BSSEC publishes fourth Annual Report

We’re delighted to be publishing our fourth annual report since incorporating as a CIC in 2012.

Of course our activities significantly predate that: we first began life as an informal consortium in 2000, so this year marks sixteen years spent keeping social enterprise at the top of the agenda. Where does the time go?

The trading climate for social enterprises as for all businesses continues to be extremely challenging, but this year has also seen a further significant decline in the availability of funded business support. BSSEC members are working hard to try and ensure that formal business support is augmented with lower-cost options such as networking and peer support as a means of sharing the sector’s rich skills and expertise and capitalising on its strong commitment to mutual aid.

Read more:

Download the 2016 Annual Report.

See all Annual Reports.

Can you help create a five-acre forest garden?

Stratford_upon_Avon_—_Forest_of_Hearts 2

Forest of Hearts is a new charitable social enterprise (a CIO) creating a five-acre forest garden close to the site of the former Snitterfield WWII RAF training camp, in Warwickshire, three miles from Stratford.

Forest gardens build on centuries-old methods of woodland husbandry to preserve and develop local eco-systems, creating gardens of purpose (food production, environmental sustainability, bio-diversity) and pleasure (beautiful spaces for contemplation and enjoyment).

Forest of Hearts’ aim is to create a five-acre forest garden with over 100 species of edible plants, shrubs and trees, over a hundred fruit tree guild gardens (planting multiple crops in a defined space to create a polyculture), ten kilometres of of accessible paths, a thousand trees and a thousand metres of hedgerow.

The project will require thousands of volunteer-hours and as well as its social and environmental benefits will offer apprenticeship placements in a range of woodland skills.

When complete the layout will resemble the internal mechanism of a traditionally-made watch.

To find out more or to sponsor, volunteer or get involved in other ways send mail to Carole Longden.

Contact details.

Importance of Data: ICO Annual Track 2016

IoD Screenshot

Data is an essential part of any charity or social enterprise’s work and it’s important that data is kept organised, safe and secure, but how do the general public feel about their data? In the latest ICO Annual Track (2016) survey the public report that National Health is one of the top social issues that adults are concerned about, NHS being the top. According to the survey, adults have little confidence in the current state of the data economy however, if people had trust in how data is managed and used, they are more likely to share it with you.

With only 1 in 4 UK adults trusting businesses with their personal information it is easy to see that the importance of data and security should be key in any organisation, therefore, it is vital to keep your data stored in a safe place and used in an appropriate way to benefit the person.

PSIAMS Systems are currently  running their “Digital Transformation” Campaign and are holding a special event on 3rd November 2016 called “Transformation & Social Value” – Register today to learn more about how data can transform your organisation.

UnLtd offers co-working spaces for social entrepreneurs

Are you working alone? Finding it difficult to network, meet like-minded people and potential collaborators?

UnLtd is offering social entrepreneurs the chance to access various co-working spaces free of charge, to create stronger local communities, and reduce isolation.

Register your interest here.

socent Co-working space - flyer

Who said the summer holidays were boring? Let’s put on a show!

If you’re aged 15-24 and have an urge to perform — ballet, dance, sword-fighting, singing: the whole works — then you’ll want to know more about the opportunity being offered by arts and personal development charity Leaps and Bounds, in partnership with Birmingham Royal Ballet and local social enterprise Citizen Coaching CIC.

The aim is to create a show in a week — a remix of a classic tale, Romeo meets Juliet — which will be performed at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

The team is looking for young people aged 15-24 to join an exciting FREE summer intensive at the Birmingham Hippodrome August 21st – 26th.

For those with experience — and those who want to tread the boards for the first time — this is a unique free opportunity to develop new skills in dance, theatre, singing costume-making and even sword-fighting and martial arts.

To find out more, meet the team at Zelig Reception in the Custard Factory, Digbeth (B9 4AT) on Tuesday 16th August between 12pm and 2pm or contact Martin at Citizen Coaching on 0121 314 7075 or send him mail.

Now — who said the summer holidays were boring?

ART pioneers new financing model to raise cash for small businesses


ART Business Loans has joined forces with peer-to-peer business lender ThinCats to pilot a unique scheme to raise £500,000 to support local businesses. ThinCats — it’s the opposite of ‘fat cats’ — was established in 2011, partly as a response to the banking crisis.

Working with Responsible Finance members across the UK, including Birmingham’s own ART Business Loans, ThinCats has developed a new Community Chest initiative enabling investors to make a loan to ART for a five year term, which ART will then lend on to West Midlands businesses. Investors will benefit from Community Investment Tax Relief at 5% p.a. of the amount lent for five years.

This is an attractive offer in today’s investment climate, providing both a financial return — 8.2% p.a. for a higher rate tax payer — and a social return by supporting employment in the local economy.

The move is designed to improve access to finance for small to medium enterprises in the West Midlands, and all the money raised will be lent to SMEs and social enterprises in the West Midlands.

ThinCats’ founder Kevin Caley says, “Community Chest is breaking new ground by providing a unique and tax-efficient way of investing in peer-to-peer lending. I believe it will be popular with investors and can deliver a vital new route to funding for social enterprise right across the UK.”

Steve Walker, ART CEO [Photo: Marc Kirsten]

This initiative is part of ART’s continued planned expansion to meet demand from West Midlands businesses, following a third record year of lending in 2015/16. “We provided loans in excess of £900,000 in the first quarter of this financial year,” says ART CEO Steve Walker, “and we fully expect to see further increased demand in the months ahead.”


If you need free legal assistance on one-off issues you need LawWorks

LawWorks E Flyer 2016Are you a small not-for-profit organisation or social enterprise? Do you need free legal advice on a one-off issue?

The charity LawWorks’ Not-For-Profits Programme helps connect volunteer solicitors with small not-for-profit organisations in need of legal advice. If a small charity, voluntary organisation or social enterprise needs advice on a discrete legal issue, LawWorks welcomes applications for help.

Eligible organisations are matched with a volunteer lawyer from LawWork’s network of member law firms and in-house legal teams who can advise on that matter.

Examples of discrete matters volunteers can help with include: drafting a contract, reviewing a lease, updating a constitution/articles, and clarifying rights in a commercial dispute. Volunteers can advise on property, commercial/contract, tax, IP, insurance, insolvency, data protection, defamation, and company law (but not on setting up/choosing charitable structures or registering as a charity).

Applying for help is simple. You can check your eligibility here and complete the online application form. Latest accounts are required and can be uploaded or emailed.

LawWorks will then work with the organisation to gather more information and see how it can help.

More information about the free legal assistance service.

Download the flyer.

Free LawWorks videos on a range of legal issues relevant to the third sector.


Recovery Central announces Paul McMullan ‘Alcopops’ show


Recovery Central is delighted to announce that the one and only Paul McMullan has agreed to premier his Alcopop stand up at the charity’s first dry bar event at Recovery Central before performing at the Edinburgh Festival. Paul has agreed to donate all the proceeds to the work being done at Changes UK.

Paul will be joined on stage by Ryan Gough and Karl Adams AND there’s a good chance of another special mystery guest!

There are only 120 tickets so please don’t miss out!

Tickets include a Caribbean-themed meal.

Tickets here.

Transformation & Social Value – 3rd November 2016





Transformation and Social Value is an informative event that aims to give attendees the opportunity to hear about how PSIAMS Systems is changing the way the voluntary sector delivers services, measures outcomes, works in partnership and aids sustainability of organisations.
Hear from the sector specialists, charities leaders and social enterprises in the West Midlands talking about how they have embraced new technology and data to empower their organisations to work differently and face the challenges ahead.


The key audience for this event includes voluntary sector leaders, service commissioners from local authorities and CCGs, business support agencies including funders, social entrepreneurs, and university and college research departments.


Keynotes and workshops cover:

  • Hear about the transformation of service delivery in Dudley
  • Establishing data and an evidence base for future funding applications
  • Going Mobile – freeing your staff from paper and office work
  • Consortia Building – the benefits of using a collaborative
  • Increased Income Generation – manage every aspect of marketing, sales and finance
  • Organisational Development – make change a positive experience


WHEN: Thursday, 3 November 2016 from 09:30am to 2:00pm
WHERE: Changes UK, Recovery Academy, 8-9 Allcock Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, B9 4DY (map)

The event is free, but places are limited – to book a place click here.

For further information about the event or PSIAMS, please visit

‘Celebrate’ — Big Lottery Fund announces new funding for communities

uklogoSix out of ten people surveyed in a recent YouGov poll said they had never or couldn’t remember ever coming together to celebrate with their community. Big Lottery Fund wants to help change this.

Its new Celebrate fund offers grants of between £300 and £10,000 for groups to hold one off events or activities which celebrate their local community and bring people together.

You could celebrate something in your local history or a local community hero. You could bring people together to get to know their neighbours better.

To be eligible, you must be a voluntary or community organisation with a constitution and your own bank account, or a school or statutory body.

Applications for funding opened yesterday, the 6th July 2016.

Applications will be assessed on a first come, first served basis until all funds are awarded.

For more information and to complete the eligibility checker for application.

Follow on Twitter @BigLotteryFund.

Join the conversation using the hashtag #BigCelebration

Free corporate consultancy for VCOs, charities and social enterprises


In conjunction with National Grid, Volunteering Matters is currently delivering a volunteering project called Good Leaders, which was launched in 2014.

The project matches National Grid volunteers with the leaders of not-for-personal-profit organisations to enable them to receive free consultancy over a period of approximately 4-8 months — around 15-30 hours of time and 4-5 meetings. The project has now run nearly 60 successful ‘matches’.

The corporate volunteers are selected for their business skills and have particular expertise in strategic planning, project management, procurement, stakeholder engagement, customer relationship management etc. To be eligible to be considered:

  • You must be a registered charity, social enterprise or not-for-profit organisation.
  • Your organisation must have been established for at least two years.
  • Your organisation must have a turnover of at least £75K p.a.
  • The leader of the organisation (the person being ‘matched’) should have been involved with the organisation (not necessarily employed) for at least six months.


Please note that Good Leaders currently has ten volunteer providers in the West Midlands but this pool is growing.

To express your interest in being selected to receive Good Leaders support send mail to Janet Whitehead at Volunteering Matters.

For more information view the flyer.


Social Impact Bonds — the first six years


Social Finance has today launched Social Impact Bonds: The Early Years, a new report covering the progress of the Social Impact Bond market in the six years since its inception with the Peterborough criminal justice system SIB.

To date, sixty SIBs have launched in fifteen countries, raising more than $200m in investment for social programmes. The paper details the results of 22 Social Impact Bonds, the global growth of the financial model, the challenges it faces and predictions for its future.

Social Finance has also launched an online global database (currently in beta form) of Social Impact Bonds which can be sorted by country, issue area, investor, payer or service provider, giving a complete overview of live and proposed programmes worldwide.

Social value in health — it doesn’t have to be complicated

We wrote in this recent post about the slow progress being made in health commissioning to embrace social value.

As ever, we were reminded today that the health sector is so diverse and so complex that the picture you get of social value depends very much on where you look.

While progress amongst CCGs, for example, remains slow, amongst other types of health bodies interesting things are happening.

Medway Community Health Care, for example, a £52m turnover CIC and one of the biggest social enterprise health providers, is taking proactive steps to report on its social value.

Take a look at its most recent social value report.

What Medway’s approach shows is that reporting on social value doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to involve sophisticated financial proxies or newly devised metrics — which all too often only mean something to health specialists. It’s just a simple, straightforward narrative detailing what has been achieved and how.

We think this is to be welcomed. It shows that it is possible to take a proactive approach and report on social value in ordinary, simple language.


Extract from Medway Community Health Care’s social value report

See all blog posts tagged ‘social value’.

See all materials on social value & health on the website.

Government announces £80m ‘Life Chances Fund’

https___www_gov_uk_government_uploads_system_uploads_attachment_data_file_534336_CO-SIB-Life_Chances_Application_Form_Guidance_Notes-040716_pdfThe Cabinet Office has just today announced that as part of the Prime Minister’s life chances strategy a new £80m Life Chances Fund has been opened and will continue for the next nine years.

The fund is described as a “top-up fund” for locally developed Social Impact Bond (SIB) projects. The aims of the fund are to:

  • Increase the number and scale of SIBs in England.
  • Make it easier and quicker to set up a SIB.
  • Generate public sector efficiencies by delivering better outcomes and using this to understand how cashable savings are.
  • Increase social innovation and build a clear evidence-base of what works.
  • Increase the amount of capital available to a wider range of VCOs and social enterprise and enable them to compete for public sector contracts.
  • Provide better evidence of the effectiveness of the SIB mechanism and the savings that are being accrued; and
  • Grow the scale of the social investment market.


The fund will operate through thematic “call-outs”, the first two being drug and alcohol dependency; and children’s services.

You can read more about the fund and its operation and purpose here.

Government launches consultation on proposed new policy directions for Big Lottery Fund

Our_vision__People_in_the_lead__About_-_Big_Lottery_FundThe government is seeking views on proposed new policy directions for the allocation of Big Lottery Funds in England, Isle of Man and UK-wide funding programmes.

There is an introductory paper on the changes along with a response form at the link above. However, I couldn’t make the links in the introductory paper work, but the items they refer to are these:

Big Lottery strategic framework — “people in the lead”

Rob Wilson MP minister for civil society — “building society together” speech

Prime Minister’s speech on life chances


Citizen Home –- a place to sell things, make things, and make things happen

4Mgs-AqbWe have covered the opening of Citizen Home elsewhere on this blog and with summer now here it’s time to mention some of the ambitious plans that Martin and the team there have for the shop over coming months.

We refer to ‘the shop’, but the complex of rooms at 82 Vyse Street is much more than that.

There is a beautiful enclosed Victorian courtyard just crying out for lanterns and candlelight and terracotta planters and shabby chic outdoor furniture — a location for secret al fresco meals, pop-up barbecues, meetings and events…

And behind the shop are several workroom and studio spaces, ideal for designer-maker demonstrations and workshops.

The shop is also on the look-out for new social enterprise and ethical/fairtrade suppliers and manufacturers. Martin has a grand idea that it can become a centre not just for unusual gifts and home items, but for the unusual that is made in Birmingham — perhaps even made on the premises at 82 Vyse Street.

For example, the shop now stocks handmade ‘salvage’ furniture from Trans-furniture CIC . This is a great example of how the shop can showcase the work of local social entrepreneurs who might find it hard to get their wares into mainstream retailers but still need to build up profile and customer awareness.

For the right suppliers and manufacturers Citizen Home offers huge potential — and especially so for anyone who is willing to roll their sleeves up and get stuck in to help transform this little gem of a location in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter.

If that’s you, then send mail to Martin Hogg to find out how you can work together to help 82 Vyse Street really come alive this summer — not just as a shop but as a location, not just a place to sell things but a place to make things, and make things happen.

He is waiting to hear from designer-makers, pop-up events organisers, foodies and cooks, soap and candle makers….indeed, anyone with a bright idea and the enthusiasm to help make it happen!

And note that Citizen Home is next door to the Jewellery Qtr Polling Station and on the day of the EU Referendum (23rd June) will open until late (8am-8pm) and is offering a 10% discount — whichever way you choose to vote!

John Taylor Hospice fashion gala

JTH staff gear up for fashion fundraiser

JTH staff gear up for fashion fundraiser

Shoppers are being offered huge savings on high street styles in a fashion show to raise money for Birmingham’s John Taylor Hospice.

The catwalk gala — from 7pm at Boxxed in Floodgate Street, Digbeth on Wednesday July 20th — will have up to half price reductions on women’s wear from a range of stores including Next, Asos, New Look and River Island.

Visitors will also have the chance to win top prizes in a raffle.

JTH’s Marcus Cox says, “Our fashion evening is a great opportunity for people to come together, spend time with friends and enjoy the catwalk shows. It’s a chance to bag some bargains while knowing you are also helping us to support hundreds of local families. Every ticket bought is helping us provide expert end of life care when and where it is needed in the local community.”

Book tickets (£7 inc. complimentary drink).


Prosperity Parade — new book traces history of Digbeth Social Enterprise Qtr

I’ve just been reading David Boyle’s new book, Prosperity Parade: Eight stories from the frontline of local economic recovery. The project was supported by The Barrow Cadbury Trust and can be read in full here on the Trust’s website or here on the New Weather Institute website.

David Boyle is the co-director of the New Weather Institute, a co-operative think tank which supports the transition to a fair, ecological economy, and has written extensively on history, class and new ideas in economics. He is a frequent contributor to the Guardian.

The book offers eight stories of local recovery — people power, if you like, local grassroots economic and social activity that is helping to transform areas and buck the trend of austerity, financial crisis and declining quality of life.

I was especially keen to read its chapter on Digbeth and the Digbeth Social Enterprise Qtr, and I guarantee that anyone with an interest in social enterprise, community economics and grassroots action will find it interesting. It reminded me why the DSEQ and what is happening in Digbeth is important while also helping to set it in a wider historical context.

In a resonant phrase towards the end of the Digbeth chapter Boyle notes that traditional economists would probably say that the DSEQ is merely “re-arranging the geography of profits” and concedes that this is at least partly true.

But it is also clear that Boyle believes that re-arranging the geography of profits — determining where profits come from, where they go to and what they get used for — is central to the kind of  local grassroots mutualism being attempted in Digbeth. It may be modest in scale but, as Boyle points out, what starts local can grow. Take Quebec’s healthcare co-ops, for example, which started life as what many thought was a ‘hiccup’ during the mid-1990s. There are now around forty of them and they are an integral part of Quebec’s health system.

The introduction notes a number of characteristics that define local initiatives such as those covered here. They are defined not by politics per se but by practical optimism. The people driving such developments are concerned less with how much money flows into an economy and more with what happens to that money — where it goes, how long it ‘sticks’ and what it achieves. They tend to be entrepreneurs who also see the need to reshape local institutions to make regeneration easier. And they understand that they will need to “partner with the mainstream” if they are to avoid becoming powerless local ghettoes.

Every one of these points rang a bell with me, and I kept thinking: DSEQ — tick; DSEQ — tick; DSEQ — tick…

Very good, and a welcome addition to the literature on local and community economic development.

Are you successfully evidencing social value outcomes in the delivery of health contracts?

As you know, for several years now BSSEC has been working to support the practical implementation of the social value legislation.

While local authorities have made generally good progress in rising to the challenge of social value, it is now widely recognised that health is lagging behind — although there is some overlap between social value and outcomes-based commissioning, and social value and social prescribing.

As part of a forthcoming report/resource pack we are planning BSSEC is looking for social enterprises that are successfully evidencing social value outcomes in the delivery of health or health/social care contracts.

If you are involved in health or health/social care delivery, are working to a contract with clear additional social value outcomes included in it, and have adopted ways of evidencing this social value and agreed these with the commissioner, then we very much want to hear from you.

Alternatively, if you know of good examples amongst organisations you have some contact with, please let us know.

Other than briefing us on the details, this will not entail additional work for you.

 To let us know about your work send mail to Alun Severn at BSSEC.

Read all blog posts tagged ‘social value’.

Read more about public services and social value on the website.

Read more about health and social value on the website.

Community projects crowdfunding idea spreads to Sandwell

Click for more information and to make a proposal

The People’s Orchestra is holding Sandwell’s first SOUP session on the 16th June at West Bromwich Town Hall, starting at 2pm.

SOUP is a community micro-granting project that started in Detroit and has had massive take up in the UK as well. While sharing food, donating for a bowl, attendees listen to up to four projects that will affect the community in some way, whether this is the people, the environment, or the way the community engages.

Previously successful projects from Birmingham SOUP include: cardboard beds for the homeless, a community urban farm, bicycle regeneration and many many more.

The People’s Orchestra would like to start this trend in Sandwell as well. Anyone with a great idea is eligible to submit a proposal, which you can do here.

This is a purely charitable event and The People’s Orchestra benefits in no way, except the honour of seeing a great project from start to finish over time.