We’re still on the look-out for newer, younger social enterprises with an interesting story to tell

As part of our Big Lottery ‘Awards for All’ project we’re still on the hunt for interesting news stories from newer, younger social enterprises that will help illustrate new, changing and emerging trends in the sector. 

We’ve been posting these stories on the blog under the overall title of ‘The changing face of social enterprise’ and you can read all the stories we’ve covered so far.

If you’re doing something new and interesting, we want to hear about it. Tell us something about yourself and your social enterprise and we’ll see how best your story can be featured: send mail or ring Alun Severn on 0121 233 0278. We’ll work with you to develop the story and feature it here on the BSSEC blog.The kind of things we’ll need to know about you are:

» What you do and why you do it.

» The community benefit / social value you deliver or intend to deliver (with specific examples if possible).

» A bit of background — how long you have been operating, why you began, any notable successes or milestones.

» What you want / need from people who read the story — e.g. do you need volunteers, contributors, funders, donors, referrals, partners?

Background to the project — PDF.

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













Social entrepreneurs and USE IT — catalysing social change in Birmingham

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

More about the Soho Social Enterprise Network.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for helping.

USE IT social enterprise support case study — Complete Kidz


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

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

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

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

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

Read more about this case study.

Read more about the USE IT! programme.

Children enjoy a Complete Kidz outing

‘Thrive’ — UnLtd launches new social ventures support programme

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

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

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

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

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


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

Next DSEQ network meeting considers HS2 disruption with guest construction speakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The changing face of social enterprise — Impact Hub Birmingham

At Impact Hub Birmingham

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

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

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

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

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

Why Impact Hubs are significant

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

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

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

How you can help

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

Sign up for a tour.

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

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

Host your event at Impact Hub Birmingham.

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


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








The changing face of social enterprise — YMCA Birmingham

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

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

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

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

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

Eden coffee shop

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

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

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

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

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

Targeting the business-to-business market

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

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

Social impact certificates

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

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

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

How you can help

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

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

YMCA Birmingham

YMCA Birmingham — accommodation

→ YMCA Birmingham — conference centre

YMCA Birmingham — nurseries

→ YMCA Birmingham — training & education

→ YMCA Birmingham — Eden Café


















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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Screw the business plan — give me jobs’: Changes Gardening’s James Coote on growing a successful service user-led enterprise

The Manager of the Changes Gardening service, James Coote, doesn’t give a damn about the business plan. For James it’s all about recovery.

Lots of community groups run gardening projects to help with people’s mental health. We can all understand that working with nature can be calming and good exercise. But James is running a commercial gardening service for corporate and residential customers. He takes volunteers from Changes UK who are in recovery from drug and alcohol addictions and gives them skills and job opportunities. His volunteers aren’t there for a jolly, they have to get the job done to a professional standard in the agreed timescale.

Changes Gardening is a business — and the more it can grow, the more it can deliver: for customers, for its volunteer workers, for those in recovery looking to take back control of their personal and work lives. James wants to expand to a second van and two teams. For James this is all about creating real opportunities for people entering recovery, knowing that there are real jobs to aim for. “Unless we grow,” James says, “I have no new spaces for people to volunteer. There’s always new people coming in to Changes that might want to do gardening, so I need to grow the service to create more spaces.”

Changes Gardening’s James and Dan in festive mood

James needs to bring more work into the business so that he can employ more people like Dan. Dan ran a successful gardening firm 10 years ago before his addictions got the better of him. He did the 8-week recovery programme at ChangesUK, got well, volunteered for five months and then became an employee. He has shown he has all the leadership and gardening skills to supervise a second team. “I’d hate to think that after my year in permitted work, I would have to go looking for a job somewhere else. I would rather move on into full time work with James. We work well together, we really do,” said Dan.

So this is why Changes Gardening is looking for more jobs to keep them busy over winter. Seasonal growing has slowed down, which makes this an excellent time to get all your paths, fences, sheds and other garden buildings sorted.

But there’s also an even better reason:

Changes gardening is offering a special Winter Discount
20% of paths, fences and sheds
Ends 28th February 2018

Book before 28th February 2018 to qualify!

About Changes Gardening

Changes Gardening provides a full range of domestic and commercial gardening and landscaping services.

And when you buy from a social enterprise you always get more in return. All the profits from Changes Gardening are used to help children and families effected by addiction. When your addictions get the better of you, families lose someone they love. When you get well again, you bring families back together. ChangesUK is an addiction service that takes people on a journey from addiction to recovery.


Changes Gardening Manager, James Coote on 07495078723.

For further information about Changes UK, Changes Gardening and the other work that Changes UK does, contact Tobias Gould: send mail; @TobiasGould, 07983 600 358.

Changes Gardening is part of an increasingly significant movement of user-led social enterprises that are helping people take control of their economic lives and their employment. Read our earlier post

Read what John Taylor Hospice’s ‘Gift a Christmas’ campaign means to one grateful family

John Taylor Hospice’s ‘Gift a Christmas’ appeal is running again this year and over on the JTH website you can read what this means to one grateful family — the Bloxhams — and why they consider it important to support the hospice in its fundraising efforts.

Stephanie Bloxham, who works at BVSC, was only sixteen when her father died from lung cancer in 2000. She says, ‘We want to make sure other families, just like ours, are able to receive this excellent care and emotional support at a time when they need it most. We really hope that in sharing our story people can see what an incredible difference the hospice makes in our community and choose to get behind the Gift a Christmas appeal.’

Earlier this year, Stephanie and her brothers raised over £2,500 for the hospice by hosting a fundraising party on what would have been their father’s 60th birthday.

JTH is a community interest company and a social enterprise which operates on a not-for-profit basis. All of its services are free for the people it supports and their families and all of its income is invested in providing services for local families. The ‘Gift a Christmas’ campaign aims to raise £15,000 — enough to fund all of John Taylor Hospice’s services on Christmas Day.

You can read the Bloxhams’ story HERE.

You can donate to JTH’s ‘Gift a Christmas’ appeal HERE.

Stephanie Bloxham and her family support JTH’s Gift a Christmas appeal

Digbeth Digital Christmas Market

To celebrate the best of Birmingham and the best of Digbeth, iSE have collaborated with social enterprises in Digbeth and Birmingham to bring you some great Christmas offers from organisations with a social purpose.

And here’s the special offers:

Change Kitchen CIC is an award winning events caterer and thriving social enterprise which strides to provide ethical, locally sourced organic food and they have some great offers for us to share with you on the run up to Christmas.

» The Birmingham Cook Book is your definitive guide to the finest foodie hotspots in the city. Change Kitchen are offering this fantastic cookbook for £12 (delivery) or £10 if you collect, free autumnal chutney if you come to collect.

» £20 vouchers for a 3 course meal at their popup restaurants.

» £15 off their veggie / vegan sushi making course and healthy eating on a budget course.

Send mail to Birgit Kehrer • Phone 0782 8825850


Punch Records and Capital Xtra are collaborating on the 2018 Music Potential programme. The programme, for 18-25 year olds not in education, employment or training, offers the chance to take part in creative workshops, join work experience opportunities, get one to one industry mentoring, employability training, plus, the prospect of displaying your talent at the Music Potential UNLEASHED showcase. This four stage music program has offered young people the opportunity for young people interested in music to work with such names as Tim Westwood BBC DJ, Stormzy and many more fantastic British artists.

Phone 0121 224 7444



Changes UK CIC is a leading social enterprise in Birmingham, offering addiction support services, counselling and housing support. As part of a Christmas deal they are offering 15% off all fencing jobs up until Christmas. Just contact for a quote today.

Send mail to Tobias Gould • Phone 07495 078 723



Devenish Girl is a social enterprise run by Melanie Glass, it offers cookery skills training programs for young people. Devenish Girl is providing a Christmas discount for their special upcycled gin bottle lamps for £20. Collection only until 18th December.

Send mail • Phone 07958 657162

Developing the social value agenda — social enterprises and strategic partners have many concerns in common

Since 2012 BSSEC has been working to support practical implementation of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 — what has become known in shorthand simply as ‘social value’. This work has been made possible by financial support from The Barrow Cadbury Trust, which we gratefully acknowledge.

In drawing the project to a close, we organised two roundtable discussion events — the first for social enterprises; the second for strategic partners. These were planned to enable a proper conversation about social value, looking not just at where things are currently but how best the idea can be extended and protected for the future.

As regards developing the social value agenda, the views of social enterprises and strategic partners had much more in common than we thought might be the case.

Social enterprises feel there is a big gap between the rhetoric of social value and their experience of how the legislation is being used on the ground, but strategic partners share many of these same concerns. They too consider that there is an evident gap between rhetoric and reality; that it is time for advocates and supporters of social value to exert greater influence over the agenda; and that identifying social value solely with the public procurement process is too narrow an interpretation of what social can and should be.

It is clear that much remains to be done in order to continue developing better use of the legislation, a wider understanding of the role of social value and especially in joining up local efforts to ensure that social value continues to be a key part of public policy in Birmingham and the wider west Midlands.

But the participants at our events had some terrific ideas and you can read the recommendations we make HERE.

One of the key things that has changed since the legislation came into force is that gradually a pool of expertise – of social value advocates and activists – has developed. We will carry on working with others in the sector to try and influence the continuing development of social value both in Birmingham and in the West Midlands through the emerging West Midlands Social Value Task Force.
You can read the executive summary and full final report of this project at the links below.
Social value: Where we are and looking forward — EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.
Social value: Where we are and looking forward – FULL REPORT.
Social value: Where we are and looking forward – BSSEC presentation given at both roundtable events.
More about the roundtable events and RECOMMENDATIONS.
For all materials on social value choose POLICY ISSUES on top menu bar and scroll down to PUBLIC SERVICES & SOCIAL VALUE to see all topics.

Inside Outcomes CIC & Birmingham Innovation Engine team up for free GDPR workshop

This, just in, from Darren Wright at Inside Outcomes CIC:


Following on from our blog post on how to get prepared for GDPR we’ve decided to turn advice into action and are holding a free workshop in conjunction with the Birmingham Innovation Engine Project to explain the implications of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GPDR).

Recognising that there are a lot of people out there creating an industry out of the fear around GDPR we decided to take a practical approach to things that you can do to get your business ready for GDPR. You can find extensive information on what GDPR means to you on the Information Commissioner’s Office website. We’re not going to ask you to give up your valuable time to just go through stuff you can read on the Internet. This workshop will focus on practical things you can do now to prepare for when the regulations come in. The three areas we will focus on are:

1) Developing an organisation-wide data protection policy.
2) Auditing the data you hold.
3) Ensuring you have informed consent to hold data.

The workshop will take place on Wednesday 10th January 2018 from 09:30am to 12:30pm at the Universities Centre, Innovation Birmingham, Faraday Wharf, Holt St, Birmingham B7 4BB.

Read more on Inside Outcomes’ website.

Book for the event on Eventbrite.


University of Birmingham seeks social enterprises for new year workshops, speaker panels, internships

Over the course of the next year, the University of Birmingham is planning several events that offer opportunities for local social enterprises as speakers, exhibitors and hosts of student interns.

Here are the details as we have them at the moment.

Hassana Ahmed, Enterprise Lead for the University of Birmingham’s Careers Network says:

The University of Birmingham is seeking social entrepreneurs from social enterprises in and around Birmingham and the wider West Midlands area.

1) In the first instance we are seeking panel speakers to explain their social enterprise and its social purpose to students — how you came to identify your social purpose, the specific problems or causes you are concerned with, and how your enterprise helps.

We aim to deliver two of these events over the next year, with 3 social entrepreneurs speaking at each and so need at least 6 social entrepreneur speakers.

The first event is provisionally set for 14th February 2018.

2) Following on from these events, we’d like the social enterprises to provide opportunities for small project-specific pieces of work that could employ 1 or 2 students to work on something your enterprise needs assistance with — for example, analysing a problem and producing a solution.

The students would work for up to 20 hours over a course of a term. This will support the student’s employability and skills development and will also help them consider social enterprises as a career choice.

The cost of employing the students will be met by the university.

3) We would also like students too have the opportunity to spend a half-day at the social enterprise, meeting professionals in varying roles and through this gaining a better understanding of the kind of graduate roles that might be possible in social enterprise. We are looking for 4 employers to offer their time — approximately 3 hours for about 40 students. We would organise coaches and bring students on site.

4) And finally, we are looking for social entrepreneurs to provide social enterprise awareness workshops covering: what is social enterprise; how t o start a social enterprise; and the common pitfalls in developing new-start social enterprises.

If you are interested in being part of this initiative, please SEND MAIL to Hassana Ahmed, Enterprise Lead for the University of Birmingham’s Careers Network.

Thank you, Hassana Ahmed.

The changing face of social enterprise — Age UK Warwickshire’s Re-Use outlets

Many of the ‘Changing face of social enterprise’ stories we have so far covered as part of our Big Lottery ‘Awards for All’ project have been very new and very small social enterprises that are just starting out. What they have to tell us about the challenges of developing new-start social enterprises in the current climate is extremely instructive.

But today’s story offers a very different example of how new social enterprise opportunities are being created — this time in partnership with a local authority. 

We’ve written elsewhere on this blog about ‘re-use shops’ — in particular, The Re-Users outlets established by The Jericho Foundation (here and here), where household items destined for landfill are rescued, restored and resold. The financial, social and environmental benefits of diverting saleable materials from the waste-stream are now widely recognised. Jericho’s Richard Beard has said: “It’s extremely profitable, the environmental benefits are huge and the social impact is terrific. I’d have a Reusers at every tip if I could manage to do it.”

Over the past couple of years this is exactly what Warwickshire County Council (WCC) has done, in the process taking social enterprise-based re-use activities to an entirely new level.

WCC has recently undertaken a competitive ‘franchising’ exercise that has seen Age UK Warwickshire (AUKW) win the right to operate all eight of the County Council’s recycling centre re-use shops, as well as whole-site operation of two small Household waste Recycling Centres (HWRC).

This is generating hundreds of thousands of pounds for the council, millions to support Age UK Warwickshire’s service delivery, and diverts over 700 tonnes of material from landfill every year.

Prior to 2014, WCC’s re-use outlets were offered as concessions to third sector groups and four different organisations operated the eight outlets, typically paying a peppercorn rent of around £12,000 a year to do so.

But WCC realised that the commercial potential of the re-use sites was far greater than this arrangement recognised — even in 2014 some of the Warwickshire outlets were turning over more than £250,000 a year — and began the process of ‘auctioning’ off these lucrative sites. This will earn the council more than £300,000 a year in franchise fees and there will also be savings — perhaps as much as £75,000 a year, according to analysis by Sustainability West Midlands — from reduced waste disposal costs and Landfill Tax. But in addition to this, WCC’s project manager for waste management community services, David Whitehouse, also believes the sites ‘offer a sustainable platform for social enterprise’.

WCC believed that the commercial potential of these sites, coupled with the social value and environmental benefit they could deliver, would ensure that the bidding process would attract charities and social enterprises. It was proven right. There were a total of 26 expressions of interest submitted when the tender opened, eventually resulting in five compliant bids. The process was also open to private sector bidders, of course, but the business rate relief available to charities made the deal especially attractive to the third sector — and perhaps especially to the new hybrid form we are seeing many charities adopt, where social enterprise ‘trading arms’ are used to generate revenue that can support the charity’s work and also in some cases create employment opportunities for the client groups it works with.

Sustainability West Midlands, which has written a case study of this initiative, estimates that were it applied to all of the remaining 1,056 recycling centres in the country it would generate an additional £35m a year for local authorities.

Ramping up its trading activities means that AUKW has created 25 new, full-time equivalent jobs and is able to put additional resources into its services — such as befriending, information and advice, Age Well exercise clubs, and specialist day clubs and lunch clubs. It also helps support the organisation’s key campaign causes, such as addressing the crisis in older people’s care, improving hospital transport, reducing social isolation (especially amongst older people who have lost their loved ones) and loneliness.

Whether viewed from the perspective of increasingly commercially-minded social enterprises, or from that of cash-strapped local authorities seeking to generate income that will help offset public spending cuts, AUKW’s re-use outlets represent a truly significant development in the creation of new social enterprise trading opportunities. The award winning initiative has been extensively covered in the local government and environmental media and elsewhere and you can find out more below.

Franchising of recycling centres and re-use shops — Sustainability West Midlands case study

Circular economy case study — franchising of recycling centre re-use shops, a case study by David Whitehouse, Project Manager for Waste Management & Community Services at of WCC

 Overcoming austerity through franchised recycling — coverage at the Public Sector Show (Manchester Central, Nov 2017)

Send mail to Warwickshire County Council waste management services 

Send mail to Graham Oliver, Area Manager, Age UK Warwickshire

Support the Brum Xmas Dinner

This year, BVSC is supporting the Brum Xmas Dinner. What’s it all about?  The Brum Xmas Dinner campaign says:

Help make Christmas a little less lonely for young care leavers aged 18-25

Christmas is a time for celebration, family and friends; but for some people it can be a time of isolation and loneliness. In Birmingham we want to make it a little less lonely for young care leavers aged 18-25 who for whatever reason don’t have family or friends to be with on Christmas Day.

We want to do something to help bring together these young people on Christmas Day, and give 50 of these young people the kind of day that millions of families up and down the country will be having. We’ve got a great party planned, with food, presents and fun – but we need your support to make it happen. Please help us make this a special day for young care leavers in Birmingham.

Go to the BSVC website to find out more and to donate.

Go straight to the Brum Xmas Dinner crowdfunder page to donate.


SURGE Growth Accelerator Programme for charities, social enterprises and social businesses

Coventry University Social Enterprise (CUSE) introduces a unique and powerful 3-day residential growth accelerator programme for leaders and senior managers of established charities, social enterprises and social businesses who are looking for a tailored growth plan for their enterprise.

The programme — a residential 3-day event — will run from 17th – 19th January 2018.

The aim is to provide a blend of leading academics, industry experts and transformational social entrepreneurs to enable you to identify, map and action the next key growth steps for your organisation.

Speakers include:

Karen Lynch CEO of Belu Water
Larry English former CEO of REALL
Richard Beard CEO of Jericho Foundation
Melanie Mills Social Sector Engagement Director at Big Society Capital
Prof Gideon Maas Director of International Centre for Transformational Entrepreneurship (ICTE), Coventry University
Prof Richard Tomlins  International Centre for Transformational Entrepreneurship (ICTE), Coventry University

The SURGE Programme is open to any charity, social enterprise or social business and is £250 to cover the residential costs at Woodland Grange, Coventry.

Please register and book by emailing Keith Jeffrey (CUSE).

View programme details PDF

The changing face of social enterprise — Liberty Cookhouse

As part of our Big Lottery ‘Awards for All’ project we’ve been on the hunt for interesting news stories from newer, younger social enterprises that help illustrate new, changing and emerging trends in the sector. 

We’ve been posting these stories on the blog under the overall title of ‘The changing face of social enterprise’ and you can read all the stories we’ve covered so far.

Today’s story concerns a social enterprise idea that is still in the very early stages of development. But it helps illustrate a crucial difference between social entrepreneurs and more conventional business people. Read on and we’ll explain.

For many, the process of social enterprise development is a kind of activism, and is deeply informed by a grassroots, DIY, ‘give it a go’ outlook that permeates all kinds of activism. It may even involve a degree of personal sacrifice.

The social entrepreneurs and community activists behind Liberty Cookhouse are a case in point. Dave Conroy, who has a background in refugee support as well as being a serial food business entrepreneur, has brought this development group together.

“A couple of years ago,” Dave explains, “I started the setup of an idea for a ‘community kitchen’ based social enterprise. Not a restaurant, or a simple catering business. What I had in mind was an industrially equipped commercial community kitchen aimed at refugees and people who want to start food businesses. I didn’t get very far because I quickly got busy again in my freelance work and it’s hard not to worry about paying the bills.”

But the idea didn’t die. Far from it.

“Two years on,” Dave says, “I felt the timing was better, certain things were happening that linked so well with the initial idea so we had to jump. I took the decision to drop to two days a week working from October through to the end of March 2018, spending the rest of the time working with others who want to help make Liberty Cookhouse a practical reality.” There are now over twenty people involved in developing the idea.

The business needs to succeed as commercial operation — of course it does — but for a particular reason. Dave believes that only by being financially sustainable and independent can the Liberty Cookhouse work flexibly and nimbly enough to ensure that it achieves the very best employment and support outcomes for the refugee client group it will support. “This isn’t about getting people onto an endless conveyor belt of ‘courses’,” he says. “It’s about a commercial business-to-business kitchen that can take advantage of new trends in the food market — home delivery, food production for third parties, offering a commercial business incubation space for food entrepreneurs — and turn these into real, ethical employment opportunities for refugees and others who, despite their resourcefulness and determination, are marginalised in the labour market.”

Food business incubators are a huge growth market in the US, where it is estimated that 86% of such facilities turn a profit within three years. The UK so far has no similar movement to support the incubation of food businesses.

The enterprise hopes to establish a space with community partners in Smethwick, very close to the site of the new Midland Metropolitan super hospital. “We believe the new hospital offers a concentration of potential customers of different sorts for special diets, culturally specific food and NHS supply,” says Dave. “There will also be a huge labour force there needing to be fed.”

Dave Conroy, Liberty Cookhouse

Many new trends in the food market at present represent a race to the bottom — low wages, zero hours contracts, and off-site food preparation in ‘dark kitchens‘ run by tech billionaire companies. “These markets trends won’t go away,” Dave says, “but we don’t believe the food sector has to be this way. A co-operatively owned and managed cookhouse can be run ethically, can deliver quality employment opportunities for those who most need them, and can help other food enterprises get off the ground. There is a space in the fast-moving food marketplace for an ethical business focused on quality, value, good employment practices and the creation of fair and equitable jobs. And we believe that Liberty Cookhouse is that business. It’s an idea whose time has arrived.”

 Read the Liberty Cookhouse ‘pitch’ here.

If you have skills, energy and expertise to offer, then the Liberty Cookhouse group want to hear from: send mail to Liberty Cookhouse; send mail to Dave Conroy; Dave Conroy on LinkedIn.

Social Value Portal launches national framework for measuring social value

A group of us were at the first national conference on social value last week. Held in Birmingham and organised by the Social Value Portal, this was a huge event with around 200 delegates.

One of the things we were most interested in seeing was the National Framework for Social Value Measurement, which was launched at the conference. Social value measurement has taken something of a backseat over the past couple of years but the launch of a free national framework and calculator tool puts this firmly back on the agenda.

Will this new framework achieve the kind of national recognition and traction its developers clearly hope for?

“National TOMs”

The framework — called the National TOMs Framework, which stands for Themes, Outcomes and Measurements — has been developed by the Social Value Portal and the Social Value Task Force over the past eighteen months or so, largely in response to the findings of the Lord Young review of the implementation of the Social Value Act. The Lord Young review called for more work to be done to develop a national minimum standard for reporting social value.

At the moment the framework is not comprehensive. It currently uses a basic five themes, under which there are 17 outcomes and 35 measures — some of which have in-built financial proxies which will automatically deliver a financial equivalent that can be attributed to the social value in question.

The aim is to test this framework over the next year or so, gradually populate it with a wider range of outcomes and measures and issue a version 2 framework in 2019.

Simple email registration on the Social Value Portal website enables you to download the guidance and the accompanying social value calculator spreadsheet.

It will be interesting to see the degree to which the framework is adopted. We have only had a fairly quick look at the guidance and the spreadsheets but our first instinct was that it looked over-complex for the average (and especially smaller) social enterprise.

Its natural constituency may be corporates and larger private sector businesses that are keen to capture social value as part of their contracting and bidding for public works, and public authorities that need to use an evidenced framework which will enable them to calculate and compare social value as part of decision-making in the procurement process. It may also appeal to social enterprises that have a designated social value and/or data person in-house able to take charge of putting the framework into practice.

The framework clearly represents an immense amount of labour. We understand that it has been developed largely by academic economists — and the guidance document rather reflects this. It certainly struck us that it could be more user-friendly.

It would be fascinating to hear accounts from others who may be in the process of trying to adopt this new framework.

The framework materials are free of charge.

Social Value Portal

Register to download the National TOMs Framework for Measuring Social Value