iSE announces #COVID19 Social Enterprise Helpline

iSE has just made the following announcement about a very welcome social enterprise helpline to provide much-needed support and advice for the sector during the Covid-19 emergency. The helpline launches on Monday 30th March 2020. Read on for details…

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In response to the Corona Virus 19 pandemic, and its direct impact on the social enterprises and social entrepreneurs across Birmingham and Solihull, iSE CIC is launching a #COVID19 Social Enterprise Helpline to support the sector in these challenging weeks and months.

Since COVID-19 became ‘front and centre’ for everyone, we have listened and watched as key initiatives have been set up for many other sectors, and have been listening carefully to the social enterprise sector about its concerns.

As of Monday 30th March 2020, iSE will be using its resources and staff capacity to deliver a #COVID19 Social Enterprise Helpline and see this as complementary activity to the BVSC and Birmingham City Council #C19SupportBrum initiative.

It’s simple and free to access for any social enterprise across Birmingham and Solihull – CALL 0121 771 1411 and just talk to us about your concerns and needs at this time.

Our expert Social Enterprise advisors will be able to:

  • Provide information on newly available funds, grants, loans and social investment organisations.
  • Signpost you to relevant resources, websites, toolkits and external support.
  • Give advice and guidance on your options and next steps if you are concerned about the current impact on your social enterprise.
  • Broker connections to organisations or wider support services beyond iSE, DSEQ and our Women’s Enterprise Hub.
  • Enable access to wider iSE support services such as workshops, training, funded projects and start up.
  • Book an in-depth coaching support session for social enterprise CEOs, managers and social entrepreneur leaders.


Our purpose is to continue to support and help guide the social enterprise sector through this extraordinary #COVID19 challenge, both economically and individually.

We can best do this by sharing our knowledge and expertise, building resilience within the sector, adapting our social enterprise services, as well as supporting business continuity and sustainability to the best of our best ability.

Read more on the iSE website.

→ Read all posts on this blog tagged Coronavirus update.

Free briefing for not-for-profits and social enterprises on government’s Covid-19 business assistance

Our friends at social enterprise Colebridge Accountancy Services have been in touch to say that they have produced a free briefing offering useful information for not-for-profits and social enterprises about the support that government is providing to businesses during the Covid-19 crisis.

Download the briefing here.

Colebridge Accountancy Services.

Heart of England Community Fund and BVSC announce Coronavirus Resilience Fund

BVSC’s Brian Carr has just announced the following on Twitter:

Delighted to announce @BVSC is working with our friends @HoECF on a #Birmingham #Coronavirus Resilience Fund. Your money will be ring-fenced for small #Birmingham #VCSE orgs if you type ‘BRUM’ in the comments box when you donate.

BVSC and HoECF have agreed that no administration costs will be applied to this and 100% of money raised will go straight to small VCOs and community groups working to support those who need help to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

£80,000 already raised. Much more needed…

HoECF: Coronavirus Resilience Fund.


Make Someone’s Day — be part of the virtual launch

Further to this post, the new movement for friendliness, Make Someone’s Day, is still launching on Friday 20th March 2020, but it will be a digital launch. Read more below to find out how you can support campaign.

BVSC’s Elina Rosen says:

During these challenging times of self-isolation and social distancing, it is more important than ever for people to know that they don’t need to be lonely, and that anyone can create small moments of connection by reaching out to those who are most vulnerable.

What’s the message?

We encourage people to pick up their phones, tablets and computers to connect with those who are most vulnerable and isolated in Birmingham.

Support the campaign

» Head over to our website to find resources or…

» Download our social media kit and start using the supporter messages with the campaign graphics. This will really help us spread the message of the campaign.

» Print a supporter poster, write your own message and share online using the hashtag #MakeSomeonesDay and #C19SupportBrum

We will be sharing these throughout the day – send to me, Elina, on WhatsApp 07471 50 1234 or send mail, or post frequently tagging @AgeingBetterBHM or using the hashtags #MakeSomeonesDay and #C19SupportBrum

Be part of MAKE SOMEONE’S DAY — now more than ever. Thank you.

Download the press release.

NCVO — supporting the sector during coronavirus crisis

NCVO’s chief executive Karl Wilding has just issued an interesting statement on the organisation’s blog regarding his plans for a “whatever it takes” approach to supporting the VCSE sector through the current coronavirus crisis.

The organisation has taken down all pay walls on its Knowhow website and all of its online content is now free to all to use — and NCVO has a huge library of templates, guidance and user-resources.

NVCO also wants to know how coronavirus is affecting you, your services and your organisations, and plans to use this information to strengthen its lobbying with government for specific commitments of financial support packages and other measures that will equal those for SMEs and business announced yesterday by the Chancellor.

You may think this is not relevant to you because you aren’t an NCVO member, but this may not be the case.

If you are a BVSC member then by default you are also an NCVO member by virtue of BVSC’s membership of the national body.

You can read Karl Wilding’s statement here.

→ You can tell NCVO how the current crisis is affecting your organisation by sending mail.

Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter — coronavirus update

Paul Barnes at iSE, on behalf of the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter, has just issued the following statement. It includes excellent information about government financial support for small businesses, including business rates relief, sick pay relief, hospitality sector special measures  and more.

* * *

The coming months will be challenging but the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter will be working to support all Digbeth organisations to the best of our abilities. We have been in communication with GroundWorks and HS2 funds, who have agreed to let us reallocate budget from our Digbeth Connect program, allowing us to extend our support for Digbeth organisations for another two months in order to provide business support organisations that are affected.

Yesterday the Chancellor announced some support for businesses suffering from the effects of the Coronavirus and the economic slowdown. We will be working to support organisations in accessing this support.

  • The British Business Bank is going to be making available loans of up to £5 million, covering up to 80% of losses caused by the disruption from Corona Virus, with no fees and 6 month free interest that is being paid by the government.
  • Businesses with under 250 employees will receive a refund from the government for 2 weeks of statutory sick pay for free.
  • £10,000 grants to the ‘smallest’ businesses, this support is to be delivered by local authorities who are meant to be receiving the funds from April.
  • Government Business Rates Holiday for hospitality and leisure businesses 2020 to 2021.
  • £25,000 grant program, provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from ‘smaller premises’. Smaller premises I believe are defined by the rateable value being between £15,000 and £51,000. There is a rateable value tool HERE on the website.


You can find more information about these measures here:

 Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for employees, employers and businesses (covers healthcare and sick pay responsibilities)

COVID-19: support for businesses (covers grants, business rates relief, hospitality sector special measures and more)

If you are a Digbeth social enterprise and require any support please contact DSEQ via Paul Barnes on 0121 771 1411 or SEND MAIL.

BVSC — “Council and communities work together to tackle the Coronavirus”

Click to go to the story on BVSC’s website

BVSC has just announced today that it is working with Birmingham City Council to help create a co-ordinated community response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward has said: “This represents the most significant public health challenge the city and the country has faced in recent years. Birmingham City Council is committed to ensuring that local people are supported and kept as safe and well as possible, and we are working with local community and voluntary groups to reach out to support our most vulnerable communities. It’s important that this effort is co-ordinated well and clearly and we have asked our partner BVSC to support us to achieve this.”

If know of local efforts that are being made by yourself, friends or neighbours, local voluntary organisations, community groups, social enterprises or charities please let BVSC know. Pass this message on.

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Grassroots organising to support those affected by coronavirus is starting to happen up and down the country and you can read more about these efforts here in The Guardian and here on the newly-established website Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK, where you can download guidance for setting up and registering groups, operating safely, and more.

But whatever you do, do it safely to protect those you help and your own volunteers, and as far as possible do try and be part of a locally co-ordinated effort.

→ Contact BVSC to get involved in #C19SupportBrum, the new cross-sector Birmingham C-19 Support Partnership. Ring 07388 376 945 or send mail to the BVSC team

Read the full story on the BVSC news pages.

Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK.

→ Read all posts on this blog tagged Coronavirus updates.

Read the story on the Birmingham City Council website.


iSE announces cancellation of City Drive 2020 events

Under iSE’s leadership and facilitation, City Drive has always been a collaborative event. Many social enterprises support it with activities and events, many contribute to its planning, and a substantial number of City Drive supporters help with generous sponsorship. After discussion with all of these stakeholders, iSE’s Sarah Crawley has just issued the following notice regarding the cancellation of City Drive 2020 events:

* * *

Over the last week iSE CIC has been carefully considering our position as the facilitators of the annual City Drive week of social enterprise awareness-raising that had been planned for Monday 30th March to Saturday 4th April 2020.

Today the iSE team met with the express purpose of the cancellation of City Drive 2020 due to the threat posed by Covid-19. We feel strongly that we do not want to contribute towards the crisis that the NHS is now facing and that the efforts required for City Drive would be better diverted towards supporting business continuity for social enterprises in Birmingham and across the region.

iSE and the team would like to express our deep appreciation to all our sponsors, partners and speakers who have taken a collaborative, shared approach in this unique situation, and given their continued support for the ideal of City Drive and the leadership decision taken for this exceptional year.

Please feel free to contact us with your feedback and for any business support needed through the next weeks and we will endeavour to target resources and advise the sector.

There are continued guidance updates on COVID-19 here from both Government and Public Health England.

For any further information, please keep an eye on our website or email us.

Thank you,  Sarah Crawley

More on coronavirus and social enterprise — Claire Dove, VCSE Crown Representative.

Excellent Covid-19 Update from BVSC’s chief executive.

NCVO/NAVCA joint Covid-19 emergency survey — highly useful.

Coronavirus crisis — Claire Dove, VCSE Crown Representative, seeks VCSE views on sector support needs and responses

You may not know that Sarah Crawley now sits on the group convened by Claire Dove, the government’s VCSE Crown Representative.

Claire’s role is to act as an intermediary between government and the voluntary, community & social enterprise sector, with a specific remit to champion the Social Value Act and improvements in commissioning practices. Claire was appointed as VCSE Crown Representative in February 2018.

VCSE Crown Representative, Claire Dove is seeking feedback from the VCSE regarding sector support needs and responses during Covid-19 crisis

Claire has written to all members of the group to ask their help in gathering feedback from the VCSE regarding sector support needs and responses during the Covid-19 crisis.

Claire’s letter said:

As you know we are in the midst of this unprecedented crisis and I have been in dialogue with our department to ensure that we are giving the best advice to the sector. I also after yesterday’s budget announcement have asked for clarification of the support that our sector will need with the challenges ahead. […] 

I am mindful that we need to get advice out to our sector and we in government need to know how we can best support. Please let us know what you are hearing and how the sector is reacting. We are aware that our sector will play a crucial part in the challenges ahead.

With a view to playing a full part in this, Sarah asked me to post this request on the BSSEC blog. We want to try and co-ordinate replies from Social Enterprise City supporters and BSSEC readers.

If we can generate some feedback that is useful to Claire Dove and her colleagues in the VCSE group, I will undertake to collate this and get it into a format that Sarah can then share.

Please let us know what you think about the four points below. If you are already providing similar feedback for other voluntary sector intermediaries, please consider copying me into that reply. You can post comments below or send mail directly to me. If you think of other different and/or more important considerations then please say.

» What are the implications of coronavirus for your organisation? Have you already taken critical steps/precautions?

» What kind of help, support, guidance do you most need from government?

» Have you identified any risks, responses or responsibilities that you think may be unique to your organisation or sector? If so, what are you doing?

» If you have already considered ways that your organisation (or sector) might assist in the event of a full-blown pandemic situation in the UK, what are you able to do and what would be needed in order to enable you to make this contribution (such as resources, co-ordination, leadership)?

Thank you.

Send mail to Alun Severn

→ Send mail to Sarah Crawley

UPDATE 16/03/20:

On the 12th March 2020 Brian Carr, BVSC’s chief executive, attended an extraordinary board meeting of the Strategic Homelessness Partnership Board, convened by Birmingham City Council. BVSC is now working with Birmingham City Council on a co-ordinated coronavirus communications strategy across the voluntary sector, focusing on Neighbourhood Network Schemes and grant-funded providers initially.

Brian has written a briefing for the charity sector in Birmingham which will bring you up to date with the situation and the City’s current response to the outbreak.

The Women’s Enterprise Hub is recruiting…

The Women’s Enterprise Hub, Sparkbrook, which is operated by iSE, is recruiting. This, just in:

iSE seeks experienced Centre Manager to continue the success of its Sparkbrook Women’s Enterprise HUB

iSE is seeking an experienced Centre Manager to continue the success of our Sparkbrook Women’s Enterprise HUB (WEH).

Following a refurbishment in 2016, the HUB offers inspiring office units, co-working space and a place to meet and access support to develop women-led businesses for women in the local community. We are keen to continue to develop the HUB as a local facility for women-led businesses and deliver associated projects to support engagement, start up and business growth.

Applications by CV and cover letter by email to iSE CEO.
Deadline: 12:00 am Sunday 22nd March 2020.

If you have any queries about any of the elements above, please ring Mariam Yate on 0121 0121 663 1711 or send mail.

Download the Job Description.

It feels as if City Drive 2020 has already started

UPDATE 16/03/20: All City Drive 2020 events cancelled due to the threat posed by Covid-19 — read announcement

At least, that was the case on Thursday afternoon, the 5th of March. Sarah Crawley, our dear friend Ian Cuthbert of Cuthbert Design and myself were busy at iSE — and we were doing something we could all enjoy while still calling it work! We were judging the entries for the Capturing Social Enterprise photography competition.

And it was genuinely hard. I think the quality of the entries surprised all three of us, but we had a terrific time choosing the very best — first, second and third prize-winners and a highly commended category. Had everything gone absolutely to plan there would also have been some lemon drizzle cake to eat along with our tea, but somehow (ask Sarah) this didn’t happen.

Anyway, I was delighted to be asked to help judge this competition and everyone who got out there with their cameras to take part should be congratulated.

The pictures will be on display as part of City Drive week, beginning at the launch event:

CITY DRIVE 2020 Photography Exhibition Launch
6.00pm – 9.00pm
The Good Intent, 32-33 Great Western Arcade, Birmingham B2 5HU

Book for this launch event here

And just to prove we really were hard at it, Ian took some photographs of us in action.

Sarah Crawley kicks things off (Photo Cuthbert Design)

It’s starting to get serious: l-to-r: Alun Severn, Sarah Crawley (Photo Cuthbert Design)

Half-serious: l-to-r: Alun Severn, Sarah Crawley (Photo Cuthbert Design)

Almost done. L-to-R: Sarah Crawley, Ian Cuthbert, Alun Severn (Photo Cuthbert Design)

Coronavirus — who gets paid and how much? Managing coronavirus as an employer

If you are already planning for how your workplace will manage the implications of coronavirus infections — by using the excellent guidance that NCVO has recently published, for example — you may be interested to know that BSSEC member Anthony Collins Solicitors has published a briefing considering the implications of coronavirus for employers and their responsibility for sick pay.

There may well be other relevant sources of guidance and information out there — I haven’t looked. If you know of something and you rate it highly, then please post it in the comments here.

Coronavirus self-isolation – who gets paid and how much? Anthony Collins Solicitors.

You can read NCVO’s guidance here.

 Will ‘Force Majeure’ Protect Your Business from the Coronavirus? VWV LLP considers the potential impact of coronavirus on commercial contracts/agreements.

iSE announces women’s FUSE programme now open for applications

iSE has just announced that its women’s FUSE programme is now open for 2020 applications. Delivered with HSBC, the FUSE programme helps women in the West Midlands who want to start social enterprises.

See below. Please note booking is essential. To book send mail to Ashleigh Howe at iSE.  

iSE is recruiting a new chief executive

Further to this post, iSE’s recruitment exercise for a Chief Executive Officer to replace Sarah Crawley has begun. Make no mistake, jobs of this calibre do not come along every day in the social enterprise sector in Birmingham.

Click on the graphic below to download the PDF Candidate Information Pack.

Closing date for applications is Midnight Sunday 22nd March 2020.

Interviews will be held on the 26th and 27th March at iSE CIC, Avoca Court, 23 Moseley Road, Digbeth, Birmingham B12 0HJ.

Click on the graphic to download the PDF Candidate Information Pack.


 Sarah Crawley to leave iSE

Candidate Information Pack


Calling all social entrepreneurs — free learning programme & grant

Calling All Social Entrepreneurs – Free Learning Programme & Grant

Charles Rapson, the chief exec of the School for Social Entrepreneurs Midlands has just announced the following…

The School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) is soon to start recruiting for its much sought after Lloyds Bank social Entrepreneur programme.

To understand the programme and whether it is right for you, SSE strongly recommends you attend one of its Information Sessions. You will get an overview of SSE, what the programme entails and some really useful tips and advice on how to write the best application.

This is a competitive process. Give yourself a better chance.

Information Sessions on:

18th March in Wolverhampton – 3:00 to 5:00pm — BOOK HERE

19th March in Birmingham – 4:00 to 6:00pm — BOOK HERE

Digbeth — ‘Shop for Change’ marketplace

The Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter has just announced a Digbeth Shop for Change Marketplace… Full details below:

The Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter is running a Digbeth Shop for Change Marketplace. This will be for any and all Digbeth — social enterprises, charities, co-operatives and SMEs. The event will be promoted through contacts in the public, private and third sectors in order to create external interest and buying opportunities.

However this won’t just be about promoting ourselves to organisations outside of Digbeth — it is also about getting to know one another, what we are doing and to build relationships and inter-trading within Digbeth so that we can support our own community of entrepreneurs.

There are no magic fixes for the challenges that Digbeth faces, but a stronger community that supports one another is the community that will be the strongest and most sustainable.

Event Details:
Date: Wednesday 25th March
Time: 12pm-2pm
Location: Warehouse Cafe, Allison Street, Digbeth, B5 5TH

Would you like to attend and/or have a stall at our Shop for Change Marketplace?

If so, send mail to Paul Barnes at iSE.

Comments now working

This post is a sticky. For the time being, newer posts appear beneath it.

If you have been trying to comment on the blog — perhaps especially this post — but have been unable to, our apologies.

There has been a problem with the comments facility but our good friends at Citizen Click have now fixed this for us.

Please comment away. Posting comments requires you to provide a name and an email address. Your name is published; your email address is not.

Start-Up Connections…from the University of Birmingham

Free networking and information session for new-start businesses
of all kinds — connecting new-starts with the help and resources they need

The University of Birmingham has just announced a free new-start business networking and information event for new-starts of all kinds. Start-Up Connections is designed to connect Birmingham’s start-ups with the support, funding and talent they need in the region in an informal, vibrant and informative occasion.

Local organisations have the opportunity to meet the next generation of entrepreneurial talent, emerging from the University of Birmingham.

This is a free event and there will be food provided in the networking session.

Get along to find out more about:

Funding: Discover a range of funding opportunities for your business from various organisations in the region, including the University and the Local Enterprise Partnership.

Support: From office space to developing your first app to exporting, there are a number of support organisations to meet that can help you achieve your goals.

Talent: The University of Birmingham is consistently ranked amongst the top universities for talent – meet students who are interested in working or interning for a start-up like yours and find out how we can support you in recruiting top talent for your start-up.

5.00pm to 5.15pm Registration and networking (refreshments available)
5.30pm to 6.00pm Student and Employer session
6.00pm to 6.30pm Birmingham Showcase
6.30pm to 8.00pm Networking and refreshments

Date And Time
Wed, 11 March 2020
17:00 – 20:00 GMT

Alan Walters Building
University of Birmingham
(R29 one the campus map)

Register via Eventbrite.

Sarah Crawley to leave iSE

Sarah Crawley will leave iSE, the organisation she founded, at the end of June 2020

Sarah Crawley has announced that she will be leaving iSE at the end of June 2020.

Sarah and I have worked together for over seventeen years and for a good part of that time she has served as chair of BSSEC and one of its Directors. This, thankfully, will continue and I look forward to continuing to work with Sarah in new and different ways in the future.

I think many will agree that without Sarah’s efforts over the past two decades, the social enterprise sector in Birmingham — and indeed beyond — would not be what it currently is.

While much of what happens by way of support for the sector is a collective effort, no one has ploughed as much time or as much unremitting energy into building partnerships and initiatives that support the sector in practical ways and help it grow. As well as running iSE, Sarah has always had a brilliant instinct for longer-term strategic growth and development in the sector.

Thank you, Sarah, and our best wishes for whatever you choose to do in life after iSE.

Please read Sarah’s own message below.

*  *  *

It’s with hugely mixed emotions I’m writing to tell you that I will be leaving my role at ISE at the end of June 2020.

It’s been an incredible two decades which began with a few like-minded individuals who came together wanting to grow the social enterprise sector.

I am so proud of the achievements of ISE and our two social enterprise places, not to mention more social enterprise hot spots emerging.

Highlights for me are the many interns who have moved on and are now working in amazing jobs around the country; the women’s enterprise hub supporting women from many communities to develop their confidence to achieve self-employment and start social enterprises; the networks of social enterprises across the city that we have helped to start and grow; the six successful City Drives we have now organised to raise awareness of social enterprise in Birmingham and beyond (get involved in City Drive 2020!); and finally all the fantastic partnerships we are involved in over many years and relationships we have.

My departure is planned, and everything will continue as before. The iSE team and Board are all ready to take ISE into its next stage of development and we will begin the search next week for a new CEO. Any help you can give in promoting that search when it appears in our social media feeds will be very much appreciated. We remain hugely appreciative to all the partners that have helped us to grow the social enterprise sector over the past two decades.

Please be certain that I will continue to be a massive advocate of social enterprise and after a short sabbatical my involvement with BSSEC and with Social Enterprise City will continue — there are exciting plans that Alun, myself and other steering group members are working on to take SE City to the next level — and I also hope to do some social enterprise-related work at a national level.

With best wishes,  Sarah

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

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

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

The University of Birmingham has received donations from alumni to offer social enterprises in the West Midlands the chance to benefit from the support of a talented student in the summer of 2020.

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

The student will be paid directly by the University and projects will last one month (20 days). Projects can take place from June 2020 onwards.

To register your interest, please go to the Impact Internships pages of the university website and complete the form at the bottom of the page. If you have any questions about the programme, please send mail to the Internships Team. 

Expressions of Interest must be submitted by Sunday 23rd February 2020.

See PDF for more information.

Apply here.