The changing face of social enterprise — reflecting on the stories we’ve been gathering

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.

Developing these stories has been a fascinating experience because it has also required us to reflect on social enterprise — and especially on the difficulties new-starts face in a period of public spending cuts, massively reduced access to business advice and support, and increasingly complex social and financial pressures.

We thought it would be interesting to take a step back from gathering stories and reflect more generally on the experience to date.

One of the things we have found most interesting — and most significant — is the level of discussion we have had with some of those who have approached us.

Some of the newest enterprises approaching us are at very early stages of development and we have found ourselves discussing some of the most fundamental issues:

» How best to increase income-generation.

» Whether the social mission of the enterprise — the social value it can deliver — represents a sufficiently strong ‘offer’ to attract potential customers or users.

» Even the core focus of the business — after discussion one person told us that she now realised that she needed to completely change the central emphasis of the business as its primary business idea would not generate sufficient revenue.

We’ve said before that the current scarcity of specialist advice and business support for social enterprises — particularly at the new-start, pre- and early-trading stages — means that many new social entrepreneurs are of necessity adopting an almost completely DIY approach. They are having to think deeply about what it is they want to do and how it can be done, and they are prepared to learn from their mistakes. This is a new and much more grassroots approach to social enterprise formation and development.  

While not all of the cases we have so far considered have turned into stories that we can cover we don’t consider this time wasted. Far from it. The entrepreneurs have found the exchange useful — and in some cases plan to make fundamental changes in their business plans as a consequence. On the other hand, we are finding the process offers invaluable insights into social enterprise development in a new and challenging environment.

But one thing that really does merit a particular mention is this. The social enterprise ‘model’ is about trading for a social purpose and it is this trading activity that makes something a social enterprise.

We’re not saying this is being forgotten, exactly, but it does seem that the current widespread usage of the Community Interest Company legal form — which obviously has a very strong focus on community benefit — is causing some to focus disproportionately on the ‘social’  at the expense of ‘enterprise’. In these cases one tends to see a clear plan for delivering on a particular social mission, but much less clarity regarding the goods or services that will enable the enterprise to become sustainable through trading.

While many enterprises depend on a mix of revenue sources — both income from trading and grants and philanthropic funding — the assumption when adopting a social enterprise business model should be that income from trading will grow to become the dominant source of revenue. 

Doing something that is socially useful but which will always require grant or philanthropic funding is not wrong or bad, however. But if this is the route you adopt then you need to have a very clear understanding of where that funding is, how it is accessed, who controls it, and whether you can (or will be able to) meet the requirements of those funders — such as quality thresholds, legal structure, governance, insurances, financial track record, capacity and capability.

So do bear in mind:

» Not all activities necessarily offer a viable basis for trading.

» In developing your social enterprise be ruthless in testing the assumptions you have made about the commercial potential of what you do (or plan to do), and where your future income will come from. 

» Whether trading or accessing grants — or indeed doing both, as many social enterprises do as a means of meeting the costs of different strands of the business — you need to understand how your marketplace works and how you will operate within it.

We’ll write more here about some of these broader issues in social enterprise development, but for the moment we would like to thank all of the new social enterprises that have participated — they have been patient and helpful and unfailingly receptive — and we hope that readers who are following these posts are finding them as instructive and as interesting as we are.

Calling 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.

Every one of the stories we’ve covered has something instructive to say about how the sector is developing and changing.

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.













John Taylor Hospice says please ‘gift a Christmas’

John Taylor Hospice, the UK’s first social enterprise hospice, is asking local communities to get behind its festive appeal to raise £15,000 – enough to fund running costs at the hospice on Christmas Day.

The hospice in Birmingham provides specialist end of life care for people living with a terminal illness and their families. Today more than 600 people will receive the care they need from John Taylor teams. At the hospice and in the community that care can include 24-hour care at the hospice, support at home, in the Living Well Centre, counselling and well-being, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, pharmacy and complementary therapies.

The hospice is now inviting everyone, not just those touched by hospice care, to join the Gift a Christmas campaign and help make a huge difference for local families.

Read all blog posts about JHT

19-plus? Unemployed? Looking for a career in construction?

Wates, one of the largest privately-owned construction and development companies in the UK, announces Building Futures — a programme to help unemployed young people (over 19s) gain a better understanding of construction as a career choice.

For more information or to apply contact Irina Simrok on 07837 322 329 or SEND MAIL.  

Down flyer as a PDF

Talent Match Birmingham & Solihull — tendering opportunity

This, just in from BVSC, which in partnership with SUSTAiN leads the Big Lottery-funded Talent Match Birmingham & Solihull programme. Talent Match is a five year programme supporting 18-24 year olds in Birmingham and Solihull who are furthest away from the labour market.

* * *

Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull has just announced that it is in the process of procuring two large pieces of work for the final year of delivery. It is requesting quotations from organisations interested in delivering the Marketing and Communication and Learning and Evaluation needs of the programme.

These are two separate pieces of contracted work and the deadline for submission is 5pm on Monday 20th November 2017.

Contract 1: Marketing and Communications

Through the award of this contract, BVSC as the Lead Accountable Body for Talent Match in partnership with Solihull SUSTAiN, aims to secure the delivery of the Marketing and Communication needs of Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull during the final year of delivery.

During 2018 the Contracted Organisation will be the key provider with responsibility for the provision of the programme’s Marketing and Communication activities and services in line with the Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull Marketing and Communication Strategy.

Contract 2: 2018/19 Learning and Evaluation Contract for Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull

Through the award of this contract, BVSC as the Lead Accountable Body for Talent Match in partnership with Solihull SUSTAiN, aims to secure the delivery of the Learning and Evaluation needs of the Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull during the final year of delivery.

The Contracted Organisation will be responsible for evaluating the delivery of the programme until March 2018 and assessing the impact of Talent Match Birmingham and Solihull through a Social Return On Investment, Local Evaluation as well as other thematic priorities to be defined when the need arises, all of which will go towards informing the Annual Report and End of Programme Review.

Further information on how to submit a quote HERE.

Please note that all questions related to these pieces of work will only be answered on In-Tend, therefore, If you would like to quote for this work you must first register.

Christmas craft fair at Park Lane Garden Centre

Better Pathways (the new operating name for BITA Pathways) wins the prize for first announcement of a Christmas Fair event. Congratulations!

This, just in…


Download the PDF flyer.

PSIAMS Transforming Services for Children and Young People

PSIAMS Systems Limited is a software and IT social enterprise that focusses on whole system solutions to help improve services delivery in the VCSE Sector. Recently, the PSIAMS team have been developing a range of solutions for organisations that support Children and Young People (CYP) in Dudley.


iZone, is a searchable directory of trusted, local, support available in Dudley for young people. The site was co-produced by young people and has a strong, iconic graphical theme. Based around the PSIAMS outcomes measurement themes the site provides young people with local, national and mobile services availed to them, in just three simple clicks.

Care and Share, is an online resource for Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs which provides a range of information on services available in the Dudley Borough, including specialist schools. The site is also available to parents and guardians of SEN children and allows them to track and review their progress of an EHCP (Educational Health and Care Plan) application. Care and Share, is also making an impact on business in Dudley, such as, Intu’s Merry Hill Centre  which will be putting the site on its in-centre touch screens and with a small independent Barbers, Labichi’s Gent’s Hairdressing, that has now redesigned services for children with  disabilities, such as, Autism after hearing about the project – read about the initiative here.

In addition, to Care and Share and iZone, the PSIAMS team have created Chatterbox, a sharing platform for CYP professional in Dudley to collaborate and share information on good practice and local initiates across the borough. The PSIAMS team have also built a collaborative system for CYP organisations, as well as adult services organisations, to work together and reduce the pressure on health and social care work settings.

When were asked to draft a participation strategy for children and young people in Dudley Borough, we wanted to find a way of reducing duplication and over consultation. PSIAMS came up with Chatterbox – a professional co-working space where staff and professionals can share information, iZone – a local, trusted, information portal co-designed with children and young people, and Care n Share, a peer to peer special educational needs project for young people, parents and guardians to share their stories and improve support. PSIAMS has created an environment for change. Now we’re providing solutions to the local authority. We’ve got data that is readily available. Case studies in video and what children and young people’s services need in terms of care planning, service improvement, service design and strategic planning.” Nicki Burrows, Children and Young People, Dudley CVS

Care and Share, Chatterbox and iZone have all been developed by PSIAMS as part of their work to develop a 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. They recently won an award from the WMAHSN for the work in this field.

PSIASM Systems now operates across: the Black Country, Birmingham, Warwickshire, Shropshire, South Yorkshire and Cheshire.

To find out more about the work of PSIAMS visit or call 01384 217055

SCVO’s ‘Meet the Funder’ event makes a welcome return for 2017

This, just in from Sandwell Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)…

Having taken a year out in 2016, Wednesday 22nd November sees the return of SCVO’s Meet the Funder event for 2017.

With a focus on Social Capital and Social Investment, this year’s conference and funding fair will be an excellent learning opportunity; sharing good practice and the experiences of others across all things funding-related. And let’s not forget the opportunity to network and forge productive relationships that contribute to the wider benefit and overall sustainability of the region’s voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

The day combines a keynote address with a number of workshop streams – you can hear directly from funders (including Big Lottery, Ibstock Cory and the Arts Council) about their opportunities, together with hints and tips on how to apply or how about some practical guidance around social media or fundraising from wills and legacies?

And not forgetting our ‘Funder Marketplace’, where you can have a one-to-one conversation with a range of funders, both large and small.
Places are strictly limited to 200, so it really is “first come, first served”: when we reach 200 people there will be no more places released, so early booking is strongly recommended and encouraged!!

Including refreshments and a buffet lunch, the event costs just £20 per ticket for ‘small groups’ (those with an annual income of less than £15,000) and £30 per ticket for ‘large groups’ (those with an annual income of more than £15,000 – incl. statutory bodies) – pricing, particularly for small groups, has been made as accessible as possible thanks to the generosity of our event sponsors (to-date): Big Lottery Fund, Charity Bank and Good Finance.

More on the SCVO website

Agenda and book tickets

Could your social enterprise benefit from a fully funded extra pair of hands?

UPDATE 01/11/17:

Last call for Expressions of interest which must be submitted by Sunday 5th November 2017.

The University of Birmingham is looking for social enterprises to take part in its Enterprising Internships programme.

The University of Birmingham is working with Santander to offer social enterprises in the West Midlands the chance to benefit from the support of a talented student in the summer of 2018.

If you have a short term project or piece of research that you would like to complete but struggle to find the time or capacity for, then an Enterprising Internship could be the answer.

The student will be paid directly by the University via Santander and projects will last one month (20 days). Projects can take place from June 2018 onwards.

Prior to starting their internship, all students will be invited to attend training aimed at helping them understand how to be enterprising, how to make the best impact on your business and develop their enterprising skills.

You must have a base (non-residential) which the student can work from.

For more information, to register your interest or to discuss potential projects, send mail to Helen Hobson, Internship Officer. Please note: Expressions of Interest must be submitted by Sunday 5th November 2017.

Read flyer


BSSEC publishes fifth Annual Report

We are delighted to publish our fifth Annual Report since incorporating as a Community Interest Company in 2012 – although it is now seventeen years since BSSEC was first established.

It continues to be very difficult for new-start social enterprises to access free specialist business support and partly as a consequence of this, we are continuing to see small-scale, grassroots ‘DIY’ start-ups in increasing numbers. Availability of the relatively cheap to use Community Interest Company legal structure is also encouraging this.

While this new spirit of independence is to be welcomed, many of these grassroots start-ups are very small indeed and for some survival will be uncertain, as will the ability to build a sufficient customer-base, especially in the early years. There also continues to be a growing appetite in the sector for more informal, peer-to-peer approaches to support, as evidenced by the growing local networks, such as the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter and the North Birmingham Social Enterprise Network.

Download Annual Report.

See all Annual Reports.

In memory of Jane Slowey CBE

Jane Slowey CBE, who died on the 7th October 2017 (photo: Foyer Federation)

Tributes from across the voluntary and community sector are being paid to Jane Slowey CBE, who died on Saturday 7th October 2017.

Many of you will know and remember Jane. She served for thirteen years as the chief executive of The Foyer Federation (whose own tribute is here), but prior to this served as BVSC’s chief executive and of course had particular links with Birmingham where she also served two four-year spells as a Labour councillor.

She is fondly — and movingly — remembered in a long tribute by Brian Carr and other BVSC staff over on the BVSC website. Third Sector magazine online has also paid tribute.

Jane also served as chair of Skills Third Sector and for six years was Vice Chair of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). She was also active in local politics, the youth sector and women’s equality and there will be many at the moment reflecting, as Brian Carr says, on “the trails she undoubtedly blazed — in her own gentle yet resolute way…”

We remember Jane with great fondness and respect and our condolences go to her family and friends.

Social enterprise: all aboard — new think-piece from Hempsons & BSSEC

New think-piece from Hempsons & BSSEC – click to read

It’s always a pleasure when old friends stay in touch — even more when they contact you and say, “I’ve got a great idea for something we can write together to go up on your website,” which is what happened to me a week or two back.

I was contacted by my old friend Simon Lee, whom many of you will remember. Simon now works for Hempsons solicitors in London, where he specialises in advice to social enterprises and charities.

We had a chat on the phone and it turned out that we had both been exercising ourselves about some new and emerging trends in the social enterprise sector. Why is the landscape of the sector changing in the ways currently apparent? What’s driving businesses — and in some cases huge ‘for profit’ businesses — to consider adopting some form of social enterprise model? Can such developments be taken at face value? We also touched on social value and wondered whether social enterprises were losing ground to the private sector in delivering on social value.

We agreed to write a sort of joint ‘think piece’. I’m not sure we manage to provide very many categorical answers but in a sense that wasn’t the point: this was as much about keeping our brains on their toes (if you see what I mean) and trying to interrogate (and perhaps even challenge) some of our own thinking…

We hope you enjoy reading it. And thanks to Simon for taking part in the experiment. 

Social enterprise: all aboard?




Health Exchange’s CEO Graham Beaumont announces retirement

Health Exchange’s CEO Graham Beaumont has just announced his retirement

Graham Beaumont, who many of you will know, has led Health Exchange since its emergence onto the scene ten years ago. Health Exchange CIC was established in 2007 to deliver a radically different, community-led model of health promotion – initially serving the multicultural and diverse communities living in Birmingham.

And now, with some sadness — and perhaps even trepidation, if one reads between the lines — Graham has announced his retirement.

You can read all about it here in a longish post in which Graham reflects on the changes he has seen — and the demands of growing a new CIC from 23 employees to over 100 with a £3.2m turnover.

It really can’t be all that often that jobs of this calibre fall vacant in Birmingham’s third sector. Graham says, “We are determined to cast the net far and wide across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors to find the very best possible candidate for this demanding role at the heart of the health ecosystem.”

I spoke to Graham yesterday evening and what I said about his retirement was frankly not repeatable on a “family blog”… But the general gist was that his anxieties were misplaced and that many will envy his decision.

I know you’ll join us in wishing Graham every happiness — and anything else he may want from retirement — as and when he actually gets there. 

The closing date for applications is Monday 23th October 2017.

Read Graham’s reflections, find out more about the Health Exchange CEO vacancy.

Mayor supports ART Business Loans — ‘unsung heroes of the local business finance scene’

Mayor Andy Street speaking at ART’s AGM (photo: ART)

Speaking at ART’s 20th anniversary AGM, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street offered his congratulations on ART’s achievements over the past two decades and described the organisation as one of the unsung heroes of the local business finance scene.

Mayor Andy Street said: “I first met Steve Walker, Chief Executive of ART, when I became Chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and was impressed by his knowledge, enthusiasm and determination when it comes to finance for enterprise. Access to finance was always a key issue raised with the LEP and ART was always there – from long before the LEP came into being – persistently working, even through difficult times, to ensure that businesses could access the finance they needed to survive and thrive. ART has made a big difference to hundreds of enterprises and a huge contribution to the local economy over the past two decades. In some ways the access to finance situation has improved in recent years, but there are still issues to tackle.”

ART’s chief executive Steve Walker said: “We are ready, willing and able to do more to fill the gap in the market for loans for small businesses and social enterprises left by the banks. Both research and our experience on the ground show this gap to be bigger than it was in 1997, when we were set up to tackle the issue.”

Steve Walker acknowledges that some businesses are now finding it easier to access finance, but says: “those which are smaller and don’t fit the credit scoring criteria of either the banks or some of the new alternative finance providers, still need ART. We lend up to £150,000 to any type of business, for any business purpose. Our aim is to support local jobs for local people, remaining true to the mission set out by our founding Chairman Sir Adrian Cadbury.”

Sir Adrian’s son Benedict and daughter Caroline attended the AGM along with over 60 ART members, borrowers, introducers, partners and supporters.

Nick Venning, the recently appointed new Chair of ART, said: “ART has £7.5m to lend over the next three years, which is extremely good news. We are set to increase our loan book and are actively seeking additional funding to enable us to support even more businesses. ART’s approach is inclusive. We will continue to help any business or social enterprise in need of funding that in turn supports jobs and the local West Midlands economy.”

For more information about ART Business Loans and its borrowers, or to apply for a loan visit the website or call ART on 0121 359 2444.


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.