an investor.
  • Helping communities to access investment.
  • Building capacity amongst social ventures.
  • Opening up markets, and
  • Promoting the UK offer.


You can read more here and download Growing the social investment market:2014 progress update.

“Don’t get too excited” — Lottery CEO cautious but optimistic for EU matching scheme


Dawn Austwick, chief exec of the BIG Lottery has been very cautious in the words she has chosen too describe progress towards a joint Lottery and EU match-funding deal. If successful the proposal will enable around £500m-worth of Lottery funds flowing through the third sector to be matched with EU funds flowing through the Local Enterprise Partnerships.

But the sector should “not get too excited”, she has said, describing negotiations to date as “tortuous”, with “a long way” still to go.

Nontheless there will be many who regard this as good news.

But where does this leave Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP?

GBSLEP made a pitch to government to become an “integrated territorial investment” area, which would have enabled it to make its own decisions regarding match-funding arrangements. But this was turned down.

Colleagues who understand the implications of this a darned sight better than I do have explained to me that while all other LEPs will be covered by the deal Austwick has announced today — assuming it comes to fruition, of course — GBSLEP won’t be.

The sector needs to know with some urgency what GBSLEP proposes to do.

At stake are vast sums of money earmarked for social inclusion and cohesion measures — key areas of activity and service delivery for third sector and social enterprise organisations.

Austwick announced this news today at NCVO’s annual conference and you can read the story in full in Third Sector magazine.


Evidencing social value — the elephant in the room

BSSEC-logo-smallFollowing on from the roundtable event we held on the 15th January 2014 we held a further event on the 9th June 2014 specifically to look at the progress local authorities are making in evidencing and measuring social value as part of their new commissioning arrangements.

We found that:

  • While many are making good progress in embedding social value-based approaches throughout their commissioning and procurement procedures, most if not all are still ‘feeling their way’ as regards the evidencing, monitoring and measuring of social value.


  • The external environment is very confused, with too many competing methods and ‘systems’ for measuring social value and/or social impact.


  • In some local authority departments transferable practices for evidencing social value almost certainly already exist, but the time and capacity to investigate these properly is lacking.


→ More about the event here.

→ Read the full report: Evidencing Social Value: TheElephant in the Room.


Read all our materials on social value

Birmingham City Council and social value

→ Useful resources

→  Social value — one year on

→ All blog post tagged ‘social value’