The changing face of social enterprise — Ballot Street Spice

Children at Ballot St Spice (photo: Victoria Park Academy)

It is rare to see social enterprise featuring in the school curriculum and rarer still within primary schools. But this is exactly what is being done at Victoria Park Primary Academy in West Smethwick.

Victoria Park Primary Academy is part of the groundbreaking Victoria Academies Trust, a six-school primary only multi-academy trust established on 1st January 2014. The trust has seen its DfE-approved sponsor school (Victoria Park Academy) transformed from special measures to ‘outstanding’ in just 1,000 days.

In 2014, the primary academy began to explore the use of traditional culinary spice mixing as a means of bringing an exceptionally diverse community together — fifty-two languages are represented at the school. Blending spices, the school believes, creates opportunities for a thriving community. And this was the idea for the Victoria Spice Academy.

Social enterprise can be used in schools to teach enterprise skills, create richer learning opportunities, promote community engagement and illustrate how trading can have a social purpose

This grew into weekly workshops and bazaars at which pupils, staff, parents and the wider community get together to share their ‘spice stories’ and learn more about the heritage of spices and how they are used in different cultures, countries and families. It’s all part of seeking ways to connect a diverse community and further embed the school in its local neighbourhoods. These sessions have gradually been expanded to include topics for parents as much as pupils — advice sessions and guest speakers on employment or interview tips, for instance, as well as healthy eating.

But the school  believed the idea also had commercial potential and began to develop Ballot Street Spice as a social enterprise offering handmade spice blends. Its first blend was Mrs Mahal’s Massala and this has since been joined by two others, along with branded mugs, aprons and packaging. The enterprise is in the early stages of trading but now, with the help of a dedicated social enterprise lead, Mrs Shakeela Iqbal, the school plans to take the business to the next level, significantly increasing its trading activities. It hopes to incorporate Ballot Street Spice as a Community Interest Company later this year.

What is perhaps most interesting is the thought the school has given to embedding the social enterprise in the curriculum. For instance, pupils in all years are set an enterprise-related challenge. A recent Year 6 group invented a spice game; another group was set the challenge of encouraging customers to stay longer at the school and buy more (clue: start with a mug of Ballot Street Spice’s new  Spicy Hot Chocolate and work from there).

If you have been inspired by what you have read here about Ballot Street Spice there are numerous ways you can help it continue its development:

» If you’re a retailer looking to support school enterprise initiatives, consider buying spice mixes.

» Local restaurants — use Ballot Street Spice mixes and promote the fact that you do so.

» Local organisations of all kinds — consider asking Ballot Street Spices to attend your events, venues, conferences and meetings. “We can sell spice mixes and other products, give presentations, talk about the history and culture of spices — and we’ve got lots of children who love to give spice demonstrations and talk about Ballot Street Spice and what they are doing!” says Mrs Iqbal.

There are also skills and volunteering opportunities for parents and local residents.

Ballot Street Spices is a fascinating example of the way that social enterprise can be used in a school setting to teach enterprise skills, create richer learning opportunities, promote wider community engagement and explore the sometimes complex idea of how trading can have a social purpose.

Contact Ballot Street Spice: 0121 558 8701 (school switchboard); send mail to Mrs Shakeela Iqbal, Social Enterprise Lead, Victoria Park Primary Academy, Ballot Street, Smethwick, B66 3HH

Ballot Street Spice

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The changing face of social enterprise — Inside Outcomes

Inside Outcomes began life as a private consultancy, owned by Darren Wright, offering client-management software solutions along with support and training for organisations looking for ways to record and demonstrate the improved outcomes their clients achieved from the services they accessed.

We’re looking to provide civic technology for health and wellbeing in much the same way that MySociety does to support democratic empowerment — getting as close to free as possible whilst maintaining a viable business — Darren Wright

Over several years the company developed a measuring methodology based on combining all key national outcomes frameworks — including NHS, Social Care, Public Health, Social Justice, NICE Guidance and others — into a single database and then aligning these key outcomes to common issues that clients present with. This enables organisations to track the outcomes their services achieve — even if they are unaware of the relevant national service indicators. “The example I tend to use,” Darren Wright says, “is that if your organisation can get someone out of temporary housing, we can show you precisely how this relates to the Public Health Outcomes Framework.”

Client-management software was then designed that enabled a whole-person assessment of the service-users involved, so that all of the often inter-related issues a client might face could be accounted for. The method is intended to enable organisations to provide a better evidence-based account of social outcomes and to demonstrate the impact of inter-related services.

Darren Wright, Director, Inside Outcomes CIC

Initially, Inside Outcomes was seeking to commercialise this software but over the course of several years came to the conclusion that there were other — and better — ways to promote its adoption. The interest of this particular story lies in the route that Inside Outcomes has chosen to try and address the problem. It became a social enterprise, incorporating as a new Community Interest Company just a few months ago.

The enterprise says that this has enabled it to adopt a fundamentally different business model — and one it believes will be beneficial to users while also giving greater numbers of users the confidence to adopt the software.

There are significant obstacles to organisations adopting client-management and outcomes measurement software. Cost is a major disincentive. Many proprietary systems are substantially over-priced when compared with other types of software and not all organisations can meet these costs. Selection is also an issue. Many organisations struggle to understand whether they are buying into the system that is best for them and the services they provide. Confidence too is a major problem: what happens if a provider retires a proprietary system or goes bust?

Under this new social enterprise model, Inside Outcomes has made its software Open Source. Darren Wright explains why: “I believe that social enterprises, the voluntary sector and health more generally needs to embrace open source technology. Too many systems are being developed in isolation and the organisations using them suffer from a lack of resilience. Open Source software means that any developers can integrate different systems and the free availability of the software removes concerns that users of proprietary software may be left high and dry if a company goes bust.”

Inside Outcomes realised that it had two assets that were of community value. “We had a unique outcome methodology,” says Darren, “and software to deliver it. By taking on the CIC form we aimed to lock those assets for community benefit, both in providing the software under an Open License and being transparent in the way we deliver support to organisations.”

While continuing to offer the Open Source software free of charge, the enterprise plans to generate revenue from providing training, software customisation, and technical support such as cloud-based hosting.

“In essence,” Darren says, “we’re looking to provide civic technology for health and wellbeing in much the same way that MySociety provides civic technology for democratic empowerment — getting as close to free as possible whilst maintaining a viable business.”

The next stage in this transition to a social enterprise model, according to Inside Outcomes, is to get users of the system to help develop a standardised list of codes that relate to social policy. That will allow the company to help organisations aggregate data and better understand patterns of need, service demand and outcomes. The more users there are, the greater power of the aggregated data.

Using the Open Source software as a basis, Inside Outcomes reckons it can set new users up with customised software and shared server facilities for around £1500.00 a year — significantly cheaper, it believes, than options based on ‘closed’ proprietary systems and independent hosting and server arrangements. In the longer term, the company hopes it will also be able to provide system set-ups for free to some users or sectors as part of its social mission.

Inside Outcomes is keen to talk to any organisations that are interested in improving the way they gather evidence and the uses they are able to make of it. “We can provide software to do this,” says Darren Wright, “but we also bring many years of experience of commissioning and running services to the table as well.”

Inside Outcomes: Darren Wright, director, 0121 288 7487 and 07971594924
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UPDATE 07/09/17: It has just been confirmed that Inside Outcomes has just been chosen to join the Serendip Smart City Incubator programme. Operating at Innovation Birmingham Campus, the programme provides market access and expertise for digital businesses through close partnerships with major organisations such as Barclays and London Midland. Its aim is to accelerate the early growth of new businesses. The programme is a partnership with West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN). Inside Outcomes will receive six month’s free co-working space at the Innovation Birmingham Campus supported with one-to-one business mentoring.













The changing face of social enterprise — Miracle Laundry

The Miracle Laundry, Kings Heath (Photo: Jericho Foundation)

The Jericho Foundation in Balsall Heath is far from new. Over the past thirty years this organisation — and the group of social enterprises it operates as a means of creating employment opportunities for some of Birmingham’s most disadvantaged groups — has become a key employer in the local area.

But Jericho’s latest venture most certainly is new: it is the Miracle Laundry, Kings Heath, which opened in June 2017.

A social enterprise laundry? Yes — and this is what makes Jericho such an interesting organisation. There’s something slightly counter-intuitive about the social enterprises it develops.

Let me explain. We are used to seeing social enterprises that are immediately recognisable as such — the services they deliver are their social mission: health, or services to support families or young people, elderly care or services for other specific groups that are vulnerable for a combination of reasons.

But this is not Jericho’s approach. Jericho looks for gaps in the market where it can offer goods and services that have long-term commercial potential and are needed by local communities. In this way it is able to establish social enterprises that offer the greatest opportunities for creating employment and training opportunities for the groups of clients it works with, including disadvantaged young people, ex-offenders and victims of modern slavery. And because they are commercially sustainable enterprises, it is able to use the surpluses created to provide the additional training, mentoring and support its clients need.

Jericho looks for gaps in the market where it can offer goods and services that have long-term commercial potential…In this way it is able to establish social enterprises that offer the greatest employment opportunities for the clients it supports

Some of its enterprises — such as its recycling and wood recycling services and the more recent ReUsers outlets, which sell ‘upcycled’ goods that would otherwise have ended up in landfill — also deliver additional environmental benefits.

In Jericho’s model you really can see what is often referred to as social enterprise’s ‘triple bottom line’ at work — trading to deliver economic, social and environmental outcomes.

Miracle Laundry is the ninth Social Enterprise from the Jericho Foundation. Others include: Catering, Cleaning, Construction, Landscape, Print, Recycling, The ReUsers and Wood Recycling.

The Miracle Laundry, 282 Vicarage Road, Kings Heath, B14 7NH. 0121 441 5431. Collection and delivery service also available — call for a quote.

The Jericho Foundation 0121 647 1960 or send mail.

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School for Social Entrepreneurs turns its attention to community businesses


Yet more evidence that new trends and directions are emerging in the social enterprise sector.

The School for Social Entrepreneurs in the Midlands (SSE Midlands) has just announced that its new Community Business Trade Up Programme & Grant is open for applications.

SSE Midlands is looking for people leading organisations that put their local area at the very heart of what they do: the restaurants, community centres, bakeries, farms, sports clubs and pubs (to mention just a few) that are run by and for local people.

The programme supports the leaders of early-stage community businesses with:

  • A fully funded six-month learning programme (consisting of 12 learning days), and
  • A grant of up to £10,000.


The learning programme runs from January to July 2018. Its focus is to grow community businesses’ impact by increasing their sales and trading income. Participants will receive expert support and learn with other community business leaders in cohorts of 10.

It’s a great opportunity for community-focused organisations in the Midlands looking to grow. 

The deadline for applications is Wednesday 11th October 2017. Interested parties are encouraged to complete an Expression of Interest by the end of August so that  they can be advised whether they should progress to submission of a full application.

Who should apply to Community Business Trade Up?

Organisations that are run by and for a local community, for a social purpose. You should be trading or planning to trade and your profits should be reinvested for the benefit of that community.

Eligible organisations must be at an early stage and planning to grow. By this SSE Midlands means that you have already started and have plans to grow your sales and trading income by at least £10,000 in the next year.

Find out more, read the guidance, download application pack, complete an Expression of Interest.


The changing face of social enterprise — Summerfield Community Gardening Project

Summerfield Community Gardening Project is a a local project based at City Hospital greenhouses. It aims to promote well-being by connecting people and plants through gardening.

Summerfield Community Gardening Project volunteers at City Hospital (photo: SCGP)

The work the group is doing at the City Hospital Greenhouses is part of Summerfield Residents Association’s overall aim to create community involvement and a sense of pride in our area.

The project took over the City Hospital greenhouses at the hospital’s invitation  just under two years ago. Now, in addition to growing plants and vegetables — including flowers for hanging baskets and floral home-made troughs to enhance the neighbouring streets — the group has set-up a unit for creating compost from the Eye Hospital’s food waste and organic waste from local businesses.

It is also in process of establishing a vermaculture where earthworm castings can be harvested and recycled in the form of a powerful fertiliser and soil preservative.

It also plans to utilise more of the heat generated from the composting process, along with solar-powered lighting, to warm the soil and make it possible to employ one of the greenhouses throughout the winter.

The project aims to be self-sustaining within twelve months through plant, compost and fertiliser sales and possible tie-ins with local restaurants around fresh, specialised vegetables.

Other avenues the project plans to explore include connecting to the local health economy, offering a satisfying pastime to people who need to occupy themselves productively or engaging with local schools and colleges for their students to gain experience either in plant lore or in commerce and marketing.

The project will seek funding to bridge the gap between now and self-sustainability and will shortly be making applications to a number of trusts and funders.

Over thirty people attended one of its recent ‘worm workshops’ and the project has a steady stream of visitors and volunteers throughout the year. The project got top marks from judges in last year’s RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood In Bloom Competition and a special mention at the awards.

Produce at the SCGP

Now, I’m not a gardener but as someone who has unhappy memories of City Hospital (through no fault of the hospital, I hasten to add), I find this really heart-warming. It seems such a terrific opportunity and it’s great to see social entrepreneurs stepping up to take on this challenge. So come on, you keen gardeners, horticulturalists, foodies and fresh air fiends! Surely, there’s something you too can do to help this emerging social enterprise on its way?

The Summerfield Community Gardening Project opens on Mon, Wed, Fri & Sunday mornings 10 till 12 and is marked on Google maps.

You can find out more about what the project is doing on its Facebook page and you can send mail to Christopher Vaughan, the project co-ordinator.

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The changing face of social enterprise — Birmingham Impact Football Club CIC

Birmingham Impact Football Club CIC is one of Birmingham’s newest community interest companies. With support from iSE’s FUSE enterprise skills programme and incorporated just last month, the enterprise is the brainchild of Zehir Kadra, a professional football scout, qualified coach and passionate advocate for grassroots sport.

Zehir Kadra (Photo: iSE)

The club exists to provide grassroots football opportunities for all children of all abilities who wish to play for fun or competitively in a team. It offers professional football coaching, as well as opportunities to play competitively and attend trials with the PFSA. Its coaches are all UEFA and FA qualified and one is also qualified to coach children with disabilities.

Zehir was inspired to set up his own coaching club as a means of raising the standards of grassroots coaching. “As a football scout,” he explained, “I travelled to many local grassroots clubs to watch my local kids. After seeing the poor standard of coaching and hearing and reading about the limited opportunities available to local kids — an issue being raised repeatedly by both kids and parents — I decided to create my club.”

Since April 2017, Zehir has established two bases — the first at the Birmingham Moseley Rugby Club, and the second at the Recreation Park, St Margarets Road, Hodge Hill B8. “We now have over 50 kids registered in total at both bases and the numbers are growing gradually every week,” Zehir says.

“Our social mission,” Zehir says, “is that all children, their parents and the community should benefit. The kids with our help will be provided with life changing opportunities in sport. We’ll also create employment/apprenticeship opportunities for local residents who wish to get in to sport. A number of enquiries by mothers of our students who wish to coach our girls have already been expressed.” 

In these early stages, collaboration and the support of other willing organisations can be vital. Perhaps you have skills, resources or assets that you can make available to the Club? Or maybe your organisation is looking for local partnerships that can help support grassroots sport? Or perhaps you simply have youngsters who are looking for grassroots football opportunities. Whatever the case, keep Birmingham Impact Football Club CIC in mind.

In Zehir Kadra you’ll find a man who is determined to make this idea work. “Just eighteen months ago,” Zehir says, “I was in hospital having stem cell treatment for cancer. Believe me, that was a wake-up call — but it also made me more determined to succeed at what I feel most passionate about: grassroots football opportunities in local communities. Do get in touch if Birmingham Impact Football Club CIC can help you, your kids or those you work with.”

Just eighteen months ago I was in hospital being treated for cancer… It made me more determined to succeed at what I feel most passionate about: grassroots football opportunities in local communities — Zehir Kadra

Zehir is now in the process of applying for the Football Association Charter Standard. Launched in 2001, The FA Charter Standard Programme supported by McDonald’s is The FA’s accreditation scheme for grassroots clubs and leagues. Its goal is to raise standards in grassroots football, support the development of clubs and leagues, and recognise and reward them for their commitment and achievements. Accreditation is awarded to clubs and leagues rigorously adjudged to be well-run and sustainable – and which prioritise child protection, quality coaching and implementation of the Respect programme. We wish him every success.

Mohamed Zehir Kadra, Birmingham Impact Football Club CIC
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07932 357478

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The changing face of social enterprise — Changes Gardening

We’ve written about Changes UK, the Digbeth-based recovery charity before on this blog. Since moving into Birmingham just a few years ago, the organisation is well on the way to realising its ambition of making this city the capital of recovery services.

But what does a drug and alcohol recovery charity have to do with social enterprise, you ask yourselves. A lot, in fact.

Founder Steve Dixon realised some years ago that one of the most important things those embarking on recovery need is employment — and the purpose, pride and self-respect that come along with this.

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

And so he began to plan ways that the charity could create employment opportunities for those in recovery — and hit on the idea of helping service-users of the charity create and grow their own social enterprises.

The newest venture is Changes Gardening — a complete social enterprise gardening service. Now, if you have ever tried to find a gardening service — whether to look after a modest plot of grass, take over a garden that the owner can no longer manage, or reclaim a neglected jungle — you’ll know that quality and dependability vary enormously. Finding a decent, dependable service at a good price is hard.

Changes UK has gone about things the right way — looked for a gap in the market where quality, dependability and top-flight customer service can be turned to real account…and then developed a social enterprise to fill that niche. 

Changes Gardening provides a full range of high-quality garden maintenance services and through this creates employment and training opportunities  for people who are determined to turn their lives around. But it’s what customers say that counts — and the testimonials on the enterprise’s website and Facebook page speak  for themselves.

Changes Gardening can be seen as part of an increasingly significant movement in what are being called user-led social enterprises. We are starting to see these emerge in recovery services, mental health and disability (see here and here for discussion of the latter). These user-led social enterprises mark a new phase of growth in the sector — but in a sense they are also helping to return social enterprise to its roots: trading for social purpose and helping those who might otherwise be marginalised in the conventional labour market take control of their economic lives and their employment. 

If you’re in the market for gardening services — whether domestic, business or institutional — you could do a lot worse than investigate Changes Gardening.

Changes Gardening: contact James Coote on M. 07945 078723; office 0121 796 4080 or send mail.

Changes Gardening on Facebook.


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ART adds to its lending power with new Birmingham Small Business Loan Fund

ART Business Loans continues to innovate in the local finance it is able to make available.

Now, in partnership with Birmingham City Council, Unity Trust Bank and peer-to-peer lender Thin Cats, ART is offering  the new Birmingham Small Business Loan Fund.

If you are a Birmingham-based business or social enterprise looking for finance and unable to access any or all of it from a bank, this is a fund for you.

The new fund will have a total of £3m to lend over the next three years from 2017 to 2020.

The aim of the Fund is to enable local businesses and social enterprises to access the finance they need to survive and thrive, protecting or creating jobs and boosting the local economy in Birmingham in the process.

“ART’s mission is to support enterprise and local jobs,” says Steve Walker, Chief Executive of ART. “Our average loan size is £35,000, a sum which it is particularly challenging for some businesses to access elsewhere, but which can be vital to support cashflow, replace or repair equipment, renovate premises and enable growth.”

Businesses, charities and social enterprises operating in Birmingham can borrow between £10,000 and £100,000 from the new BSBLF via ART. Loans can be used for any legitimate purpose and are available to all market sectors, including retail. Repayment terms are from six months to four years and there is no penalty for early repayment.

Read the full details and apply on the ART website.


Awards for All grant helps BSSEC promote the work of a new generation of social enterprises




We can now help more social enterprises — and especially new-starts and younger enterprises — promote their work and social impact

We’re delighted to announce that BSSEC has just received an Awards for All grant to help us publicise and promote the work of even more social enterprises — and especially newer social enterprises that may be struggling to get their message out there.

The face of social enterprise is changing rapidly in Birmingham and Solihull. Over recent years we have seen a more grassroots approach to the formation of new social enterprises — a new generation of budding social entrepreneurs is emerging and they are doing things differently. 

But many of these new enterprises are small and have limited resources to promote themselves and the impact they achieve. We’ll work with you to develop an attention-grabbing blog post that will help you get your key messages across in the best possible way, and we’ll promote this to the huge audience for social enterprise news and information that we have built up over the past seventeen years. And if we can offer any other useful advice about your PR and the key things you could be promoting, we’ll do that too.

So if you are a new social enterprise with a good story to tell, or an established social enterprise with  a new service or product to promote, we want to hear about it..

We’re especially interested in stories that will help people understand:

  • Community benefit, social impact and social value — something we know some enterprises find difficult to explain. Again, this is something we can help with. 
  • Social enterprises that are entering new markets, winning new contracts or finding new ways to reach customers.
  • Social enterprises that are exploring new partnerships or collaborations.
  • Social enterprises working as part of bigger supply-chains, especially with the private sector.
  • New models or types of social enterprise.
  • Involvement in new and emerging sectors, such as retailing.


We may even want to feature you in a social enterprise case study to illustrate new ‘breeds’ of social entrepreneur and new types of social enterprise.

 To be featured in posts and news items promoting a new generation of social entrepreneurs and social enterprises send mail or ring Alun Severn on 0121 233 0278.

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Opt in, opt out or shake it all about — a free briefing on the new data protection laws

Charities have had a bumpy ride recently, with some big-name organisations under severe scrutiny because of their fundraising practices and others fined for data protection breaches.

Our old friend Simon Lee, now of Hempsons Solicitors in London, has kindly sent us a new factsheet he has written with his colleague Philippa Doyle.

In it they consider the implications for charities, social enterprises and the wider third sector of the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which will be law from May 2018.

How will the GDPR change our lives? Should we opt in or opt out? What about the personal data we already hold? Do people have to consent to everything we do with their data? And what could happen if we get it wrong?

These are the questions their paper considers.

You can read it in full here: Opt in, opt out, shake it all about?

Digital Technology Supplement

PSIAMS Systems have created a special Digital Technology Supplement for this month’s BVCS Update Magazine. The feature concentrates on the work the PSIAMS team have been doing in the West Midlands to support better use of digital technology to improve service delivery, efficiencies and outcomes across the charitable and Social Enterprise Sector.

A recent Lloyds Bank Survey found that “49% of charities lack basic digital skills” and that makes a difference to their impact: “charities that are more digitally mature are 28% more likely to report an increase in turnover or funding than those who are not”.

Inside the feature there are a a number of wide ranging case studies, tips on technology and thoughts on developing a digital strategy.

To get a PDF copy visit BVCS Update’s page here.

To find out more about PSIAMS Systems list their webpage here.


University of Birmingham seeks internship projects for creative writing students

The University of Birmingham is seeking 80-hour intern placements for students on its creative writing course and is interested in hearing from social enterprises and third sector organisations that may be able to contribute to — and benefit from — this scheme.

Students usually work on specific projects or activities related to English and Creative Writing. Possible activities include:

  • Writing editorial content
  • Copy-writing for fundraising applications
  • Interpretation
  • Learning
  • Marketing and evaluation
  • Drafting and scheduling copy for social media
  • Assisting with workshops, events and projects etc.


The placements are 80 hours in total (approx. one day per week) so students can dedicate themselves to something an organisation does not have the time/manpower for.

Application dates

Placements can begin from October 2017 – preferably either between October and December/January or from January to April 2018. The university would need to hear from you by the end of June 2017 if you want a student to begin in October but can wait until the end of August 2017 for January 2018 start dates.

For more information and to apply for a placement please contact Sarah Hughes, Placements Officer, College of Arts & Law, on 0121 415 9028 or send mail.

Guidance for host organisations.

Further examples of recent placement projects.

Placement case study.

Social enterprise networking…in Paradise

This, just in from SEUK WM and the PwC Social Entrepreneurs Club…

Social enterprise networking & ‘History in the Making’
Monday 3 July, 17.00 @ Paradise BIRMINGHAM Development

Join SEUK WM and the PwC Social Entrepreneurs Club for an evening of drinks, canapes and business networking. Connect with key members of the social enterprise community to share ideas and explore opportunities. During the event we’ll have a topical discussion with key speakers on Social Mobility.

Paradise Birmingham is the most important city centre development in the UK outside of London. Paradise is to be transformed into a vibrant mixed use development of commercial, civic, retail, leisure and hotel space, providing major improvements to pedestrian access and greatly enhanced public realm befitting this exemplary historic setting.

Paradise will be one of the biggest development schemes Birmingham has seen for a generation and will dramatically transform this whole area of the city.

The event is hosted in collaboration with Argent and takes place in their Marketing Suite, overlooking what will be PwC Birmingham’s new home from 2019, One Chamberlain Square, which is part of this iconic redevelopment in the heart of the city. Monday 3 July, 17.00 @ Paradise BIRMINGHAM Development.

Join us to connect with key members of the social enterprise community and see a part of ‘history in the making’ coming to life. More details and sign up here. Please note that booking for this FREE event is essential as places are limited. We look forward to seeing you on the day.

Best wishes, PwC Social Entrepreneurs Club & SEUK WM

ART Business Loans — can it really be 20 years?

It seems scarcely believable that ART — now ART Business Loans — one of the first of a new breed of community development finance institutions to be established in the UK, is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this June.

Set up to lend to businesses and social enterprises unable to access finance from the banks, ART is a social enterprise, its primary objective back in 1997 and still its driving force today being to support access to appropriate finance for enterprise and the creation or preservation of local jobs for local people.

“We were set up as a result of a report from a commission chaired by the late Sir Adrian Cadbury, who became our first Chairman,” explains chief exec Steve Walker. “One of the major areas the commission looked at was access to finance for people and communities who were finding it increasingly difficult to engage with the banks. ART was established in response to this problem.”

“ART lends in addition to the banks,” Steve says, “lending only if they can’t and often lending alongside them as part of a package of finance.  We currently lend across the West Midlands, offering £10,000 to £150,000 to businesses and social enterprises unable to access any or all of the finance they need from the banks.”

ART’s highly experienced staff team — which is supported by a volunteer board of directors — adopts a personal approach to lending, offering valuable information about finance options and signposting to other finance providers where appropriate.

Since June 1997 ART has lent over £21m to more than 900 local businesses, including social enterprises, which as a result have been able to create or preserve over 7,000 jobs. Borrowers have come from diverse market sectors and used the loans for a variety of business purposes, including to support cashflow.

Social enterprise borrowers have included Betel of Britain, Ashiana Community Project, Amina Trust, Birmingham Buddhist Vihara, New Jerusalem Church, Jericho Foundation, ChangeKitchen, and the LearnPlay Foundation.

“We have grown significantly over the past three years as demand for loans has increased,” says Steve, “and we continue to help viable enterprises that can’t get vital finance from elsewhere to survive, thrive and grow. We have money to lend now and urge enterprises in need of a loan to get in touch.”

ART may now be considered part of a wider ‘alternative finance’ market — including peer to peer lenders and crowdfunders — but in many ways ART is the grandfather of them all: the result of a vision that Sir Adrian Cadbury and a group of other similarly determined  campaigners had for local community finance in Birmingham.

Congratulations, ART, and happy twentieth anniversary.

 ART Business Loans is at Innovation Birmingham Campus in Aston, 0121 359 2444.

ART Business Loans team (L to R): Graham Donaldson, Martin Edmonds, Roz Haque, Andy King, Chris Allen-Lloyd, Barbara Seaton, Steve Walker. (c) Marc Kirsten

iSE amongst West Mids winners of NatWest Skills & Opportunities Fund 2017 awards

iSE has just announced that it is amongst the West Midlands winners of the NatWest Skills & Opportunities Fund 2017 awards.

The project, ‘Enterprising Skills for Women’ will provide support for 20 women-led enterprises, encourage 60 start-ups and enable 100 women to access business skills courses. The project is designed to tackle the social isolation and economic deprivation many women Birmingham experience.

Sarah Crawley,  iSE’s chief exec, has long championed women’s enterprise. “This new programme,” she says, “will benefit women across Birmingham who have the talent and capacity to start enterprises in their own communities but currently lack the business skills.”

Sarah Crawley thanks voters

“Just today,” she continued, “the British Council has published Activist to Entrepreneur, a report about the role that social enterprise plays in supporting women’s empowerment. And yet statistics still indicate that up to 350 million women world-wide are living in poverty. We want to help women start and manage sustainable, transformational enterprises — and that’s what this project will do.”

This funding will extend the work delivered by iSE as part of the Women’s Enterprise Hub and its FUSE programme.

Congratulations, iSE!

Read more about the project here.

To learn more about the project and find out how to get involved send mail to Mariam Yate.


iSE announces mental health ‘hackathon’

As part of its work leading the West Midlands Third Sector Innovation Network iSE is holding a taster half day ‘hackathon’ for anyone interested in innovative solutions for mental health prevention.

We invite third sector organisations, service users, entrepreneurs, developers, designers, healthcare professionals and the public to work together on solving these health and social care problems by building new, innovative digital or service-delivery solutions.

Hackathons are very fluid sessions where everyone has a voice and can offer inspirational, creative and innovative solutions to the ‘challenge of the day’. For this first social hackathon we are looking at mental health across a range of topics such as:

  • Mental support application for unemployed workers.
  • Supporting the mental health of long-term care workers.
  • Fostering well-being, stress reduction and sense of belonging during transition to full-time work.
  • Taking control of digital stress.
  • E-health interventions for indigenous mental health in the workplace.
  • Addressing the burden of addictions on the workforce with e-tool solutions.
  • Building accessible mental health literacy training and supports for under-resourced health-care workplace.
  • Developing a mental health support programme for prevention of major depression in workplaces.


Details: Thursday 29th June 2017, 12:30-17:30 at Birmingham Innovation Hub, iCentrum, Faraday Wharf, Holt Street B7 4BB.

Read flyer.


Suggest other mental health or hackathon topics you’d like to see iSE address — send mail.

New SEUK research on use of social value in health finds only 13% of CCGs making ‘highly committed, active’ use of the legislation


Back in March 2016 we published this post in which we detailed our own findings regarding the poor utilisation of the social value Act in health commissioning.  We found social value similarly absent in STPs (Sustainability & Transformation Plans).

It is encouraging therefore to find that new national research — conducted at a scale that local networks like our own could simply not achieve — mirrors these findings exactly.

SEUK has just published Healthy Commissioning: How the Social Value Act is being used by Clinical Commissioning Groups. This finds that of the 209 CCGs in England:

» 57% say they have a social value policy or reference social value in one or more of their procurement policies.

» 43% either have no policy, were not aware of a policy, or had a policy in some stage of development.

» Just 25 CCGs (13%) demonstrated what the researchers described as ‘highly committed, evidenced and active’ use of the Act.

We also found that at precisely the time when we are seeing the NHS put ever greater emphasis on early intervention, preventative services and community-based provision — all areas in which third sector and social enterprise providers are heavily represented — commissioning opportunities for new services are few and the social value Act, which could offer an excellent framework to underpin such procurement, is almost entirely neglected. There are isolated examples of outstanding practice, however. The work being done with third sector partnerships by Dudley CCG — which we documented in its earlier stages here — is certainly worthy of mention.

SEUK’s report says:

“…for the first time in its history the NHS has a vision and goals for bringing the contributions of community groups and organisations into the mainstream…as an essential component of sustainable healthcare – and yet the responsibility for enabling this has never been more obscure and confused.”

The causes of this failure to grasp the potential of the social value Act in health are numerous, of course. Successive waves of reorganisation, financial crisis, and continuing political uncertainty all play a part. But so too, it must be said, does the complex and impenetrable culture of CCGs. While we have spoken to some in CCGs who say they want to better understand the application of social value, we have never been able to find a structured, accessible route to effect such a working partnership.

In addition, as SEUK’s report points out, robust guidance on the use of the legislation has been woefully lacking. Public Health England has published one guidance paper, and the Sustainable Development Unit has also published one. But amongst health sector staff we have spoken to we found that even these limited sources of guidance were little known.

The SEUk report recommends that:

» NHS England and the Department of Health should mandate every CCG to have a social value policy.

» Every STP should have a social value strategy, outlining its plans in relation to the Act.

» The Department of Health, NHS England, NHS Improvement, and Public Health England should disseminate and promote good practice on social value.

» The Department of Health, NHS England, NHS Improvement, and Public Health England should work with the Inclusive Economy Unit to draft stronger and clearer guidance for the healthcare system in relation to social value.

» CCGs should enact the principles of the Social Value Act to goods and works that they buy, as well as services being commissioned, and that the Social Value Act is strengthened to that effect.

Anyone who is trying to stay abreast of the social value debate and any organisation struggling to try and embed social value outcomes in its niche in the delivery environment will find this report useful.

See all our material on public services and social value.

See all our materials on health and social value.

See all blog posts tagged ‘social value.

UK Social Enterprise of the Year Awards 2017 now open for applications

SEUK has just announced that applications are now open for the UK Social Enterprise Awards 2017.

The Awards recognise organisations for their business excellence and contribution to society, as well as the achievements of people working at the heart of the sector.

In addition to existing categories, this year there are two new ones — Tech for Good, and Community Business of the Year.

The event will be held on the 23rd of November in central London.

Applications close on the 7th July 2017.

Are you “business angel ready”?

What is a social business angel? Who invests in social enterprises and what do they want? 

iSE is offering two workshops that will answer these questions — and many others too. If you are wondering whether your enterprise might be attractive to an angel investor, then book your place now and iSE will help you find out. Please note that booking is essential by phone on 0121 771 1411 or by email to Sarah Crawley.


Co-Wheels car club secures £40K social investment to help fund expansion



Co-Wheels Birmingham is your local eco car club, operated social enterprise Green Revolutions CIC.

Its members drive low-emission, well-maintained cars –without the hassle and cost of ownership, insurance and and maintenance.

Since launching in 2013, Co-Wheels now has over 90 members, with pay-as-you go vehicles ready for immediate hire across South Birmingham — and more locations and cars are on the way. Thanks to £40,000 social invest from Big Issue Invest, the enterprise is now looking to grow its membership to 300 over the next two years. 

Sandra Green, founding director says: “Getting this investment has been a tremendous boost to Green Revolutions and will help the organisation move forward at a much quicker pace. We want to help reduce C02 omissions by finding affordable and convenient ways for people to cut car use and avoid the hassles of car ownership. We believe our car club offers the opportunity to do this. We are excited by the prospect of creating greater social impact through the expansion of our work.”

The finance provided by Big Issue Invest is part of a new £5m lending scheme aimed at enabling social enterprises to access loan funding of between £20,000 and £150,000 across the country. Kevin Lloyd-Evans, Big Issue Invest’s regional investment manager says: “We are delighted to be able to support Green Revolutions. It is our second investment in Birmingham and we hope to continue working with more organisations in the coming year.”

Read press release.