Yet more news from New Zealand — Social Enterprise World Forum 2017

Greetings again from Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017. This follows on from my first and second posts.

I woke up bright and early this morning feeling excited that the conference was moving into ‘practice’ with workshops for practitioners and further conversations on the structural and operating environment within which we all operate. The challenge was to make sure you were in the right place at the right time today, with 27 official workshops, large and mini-plenaries going on! Not to mention the spontaneous groups popping up to discuss what was important to them.

One of the key themes that is shining through in SEWF2017 is the role of social enterprise in the rebuilding and regeneration of cities and communities. In our first plenary, one of the speakers, Andrea Chen of Propeller spoke of the challenges faced by social enterprise in pre- and post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.

The conclusion people are coming to is putting the ‘social’ into enterprise is the next stage of economic development – fascinating stuff and very close to my own heart.

I was very focused today on the workshop I have to deliver: ‘Developing and maintaining a customer base’, one of the biggest challenges for social enterprises. I delivered with Social Traders (Australia) and St Andrews First Aid Training (Scotland). Over the three hours (we delivered it twice) we helped early stage and well established social enterprises to think through the challenges they face in accessing new customers and developing the appropriate systems and processes to grow. I will definitely be repeating this workshop when I get back to the UK and I hope to persuade Michelle Ferguson (MD of St Andrews First Aid Training) to do it with me. It’s good to mix up the strategic thinking with practical activity at a conference and I think they’ve got it right.

The conference is also an opportunity to hear about work in other countries and use those ideas to stimulate work in your own. Something that struck me particularly today was what we heard from Pat Pillai of Life UnLtd (South Africa) about working with children to help them understand social enterprise, developing incubator schemes with schools and supporting school children to develop their ideas into new social enterprises. This was inspiring. Pat has used his work with children to grow 1,200 social enterprises over recent years. He suggests that if children understand enterprise providing social benefit it gives them skills for life.

My final reflection today concerns ‘networks and infrastructure organisations adding value’ and the changing role such organisations have in helping social enterprises start and grow, especially in a time of reducing resources, not just in England but internationally.

This was the theme of a mini-plenary I took part in and my conclusions are that the function of infrastructure support should be to provide information, brokerage, be enablers, support collaboration, provide support and above all develop awareness of the social enterprise sector. The plenary confirmed that networks and networks-of-networks will become increasingly important to the growth of the social enterprise sector, providing access to further markets and income streams, as will a rise in co-working space and self-help groups.

Tomorrow is the last day and the first plenary will kick off with ‘Global Citizenship and Sustainable Development Goals’. It’s another stimulating day and making choices for sessions is going to be hard!

The breaking news is that next year SEWF will be in Scotland – more information here!!

Sarah Crawley, iSE




USE IT! programme opens social enterprise challenge with £3K awards; also, forthcoming awareness workshops

This news just in from iSE…

USE IT! Programme — social enterprise challenge

iSE is delighted to announce that applications for the USE IT Challenge are now OPEN. The USE IT Challenge offers existing social enterprises the opportunity to WIN an award of £3,000 to help support the development of a new innovative product or service.

Challenge Criteria
» The Social Enterprise must be 2 years or older.
» The Social Enterprise needs to be based in Ladywood, Soho or Smethwick wards.
» The award is for Social Enterprises looking to develop a NEW product or service and take it to market.

Application process
6 social enterprises will be shortlisted and invited to a lock-in in November. Lock-In details will be shared but to give you an idea, you will work intensely on your product/service idea and at the end pitch to a panel. A winner will be selected by the panel.

Complete the application form.

Submit a 3-minute video telling us about the new product / service and why it should be shortlisted, and send it by email to Mariam Yate as an attachment.

Application deadline is Monday 16th October 16:00 pm.

• • •

Forthcoming social value awareness workshops in Soho and Smethwick Wards as part of USE IT! programme — Pre-booking essential: Mariam Yate 0121 663 1711 or send mail:

National Social Value Conference 2017 #Bridging the Gap — Birmingham

This, just in from the Social Value Portal:

The National Social Value Conference 2017 #Bridging the Gap on the 14th November is taking place in Birmingham. It is an important annual event and anyone with an interest in Social Value would benefit from attending.

Andy Street, Mayor of West Midlands has agreed to present his vision for the region and Rt. Hon. Hazel Blears will be moderating a key note panel including Jonathan Porritt OBE, Theresa Grant, CEO of Trafford Council, Adrian Thacker of the Princes Trust as well as Chris White previously MP for Leamington and the original sponsor of the Act.


More news from New Zealand — Social Enterprise World Forum 2017

Further to my earlier post, greetings from a rather chilly Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017. A great start today, but the weather is cold and I shall definitely wear warmer clothes tomorrow.

When attending conferences, I always wonder how they will start the event. Will they get the context right? Will it be heavy-going with political speeches which need strategic ‘buy in’ and future resources in order to become a reality? Or will it just be a very local context which loses the international participants and makes them wonder why they attended?

Wonderful news! – none of those happened today. I have the most fantastic video I took of Maori children welcoming us with tribal chants and dance much as we are used to seeing when New Zealand sports people greet their local opponents. It was amazing, very powerful and certainly caught your attention.

This was followed by the story of how Christchurch has started the process of rebuilding itself and how this has provided a platform for social enterprise to be part of this process. They spoke about community development meeting economic development and manged to get onto national news!

And then the conversations began… Today was mostly about confirming the shared values across the diverse sector (and around the world!) that is social enterprise. Common themes were place-based social enterprise development, innovation, empowerment, quality and learning.

The most interesting conversations were in the corridors, with social entrepreneurs tackling hugely varying issues, such as rural regeneration in Myanmar through clothing production and design, building cotton-growing capacity and offering 15,000 farmers a more stable and diversified income base.

Or another concerning developing a customer relationship with corporates rather than seeking CSR.

Another theme quite frequently heard was the challenges facing infrastructure and support organisations as governments everywhere it seems reduce funding for such services– but that’s probably because I am naturally attracted to organisations similar to ISE and want to learn as much as I can about different approaches.

I met a Sydney social entrepreneur who runs a training kitchen to create ethnically diverse food by building on the skills base of refugees, while using the kitchen to train the students in English and the norms of Australia with a view to building social cohesion. The products sold offer a wage for the students and links into Australian society… Could this be a radical approach through USE-it for hospital catering or a pop-up café in Birmingham?

The conversations continue this evening and I am all prepared for my workshops and plenary session tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Sarah Crawley, iSE

You may be interested in the history of SEWF.

Breaking news — SEWF 2018 will be in Edinburgh. More news here.





News from New Zealand — the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017

Well, here I am in Christchurch, New Zealand, at the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017.

Early last summer I was approached by the team planning the SEWF 2017 who asked if I would like to deliver a workshop drawing on my experience of running networks. My immediate answer was “I’d love to”. My second answer was “Er, where is the Forum in 2017?”, and my third answer was, “Oh and when is it?”

I arrived in Christchurch on Saturday afternoon (23rd Sept) after a 30-hour journey and set about planning the delivery of two workshops and a plenary session — yes, one workshop turned into three! — all by skype, while somehow addressing different time zones, and feeling thrilled to be here.

To give you all some kind of context, the booking closed about three weeks ago with 1,200 people registered from over 30 countries. In fact, here has been such massive demand that last week the organisers released a further 300 tickets and there are still people on the waiting list. No pressure then to make sure I deliver well in my workshops!

Christchurch Art Gallery – Te Puna o Waiwhetu

They have been very clever in how they have arranged the conference accommodation. As you will be aware, Christchurch suffered a massive earthquake in 2011 in which 185 people lost their lives, and there is considerable rebuilding still going on (there were also smaller earthquakes in 2010 and 2016). Rather than locate everything in one building, the conference takes place at eight venues all within a 10-minute walk, with simultaneous events taking place. Venues include the stunning Christchurch Art Gallery (in Maori, Te Puna o Waiwhetu), the City Council buildings, the Theatre Royal and various business buildings.

I have already studied my map carefully (it’s on a SEWF Conference App) and worked out where I need to be and at what time. We were told beforehand to make sure we brought sensible shoes!

The theme for the conference which starts tomorrow (and runs from the 27th to the 29th September) is:

“Ka koroki te manu — Creating our tomorrow.”

The conference is described as “an invitation to create a global legacy of positive change and to take an active role in shaping the world’s future. Just as the first birdsong welcomes the potential of tomorrow, SEWF 2017 is a chance to come together and explore the endless possibility in ours.”

There is plenty for us to learn from the way the organisers have ensured that each participant gets a very personal experience by designing their own programme.

There are six streams of activity and multiple activities within those. Each day starts at 7.30am and closes when it closes. I’m wondering whether to try yoga tomorrow morning as a morning energiser or to go networking with the local community.

I’m off to register now, followed by a welcome event held by a splinter group of intermediary organisations. So exciting!! Watch this space for more news from SEWF 2017.

Sarah Crawley, iSE



SEUK unveils ‘state of the sector 2017’ report

Social Enterprise UK has just published The Future of Business, it’s fourth ‘state of the sector’ social enterprise report.

Beginning in 2011 with Fightback Britain, SEUK’s indispensable survey of the sector is carried out every two years. There is simply nothing else like it available — essential reading for anyone wanting up-to-date facts and figures about social enterprise and emerging trends.

The 2017 report reveals that while social enterprises continue to out-perform mainstream SMEs against a range of business measures, the past couple of years have been harder for the sector. Cash flow pressures are rising, as is the need for working capital. Recruitment has slowed, with only 12% increasing the size of their workforce, and almost a third (30%) have reduced their number of employees in the past 12 months. Optimism is high, but has dropped in almost every region of the country since 2015. Access to the right finance remains the principal barrier to sustainability and growth, although the demand for finance has dropped slightly from previous years.

Other headline findings:

» There remains a steady stream of start-ups coming through, at a proportion three times that of mainstream SMEs.

» The public sector remains a key source of income for social enterprises, particularly the largest: it is the main source of income for 59% of those turning over more than £5 million. One in eight of those with public sector income secure this via European programmes — a further anxiety as we move towards Brexit in 2019.

» 89% of social enterprise leadership teams have a female director, 34% have Black Asian Minority Ethnic representation and 36% have a director with a disability. More than two-thirds are supporting individuals from disadvantaged groups, and more than four in ten employ them.

» Start-ups: 25% of social enterprises are under 3 years old, three times the proportion of start-ups compared to SMEs (8%). Almost four in ten social enterprises are five years old or less, showing that the start-up wave continues.

» Trading: 74% of social enterprises earn more than 75% of their income from trading.

» Social enterprise and areas of deprivation: 28% of social enterprises are based in the most deprived communities in the UK. 34% of social enterprises are operating at a neighbourhood or local level, demonstrating reach into communities.

Read the full report and earlier state of the sector reports.

The changing face of social enterprise — Graduate Planet C.I.C

Kate Evans (L), founder of Graduate Planet CIC, and Nathan Brown (R), recent recruit to Birmingham company Armagard Ltd, plant a young oak tree at Sheldon Country Park

Despite tuition fees being at an all-time high, more graduates than ever are failing to secure employment that matches their skills and academic qualifications. In 2016, for example, there was a further 2.2% drop in the number of graduates entering skilled, graduate-level employment in the UK and Government figures indicate that around 20% of graduates are stuck in low- to medium-skilled employment. 

But this is only part of the story. Feedback from universities suggests that increasing numbers of graduates also want their employment to be socially useful as well as decently paid, and more and more are seeking jobs with value-led companies that they feel can achieve social good as well as shareholder value. Students are also increasingly interested in social enterprise and in ways of working that contribute to society rather than further widening inequalities, eroding social justice and harming the environment.

Our primary purpose is to find the best person for the role, but we can also suggest ways that companies can reduce their environmental impact  — for example, by choosing their supply-chains wisely. — Kate Evans

Enter Graduate Planet, a new community interest company that seeks to match value-driven people with the most socially innovative employers — while also making an environmental return every year by pledging 50% of its annual trading profits to initiatives that help combat climate change.

Founded only in early-2017 by long-time recruitment professional Kate Evans, Warwick-based Graduate Planet is the first social enterprise recruitment agency in the UK with a clear environmental and social mission.

“I have always been very passionate about protecting the environment,” Kate says. “Even my dissertation when I was just twenty-three was about changing people’s attitudes towards environmental sustainability. But I always thought I would have to retrain in environmental science in order to be of any real help — and then I realised that I am really good at recruitment and that I could use these skills for social and environmental benefit.” Rather than work for a recruitment agency where between 50% and 60% of the revenue she generated went to the business owner, Kate decided to set up her own recruitment agency and reinvest 50% of trading profits directly in environmental causes. This is what Graduate Planet now does and the business became a Community Interest Company in July 2017.

She welcomes the recent news that other major recruitment companies are waking up to their social responsibilities, citing the example of the Cordant Group, whose CEO Phillip Ullman has recently announced that the company — an £800m turnover corporation — will be transformed into what may well be the UK’s largest social enterprise. “If more companies could be encouraged to reinvest surpluses in achieving a social mission in this way we would see a truly transformative way of living and working,” she says.

As well as sourcing talented, socially committed people, Graduate Planet also sees itself as having an environmental awareness role. “Our primary purpose is to find the best person for the role, but we can also suggest various ways that companies can reduce their environmental impact  — for example, by choosing their supply-chains wisely.”

Kate has over twenty-three years’ experience in the recruitment industry, well-established relationships with industry experts and universities, and a database of over 300,000 highly qualified, passionate people who are looking for purposeful work.

How you can help

Employers — if you are looking to attract people whose social values and commitment are aligned with your own and who can help help reduce staff turnover and make your business more effective, then speak to Graduate Planet. Send mail directly to Kate Evans or ring 01789 601496 or 07880 888501.

Graduates and job-seekers — if you are a passionate, talented graduate seeking employment with highly motivated socially aware businesses you can register with Graduate Planet and submit your CV here.

 Social enterprises, charities and environmental organisations — contact Kate Evans directly to find out more about discounted rates.

Read all ‘Changing face of social enterprise‘ posts.



HS2 announces Community and Environment Fund

HS2 in conjunction with the Department for Transport and Groundwork has just announced £40m in funding to help projects aimed at minimising the disruption to local communities arising from phase one HS2 construction.

There is an existing Business & Local Economy Fund (aimed specifically at the for-profit business sector). This latest announcement confirms the establishment of a Community and Environment Fund (CEF) aimed specifically at “the voluntary/community sector, including resident’s associations, constituted community groups, Community Interest Companies (CICs), social enterprises, community businesses and registered charities.”

There will be two types of CEF grant: CEF Local (smaller projects with grants up to a maximum of £75,000) will focus on quality of life and environment in individual communities; CEF Strategic (grants from £75,000 up to a maximum of £1m) will focus on large projects across several communities and address strategic rather than purely local concerns. Wherever possible, the CEF fund aims to leave a sustainable legacy.

All applications must be submitted through the online application system accessed through the eligibility quiz.

Full information, guidance and link to eligibility quiz.

Modern slavery and human trafficking throughout the UK – how the Jericho Foundation helps

A recent BBC news report revealed that modern slavery and human trafficking are now “…in every UK town and city.” Both forms of exploitation are “…far more prevalent than previously thought”, according to the National Crime Agency. 

Modern slavery and human trafficking are now in every UK town and city…both forms of exploitation are far more prevalent than previously thought. — National Crime Agency

The NCA said that previous estimates of 10,000 – 13,000 victims in the UK were the “tip of the iceberg” and that they believe there are tens of thousands of victims, with key sectors now including food processing, fishing, agriculture, construction, domestic workers, care workers and car washes.

The Jericho Foundation is among the leading organisations in the UK with the experience, expertise and resources to deliver a programme of voluntary and paid work, training and tailored support, to enable survivors of modern slavery to end their dependency on benefits, secure sustainable employment and become an inclusive and integrated part of their local community.

Read more about what Jericho does in this field and the special role paid work and voluntary work placements in its social enterprises plays.


Calling health social enterprises — help inform development of a new social investment fund for the West Midlands

Social Enterprise UK wants you to be part of shaping the design of a new investment fund (part grant, part repayable finance) for the West Midlands supporting enterprises involved in public health.


Your opportunity to shape a potential Social Investment Fund here in the West Midlands – very short (2-3 mins) but valuable survey.

We’d appreciate a few minutes of your time. SEUK West Midlands is partnering with The Royal Society for Public Health to ask social enterprises to help inform the design of a new blended fund (part grant, part repayable finance) for the Midlands to support charities and social enterprises to grow their impact in improving the public’s health. Your answers to these survey questions will be used to inform the report shared with our funders and partners. Thank you for your help completing this survey.

Take the survey.

Workshop invitation

In addition, 10-15 social enterprises are invited to take part in a short workshop and networking session on 14th September 2017 at 13.30 at PwC, Cornwall Court, 19 Cornwall St, Birmingham B3 2DT. The session will further examine demand for such a fund.

To attend this event please send mail to Stuart Emmerson at SEUK WM. Places will be limited, booking essential.

The changing face of social enterprise — Pow C.I.C

Chelmsley Wood FitSteppers with (front row, from left) Teresa Farrell founder of Pow CIC (5th), Strictly Come Dancing’s Natalie Lowe (6th) and Ian Waite (7th)

Five or six years ago, by her own admission, life-long Chelmsley Wood resident Teresa Farrell was in despair. Her marriage had ended and she was unemployed and on the verge of homelessness. Just two years earlier, she and her young son had narrowly survived a motorway crash. “My life was falling apart,” she says.

It was at this point that her interests in dance, fitness, physical activity, wellbeing and alternative therapies came together and she set up a sole trader business called Reza Dance Fitness & Music. There were times during that “dark period” when this fledgling business was her “lifeline”. “It got me off the post-traumatic stress medication I was prescribed following the motorway accident,” she says, “but it also convinced that my passion for dance, wellbeing and fitness could help others as it had helped me.”

But it was not until 2013 that these various strands came fully together. “I was at a big tender meeting in Solihull,” Teresa explains, “feeling very out of my depth and not really knowing why I was there. One of the public health people was reading out the health statistics. As you move from the south to north Solihull, life expectancy falls by twelve years.”

The latest State of the Nation’s Health report from Public Health England reveals that Chelmsley Wood residents are among the unhealthiest in the country. Nearly 10% regard their health as bad, against a national average of 5.5%. Rates of death from from cancer (40%), circulatory disease (28%) and coronary heart disease (18%) are all higher than the England average. 31% of adults are classified as obese and its schools have some of England’s most overweight children with 21% of Year 6 pupils classed as obese. Over 80% of residents eat inadequate fruit and vegetables. Rates of binge drinking are high (25%) as are hospital admissions for alcohol-related injuries.

As you move from the south to north Solihull, life expectancy falls by twelve years — Teresa Farrell

“I was in tears when I left this meeting,” Teresa says. This was about more than the usual dry old health statistics: “This was my community of Chelmsley Wood, where I have lived since I was one year old. That was the moment that Pow CIC was born — standing for Push on Wellbeing, because that’s what I wanted to try and achieve. I wanted to help people make a push to improve their health and wellbeing.”

Six months later she delivered the first 10-week Push on Wellbeing programme in Chelmsley Wood. “There was no funding for this and it was done on a shoestring,” she says, “but I felt the need was so great in my own community that I had to try and do something.”

Fast-forward three years and Pow CIC has now signed a contract with Solihull Council and Public Health England to deliver eight Pow programmes a year in the Chelmsley Wood, Smithswood, Kingshurst & Hobs Moat areas. The enterprise also regularly sub-contracts as a local community provider with some of Birmingham and Solihull’s key public health agencies.

One of the things that Teresa seems to have a knack for is partnership working — bringing together the kind of people who can add value to the Pow programme, strengthen the offer and attract even more people to health and wellbeing activities. “Some of the really big milestones for us,” she says, “have been some of the wonderful people we’ve been able to work with. We deliver with qualified nutritionists and aromatherapists, for instance. We even brought Strictly Come Dancing stars Natalie Lowe and Ian Waite to deliver their FitSteps programme!”

As well as the many people who simply want to take more active steps to improve their own health and wellbeing, Pow CIC also delivers specific activities for cancer survivors, people with disabilities, older people with dementia, those with long-term health conditions and for carers of all ages.

Teresa believes that Pow CIC has the potential to change health and fitness in the most disadvantaged parts of Solihull. “I think Pow programmes can help communities improve their physical and mental wellbeing,” she says, “and I think we can be part of helping to build stronger communities.” But her ambitions go beyond this. The involvement of West Midlands Fire Service and West Midlands Police in the programme has opened up new avenues for Pow activities in the workplace. “The police are interested in what we do,” she says, “because they see we can help people who are struggling with mental ill-health — and this reduces the burden on the police.” She is convinced that in the longer term local GPs will also see the queues in their waiting rooms diminish as Pow programmes help greater numbers of people improve their health.

How you can help

Pow CIC is growing, thanks to Teresa’s indomitable spirit, determination and energy. But it needs more partners, more volunteers, and more associates able to extend the range of Pow services. It also needs more customers. Perhaps your organisation needs a Pow course? Perhaps you want to be able to deliver Pow programmes for your own client groups?

If you want to be part of this new grassroots approach to health enterprise talk to Teresa Farrell — and see where the power of Pow will lead you.

More about the Pow programmes — here and on Facebook.

Send mail to Teresa Farrell at Pow CIC or ring 07541-395656; follow Teresa Farrell on Facebook

Read all ‘Changing face of social enterprise‘ posts.







The changing face of social enterprise — Ashley Community Housing

Although originating in Bristol, Ashley Community Housing, a social enterprise and housing association specialising in the resettlement and training of refugees, now has dedicated offices in Birmingham (opened in 2012) and Wolverhampton (opened in 2015).

Established as a Company Limited by Guarantee in 2008, Ashley Community Housing believes it is unique amongst UK housing associations in that its primary focus is the care, training, health, wellbeing and employability of refugees, and many of it staff, including Fuad Mahamed its CEO, have personal lived experience as former refugees.

Fuad Mahamed CEO

Fuad came to the UK as a refugee with no English and went on to obtain a first class degree in Engineering from Bath University followed by an MSc in Management from Lancaster Business School. When Bristol-based Euro Hostels collapsed and started evicting people, he stepped in, setting up Ashley Community Housing in 2008 to support the resettlement of refugees like himself.

The service now spans three cities, employs 50 people and has resettled over 2,000 people from refugee backgrounds. Fuad is also a Fellow of the Clore Social Leadership programme and has used this platform to argue for a new and more positive perspective on the settlement and integration of refugees and forced migrants.

Ashley Community Housing now supports around 800 tenants and 500 learners every year. It provides fully supported accommodation in Bristol, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, backed up with training in vocational skills, language, literacy and IT. Its employability support includes specialist coaching, classroom training and work placement programmes (including local volunteering) with multilingual support. A dedicated subsidiary called Himilo Training has been established to deliver its various training programmes.

Ultimately, ACH’s aim is to entirely redefine the narrative around refugees and skills and its #rethinkingrefugee campaign — now in its second year and recently highly commended by the UK Housing Awards 2017 — is central to this. “We want people to stop seeing refugees as a problem and begin to understand the social, civic and economic contribution they are able to make to society. And the best way we can do that,” says Marketing & Communications Officer Matthew Rogers, “is by building individuals’ resilience in the labour market, up-skilling and supporting them into sustainable, higher level employment, helping them towards independence and easing their integration into UK life.”

We want people to stop seeing refugees as a problem and begin to understand the social, civic and economic contribution they are able to make to society

Over the next ten years ACH will support a further 25,000 refugees. “But,” says Rogers, “we’ll be doing this with even more ambitious aims in mind. We want to see those we support making  economic and career progression from entry-level jobs to median-salary roles and we’ll be providing support aimed at enabling this.”

How you can help

 Ashley Community Housing is always on the look-out for possible partners who share its values of working towards system change, race equality and social justice in relation to employment outcomes for individuals from BME and refugee backgrounds.

You can get involved in ACH’s #rethinkingrefugee campaign by attending its #rethinkingrefugee conference in Sandwell on Tuesday 10th October, from 2pm-4pm in the Council Chamber of Sandwell Council House. BOOK HERE.

You can find out more about ACH’s work by contacting Matthew Rogers, Marketing & Communications Officer — send mail or ring 0117 941 5339.







Social care as a local economic solution in the West Midlands — new report from Localise WM & NEF

Click to view report

Localise West Midlands and the New Economics Foundation have just published a new report called Social Care as a Local Economic Solution in the West Midlands.

The report argues that rather than viewing social care primarily as a problem, innovative new policy perspectives should be adopted — especially at the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) level — that would not only improve social care but would also enable the social care system to be harnessed as a means of generating inclusive prosperity across the region. Social care rather than grand, city-centre prestige projects should be the central plank of WMCA economic policy.

The report argues that:

» Social care is on the brink, if not already in, crisis. Provision is on a cliff edge as a result of national funding cuts, an ageing population, and a dysfunctional system dominated by ‘too big to fail’ companies. The West Midlands’ population of over-65s is expected to increase by 19% by 2025 alone.

» More funding is urgently needed, but is only part of the answer. There is an imperative to do more with less at the local and regional level: to make every pound of public money work as hard as possible for the achievement of multiple objectives.

» Care must be reframed as no longer just a ‘cost’, but a major economic sector with the potential to deliver prosperity across the region. Nurturing a diversity of community-scale providers would make the system as a whole more resilient and person-centred.

To learn more follow LWM’s conversation on Twitter: @localisewm using #socialcare and #goodlocaleconomy

We’re still on the hunt for newer, younger social enterprises with interesting stories to tell — you could be one of them

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. 

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.

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?


We’ll work with you to develop the story and feature it here on the BSSEC blog.

So far, we have especially enjoyed working on pieces about ashebo CIC, Ballot Street Spice, and Changes Gardening — but every one of the stories we’ve covered has something instructive to say about how the sector is developing and changing.

Background to the project — PDF.

See all the new social enterprise stories we have featured so far.













The changing face of social enterprise — ashebo CIC: linking up play, equality, training & ancient woodlands

ashebo CIC, incorporated in 2013, offers another example of how the Community Interest Company form is enabling those with an interest in trading for social purpose adopt a recognised social enterprise legal structure.  Just a decade or so back these entrepreneurs and many like them would probably have been simply self-employed or sole traders. The CIC legal form has without a doubt opened up new avenues for those whose activities have a social purpose.

ashebo CIC was founded by Kemi Folarin, a youth, community and play worker with over twenty-five years’ experience. It provides projects, programmes, training and consultancy services that are all linked by a common theme — that of improving the lives of children, young people and families, whether through play, creative opportunities, outdoor activity, community events, mobile play, or training in a range of professional disciplines associated with children and young people. 

Kemi Folarin, director of ashebo CIC

From bespoke programmes of children’s play and development activities, to training and capacity-building for community organisations, to outdoor nature and environmental activities, to community engagement and consultation services, ashebo CIC is developing into a unique ‘offer’ that touches on a wide range of children’s, young people’s and family services.

Recently — and for the second year running — the enterprise delivered a free four-week ‘play works’ training course for adults wanting to improve their understanding of the role of children’s play, reflecting its commitment to enabling community organisations, parents and others involved in play to make it more rewarding for all concerned.

But what gives this small CIC such great potential is its access to a three-acre plot of pristine ancient woodlands just twenty minutes from Birmingham city centre. The site was purchased by Kemi Folarin because as well as wanting to sustain and manage these ancient woods, she also saw that they would enable the CIC to offer tailored programmes in health and wellbeing, forest schools, bio-diversity, climate change awareness, understanding eco-systems and environmental play and woodland crafts. The woodlands are classified by Natural England as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Some of the inner city children we take to the woodlands have never seen anything like this. The only green they have seen is a local park — Kemi Folarin

The woodlands is the side of ashebo CIC that Kemi now most wants to develop. “Some of the inner city children we take to the woodlands,” Kemi says, “have never seen anything like this. The only green they have seen — if they are lucky — is a local park. We take women there and to adjoining meadow-land for yoga and relaxation classes.  The woodland has huge potential for community use and involvement.”

But this is where the CIC most needs help. There are significant opportunities — through English Heritage, Natural England and other funders — to raise resources to help sustain and manage the woodland, for habitat and wildlife conservation, for learning and keeping alive the old forestry skills of natural hedge-rowing and coppicing. “But we need to develop a Woodlands Management Plan,” says Kemi, “and we need people with woodlands skills and expertise who can help develop appropriate funding bids. Right now, we also need volunteers with chainsaw skills and equipment to help clear deadwood.”

If you can help ashebo CIC in any of these areas, the enterprise would love to hear from you. From little acorns, as they say… 

ashebo CIC


Contact ashebo CIC





Sustainability should be a top priority for social enterprises — what do you think?

Daniella Genas

We’re always keen to hear the lessons that young entrepreneurs have learnt at first-hand — especially where they may say something about changing attitudes in the social enterprise sector.

Well, today we have a guest piece kindly written by Daniella Genas, a serial entrepreneur and social entrepreneur.

If you are unable to generate revenue for your business then you are just social without the enterprise — Daniella Genas

While Daniella acknowledges that not all social enterprises can generate revenue at a level that enables them to become financially sustainable, she also thinks that many can — except for the fact that they don’t make achieving sustainability a big enough priority.

Read her piece and see what you think.

We thank Daniella for making this contribution.




ART Business Loans chooses sector stalwart as new chair

ART Business Loans has just chosen voluntary sector and social enterprise stalwart Dr Nick Venning as its new chair.

Nick, who retired from PwC in 2016, has used his new-found free time to devote himself to even more third sector and charitable projects. He is founder and co-chair of Birmingham’s CSR network, Thrive, has a life-long association with homelessness charity St Basil’s — whose fundraising committee he chaired for over ten years — is deputy chair of Birmingham Civic Society, a board member of CSR City and the School for Social Entrepreneurs and in 2015 became the first honorary life member of Social Enterprise UK West Midlands. He was recently appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands.

Dr Nick Venning (photo: ART)

“We are delighted that Nick has joined ART’s Board and is now our Chair,” says ART chief exec Dr Steve Walker. “His experience and ethos fit perfectly with ART and he is well placed to support our continued growth and development.”

Nick says: “I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board and with ART’s staff team to build on ART’s impressive record of success over the past twenty years. The immediate challenge is to explore new and sustainable funding streams to meet increasing demand for loans. I am delighted to confirm that ART has at least £7.5m to lend over the next three years – and we will be looking to grow from there.”

Since it launched in 1997 ART has injected in excess of £22m in loans of between £10,000 and £150,000 into the West Midlands economy, helping hundreds of enterprises, including social enterprises, survive, diversify and grow, protecting  or creating thousands of jobs. ART Business Loans is based at Innovation Birmingham Campus.

The changing face of social enterprise — Second Pedals CIC

Second Pedals CIC is bicycle refurbishment, rebuilding and resale enterprise based on Castle Vale, Birmingham, and is another example of how the CIC legal structure is being used to start up and grow interesting and useful trading activities that have a social purpose and offer community benefit.

Second Pedals exists to encourage healthier and more active lifestyles through cycling, to reduce the number of old unloved bikes that end up in landfill, and — most importantly — to repair, refurbish and rebuild bikes so that they become affordable new cycles for those who really want to make use of them.

Mariam Yate, one of the founders of Second Pedals, says, “We started the enterprise because we wanted to see more people using and riding bicycles. But in order to use a bike you need to have access to one, and for many people bicycles are too costly. We wanted to find a way of making bikes more affordable. When we realised how many bikes end up at tips and scrap yards, we started to put two and two together! As passionate recyclers we started collecting these bikes and giving them a makeover and a fresh lease of life. This was where the idea for Second Pedals came from — it was about recycling cycles!”

But bike ownership is not the only barrier to bike useage. Repair, maintenance, riding confidence, road skills and safety, and companions to cycle with  — all of these too play a part in how likely people are to make use of the cycles they have.

To meet these other rather different needs Second Pedals began to develop Dr. Bike repair surgeries, the sale of spare parts and accessories, and bike clubs and group rides.

When we realised how many bikes end up at tips and scrap yards, we started to put two and two together…it was about recycling cycles — Mariam Yate

After 18 months of trading the enterprise has grown into a monthly pop-up shop and is looking at options for a second. Second Pedals always needs volunteers to help out at the pop up shop and events, so there’s bound to be something you can help with if you’d like to volunteer.

What the business really needs now, however, is affordable premises that it can use as a base to develop and grow. Maybe you can help there too?

So if you’re thinking about acquiring a bike for yourself, or a family member, or a first cycle for a child, you don’t have to go to the flashy new cycling boutiques, trendy as these now are. There is another way: let Second Pedals ‘recycle’ you a cycle.

As ever, it’s what customers say that counts. — and you can read the testimonials from happy customers on Second Pedals’ Facebook page for yourself.

A happy customer (photo: Second Pedals)

Second Pedals

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New social enterprise networks and free networking events

Opportunities for social enterprise networking have become increasingly important. As funding for other more formal types of business advice and support has disappeared, there seems to be a growing appetite for peer support, networking and opportunities to meet like-minded people who are grappling with their own social enterprise problems and want to share expertise, experiences and solutions.

iSE is at the forefront of helping build new networks and forums for social enterprise — especially in localities where they haven’t previously existed — and has just announced the following free networking events.

Thursday 3rd August, 11.00am to 1.00pm, Soho House, B18 5LB  Come along to Soho House and see what’s happening in our newest place-based social enterprise network, SOHO, in west Birmingham and Smethwick!  Send mail to book

Wednesday 9th August, 8.30am to 10.00am, Eden Café, B23 6DB Enjoy great coffee and good conversation with other leading social entrepreneurs at YMCA Birmingham’s Eden Cafe and find out what’s new in north Birmingham!  Send mail to book

Tuesday 15th August, 8.30am to 10.00am, iSE, B12 0HJ Our original social enterprise network is still growing with new, innovative social enterprises starting each week, this forum constantly inspires us!  Send mail to book

PSIAMS Scoops Prestigious Healthcare Innovation Award

PSIAMS Systems has won a prestigious award celebrating the very best of innovation in healthcare around the West Midlands.

PSIAMS was given the gong in the Social Enterprise category of the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN)’s second annual Celebration of Innovation Awards.

Around 300 people from across the region’s NHS, industry, academia, third sector and patient population gathered at the Hilton Metropole at Birmingham’s NEC on 20 July to see PSIAMS lift the award.

The awards were established in 2016 to recognise and celebrate the work of individuals and organisations in developing better healthcare and increasing wealth for local people, and the ceremony will provide an opportunity to celebrate achievements from across the West Midlands.

107 entries were submitted across the 12 categories, which were assessed by a panel of experts to choose the eventual winner.

PSIAMS won the Social Enterprise Award (sponsored by i-SE), for their collaborative approach to healthcare across the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, allowing the sector to scale and present solutions to divert and reduce the pressure of health services.

Dr Christopher Parker, Managing Director of the WMAHSN, said: “We are absolutely delighted that PSIAMS won the Social Enterprise Award.

“It was so challenging to pick out the winners from such a strong field. Every judge was in agreement that all the submissions showed an astonishing breadth of scope or approaches that were truly innovative and able to transform patient care, provide solutions to significant challenges or break down barriers across our region. It was truly inspiring to be involved in judging the entries.”

Mark Ellerby, Director PSIAMS Systems, said: “The Award recognises the hard work the PSIAMS team have put into developing innovative solutions and our disruptive approach in the sectors we work in.

“With the support of Dudley CCG, Dudley MBC and our growing customers base we now have over 350 system users operating across, not only in Dudley, but also Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Solihull, Warwickshire and Leeds. Our solutions now include case management, asset management, HR, outcomes measurement and web integration…to name just a few.”