More on the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter

Uncredited picture from Google images – if anyone owns the copyright please advise – we will gladly credit or remove

Further to this post… There can be few who don’t know that Birmingham has one of the largest concentrations of social enterprises in the country – over 300 at the last count and now probably nearer 500. What is less well known is that  this concentration is greatest in Digbeth and the surrounding area. And this is why, led by iSE and The Digbeth Trust, organisations and enterprises in the area have come together to set up the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter.

At the last count there were 47 social enterprises trading in Digbeth and the surrounding area. Some are new-start and still small, others are more established; others are charities that have seen social enterprise as a new way of creating opportunities for their client groups. Together they  illustrate some important new trends in social enterprise:

  • They are predominantly young and their workforces are young. People like Martin Hogg and his colleagues at Citizen Coaching and Citizen Click.
  • Many are women – people like Birgit Kehrer at Change Kitchen, Emma Dakar at Craftspace (which created the Tales of Migration installation for the opening of the new Library of Birmingham), Erica Barnett and Pat Bend at BITA Pathways (mental health charity, enterprises and education), and Cath Gilliver at SIFA Fireside (homelessness and alcohol misuse).
  • And many are from black and ethnic minority communities, people like Albert Smith at Ubuntu CIC (handmade bread and other foods) and Lee Blake at Made By Young People (printing, promo banners, business stationery, hoodies and clothing and the excellent ‘Born in the NHS’ t-shirt as seen below).

    Comedian Dr Phil Hammond wears a Made by Young People 'Born in the NHS' t-shirt

    Comedian Dr Phil Hammond wears a Made by Young People ‘Born in the NHS’ t-shirt

These and the many people like them are the new face of grassroots social enterprise.

The Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter has already received official recognition from Social Enterprise UK, the national body that is awarding Social Enterprise ‘Place’ status as part of its national project.

Almost twenty  organisations have come forward to be part of the steering group which will help  the continuing development of the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter.

While the idea of business ‘clusters’ is an old one in mainstream economic development circles it has rarely been tested in social enterprise – especially in such circumstances, where there is an organic grouping of social enterprises already clustered together in a particular locality. The aim of the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter is to build on the opportunities offered by this natural clustering – helping the businesses there get to know what each can do and what they can do for each other, helping them build alliances and new trading models and work in partnership.

Be part of the launch

The Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter is being formally launched on the 12th December from 10.30am until 3.30pm, with a Christmas social enterprise market, street food, entertainment and social enterprise walks and visits. I’m told that the walks (which start from 12.30) are bookable, please — send mail to Dawn Griffiths to book a place.

Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, will be give a keynote speech and open the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter.

Find out more

If you want to find out more about the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter, want to get involved in the launch, or are keen to be part of the longer-term development of this exciting new initiative send mail to Sarah Crawley or send mail to Emma Nugent.

We’ll be watching what the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter does – and how it does it – with great interest, because there will be lessons here not just for Digbeth, and not just for Birmingham, but for social enterprises everywhere.

Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

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