Business growth planning workshop for women at the Women’s Enterprise Hub

iSE has just announced that in conjunction with HSBC it is offering a free business growth planning workshop for women — details below.

Booking essential, please – by email to Ashleigh Howe.

Social Enterprise City — survey reveals important new trends in the sector

Click for full PDF (with thanks to Rebecca Giannelli iSE)

The latest baseline survey of social enterprise activity in the city conducted on behalf of the Birmingham Social Enterprise City steering group during February-May 2019 and published July 2019 gives us a much more detailed profile of the sector in Birmingham than we have ever previously had and reveals some significant new trends. 

It also confirms beyond doubt that social enterprises’ ability to unlock social value is a key characteristic of the sector. Over and above the services they deliver, social enterprises in Birmingham create social value worth around £40m a year through reinvesting in their businesses, spending on social mission, and involving volunteers.

Here are some of the most significant headline findings.


  • 564 social enterprises were identified.



  • 75% of social enterprises are engaged in trading activities and 74% derive at least 25% of their income from these activities.


Age profile

  • The sector in Birmingham is characterised by a high proportion of newer, younger social enterprises: almost 41% of social enterprises have been operating for three years or less. This is a substantial increase in this age-band.



  • 38% of social enterprises have turnover in the £0-£24k a year range, indicating that they are still in the early stages of trading and income-generation.
    • This reflects the high proportion of social enterprises that have been operating for three years or less. 
  • 43% of social enterprises are in turnover-bands from £25k to £400k a year but thinly represented in turnover-bands between £401k and £1m.
  • 10% have turnovers exceeding £1m.


Social enterprises as employers

  • Almost 39% of social enterprises do not yet employ staff, again reflective of the increase in newer, younger social enterprises.
  • In the two years to date it is estimated that the sector’s net job creation was over 460 FTE posts.
  • 59% are living wage employers.


Significant inter-trading — retaining the social economy pound

  • 86% spend with other social enterprises and this is worth almost £17m a year.
    • It is encouraging to see that this key message regarding the importance of inter-trading within the social economy — a key aim of City Drive and of Social Enterprise City — has been grasped and acted on.


Unlocking social value

  • 64% of social enterprises utilise volunteers and across the sector this donated effort is equivalent to almost half-a-million volunteer hours worth at least £5.6m a year.
    • This is yet another example of how social enterprises unlock additional social value. Our local surveys again reveal a little acknowledged fact — that volunteer effort is central to the social enterprise sector and enables it to deliver additional social value. 
  • 69% of social enterprises reinvest in their business — worth a further £5.6m a year.
  • 69% reinvest each year in achieving their social mission — worth almost £30m a year.


It is these last three statistics that in some ways are most revealing. In addition to the services and goods delivered, social enterprises are unlocking at least another £40m-worth of social value a year through utilising volunteers, reinvesting in their businesses and reinvesting to achieve their social aims.

For more facts and figures about the sector in Birmingham:

Download the survey infographic.

Survey report — EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.

 Survey report — FULL TEXT.

More about the profile of social enterprise in Birmingham and in the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter.

More about Birmingham Social Enterprise City and the baseline survey on the iSE website.

Also featured on BVSC’s UPDATE BRUM blog.

Healthwatch Birmingham receives national recognition and wins contract to continue providing service

Click to view full report

Healthwatch Birmingham, the independent champion representing public and patients’ experiences of using local health and social care services, has just published its Annual Report 2018/2019.

The report details the organisation’s most successful year to date:

  • 59% more people’s experiences being heard and shared.
  • 13 investigation reports published to influence positive changes to services.
  • More people from diverse communities have had the opportunity to speak up.
  • People getting the links they need to health and social care support.
  • Its work recognised and awarded at a national level.


It has also been nationally recognised for its work, receiving Highly Commended at the National Healthwatch Network Awards and runner-up in the Patient Experience Network National Awards (PENNA) awards. It also achieved ‘Best in Class’ as a Healthwatch Organisation of the Year.

These successes, according to its Chairperson, Danielle Oum, were instrumental in helping the organisation win the continued contract to deliver Healthwatch Birmingham services for the city and all its communities.

If you have a health and social care experience you wish to discuss with Healthwatch Birmingham you can arrange a meeting by emailing the team or ringing 0800 652 5278 .

Read the online version of the report.
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BSSEC publishes seventh annual report

We are very pleased to publish our seventh annual report.

There has been excellent news in the 2018/19 financial year, but there was awful news too.

First, the good news. In April 2018 it was confirmed that Birmingham’s application to be recognised as a ‘social enterprise city’ under SEUK’s ‘social enterprise places’ scheme had been successful. This huge step forward, ushering in a new period of development for the sector in Birmingham, is largely down to the immense efforts of Sarah Crawley and her team at ISE.

We have also seen significant progress in working with new partners and stakeholders — such as the West Midlands Combined Authority — to advance the cause of social enterprise.

And we have been able to increase the time and efforts we can dedicate to some of our core work — including working as part of a social economy task force established by West Midlands Combined Authority — thanks to continuing support from The Barrow Cadbury Trust, which we grateful acknowledge.

And now the bad news. On the 7th March 2019 our friend, colleague and co-Director Mark Ellerby collapsed and died suddenly. We and many others in the social enterprise sector miss him dreadfully and we wish to record here our lasting gratitude for his contribution to BSSEC and to the wider sector. Mark was an accomplished social entrepreneur, of course, but he was also a dear friend and it still doesn’t seem entirely believable that he has gone.

See all BSSEC annual reports.

Direct link to our Annual Report 2019.

Explaining Birmingham’s social economy

26 educators, students and entrepreneurs from Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovenia and Lithuania – on Bridging to the Future’s exchange project

Last week, Simon Veasey from ISE and myself did our bit for international relations. We were asked by Bridging to the Future’s MD Duncan Chamberlain to help give an overview of social enterprise and the wider social economy in Birmingham to a group of 26 educators, students and entrepreneurs from Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovenia and Lithuania who were in the UK on a week-long European exchange programme with Bridging to the Future.

We joined the group at one of the longest standing mental health social enterprises in the Digbeth Quarter, Better Pathways, where we were kindly accommodated and made very welcome.

Better Pathways’ Operations Manager Raj Gill kindly agreed to kick the proceedings off by explaining how her organisation operates and the role social enterprise plays within it.

We then spoke and answered questions about the social economy in Birmingham.

Simon spoke about the realities of operating a specialist business development agency — how business support is delivered, and the need to operate as a commercially viable social enterprise able to win delivery contracts. I explained that creating favourable conditions for sector growth also involves working with a wide range of other types of stakeholders, including local policy-makers and key public authorities.

The group had had a very busy day and were showing signs of exhaustion but two of the group — both tutors — stayed behind to talk further and clarify some of the points we had made. 

We hope we sent them away with plenty to think about and at least some idea of the long history of social enterprise support and development in Birmingham. Our thanks again to Better Pathways for kindly offering to host this session.

Incidentally, Better Pathways currently has an excellent dedicated training space to let. For details send mail to chief exec Sue Roberts.

‘Place-based investing for impact’ — report published

This year City Drive 2019 included an event called Impact Investing for Place which considered new trends in place-based social investment and social economy development.

The event was kindly sponsored by Big Society Capital, chaired by its Social Sector Engagement Director, Melanie Mills, and hosted by Anthony Collins Solicitors.

Place-based investment for impact and outcomes is an idea that is gaining ground in financial circles, social enterprise support, economic development and amongst policy-makers and public authorities. But this event marked a first for Birmingham: it is the first time that key players with an interest in local impact investing in Birmingham have come together to learn more about local impact investing and consider the role that ‘impact investment’ could play in the city and what can be done to align investment.

While the dominant model of place-based social investing is currently the Local Impact Fund (LIF), this event concluded that there are opportunities for Birmingham to take a different approach – one that isn’t necessarily solely about financial investment and that place-based investing for impact should also:

» Consider wider opportunities for creating social value and community benefit – whether in public service commissioning, major public works such as HS2, or major sports or cultural initiatives such as the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

» Be incorporated into Birmingham’s Social Enterprise City plans as well as into wider support and development priorities for the social enterprise sector.

You can read more about the event on the iSE website.

You can read the full report here.

Birmingham — a ‘real living wage’ city?

West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, speaking at the event (photo: courtesy of WMPCC)

This morning Birmingham City Council hosted a breakfast discussion introducing the Living Wage Foundation’s new Living Wage Places scheme.

The aim was to bring together businesses, local politicians, public sector organisations and members of civil society to discuss how we can work collectively to ensure everyone in Birmingham earns the Real Living Wage. The real Living Wage is based on the cost of living and is already voluntarily paid by over 5,000 UK employers. The UK real living wage rate is £9.00 an hour (outside London) and £10.55 inside London.

In Birmingham 25% of workers earn less than the real Living Wage, as set by the Living Wage Foundation, and for women that rises to over 30%. Almost half the local areas in Birmingham are in the most deprived fifth nationwide. In some areas of Birmingham over 50% of children are in poverty. Currently, only 102 employers in the WMCA area are accredited Living Wage Employers. If the 25% of low-paid workers in the city region received the real living wage this would result in a £560m boost to their pay packets and to the local economy, according to the Living Wage Foundation.

In March 2019 Dundee was announced as the first UK city to officially commit to the new Living Wage Places scheme with the Living Wage Foundation. An alliance of prominent employers launched an action plan setting out how they will work together on “Making Dundee a Living Wage City” in partnership with Living Wage Scotland.

Birmingham City Council would dearly love Birmingham to be England’s first real living wage city and the event brought together a cross-section of employers, civil society organisations, educational institutions, public sector bodies and politicians to begin discussing the first steps in how to make this happen. Speakers included: Liam Byrne MP, Cllr John Cotton, Lucy Bannister and Clare Goff from the Living Wage Foundation, Paul Faulkner of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, Mary Vadaie of JM Security Systems and Lee Barron of TUC West Midlands.

The Living Wage Foundation recommends a standard ‘model’ for taking forward place-based campaigns on the real living wage. First, establish an action group of key players that want to work together — local authorities, employers, public institutions, civil society. Second, research the local low pay landscape. Third, develop an ambitious action plan with real, demonstrable targets.

Obviously, this is just the beginning and there is a huge amount to do, but it was slightly disappointing that the meeting didn’t discuss how an action group might be brought together. However and whenever this happens, though, it will be essential that social enterprise and the wider voluntary sector are represented and that we have champions in all the key sectors that can help drive forward this ambitious campaign.

This could be a really important initiative for Birmingham — a vital bit of the jigsaw in addressing low pay, entrenched poverty, and the continuing scandal of some of the biggest corporations’ and institutions’ pay packets effectively being subsidised by state benefits.

You can follow immediate developments on Twitter.

How to become a real living wage employer.

Please help by giving iSE some feedback on City Drive 2019

Rebecca Giannelli at iSE has just been in touch to say:

CITY DRIVE once again proved to be the biggest social enterprise event in Birmingham’s calendar, with 18 events taking place all over the city. Here at iSE we thoroughly enjoyed what was a non-stop week showcasing Birmingham as a vibrant social enterprise city – and we hope you did too.

iSE is interested in learning about the impact created by CITY DRIVE 2019 and we would also like to hear your thoughts and ideas for CITY DRIVE 2020! We have therefore created a very brief survey reviewing CITY DRIVE and we would really appreciate if you could spend 5 minutes of your time filling it out.

Complete the survey.

If you have any questions then don’t hesitate to email me or call us on 0121 771 1411. (If you need to remind yourself about what took place during CITY DRIVE you can read the full programme here.)

Thank you very much,

Rebecca Giannelli


Contract opportunity — iSE and partners seek consultancy support for USE-IT project legacy

iSE and partners are seeking a consultant to support the project steering group to develop and implement a strategy for the USE-IT Project legacy, which is the focus of Work Package 7.

This consultancy work is to commence from 24th June 2019 and complete by 20th December 2019. It is expected that the consultant will work flexibly most weeks over this period to achieve the expected outputs and outcomes. The consultant will attend project steering group meetings and Work Package 7 meetings both of which take place monthly to report on progress and consult with partners.

Full consultancy brief

UnLtd and Scope join forces to close the disability employment gap — grants of up to £15,000 available for social businesses

UnLtd and Scope are in partnership to award grants of up to £15,000 for entrepreneurs who wish to start or grow social businesses focused explicitly on addressing the disability employment gap — in other words improving access to employment for people with a disability or impairment.

While unemployment has been steadily falling in the UK not everyone who wants to work can gain appropriate, meaningful work and disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people.

UnLtd says it knows that people have enterprising ideas to change this and transform employment for disabled people and so has partnered with Scope to back social entrepreneurs across the UK with support to start and grow their ideas, projects or ventures.

UnLtd is now accepting expressions of interest for Scope early stage awards from social entrepreneurs who are working to close the disability employment gap. 

The deadline for expressions of interest for this programme is 19th July 2019

In using the term ‘disabled’, UnLtd says it takes the Equality Act 2010 as a reference. This defines a disabled person as someone who has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. ‘Long-term’ is defined as lasting or expecting to last for at least 12 months.

The programme is seeking social entrepreneurs who are set up to address the disability employment gap, in other words improving access to employment. For example, ventures that offer:

  • Employment
  • Training & skills
  • Purposeful vocational education
  • Work experience
  • Intermediary service (e.g. recruitment)
  • Pathways to employment
  • Culture or behaviour change within other employers, etc
  • Do Its (up to £5,000) & Grow Its (£15,000)


The programme is especially keen on applications from disabled led organisations.

More about the programme — PDF.

More information and submission of EOIs.

HUB 109 announces business networking event in partnership with NatWest

We’ve written before about Erdington’s new managed workspace venue, HUB 109 before on this blog — here and here

Founder Sean Alimajstorovic has just announced that a series of business networking events in partnership with NatWest will be taking place, starting on Wednesday 29th May 2019 from 4pm until 6pm. See details above.

Sean says, “We’re calling local business owners in Erdington and surrounding areas to join Hub 109 and NatWest for coffee and cake and meet other members of the local business community.”

This is an informal event to allow local business people to meet and discuss the issues of the day, make new contacts and connections and to build a forum for the local business community.

Book here.

Martineau Gardens, Birmingham’s oldest community garden, celebrates Spring and you are invited

Martineau Gardens is Birmingham’s oldest community garden. Now a thriving independent charity, the beautiful therapeutic gardens — an oasis of calm just two miles from Birmingham city centre — include orchards growing figs, mulberries, grapes and apples; vegetable and herb beds, a nature trail, a formal garden and a children’s play area. Its woodlands are home to Pipistrelle bats, badgers and birds and many species of fungi.

On Sunday 19th May 2019 from 11am until 3pm the gardens celebrate Spring with a very special fundraising ‘green’ fete.

You’ll be able to enjoy live music, delicious food and family friendly activities — a perfect opportunity for visiting the Gardens in the height of Spring. Wander around local stalls, join in with activities. The event will be a chance for you to stock up on spring herbaceous plants and compost, plus freshly cut vegetables. Children can play around the ‘shipwreck’ and follow the Stick Man Trail.

Profits raised will help keep these beautiful gardens open for free and enable the Therapeutic Horticulture Programme to continue. Spread the word and invite your friends and family.

Admission to the fete is £4 (non-members), £2(concessions) and free to Friends.

Martineau Gardens is an independently run charity. Volunteers — many of whom have mental health issues and learning disabilities — care for the Gardens, hundreds of school children go there to learn about the environment and Birmingham people in their thousands visit the Gardens annually to enjoy its peace and tranquillity.

Martineau Gardens is also supported by The Co-op through its Co-op Local Community Fund. This means that Co-op members can also use their purchases to help give a bit more. Find out more here.

Location: Martineau Gardens: 27 Priory Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 7UG.

Full information about the Spring Fete.

More information about Martineau Gardens.

PDF visitor brochure.

Gro-Organic CIC offers new employability project in Hobs Moat for 16-24s

Chelmsley Wood-based CIC, Gro-Organic, is offering a new project called Moat-ivation, which takes place at Hobs Moat allotments.

Moat-ivation offers young people aged 16-24 the opportunity to improve their employability while gaining new skills in horticulture and landscaping.

→ For more information or to secure a place: call 0121 630 2190, send mail or check the website. No interview required/Travel support provided.

Download PDF flyer

Watch the video


ART’s community share offer helps ensure ample funds for lending in 2019

ART Business Loans (ART) has just announced that its pioneering community share offer (previously covered here and here) raised over £250,000 from individual investors.

These investors will earn Community Investment Tax Relief (CITR) over the next five years, while their money — distributed in loans to local businesses — will help boost the local economy. 5% of the sum invested can also be claimed as a deduction from Income Tax or Corporation Tax bills each year for five tax years. 

The money from the share offer will enable ART to lever-in additional funds, bringing its total for lending in 2019/20 close to £3m.

Building on the success of this year’s offer, ART is planning to provide a further opportunity for investors in the 2019/20 tax year, through the leading positive investment platform Ethex. This offer too will give investors the additional benefit of Community Investment Tax Relief.

Chief executive Steve Walker says the ART team is looking forward to helping businesses of all kinds — including social enterprises — access the finance they need to survive and thrive. “We offer loans of between £10,000 and £150,000,” he says, “with an average loan size of £35,000. That is a sum which many businesses struggle to access from elsewhere.”

Find out more about ART loans and investment opportunities or call 0121 359 2444.

City Drive — New Start Stories event: great ideas, determination and an extraordinary personal story

When we trailed last night’s New Start Stories event at Evolve @ The Adam & Eve we said “expect open, frank conversation and stimulating insights”. We were not disappointed. Indeed, one of the stories we heard caused an audible collective gasp from the audience.

Here’s news from City Drive — almost as it happens…

Birmingham Impact Football Club CIC

Zehir Kadra (Photo: courtesy iSE)

Our first speaker was Zehir Kadra, the founder of Birmingham Impact Football Club CIC. Zehir set up this new Community Interest Company after completing iSE’s FUSE programme. His mission was to raise the standard of coaching available to grassroots football — and also to start club activities that would truly reflect the diversity of Birmingham. We previously covered Zehir’s story as part of our changing face of social enterprise series. 

Zehir explained that the early stages of his new CIC presented the greatest challenges — none more so than initially covering his operating costs. Sheer determination — and a huge amount of energy, it must be said — have seen him through and Birmingham Impact FC is growing. There are now 40 to 50 kids a week being coached with up to three sessions a day taking place at two locations, one in Moseley and one in Washwood Heath.

Word of mouth, networking and partnerships and a new marketing push have all been critical in helping the enterprise grow.

As well as raising the standards of grassroots coaching, Zehir also sees sport as a key means of building stronger and more cohesive communities. “As an ex-football scout,” he explained, “I was shocked at the poor quality of some coaching. But I also saw that many clubs were simply not diverse — they don’t reflect the true diversity of the communities they operate in. And so I began to see sport as one of the biggest contributions we could make to helping young people mix and integrate.” This, he feels, is a task that has only grown more important and more urgent in today’s polarised climate.

One of the things that Zehir showed the audience had several people saying, “I am definitely going to copy that!” This was a diversity map of the places and cultures now represented amongst the young people involved in Birmingham Impact FC — you can view it here.

Birmingham Impact FC — news, booking, contact details

Moseley Road Baths CIO

The historic Edwardian Moseley Rd Baths

Then we heard from Karen Leach, the chair of a very different enterprise indeed — the historic Edwardian swimming pool, Moseley Road Baths, in Balsall Heath. We have written at some length about this fascinating case study here.

There are only three Grade II* listed swimming baths in the country still in use for public swimming and Moseley Road Baths, which first opened its doors to the public in 1907, is the oldest. It has been saved as a result of a determined community action campaign and is now operated under license by a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).

The coalition of organisations working together to save the baths includes Friends of Moseley Road Baths, Moseley Road Baths Action Group, Historic England (which has made grant of almost £660,000 for urgent repairs to the roof of the Gala Pool), the National Trust and the World Monuments Fund. Karen talked about the complexities of working with trustees, staff, volunteers and a wide range of stakeholders and heritage interests.

The plan is that in the longer term Moseley Road Baths should be sustainable from the revenues generated from swimming — it is, in Karen’s eyes, first and foremost “a community pool, truly diverse, open to everyone”. Since April 2018, over 4,200 school children have learnt to swim at the baths, almost 10,000 swimmers have used the pool and 40 volunteers have been recruited and trained.

But the great historical significance of the building also presents some important opportunities for the enterprise and it is currently being supported both financially and with business planning and fundraising expertise by key heritage organisations. “The support of these heritage organisations has proven absolutely vital,” Karen says, “because it has freed us up to concentrate on doing the very best job we can of running the pool.”

But as well as being a great asset, the age of the building also presents its own challenges, as Karen explained. “We have learnt from community-run pools elsewhere,” she said, “including Manchester and of course the Castle Pool Community Partnership that took over running Castle Vale baths in 2015.” However, if one compares the more modern Castle Vale pool with Moseley Road Baths some of the problems of operating a unique heritage building are immediately evident. For example, Moseley Road Baths still costs the local authority around £100,000 a year in maintenance, whereas Castle Vale pool has maintenance costs of around £7,000 a year and is already able to meet these costs from revenues.

Karen says that getting the right people around you is essential, as is ensuring that there is an appropriate culture throughout the enterprise that will ensure that all who are able to make a contribution are welcomed and used in the best way. “We’ve worked so hard on this,” she says, “and yet even now every day brings some fresh problem. But being able to take a swim in this fantastic, historic pool, knowing that this is possible because of the efforts we have made is a brilliant feeling.”

Moseley Road Baths — timetables, prices, how to volunteer.

Moseley Road Baths CIO — Annual Report 2018/2019 (just published 20/05/19)

HUB  109, Erdington

HUB 109, Erdington High Street

Sean Alimajstorovic’s new Community Interest Company, HUB 109, has brought a new co-working space to Erdington High Street. We have previously written about HUB 109 here. Incorporated as recently as December 2018, HUB 109’s newly refurbished premises offer cost-effective solutions for local businesses — whether they are seeking shared hot desking space, incubation and start-up support, networking opportunities or permanent tenancies.

Sean knew from personal experience that one of the greatest barriers to new business start-ups is access to affordable premises. “Finding the space to work from, identifying help and advice, accessing professional networks and meeting the right people all present big barriers for new businesses,” he says. “But the single biggest obstacle for start ups is the cost and inflexibility of workspace accommodation — and that’s where HUB 109 comes in.”

It’s still very early days for HUB 109, as Sean acknowledges, but tenancies and subscribers for hot-desking and other services are coming in a little faster than originally anticipated and he is optimistic. When he began HUB 109 Sean knew nothing about social enterprise other than what he had read. “But I felt we should be a CIC,” he says, “because from the outset I saw us having a social purpose. I think we have a role to play in helping to remove the obstacles to business start-up in a deprived part of Birmingham, and I also like to think that we can be part of MEGA — Making Erdington Great Again! Yes, I know — it may not be original, but there is a great little high street here to be saved, regenerated, and I want HUB 109 to be part of that.”

Sean is now busy networking, establishing new partnerships — he has recently confirmed a new partnership with NatWest Bank — and getting the name of HUB 109 in front of as many businesses and local people as possible. “Having the opportunity to be part of events like this is also really important,” he says. “I want us to have a much stronger presence and be more recognised as part of Birmingham’s social enterprise community.”

Find out more: HUB 109 website, send mail or ring 0121 405 4405.

Diamond You and Diamond You Projects

Samantha Browne, Diamond You

And then we heard from Samantha Browne, the founder of Diamond You and Diamond You Projects. Samantha’s story was the most extraordinary — and the most courageous — of the evening and there was no one in the audience who wasn’t moved by what they heard.

Sammy is a qualified success coach, NLP practitioner, public speaker and mental health activist. She left an extremely well-paid job with Amnesty International, where she was a human rights educator, to start her personal business, Diamond You, and has already established a substantial track record in speaking at corporate events and coaching top executives. More recently she has developed Diamond You Projects to take her personal development workshops into schools, prisons, local authorities and other public authorities.

But it is the story that lies behind this enterprise — and Samantha’s frankness in recounting it — that is truly extraordinary. Everything she says and does is founded on the hardest personal experience. 

Samantha explained that she had a troubled childhood and came from a broken home. When she was sixteen a woman she considered her best friend groomed her and recruited her to sex work and the adult industry. When she was 21 the same woman introduced her to a man who for three years trafficked her for sex across England, Ireland and Wales.  You can watch an October 2018 interview with Samantha on BBC news here.

“But my biggest burden,” Samantha says, “became my biggest blessing,” and she is now busy carving out a new career — and a new social enterprise. “My mission,” she says, “is to make a contribution to tackling what I see as two of the biggest epidemics of our time — mental ill health, especially amongst younger people, and the rising tide of human trafficking.”

Samantha is currently developing more services and initiatives that can be taken into schools. “I’m not where I’d like to be in terms of earning a decent living from this work,” she says, “but I know it can be done, and I know it is the most important thing I can do, so I’ll live with any temporary hardship.” She currently continues to work part-time while developing Diamond You and Diamond You Projects.

She told the audience her four tips for success. Take advantage of free events like this — use all the help you can and all the help that’s offered. Network, network, network — she was interviewed by BBC news following a chance meeting with a BBC journalist at an event. Use your circles of influence — her experience of delivering Amnesty International human rights workshops made her used to approaching schools and negotiating access; new workshops for delivery in prisons are being delivered as a result of her direct personal experience of the criminal justice system. Make sure your vision is shared — especially as you expand and take on staff or work with other partners.

It has just been announced that Diamond You won the Digbeth Porridge micro-funding pitch event this morning (Tuesday 9th April 2019). Attendees gave their pitch for a pot of at least £500 given jointly by ART Business Loans and iSE — with the audience deciding the winner. Having heard Samantha speak last night I would frankly have been astonished if she hadn’t won this.

You can contact Samantha Browne through the Diamond You website.

* * *

We would like to thank iSE for organising our New Start Stories event — especially Sarah Crawley for her skilful facilitation, Elizabeth Forrester for publicity and marketing, and Simon Veasey for help on the night. We would also like to thank everyone who came and in particular our four speakers, Zehir Kadra, Karen Leach, Sean Alimajstorovic and Samantha Browne. They are all part of the changing face of social enterprise and you can read more stories like theirs here.

City Drive 2019 starts today

City Drive 2019 starts today, an annual week showcasing social enterprise across Birmingham city, organised by iSE CIC on behalf of supporters, sponsors and the wider sector. This year City Drive takes place over six days for the first time with 19 events and over 750 ticket places available. Many events are free to attend.

Birmingham became a recognised Social Enterprise City last April and there have been positive responses from within the social enterprise sector, private and public sectors to this accreditation from SEUK.

For five years iSE and its partners have used City Drive events to campaign and raise awareness of social enterprise, showcasing and celebrating the incredible social enterprises across Birmingham that contribute to the regional social economy and lead on innovative solutions to some of the social challenges our city faces.

There is a clear purpose behind City Drive with the following five aims adhered to and built on, year-on-year:

  • Start a social enterprise.
  • Work for a social enterprise.
  • Volunteer for a social enterprise.
  • Invest in a social enterprise.
  • Buy from a social enterprise.


City Drive highlights this year include:

  • Birmingham’s only canal boat-hotel, Boatel UK, doing canal tours.
  • Walking tours in Digbeth with HS2 and the Birmingham Music Archive.
  • An Arts Trail.
  • Two localised micro-funding events (one in Digbeth and one in Soho).
  • A social enterprise festival with over 50 social enterprise trading stands, plus Birmingham’s first Ethical Wedding Fair.


There are still some places available and you can find all event information here.

See all posts tagged ‘City Drive’

Follow on TWITTER @iSE_CIC FACEBOOK @iSEsocialenterprise INSTAGRAM @ise_social_enterprise

Share event media #CD2019 #brumSEcity

iSE and the Social Enterprise Academy announce new leadership development programme

iSE has just announced that it is working in partnership with The Social Enterprise Academy to deliver a new regional leadership development programme that has been designed by and for the social enterprise sector.

The programme is designed to provide practical opportunities to explore different theories and leadership themes creating a powerful and transformational experience.

This programme is unique in that it takes a whole organisation approach by working with Chief Executives and middle managers and the application process therefore requires applications from two people per organisation. Both applicants are not involved in the programme simultaneously, however. Learning and support is delivered in two separate but linked programmes over a six month period. The aim is to truly embed organisational change.

iSE says that as a result of taking part in this programme organisations are expected to be stronger and healthier, to have greater impact and to be more connected with each other. Individual participants will benefit from being able to better identify their strengths and impact, have greater clarity of thinking, and develop a greater ability to address the challenges they face.

This is a major opportunity to get involved with a radical approach to leadership development. The closing date for applications is 29th March 2019.

Apply HERE.

Graduate Planet CIC funds pioneering environmental workshop for 60 schoolchildren

SPS International team supporting local schools

We’ve written before here about Graduate Planet CIC, the specialist social enterprise recruitment consultancy which uses its surpluses to support environmental action.

Its founder Kate Evans recently worked with energy data specialists SPS International in Warwick to help the company recruit a new technical data expert, and as a result Graduate Planet has been able to fund an environmental sustainability workshop for 60 local children at Trinity school in Leamington, as part of the school’s STEM programme. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths teaching that enables pupils to make practical connections between these disciplines and the world of work, business, community or the environment.

The workshop was delivered by the the Smallpeice Trust, Leamington-based STEM specialists. This engaging practical education in environmental sustainability will help equip the children for the future, helping them to understand and solve sustainability issues.

Kate Evans, founder, Graduate Planet CIC

Working in teams the children had to imagine that they were on an island. The task was to design and construct the water pumps and wind turbines they would need in order to survive. The exercise was designed to help develop the children’s creative thinking, time management, team work, problem-solving, enterprise and social skills.

Graduate Planet’s Kate Evans says, “The children had great fun and the workshop supported the National Curriculum. It will also help the school achieve specialist STEM status. The organisations that worked together to make this workshop possible demonstrate the positive impact that businesses can have on the local community when they use their supply chains creatively to deliver extra social value.”

This project also highlights the increased demand amongst younger people for the world’s politicians to address the issue of climate change, following the Greta Thunberg protests and the climate change ‘school strikes’ that have spread around the globe. Earlier this month, thousands of pupils in sixty cities across the UK staged school strikes and marched for action on climate change.

This shows that with determination even relatively new social enterprises — Graduate Planet CIC was only incorporated in June 2017 — can rise to the challenge of delivering additional social value (extra social, environmental or economic benefits) as part of what they do. They can also enable others, including customers, to derive  greater social value from their activities and their business spend — just as was envisaged when the Social Value Act became law back in 2012.

Graduate Planet CIC

→ Graduate Planet CIC video

→ Smallpiece Trust

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More about Social Value elsewhere on the BSSEC blog

iSE and USE IT! programme seek social enterprise work placements

iSE’s business development manager, Simon Veasey is keen to hear from social enterprises that can offer local unemployed people the opportunity to undertake work placements with employers that have a strong social mission. Read what he has to say below.

Simon Veasey writes:

One of the USE IT! project outcomes that we most want to focus on over the next few months is offering work experience places in social enterprises for local people in the USE-IT! area.

iSE and the USE-IT! partners are looking for social enterprises in Birmingham that can offer local unemployed people the opportunity to sample working in an organisation with a strong social mission.

Your placement offer can be as short as a day or as long as a week or anywhere in between.

The process is simple. ISE just needs a few words about what you will be expecting people to do and we will do the rest, matching individuals up with organisations.

People on placements will be prepared and supported by Birmingham Chamber. If you can offer an opportunity or want more information please contact Simon Veasey on 0798 355 9266 or send mail.

More about USE IT! on the iSE website

USE IT! is delivered through a partner network including iSE, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, University of Birmingham, Health Exchange CIC, Co-op Futures, Localise WM, Citizen Coaching CIC and Smethwick Can, and has been facilitated by Birmingham City Council.

Full City Drive programme now available

The full City Drive 2019 programme is now available — click here.

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