John Taylor Hospice — great turn-out for opening of first shop

Back in January we wrote that John Taylor Hospice, the UK’s only social enterprise hospice, had unveiled its latest three-year strategic plan and that this included a commitment to open its first shop.

Now that shop — the first in the hospice’s 100-year history – has opened at 121 High Street, Erdington, and crowds of shoppers were waiting eagerly on its doorstep for the formal cutting of the ribbon by hospice patient Cat Mackrill and nurse consultant Sarah Bache on Friday 11th May.

Staff, supporters, volunteers, patients and families were joined by local dignitaries including Erdington MP Jack Dromey and Erdington councillor Robert Alden.

After cutting the turquoise ribbon, JTH patient Cat Mackrill, 46, said: “I live in Erdington and I love charity shops so to be asked to open the John Taylor Hospice charity shop is a real honour. The hospice has been such a great help to me. It’s a very special place and the staff, volunteers and other patients have become great friends.” She also thanked shoppers who had crowded outside waiting for the doors to open. “Every pound you spend is helping John Taylor Hospice make every moment matter for people like me,” Cat said.

JTH chief executive Penny Venables said: “We are absolutely delighted to be opening our first shop here on Erdington High Street. IIt was the obvious choice for a hospice which has been in Erdington since 1948. This shop may be our very first but it won’t be the last,” she explained. “It’s part of our strategy to open more shops in and around Birmingham so that we can ensure increased income for the hospice. By raising more money, we will be able to reach more local families who need our expert care at end of life.”  

Erdington MP Jack Dromey said: “John Taylor Hospice does such fantastic work and makes such a difference for local families. I’m really pleased that this shop will help it raise money towards that work.” To celebrate the opening, hospice volunteers were out and about in Erdington giving shoppers chocolates which were donated by the Unite branch at Cadbury.

More details about the JTH Shop Erdington HERE.

The changing face of social enterprise — creating social value through inter-trading

We wrote recently about Graduate Planet CIC in one of our ‘changing face of social enterprise‘ stories. It’s a new-start social enterprise recruitment consultancy which uses its surpluses to support environmental action. Its founder Kate Evans was one of the speakers at the recent event we held for new-start social enterprises and wrote about here.

It was clear at that event that Kate  had got off to a flying start with Graduate Planet — albeit not without some initial trepidation and uncertainty. Well, we can now update that story a little — and in doing so help illustrate how inter-trading between social enterprises can create social value that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Since mid-2017 Graduate Planet has been providing recruitment services for Belu Water, a social enterprise which sells ethical bottled mineral water and uses 100% of its profits to support WaterAid, the international development charity. WaterAid aims to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere, by 2030. Belu supplies the UK’s restaurant, catering and hotel industries with bottled mineral water and in-house filtration and bottling systems and since its launch in 2011 has donated over £2.2m to WaterAid projects. Belu is currently on course to being able to reinvest £1m a year in WaterAid projects.

Kate Evans, founder, Graduate Planet CIC

The revenue generated by acting for Belu Water has enabled Graduate Planet to reinvest in Heart of England Community Energy’s (HECE) 60,000-panel solar farm just outside Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire. This solar power farm generates power equivalent to supplying 4,500 homes for 25 years. HECE is the UK’s single largest community energy company and plans to donate up to £2.7m to improving the health and quality of life of older people and other vulnerable groups who are experiencing fuel poverty and poor living conditions.

Using Graduate Planet in its supply-chain has helped Belu Water source top candidates to fill its expanding work force; in turn, Graduate Planet has been able to use some of its surpluses to invest in solar energy; and in its turn Heart of England Community Energy will help older people and other vulnerable groups reduce their energy bills and improve the heating, insulation and fuel efficiency of their homes.

If you have ever wondered how inter-trading and collaboration in the social sector creates social value that is greater than the sum of its parts, then here you have a perfect example. 

If you have ever wondered how inter-trading and collaboration in the social sector creates social value that is greater than the sum of its parts, then here you have a perfect example

Read the full story over on the Graduate Planet blog. It makes for a fascinating — and illuminating — story. Congratulations, Kate.

Read our earlier story about Graduate Planet.

Read all our changing face of social enterprise stories.

Social mobility and poverty in the UK: How responsible business can respond — BITC event

You are warmly invited to Business in the Community’s next West Midlands event, which is being hosted by Coventry University.

The event is aimed at businesses, community groups, educational establishments and public-sector organisations to encourage an inclusive and wide-ranging debate.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation will open by sharing the reality of poverty and lack of social mobility in the UK. Speakers from BITC member businesses will explain why this issue is important to them and how they are helping to change outcomes for those that need it most.

As employers and partners to local schools, businesses are in a strong position to have an impact on people’s futures. What are the issues? How might businesses help tackle them? How can impact be measured?

The event takes place at Coventry University (Engineering & Computing Building, 1 Gulson Rd, Coventry CV1 2JH) from 13:30 to 16:30 on Tuesday 5th June 2018.

Read the PDF flyer.

Book a place here.

100s of guests and over 50 exhibitors celebrate recognition of Birmingham as a social enterprise city

UPDATED 14th June 2018: More coverage of this event and Birmingham’s Social Enterprise ~City achievement HERE.

Today, the final day of City Drive 2018, also marked Birmingham’s successful bid to be recognised as a Social Enterprise City and it saw the city’s social enterprise sector take over the Council House banqueting suite for the first ever social enterprise festival to be held there.

As Sarah Crawley explained in her speech, this wasn’t of course quite the first ever social enterprise festival to be held in Birmingham. That took place on a freezing day in December 2013 when the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter held its first Christmas Market.

That was a valiant effort — but it was dramatically overtaken by today’s event. I have been to a lot of things at the Banqueting Suite over the years, but I have never seen it so enthusiastically full. What a way to mark City Drive week and at the same time celebrate Brum’s official recognition as a social enterprise city.

The event was sponsored by Wates, which has long been committed to increasing the number of social enterprises in its supply-chain. The company is now on track to meet its pledge of spending £20m with social enterprises by 2020.

In addition to Sarah Crawley, speakers included Cllr Tony Kennedy, Birmingham City Council, Lisa Cunningham, Wates, Karl Belizaire, SEUK, and Tobias Gould, Changes UK. 

City Drive, now in its fifth year, has always been a labour of love but this year I think it can safely be said that never has so much been achieved with so little in the way of resources. City Drive is always a team effort, of course, and wouldn’t happen without iSE’s efforts and the many social enterprises and sector supporters that rally to the cause, but even allowing for that today was very special. To see every available space in the vast area of the Banqueting Suite occupied by social enterprises was something I won’t forget.

Congratulations to everyone who made this year’s City Drive and today’s Social Enterprise Festival something to really remember.

Exhibitors included:

Argonaut Community Enterprises; ART Business Loans; ashebo CIC; Aston Business School; The Balance Collective; Beanstalk; Better Pathways; YMCA Birmingham; Boatel UK; BVSCChange Kitchen; Changes UK; Citizen Coaching; Citizen Click; Clarity — The Soap Company; Co-operatives West Midlands; Co-Wheels Birmingham; Craftspace/Shelanu; Creative Alliance; Climate Action Network WM; Co-operative Futures; Devenish Girl; Feed My Creative; Forward Carers; Gear Up; Glue Collective; Handsworth Association of Schools; Health Exchange; iSE; Impact Football Club; Jericho Foundation; Kitchen School; Leaf Creative Arts; Legacy WM; Living-Well Consortium; Muath Trust; My Hope Housing CIC; Newman University; Our Roots CIC; Project Aspie; Resonance; Midlands School for Social Entrepreneurs; Sociability Care; The Arches Project; Unity Trust Bank; Upcycle Birmingham; Vegan Vybes; Wates; Welcome Change; Golden Sparkle; Unity Streets; Audrey Jackson [new start]; Shamala Aantonio [new start].

Photos courtesy iSE / © Ian Cuthbert /










The changing face of social enterprise — TRiM (Transforming Running into Mindfulness)

Today, as part of our continuing series of stories illustrating the changing face of social enterprise we look at something very different — a new health and wellbeing enterprise that aims to use running as a means of improving students’ mental health. 

A Birmingham-based social enterprise is launching a pioneering intervention to help students in the West Midlands improve their mental health and wellbeing. TRiM — short for Transforming Running into Mindfulness — combines running and mindfulness to help students who are struggling with stress and mental health difficulties to improve their wellbeing, resilience and fitness to study.
Mike Buckle founded TRiM just over a year ago. The idea came from his own personal experience — both from his student days and latterly as a mental health mentor for several universities.  
Mike says, ‘I struggled with stress at university myself and so I know how detrimental it can be. And having worked as a mental health mentor at several universities I have also seen at first-hand the large number of students who are struggling with psychological distress — and the stigma that still surrounds admitting to mental ill-health and how overstretched wellbeing services on campus are.’
He recognised that the increased stresses on students and the struggle many universities are having to meet rising demand for student wellbeing services called for some kind of alternative prevention and early intervention programmes — ideally integrated into students’ existing studies.
‘Over the years,’ Mike says, ‘I had built my own resilience to stress through the powerful combination of running and mindfulness and I began to see that something similar could be developed for more widespread use in higher education.’

Michael Buckle doing what makes him happiest: running

The TRiM approach, Mike felt, would help give students greater control over their own mental wellbeing and health. ‘Structured running and mindfulness interventions can have a transformative impact on the academic lives of young people,’ he says. ‘It’s a way of improving both mental health and cognitive outcomes — as well as motivating students to become more physically active.’

With support from the School for Social Entrepreneurs and the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Start Up Programme, Mike set about developing the business idea, the aim being to pioneer a unique running and mindfulness programme for students at as many universities as possible.

TRiM’s mission

TRiM’s mission is to ensure that young people who are experiencing emotional and mental health difficulties can access beneficial programmes of aerobic exercise, running and mindfulness on university campuses right across Birmingham and the West Midlands.
Mike says, ‘We want to empower students with the skills, knowledge and confidence to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyle behaviours that will help build resilience to academic stress; that will reduce the symptoms of psychological distress; that will improve physical and mental wellbeing; and that will enhance academic performance.’

I struggled with stress at university myself and I began to see that running and mindfulness could be developed into a low-cost preventative programme that could be used on any campus, anywhere — Mike Buckle

‘Our vision,’ Mike continues, ‘is to establish TRiM programmes across UK universities and to build a TRiM movement dedicated to creating more resilient and healthier student communities.’

Planning for the future

‘There’s still a lot of market research we need to do,’ Mike admits, ‘but the aim is to deliver our programmes to the HE sector — possibly under license as a kind of franchise, or by direct contract. We’re also investigating the position with clinical commissioning groups, hospital trusts and other health bodies.’

During 2018 TRiM will be launching pilot taster sessions and workshops on university campuses in Birmingham and the West Midlands, aimed at raising students’ awareness of the mind and body benefits of a combined approach to running and mindfulness. ‘But if that sounds dry,’ says Mike, ‘then let me assure people that it won’t be. Our aim is also to promote fun, an inclusive approach and social opportunities — physical exercise has great social relationship benefits too.’

TRiM’s website is up and running but Mike is seeking to raise additional resources to fund its fuller development. This will include 1-to-1 coaching, accredited wellbeing exercise modules, support for Skype sessions and possibly membership arrangements for accessing some online resources.
Assessing the social value and impact of the proposed services is also important and a pilot programme to measure the enterprise’s impact in Birmingham and the West Midlands is also under development.
Mike says, ‘We also see terrific potential for TRiM to work with third parties in the sports and physical activity sector and are in the process of collaborating with England Athletics to pilot a campaign to encourage young people in universities to use running as a tool for reducing exam stress and enhancing exam revision.’

How you can help

TRiM is keen to work in partnership with higher education institutions, health professionals, sports organisations, student groups, other social enterprises and third sector organisations and the private sector.  
Please SEND MAIL to Mike Buckle at TRiM if you are…
» A student who wants to try out TRiM workshops.
» A student who wants to volunteer or gain work experience working for a start-up social enterprise.
» A university, health provider or organisation who is interested in offering TRiM services and programmes to your service users.
» A company or corporate interested in sponsoring or advertising with TRiM.









Who starts new social enterprises and why? Three recent new-starts told us their extraordinary stories

For nine months or so now, as part of an Awards for All funded project, we have been documenting the changing face of social enterprise by covering the stories of newer, younger social enterprises that are new on the scene.

What’s it like to start a new social enterprise in the current harsh economic climate?  What qualities does it take? Who does it — and why?

On Monday evening (23rd April), as part of our contribution to City Drive 2018, we invited people to join us and hear first-hand new-start stores from three recently established social enterprises. We called this event New Start Stories — The Unvarnished Truth, and we held it at Evolve @ The Adam & Eve — itself a new-start social enterprise bringing new purpose to an old Victorian corner pub.

25 people joined us — which was a terrific turn-out — and we heard marvellous, real-life stories from three of the new-start social enterprises we have covered here.

Summerfield Community Gardening Project

Chris Vaughan, Hannah Wright and Ernie Holmes from the Summerfield Community Gardening Project, a community-based social enterprise that promotes wellbeing through gardening, recycling and environmental action, explained the ups and downs of the past couple of years and the key lessons they have learnt. Being able to adapt and be flexible is vital, Chris Vaughan says. The enterprise has already entered into a partnership with another third sector organisation to extend the land available to the project. Ernie Homes says division of labour and people skills are crucial. ‘We’re investigating ways to  ensure that our volunteers and service-users get more from the experience and are recognised — by themselves and by us — as central to what we do,’ he says.

But perhaps the key message was about marketing. Hannah Wright, the enterprise’s gardening guru, explained that the project produces plants, compost, planter baskets, home-grown garden wormeries and a range of garden produce, in addition to offering training workshops. ‘Sales of these goods and services are key to our long-term sustainability,’ she says. ‘People love the quality of what we produce and the whole experience of being at the community garden, but put simply, not enough people know about us. We need to focus far more on marketing and promotion and do more to create sales opportunities.’

Perhaps marketing is something you could help with? If so, contact the project through Chris Vaughan or its Facebook page — they’ll be delighted to hear from you.

ashebo CIC

A few years ago, Kemi Folarin, a youth, community and play worker with over twenty-five years’ experience was facing redundancy. She took the bold step of setting up her own community interest company, ashebo CIC and of using part of her redundancy money to purchase over three acres of pristine ancient woodland, classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), just twenty minutes from the centre of Birmingham. This — along, of course, with Kemi’s expertise and experience as a trainer and facilitator — is one of the key assets that ashebo has to trade with. We have covered her story in detail here.

Financial management (payroll, sessional payments, accounting) has been outsourced to BVSC, Kemi explained. ‘I learnt very early on that you have to play to your strengths and recognise your weaknesses. So I made sure that all aspects of financial management were dealt with by professionals. It isn’t expensive and it frees me up to focus on the things I’m good at and what needs to be done to keep ashebo going — and growing.’ 

The woodlands are central to ashebo’s offer but Kemi has had to learn the hard way about the special provisions and restrictions that go along with being an owner of a site of special scientific interest. One unexpected benefit of the evening was that one audience member, whose father had been a farmer, knew a great deal about SSSIs and was able to make some excellent suggestions about what could be done and how. It looked as if a keen new volunteer was emerging before our eyes!

Kemi said that while at times it is scary — ‘This isn’t just  fun: I’ve got a mortgage that has to be paid every month and that focuses the mind, believe me’ — her life is now altogether improved. ‘Three years ago I was staring redundancy in the face. A job I had loved doing for twenty-five years was about to disappear. Now, I’ve got a social enterprise that brings together all the things I care about most — benefitting families and children, protecting the environment and enabling those who typically feel themselves excluded from the countryside to enjoy the peace and sense of improved wellbeing it offers.’

If you want to know more about ashebo CIC — what it does and how you might be able to get involved — then contact Kemi Folarin (details here) or through her Facebook page.

Graduate Planet

Founded only in early-2017 by long-time recruitment professional Kate Evans, Warwick-based Graduate Planet CIC is the first social enterprise recruitment agency in the UK with a clear environmental and social mission. We have told her story in detail here. Kate’s aim is to to match value-driven people with the most socially innovative employers — while also making an environmental return every year by pledging 100% of its annual trading profits to initiatives that help combat climate change and promote environmental awareness.

Kate said, ‘At first it was terrifying and very lonely. But one of the things I have been amazed by is how generous people in the social enterprise sector are with their time and their expertise. I’ve had some truly marvellous help.’

Having her new CIC covered by BSSEC was a big morale-booster for her, she says, as was the grant she received from UnLtd to help with marketing and promotion. She has also found SEUK membership great for networking opportunities and welcomes SEUK’s new free membership offer for social enterprises whose turnover is below £100K a year. ‘I’ve gained a lot by targeting corporates that are part of SEUK’s ‘Buy Social’ corporate challenge,’ she says, ‘and within minutes of attending a Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility ‘meet the buyer’ event I gained an important new client. You have to use what’s on offer and understand the opportunities these services may help create.’

She learnt very quickly that she needed to be decisive, adapt quickly and stay flexible. ‘In the very early stages, after talking to some really well-informed people I realised that my main marketing messages were completely wrong. I changed my website overnight and made some important changes in how the business would work. I think you have to see things quickly, analyse the situation and take action.’

Kate says that in the early stages she was lucky to scrape together two or three days’ work a week. ‘Now,’ she says, ‘I typically work seven days a week. Of course, I need to sort out a better work-life balance than that, but even so, when you reach that point where new clients come looking for you rather than the other way round — well, there’s nothing quite like it.’

Identifying a few other points of key learning, Kate added: ‘always get customer testimonials — they’re worth their weight in gold’; ‘don’t try and do everything — for example, outsource your social media to a young person or a student who needs a bit of money and will almost certainly be more social media savvy than you are’; and most importantly, ‘don’t be afraid to ask: the sector is full of generous people’.

To find our more about what Graduate Planet CIC can do for you you can contact Kate by email or through the website.

* * *

We had an excellent evening — relaxed, enjoyable, informal — and would like to thank everyone who helped make the event such a success: Sarah Crawley, who raced back from a Social Enterprise Place meeting in Manchester to facilitate the event for us; Elizabeth Forrester from iSE who handled all the bookings; Simon Veasey from iSE who provided support and photographs; and especially Chris Vaughan, Hannah Wright and Ernie Homes from Summerfield Community Gardening Project; Kemi Folarin from ashebo CIC; and Kate Evans from Graduate Planet CIC, all of whom kindly agreed to share their personal experiences. Thank you.












Retail Therapy Event at John Lewis, Birmingham – City Drive week

 Retail Therapy Event, with Martin Hogg, Citizen Coaching CIC

Tuesday 24th April 2pm-4.30pm

Part of City Drive Week

Join Martin, for a ‘warts and all’ roundtable discussion to explore retail challenges, successes and what what’s working in social enterprise retail. We’ll cover online, retail and wholesale.

If you have a social enterprise product, or a social enterprise business to consumer service this event will certainly get you thinking about; new ideas, the mistakes to avoid and opportunities to work with others.


Please Contact Martin Hogg to reserve a place martin @ or 0121 314 7075.

Event includes Tea and scones and takes place at the John Lewis Community Space, Grand Central Birmingham (Top Floor of the store next to the TV and electronics department)





UnLtd’s Impact Investment Fund — drop-in event Birmingham

Are you an early stage social venture working in the employment sector? Do you need investment and practical support to scale your venture? Then UnLtd wants to hear from you.

UnLtd’s Impact Investment Fund will shortly hold three drop-in sessions — relaxed and informal opportunities to hear more about the fund.

You’ll have a chance to hear more from a member of the Ventures Team, ask questions, and network with other social ventures in your field. There will also be some nice refreshments!

The UnLtd Impact Fund is a practical finance package for ambitious early-stage social ventures within the employability sector. Social ventures can access investment of between £50,000 – £150,000.

Investment is in the form of a blended loan and grant financing package, alongside intensive post-investment support from a Venture Support Manager. The unsecured business loan element has a 9.5% interest rate and is repayable over a maximum of five years.

Drop ins take place in 3 locations over the coming months:

» Bradford – 22nd May
» London – 31st May
» Birmingham – 7th June

Book for the Birmingham event.

Success! Birmingham’s social enterprise city application approved

In this post we drew attention to the closing day of City Drive 2018 when there will be a grand social enterprise festival at the banqueting suite of the Council House [details below].

Well, we have just had news confirming that there really will be something worth celebrating at this first ever Birmingham social enterprise festival. iSE’s Sarah Crawley has just made the following announcement:

Sarah Crawley, who has been leading Birmingham’s SE city bid effort

Sarah says: It is with enormous pride that I am able to inform you that following our application to Social Enterprise UK, the panel has met and the chair has informed me today that our application for Birmingham to become a social enterprise city has been agreed.

As you can imagine I am delighted. This is something very special for the social enterprise sector in Birmingham and recognises the energy and commitment of the work of the past five years since social enterprise place status was achieved for Digbeth. Digbeth will continue to be a social enterprise place.

It is with enormous pride that we can announce that Birmingham’s application to become a social enterprise city has been agreed — Sarah Crawley

The feedback from the panel was that it was a well thought out application, with a good action plan and they look forward to welcoming us into the national network as a social enterprise city.

There will be a soft launch at the end of City Drive, at the Social Enterprise Festival at the Council House, and I am delighted to announce that this has been sponsored by Wates. The formal launch will be in September, hosted by Unity Bank.

Please can I ask that you encourage your own networks to attend the SE Festival on the 27th April. It’s clearly important that this event is a great success and that we have both a large number of SEs represented and a good audience to celebrate with!

Please can I take this opportunity of thanking everyone for your support and look forward to working with you all over the next few years.


We congratulate Sarah and everyone who has contributed to the effort so far. BSSEC will be supporting the SE City initiative in every way we can and at every opportunity.

You can book your place at the SE Festival on Friday 27th April by CLICKING HERE.


Unity Trust Bank’s record growth attracts £11m of new investment

Birmingham-based Unity Trust Bank has just announced record growth resulting in the bank attracting £11m of new investment.

Unity is a commercial bank for firms with a social benefit and today announced its 2017 annual results: profits and new lending were up by over 20%.

The bank lent nearly £100m to firms and projects that will deliver community, economic or environmental benefits.

Margaret Willis, the bank’s CEO said: “Since becoming independent in December 2015, Unity has pursued its goal to lend responsibly to firms and organisations that share our mission to benefit society. At Unity, this progress means more than just profit; the better we perform, the greater societal benefit we can have. It’s very pleasing to see the appeal of ‘banking with values’. We are grateful for the support of our shareholders and the faith placed in us by our customers.”

Since the year-end, the Unity has attracted over £11m of new investment from existing shareholders as well as from a new investor — the Sustainability, Finance, Real Economies fund (SFRE). SFRE is an investment fund initiated by the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. This investment facilitates Unity’s future growth plans and has enabled the bank to buy-back The Co-operative Bank‘s remaining shares meaning it is no longer a shareholder in Unity.

Alan Hughes, Unity’s Chairman, said: “We are ambitious and energised by the encouragement of our existing shareholders – Big Society Capital and the Trade Union movement, who have participated in this capital raise and delighted to welcome SFRE as a new investor who shares so closely Unity’s vision and ‘double bottom-line’ philosophy. We’re confident Margaret and her team can continue Unity’s growth, tapping into the strong desire for a bank with integrity and a social conscience.”

Unity Trust Bank is a long-standing BSSEC member and we congratulate the bank and its staff on this achievement.

Read the full story.
Read Unity’s 2017 Annual Report & Accounts and Social Impact Report.

City Drive 2018 — full programme released, including invitation to SE Festival

The folk at iSE have been pulling out all the stops again and the full programme for City Drive 2018 is now available, kicking off on Monday 23rd April.

Also of note, invitations for the City Drive’s flagship Social Enterprise Festival have also been released — see below. This is the first time to my knowledge that anything quite this ambitious has been arranged — and at the Banqueting Suite at the Council House, no less. The festival also marks Birmingham’s bid to become officially recognised as a social enterprise city. This is a historic event and one you won’t want to miss.

To book your place or to become an exhibitor send mail to Sarah Crawley.

Download SE Festival flyer/invitation.

Download full City Drive 2018 programme.



And here’s what Sarah Crawley had to say recently in launching Brum’s fifth City Drive:



Resonance celebrates launch of West Mids impact fund — central Birmingham event, you are invited

Resonance, a relatively small social investment company, may be a new name to many readers but in just a matter of months it has become a significant new player in what it calls social impact funding in the West Midlands.

Using an already proven model that takes advantage of social investment tax relief (SITR), Resonance chose the West Midlands to as the site for its second impact fund. The fund opened for business in February. The West Midlands was chosen specifically because of its potential and its large existing base of social enterprises and social mission organisations.

The aim of the fund is to support local social enterprises that are tackling poverty and disadvantage in the region.

Our mission is to connect capital and social enterprise  — Resonance

To celebrate the launch of the fund and promote its achievements to date, Resonance is holding a briefing session in central Birmingham on Thursday 19th April 2018 from 5.30pm-8.00pm at the studio, 7 Cannon Street, Birmingham B2 5EP. The event will bring together a range of investors, social enterprises and others from the sector across the region to mark this key milestone for social investment in the West Midlands.


Watch a short video about Resonance HERE.

For more information about Resonance you can contact Grace England, Investment Manager, or send her mail

There’s still time to feature in our coverage of newer, younger social enterprises

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

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

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

» What you do and why you do it.

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

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

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

Background to the project — PDF.

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













New-start stories: the unvarnished truth — 23rd April, 5-7pm, Evolve @ The Adam & Eve

It’s extremely hard for new social enterprises to find a time and place to discuss shared problems, reflect on their experiences, have a good natter — and if needs be let off steam. We thought it would be a good idea to sponsor a City Drive event which we hope will offer just such an opportunity. There’s still time to book. Come along, have a bite to eat, and enjoy.

BOOK by emailing Elizabeth Forrester at iSE.







What does a social enterprise consultant do all day?

If you have ever wondered what a social enterprise consultant does all day, there is a terrific post over on the iSE website by Elizabeth Forrester which will satisfy your curiosity.

iSE’s Elizabeth Forrester

From fine-tuning business models to developing marketing strategies; from financial planning to confidence-building — it’s all in a day’s work, whether for a boat hotel, a conceptual design enterprise, or a Muslim marriage project.

You can read the full post HERE.

To find out more about how iSE supports social enterprise start-ups across Birmingham ring 0121 771 1411 or send mail to Elizabeth Forrester.

Share your memories of John Taylor Hospice

John Taylor Hospice, the UK’s only social enterprise hospice, has just launched an appeal for stories, reminiscences and memories from people who have some prior connection with the hospice.

For more than 100 years JTH has helped and supported thousands of families and employed hundreds of staff. And as the oldest non-denominational hospice in the country, it is in a special position to chart the history of the hospice movement — by collecting stories from people it has cared for and people who have worked for the organisation.

Maybe you remember visiting a grandparent at the hospice as a young child in the fifties. Perhaps you even nursed there in the sixties or seventies. Or perhaps a loved one was cared for by JTH’s community teams when they were newly established in the eighties.

Whatever your memories, JTH would love to hear them and share them on the special living history page of its website.

If you have a memory you would like to share please email it to JHT.

You can read more about the project HERE.

You can watch two short films HERE featuring the vivid recollections of Pat Seickell, who was a community liaison sister at JTH in the 70s and 80s, and Part Murr, now in her 90s, who was a nurse at the hospice in the 1950s.

(L) Pat Murr, 90, and (R) Pat Seickell, 79. Both served as nurses at what was then known as the Taylor Memorial Home



ART’s Steve Walker wins Responsible Finance leader of the year

L-to-R: Amal Gomersall of Citi, Dr Steve Walker of ART Business Loans, Jennifer Tankard of Responsible Finance, and broadcaster Kaye Adams at the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards

It has just been announced that Dr Steve Walker, co-founder of ART Business Loans (ART) and chief executive since before its launch in 1997, has been named Responsible Finance Leader of the Year at the 2018 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards.

The UK-wide awards, delivered in partnership by the trade association Responsible Finance and the Citi Foundation, celebrate the valuable work of responsible finance providers from around the UK, covering areas from growth and sustainability to society impact and resilience as well as leadership.

Steve was recognised for his contribution to the growth of ART and the Responsible Finance sector, his passionate championing of access to finance for enterprise, and the impact that ART has had on the economy of the West Midlands over more than 20 years.

Well known and respected throughout the business finance sector, Steve worked at Barclays for 29 years before helping to establish ART. Since then he has served on a number of committees and task forces informing local, regional and national government policy on access to business finance. He was made a Doctor of the University of Birmingham in 2007 in recognition of his work as a champion of enterprise in the City.

Since launching ART has lent over £24m to more than 1,000 businesses, enabling them to create or protect in excess of 7,000 jobs. Now based at Innovation Birmingham Campus, ART lends between £10,000 and £150,000 to viable business across the West Midlands that are unable to access any or all of the finance they need from the banks.

The seven-strong ART Business Loans team focuses its cultural ethos around targeting those who have been traditionally deprived of opportunities, including under 25s, over 45s, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups, women and people with disabilities. At least 75% of the businesses that ART lends to fall into these categories.

Speaking at the awards ceremony in Glasgow on the 20th March Steve said, “I am delighted to receive this award, especially as the passion to support access to responsible finance and the passion of the entrepreneurs we look to support has been so evident during the evening. Any viable business should be able to obtain the finance it needs to survive and grow. It is deeply satisfying to us at ART to be able to play our part in stimulating the creation and growth of a wide variety of exciting and innovative ventures, helping our borrowers to create or protect jobs in the process.”

We congratulate Steve on this well-deserved recognition.

New-start stories: the unvarnished truth — 23rd April, 5-7pm, Evolve @ The Adam & Eve

Since July of last year, as part of an Awards for All funded project BSSEC been searching out and publishing the stories of newer, younger social enterprises. We have called these stories the changing face of social enterprise.

The reason for doing this was two-fold. First, the sector is changing. There has been something of a surge in what might be called grassroots social enterprise activity — new social entrepreneurs getting on and trying out their ideas, often with little previous experience. We felt that some of the stories we uncovered would help explain and illustrate these new and emerging trends.

And second, we felt that if we could focus a bit more time and effort on promoting these newer, younger social enterprises then they too would benefit. They would get some free publicity and in developing their stories might also learn some other useful lessons along the way.

Developing these stories has been a fascinating experience because it has also required us to reflect on social enterprise and 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. 

One of the things that impressed us most strongly is the level of discussion we have had with some of those who approached us. This made us aware that it is now extremely hard for new social enterprises to find a time and place to discuss shared problems, reflect on their experiences — and have a good natter and if needs be let off steam. We thought it would be a good idea to sponsor a City Drive event which we hope will offer just such an opportunity. And that’s the purpose behind New Start Stories: The Unvarnished Truth. Come along, have a bite to eat, and enjoy.

BOOK by emailing Elizabeth Forrester at iSE.

 +++++STOP PRESS+++++ Read what Sarah Crawley has to say about City Drive in a new post over on iSE’s website. It makes fascinating reading because she sets in context a process that began when resources for infrastructure support for social enterprise were cut and new ways of supporting the sector became necessary…

See the full programme of CITY DRIVE 2018 events here.

Read CITY DRIVE 18 press release.

Read all the changing face of social enterprise stories.






City Drive is back for 2018 — with a packed week of events and some very special news

With 2018 marking the fifth anniversary of the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter, iSE’s week-long CITY DRIVE 2018 series of events will kick off again on Monday 23rd April and this year it will be very special. 

BSSEC is pleased to be sponsoring an event to showcase the changing face of social enterprise with a networking and discussion session aimed at newer, younger social enterprises on Monday 23rd April (booking details and see below).

Our friends at PSIAMS are sponsoring an event on INNOVATION IN THE CARE SECTOR on Tuesday 24th April, while Citizen Home is sponsoring a special event for retailing social enterprises on Tuesday 24th April (booking details for both events).

City Drive 2018 also marks Birmingham’s official bid to become a social enterprise city

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The really big news is that this year, on Friday 27th April, City Drive’s final day, there will be a very special Social Enterprise Festival in the DSEQ — and this will also be marking Birmingham’s official bid to become a social enterprise city.

See the full programme of CITY DRIVE 2018 events here.

Read CITY DRIVE 18 press release.


The changing face of social enterprise — Evolve @ The Adam & Eve

Dominic Bradley, Spring Housing, and Gregg Reed from New Leaf Living outside The Adam & Eve

Today, in our continuing series the changing face of social enterprise, we look at Evolve @ The Adam & Eve. Read on to find out how an old Victorian boozer is being given a new lease of life — and a new social purpose.

There has been a pub called the Adam & Eve on the corner of Bradford Street and Warner Street in Digbeth for over two hundred years. In the 1950s it was a well-known trad-jazz venue; in the 60s, 70s and 80s it was part of Birmingham’s thriving indie music scene, and in the 90s and the 2000s it rose to prominence as a dance and club venue. But its latter years were troubled and in 2015 this historic old pub was closed down following a triple stabbing. 

But now three organisations have come together to give The Adam & Eve a new lease of life — and a very different purpose.

The building has been purchased by social housing trusts Spring Housing Association and New Leaf Living, and in partnership with Aquarius, the recovery charity, The Adam & Eve is being transformed into Evolve @ The Adam & Eve, a cafe and events space dedicated to providing training and employment opportunities for young people who are recovering from personal crisis, mental ill-health, addiction, offending or homelessness. Aquarius has responsibility for developing the Evolve cafe and events space but there will also be new flats with supported living assistance and these units are currently being built by Spring Housing and New Leaf Living.

All profits generated will be reinvested in support for young people — and Birmingham desperately needs these services because recent research by Shelter reveals that Birmingham is now the worst city for homelessness outside the south-east, with over 12,000 people homeless, at risk of homelessness, in temporary accommodation, or sleeping on the streets. In the West Midlands, government figures released at the end of last year reveal that over 5,000 children and expectant mothers are living in temporary accommodation due to homelessness. Mental ill-health amongst young people is also of particular concern. Recent research reveals that one-in-ten children and one-in-five young adults have a diagnosable mental health disorder, while access to treatment continues to worsen. The average maximum waiting time for a first appointment with mental health services is now six months and almost ten months before treatment commences.

An initial crowdfunding campaign in 2017 enabled work to begin and Evolve Cafe is now trading, offering a breakfast menu until noon, and premium sandwiches, coffee, teas, cakes and pastries through to 3pm. All of the suppliers the café uses have been chosen for their ethical, social enterprise or fair-trade values and include Union Coffee Roasters, Brew Tea Co. (which is one of the new movement of B Corporations, committed to tested social and environmental standards) and natural drinks company Belvoir Fruit Farms. You can read what its satisfied customers are saying on its Facebook page.

Evolve is Aquarius’s first foray into social enterprise but it won’t be the last. The organisation is currently developing a second coffee bar at 610 Pershore Street, Edgbaston, and has plans for a third by the end of this year. Further planned expansion into this market in 2019 will bring the total to six. By the end of this year Aquarius’s various Evolve ventures will be able to support twelve trainees, offering work experience and training in catering, hospitality, customer service, stock control and cash handling.

The development is being led by Ben Timms-Reader, Evolve’s operations manager. Ben is new to the social enterprise sector but relishes the challenge of developing the Evolve concept. “My own background has been in the strictly commercial sector,” he explains. “I was previously head of food for a major coffee chain, but when the position with Aquarius came up I saw that my commercial skill-set could be put to social use rather than just lining the pockets of shareholders — and I’m loving every minute of it.” 

Surrounded by other social enterprises — the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter has become justly famous as one of the largest concentrations of social enterprises outside London — and at the heart of a growing cluster of recovery services that includes Changes UK’s Recovery Central,  Evolve @ The Adam & Eve has a ready market on its doorstep. But Ben Timms-Reader also acknowledges that much remains to be done to raise the business’s profile across Birmingham.

“We’ve got a two-year development and marketing plan in place,” Ben says, “and we are about to engage a PR agency to help promote what we’re doing. But there’s a lot that people can do to help us make Evolve @ The Adam & Eve a success. One of the most important things we need is for our young people’s placements to be sponsored by supportive employers. As well as increasing the employment progression opportunities open to them, this would also enable us to focus more resources on providing the personalised, wrap-around support some need. And of course you can eat, relax, meet and hold your events and conferences at Evolve. Every pound you spend at Evolve will help us support young people.”

How you can help

Evolve @ The Adam & Eve is looking for:

 Sponsors: It is keen to find sponsors for its young people — hospitality businesses, for example, willing to offer continuing employment, mentoring or additional placements, so that it can expand the pool of trainees. Corporates that can help with sponsorship — for instance, £3,000 in sponsorship will completely cover the placement costs of a young person, and this means that Aquarius can then focus its resources on providing personalised support for there trainee.

Conference bookings: Evolve @ The Adam & Eve offers a well-equipped venue with a conference room (capacity 35 seated; 80 or so standing for other kinds of events/functions). With its raised stage and flexible lay-out, the conference room offers an unusual and informal setting for anyone looking for meeting space in Digbeth. In-house catering is available from Evolve’s own kitchen.

Cafe customers: Evolve urgently needs to spread the word about its premium cafe service. All of its suppliers are either social enterprises or  ethical businesses. So come on — help read the word. Meet, socialise and relax at Evolve @ The Adam & Eve. Treat yourself ands your friends and work colleagues to breakfast; stop by for a mid-morning coffee and Danish; have an occasional lunchtime treat.

Online sales: You can buy local, ethical and hand-made goods from the online shop.

New suppliers: And Evolve is on the look-out for new suppliers — social enterprises, ethical businesses, social mission ventures… Baked goods, produce, catering  supplies, gifts and products for the online shop… If your business has something to offer get in touch with Evolve @ The Adam & Eve!

→ Evolve @ The Adam & Eve 201 Bradford St, Digbeth, Birmingham B12 0JD

Evolve @ The Adam & Eve conference bookings & costs

Evolve @ The Adam & Eve on Facebook

→ To learn more about Evolve @ The Adam & Eve, send mail to operations manager Benjamin Timms-Reader

Read all our changing face of social enterprise stories