Blog

How to reach us — update

This post is a sticky — newer posts appear beneath it

Our usual BSSEC email account is temporarily out of order

For technical reasons resulting from home-working, our usual BSSEC email address is temporarily out of order.

This means that the free email circulation service we offer readers is not possible at the moment.

However, we are still able to post news, events and information on this blog and are doing so. Blog posts also go to Twitter and to my LinkedIn network.

To send items that we can consider featuring please email them to Alun Severn at this address rather than the usual BSSEC one. Thank you.

→ To avoid missing items follow us on Twitter @BSSEC_CIC or join my LinkedIn network.

New CIC formed to fight for support for 3m self-employed workers excluded from government’s Covid-19 support schemes

I know that as social entrepreneurs, voluntary sector workers, leaders of charities or activists in community groups, the plight of social enterprises and the wider third sector is what is really at the forefront of our concerns.

But like many I have been following the news regarding the estimated 3m self-employed people who are ineligible for either furloughing or the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS). Typically, these are freelancers who do not earn at least 50% of their income from self-employment, those who employ themselves through limited companies and those in new-start self-employment.

I can only begin to imagine the anxiety these people are experiencing. Especially affected are freelancers in the arts, creative and cultural industries, where short-term PAYE contracts for freelance self-employed people are apparently commonplace — meaning that many freelancers are ineligible for SEISS because they earn more than 50% of their income from short-term PAYE contracts or were between contracts when SEISS came into force.

That the Chancellor’s statement of the 8th June did nothing at all to offer any hope to these people seems an injustice that desperately needs addressing. There is a very good piece in The Guardian explaining the dreadful impact of this injustice and another on the This is Money website that better explains the technicalities. 

A new CIC called Excluded UK was formed in May specifically to fight for the rights of these workers. An All Party Parliamentary Group of Excluded UK led by Jamie Stone MP has also been established and now numbers almost 200 MPs.

If this concerns you or someone close to you, then you can do something to help:

Get involved in Excluded UK.

→ Donate to Excluded UK.

→ Write to your MP (via the excellent WriteToThem website which offers authentication and digital signature of letters).

‘Recharge the West Midlands’ — does this offer the kind of economic, social and community recovery we all hoped to see?

Click for report PDF

In earlier posts I have been trying to keep abreast of a variety of recovery planning initiatives, including recent proposals and reports.

Up for consideration today is Recharge the West Midlands — Kickstarting the West Midlands Economy. This is West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) business case to government for a £3.2bn investment package that will ‘reset, rebuild and recharge’ the region’s economy as part of post-Covid economic recovery planning.

The plan — backed in a collective letter to the Chancellor by 600 signatories from business, institutions, trade unions, the region’s Chambers of Commerce, local authorities and LEPs — was submitted to the government at the end of June 2020. Mayor Andy Street is hopeful that the scale, approach and ambition of the West Midlands plan will not just find favour with the Chancellor but will also inform the government’s national recovery strategy.

The WMCA strategy has three main pillars:

  • Creating green manufacturing jobs by harnessing clean technology and electrification.
  • Turning HS2, Coventry City of Culture and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games into jobs for local people by accelerating major infrastructure investment.
  • Investing in healthcare innovation, capitalising on the region’s existing strengths as a centre for health research, and using this to improve the region’s health.

 

The scale and ambition cannot be denied. But is this really about ‘resetting’ the West Midlands economy? There still seems to be a massive emphasis on transport, infrastructure, capital projects, and brownfield regeneration. What seems less evident is the Combined Authority’s much-repeated commitment to inclusive economic growth. It is also difficult to see a comprehensive approach throughout the document to addressing inequalities — and especially to measures that will ensure that a massive economic kickstart won’t widen existing inequalities or further exacerbate those the virus has exposed.

If you take as an example the first pillar, creating green manufacturing jobs, it is perfectly true that this includes a £100m programme of retrofitting to take 50,000 households out of fuel poverty, and £30m to decarbonise Black Country industry. But these sums are far exceeded by the £484m dedicated to capital projects (Gigafactory battery production facility), transport (very light rail), electric vehicle charging infrastructure and automotive R&D.

Similarly, maximising local job creation via HS2 and other WM opportunities devotes around £225m to capital projects — the HS2 interchange; Curzon St/Digbeth regeneration; and the redevelopment of Birmingham’s Square Shopping Centre, King’s Parade and Dale End/High Street car park as a new mixed-use ‘destination’ called Martineau Galleries. And while an £80m ‘Cultural Catalyst Programme’ is included to enable critical business transformation in the cultural sector, even this sum includes £50m for ‘shovel ready’ capital projects for arts and cultural venues. Surely this isn’t what the arts and cultural sector in the region needs right now?

Investing in healthcare innovation shows a similar emphasis. This includes £10m for reducing health inequalities through radical prevention and £13m to create a community-based health diagnostics hub at Grand Central, but again these sums are significantly less than the £127m dedicated to capital spend on construction of a Precision Health Technologies Accelerator, and planned diversification and business transformation programmes in MedTech supply-chains.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not rubbishing the plan because I am certainly not qualified to do so. I understand that this has to be a plan for the entire economy, and it is a complex document, but in its overwhelming emphasis on capital projects, regeneration and high-growth/high-profit sectors I can’t help but wonder whether it will offer the kind of  inclusive economic, social and community recovery we are all hoping to see.

I would love to know what others make of this plan. Do you see it as a transformational ‘reset’ for the region’s economy that is in keeping with the new world of Covid-19 recovery? Do we have any economic analysts out there who can help us better understand this?

Round-up of funding opportunities

I’m indebted to BVSC’s weekly e-bulletin for all of the following funding opportunities. They are reposted here in case anyone has missed them. If you aren’t already subscribed to BVSC’s e-bulletin you can subscribe here.

The opportunities below are all either new money or programmes that are reopening to resume ‘normal’ service.

Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants

Reopening from 22nd July 2020 with a budget of £59.8m available until April 2021. 

Arts Council says: “We have prioritised reopening this programme to help fund independent organisations, creative practitioners and freelancers as quickly as possible. We’ll publish updated guidance for the programme by mid-July.”

More information: Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants.
Coverage in Charity Times.

Birmingham Children’s Partnership Covid-19 Community Grants

The Birmingham Children’s Partnership has developed a new locality approach to supporting families in need across the city as part of the response to the Covid-19 crisis.

As part of this development a community grants scheme is currently in place to support locality working, which Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise organisations can apply for up to a maximum of £10,000.

Support is available through Birmingham Community Matters for community groups to help them put together applications for this grant. It is important that any applications reflect a need in the local community, and that projects work with all members of that community.

Applications are sought from organisations wishing to work with the local partnerships.

→ More information: BVSC website.

National Lottery Community Fund — Coronavirus Community Support

National Lottery Community Fund — Coronavirus Community Support Fund: £200m. Part of the government’s £750m support package for the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors.

Some service categories have specific funding attached — domestic abuse, loneliness, food distribution, zoos, health and more.

More information: National Lottery Community Fund website.

Severn Trent Community Fund

Severn Trent Community Fund reopened to ‘normal’ applications.

To apply you must be a Severn Trent customer (ie receive your water supply from or have waste treated by Severn Trent), and the location and the beneficiaries of your project must be located within the Severn Trent region. You can check both using this tracker.

→ More information: Severn Trent Community Fund website.

Sport England

Sport England is committing up to £210m of funding to help the sport and physical activity sector through the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

→ More information: Sport England website.

 

Subscribe to BVSC’s weekly e-bulletin

Sandwell Council of Voluntary Organisations also produces an excellent fortnightly Funding Digest to which you can also subscribe here.

 

 

BVSC — short questionnaire to identify pro-bono support priorities

BVSC has just posted a short questionnaire online.

It is seeking to refresh and improve the pro-bono support offer that some private sector businesses make to the VCS as part of their corporate social responsibility.

BVSC says: “We recognise that the pandemic has forced many organisations to adjust their focus and priorities, and what was true of the sector before the virus may not be true now. We hope this survey will give us a clearer picture of the needs of Birmingham’s voluntary sector in a COVID-19 dominated world, and ensure that when we work with businesses keen to support the voluntary sector, the most appropriate support can be made available to those who need it.”

Take the survey.

WiSE Wednesday — free webinar from iSE: Levering Localism with Kevin Davis, CEO The Vine Trust

 
The next of iSE’s WiSE Wednesday free webinars takes place on Wednesday 8 July at 10am and is given by Kevin Davis, CEO of The Vine Trust and a Black Country LEP Board Member. He will be talking about Levering Localism
 
Kevin Davis will pose the question: can levering localism help us to build back better in these unprecedented times? He will cover the following topics:
 
1. The Economy of Together! A vision for place based social enterprise, looking to the Black Country as an example.
 
2. Influencing the Social Economy in the public/private realm. 
 
3. Can Social Enterprises save the High Street?
 

This will be followed by a Q&A session.

 
Kevin Davis is CEO of the Vine Trust Group – a group of social enterprises focused on education, employment and the re-engagement of young people. He also serves on the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership, with a focus on social enterprise and economic inclusion.
 
WiSE Wednesdays are organised and facilitated by iSE CIC in order to provide regular support, insight and Q&A opportunities for the social enterprise sector during these challenging times. iSE is a leading third sector support organisation providing start-up and development opportunities for social enterprises, community organisations and not-for-profits in Birmingham and beyond.
 
 
 
 

Social enterprises — could you benefit from a funded virtual intern during the summer?

Social enterprises — could you benefit from a funded virtual intern during the summer? Under a new scheme just launched by the Transformation West Midlands (TWM) partnership you may be able to.

The Transformation West Midlands Summer Work Experience Scheme has been exclusively created to enable local students and recent graduates from the West Midlands region to gain quality work, supporting local businesses who need a helping hand for up to 2 weeks.

From July until Sept 2020, up to two virtual interns can carry out specific work-related tasks for you, over a set period of time – tasks that you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t had the resource. It might be secondary research to spot innovative ways to keep or generate new customers; a social media campaign to launch a new service or product; or help with setting up better operations and processes.

The 2-week work experience can be undertaken on a full or part-time basis.

To apply, please describe your project brief in a few words by email to Alison Sharp, the Project Lead at the University of Birmingham.

The brief will be offered to a pool of TWM students and graduates from Newman University, University College Birmingham and the University of Birmingham, and interested individuals will get in contact with you directly.

Virtual interns will receive a bursary from the TWM’s funders, the Office for Students.

The programme is especially interested in hearing from enterprises that are able to offer high-quality virtual internships offering organised and well-structured experiences for interns. The TWM work experience scheme is particularly aimed at BAME students/graduates, those who are first generation HE entrants, and students/graduates with a disability, so by creating an intern opportunity you’d be helping your enterprise and creating additional social value for students. 

For more info, or to submit your short placement proposal send mail to Alison Sharp, Project Lead at the University of Birmingham.

iSE opens second FUSE new-starts programme to meet high demand

Following exceptionally high demand for registration, social enterprise development organisation iSE has reopened its FUSE start-up programme to new applications for an additional July programme.

If you have an emerging social enterprise idea with potential to create social impact and would benefit from six months of support email Elizabeth Forrester for an application form or go to the iSE website.

Deadline for applications: 20th July, programme commences 29th July.

For health and well-being-led social enterprise ideas this programme is fully-funded by the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN). For other non-health social enterprises a £50 contribution towards costs is required. The programme covers:

  • Monthly masterclasses covering key elements of start-up coaching.
  • Mentoring.
  • Peer support.
  • Access to opportunities, developing sector connections and networks.

 

Applicants will need to prove they have the makings of a sustainable social enterprise including income generation through trading rather than relying on grant funding. The programme is open to individuals and groups in the West Midlands.

For more information.

 

PM asks Danny Kruger MP to review role of civil society during coronavirus crisis and ensure it is supported as part of recovery

I’m indebted to an email from the Directory of Social Change for this item.

Apparently, Danny Kruger MP (Devizes) has announced on his Twitter feed that the Prime Minister has asked him to work closely with Baroness Barran, the Minister for Civil Society in DCMS, to review the role played by civil society during the Covid-19 crisis and to make recommendations regarding how best the sector can be supported and communities empowered as part of recovery.

The PM asks that Kruger’s review should consider, amongst other things, how civil society can support public services, the role of philanthropy, social investment and business, and opportunities for young people.

‘Government has a role to play,’ the PM says in his letter (and pictured in Kruger’s tweet), ‘in supporting the voluntary effort and social entrepreneurialism that have proved so valuable so far, indwell be just as vital in the years ahead.’

‘How can we empower & strengthen communities for the long term?’ Kruger asks in his tweet, asking people to ‘please email me’ (which you can do by clicking this link).

 

Pressure for a fairer, greener, juster recovery increases

Pressure is growing for an economic and social recovery that is fairer, more just, and greener. A recent YouGov poll reported in The Guardian indicates that just 6% of the public want to return to an unchanged ‘pre-pandemic’ economy.

A recent letter to the government from the Build Back Better UK Campaign calling for a more equitable recovery was signed by more than 350 people including trade union leaders, heads of corporations, civil society, religious leaders, major charities, cultural and arts institutions, and environmental and climate change groups. Keeping abreast of what these various groups, campaigns and commentators are saying is hard work, however.

I’m still reading the TUC report A Better Recovery, published in May. It’s the most far-reaching and detailed of the documents I have so far tried to read. I thought it might be worth recapping some of its key recommendations here because I find that when someone says, ‘So what should be in a fairer recovery plan, then? my mind goes blank. This may help. Here’s what the TUC says in its key recommendations:

Decent work and a new way of doing business

  • Raising the national minimum wage to £10 an hour.
  • A ban on zero-hours contracts and bogus self-employment.
  • Ensuring all workers are automatically put into an occupational pension scheme.
  • Boost collective bargaining, including union access to workplaces.
  • Increase workforce voice in corporate governance and reform of corporate purpose.
  • Establish a National Recovery Council, mirrored at regional and sectoral level, with workforce representation.

 

Sustainable industry

  • A recovery programme that delivers benefits both in terms of reducing carbon and increasing jobs, overseen by a new Just Transition commission.
  • Work with trade unions to ensure that every investment programme comes with an Olympics style plan for decent jobs attached.
  • Support workers to get into new jobs, with a new jobs guarantee and an individual right to retrain.
  • Build UK manufacturing supply chains by increasing the requirement for UK content in any investment programme.
  • Put a Just Transition at the heart of the (UN Climate Conference) COP26.
  • Ensure that trade deals don’t undermine UK manufacturing.

 

A real safety net

  • Reforms to social security to provide help faster and prevent poverty.
  • A job guarantee scheme so everyone can work and long-term unemployment does not take hold.

 

Rebuilding public services

  • Bringing our public services back to full strength, with decent pay for those who looked after us in the crisis.
  • A new focus on good jobs and direct employment in social care.
  • Public sector pay-rise.
  • A new settlement for social care.
  • A democratically accountable, integrated health and social care system.
  • A new care sector workforce strategy.
  • A new funding settlement for local government, the NHS and across public services.
  • End the outsourcing of public services.

 

Equality at work

  • A cross-departmental action plan to tackle the entrenched disadvantage and discrimination faced by BME people.
  • Strengthen the role of the Race Disparity Unit and equip it to deliver the action plan.
  • Review and redraft the Gender Equality Roadmap to reflect the current context and include a clear timetable for delivery.
  • Engage with disabled people’s organisations and with people with disabilities to ensure that their voice and experiences are central.
  • Access to Work grants to take account of the current context.
  • Examine the implications of the increase in home working for disabled workers and improve disabled people’s access to work.
  • Close the disability employment and pay gaps.
  • Address the systemic inequality that disabled people experience in the labour market.
  • Ensure compliance with the public sector equality duty throughout response to Covid-19.

 

Rebuilding internationalism

  • New international rules to prioritise decent jobs and public services for all.
  • International institutions must be reformed so that they work towards a new social contract.

 

At the moment this groundswell of public opinion sounds unstoppable but unless there are meaningful ways for local, regional and national recovery plans to be influenced by wider society, there is no guarantee that this will be the case. And so far, real routes into recovery planning seem few and far between.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS:  Better Recovery: Learning the lessons of the corona crisis to create a stronger, fairer economy (TUC, May 2020)

FULL REPORT: A Better Recovery: Learning the lessons of the corona crisis to create a stronger, fairer economy (TUC, May 2020)

Build Back Better UK and its key demands

→ See all posts on this blog tagged Coronavirus updates

→ See all posts on this blog tagged Covid-19 recovery planning

West Midlands may lose £280m in unspent Covid-19 grants for businesses

There is an excellent piece on Dave Lane’s LinkedIn feed and on his consultancy website Development in Social Enterprise analysing recently released figures for grants made to businesses under the  Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund (RHLGF).

These grants are administered by local authorities.

In the West Midlands almost £208m of this money has not been spent and may be returned to government.

Without knowing whether applications from businesses were lower than anticipated, or whether there were high levels of failed or ineligible applications it is not possible to say how or why this underspend exists.

Whether through extension or re-promotion of the two schemes in question or repurposing of the funds so that they can be used as part of the region’s recovery effort, surely the WMCA and its constituent local authority members, the WM Mayor, local councillors, officers and the region’s MPs should be working to ensure that this funding is not lost to the region.

The WMCA has established a group called the West Midlands Covid-19 Economic Impact Group, which is at the heart of its recovery planning. You can send email to this group. Let’s make sure that this underspend is as widely known about as possible and that all the key players mobilise to prevent its loss to the region.

Read the article on the Development in Social Enterprise website.

Read all posts on this blog tagged Coronavirus updates.

Gateway Family Services CIC is recruiting

Gateway Family Services CIC has rewarding opportunities in the following posts:

Social Prescribing Link Worker
The Social Prescribing Link Worker will focus on ‘what matters to me’ and taking a holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing. If you feel you could connect to people, community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support, GFS wants to hear from you.

Location: Birmingham or North Solihull.
Hours: Full and part time hours available.
Salary: £19,000 – £19,986.
Contract: Fixed term to the end of September 2021.

Benefits: The provision of workplace wellbeing support and activities, flexible working and a range of family friendly policies and subsidised parking.

Closing Date: 12th July 2020.

FULL DETAILS & HOW TO APPLY HERE

*

Senior Social Prescribing Link Worker
The Senior Social Prescribing Link Worker will focus on ‘what matters to me’ and taking a holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing.

In addition, the Senior Link Worker also has responsibility for line-management of Link Workers and any volunteers linked to the service, If you feel you could connect to people, community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support, GFS wants to hear from you.

Location: Covering Birmingham and North Solihull.
Hours: 37 hours per week.
Salary: £22,842 per annum.
Contract: Fixed term to the end of September 2021.

Benefits: The provision of workplace wellbeing support and activities, flexible working and a range of family friendly policies and subsidised parking.

Closing Date: 12th July 2020

FULL DETAILS & HOW TO APPLY HERE

Access to finance in a Covid world

ART Business Loan’s Dr Steve Walker

CBILS. BBLS. To me these always sound like Ceebils and Bobbles — characters in a children’s TV show.

But you know they’re not, of course, and that respectively they are the acronyms of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Business Bounce Back Loan Scheme, the government’s emergency lending measures to try and help businesses get through the coronavirus crisis. They replaced the earlier Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme.

BSSEC member ART Business Loans is now an accredited provider of CBILS loans and chief exec Steve Walker has just written an article about the schemes for Birmingham Business magazine.

If you or your clients need to know more about these schemes, then I recommend Steve’s piece — it’s the clearest and most helpful explanation I have yet come across of how the schemes work and their pros and cons.

Read Access to finance in a Covid world: Dr Steve Walker

Build back better — Bill Grimsey report on the future of town and city centres post-Covid-19

Bill Grimsey has spent a lifetime at the top of retailing in the UK, Hong Kong and South Africa, during which time he regarded it as his mission ‘to clone every town in the UK with the same brands’. And he did, and in the process, as he readily acknowledges, he put paid to ‘thousands of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers’.

‘It’s a bitter pill to swallow,’ he says, ‘when you realise that what you spent your whole life building now needs to be unpicked in order to build back a better place.’

Since then Grimsey has remade himself as an advisor on town and city centres, beginning with a report in 2013 that resulted in the Labour Party appointing him an advisor. A second report was published in 2018 and the latest Grimsey Review, Build Back Better: Covid-19 Supplement for Town Centres, was published this month. I heard about it last week when Grimsey was interviewed on R4’s Today programme.

Now while his report smacks resoundingly of poacher turned gamekeeper, I have to concede that if you are looking for an analysis of why ‘business-as-usual’ retail redevelopment of high streets and town centres can’t possibly work, Grimsey knows where the bodies are buried. He even knows how a good many of them got there — and why.

His view is that even before the Covid-19 crisis, there were no viable plans that could revitalise high streets and town centres from a retail perspective. Three sectors of the town centre economy — retail, retail property, and pubs and restaurants — were, he says, already ‘broken’. 47% of retailers and 59% of pub and club operators were at risk of financial failure, while investment in retail property and investment in shopping centres had fallen by 42% and 78% respectively between 2014 and 2018.

Grimsey’s central thesis is this. Covid-19 is massively accelerating town and city centre changes that have been evident for years. We simply have too much retail space and the devastation begun by online shopping will be completed by Covid-19. If recovery planners believe that high streets and town centres will be saved by retailing, then they will be doomed to abject failure. 

The implications for our physical space and urban planning are huge, but of even greater importance is the fact that retailing and hospitality are big employers. Retailing employs almost 9% of the UK workforce (2.9m people); pubs, clubs and hospitality employ 10% (3.2m people). And they are sectors in which younger people and women predominate. The implications for retraining, skills and employment support services are immense.

I don’t think any of this is news, exactly. It’s a direction of travel that has been evident for as long as there has been mass e-commerce. And anyone with eyes to see can’t help but have been aware of the decline of local high streets and the damaging effects of a monoculture of consumption in city centres. Even so, there is still something devastatingly powerful in having these arguments skilfully drawn together, backed up with top-class financial and economic research.

So what is Grimsey’s solution? Well, it’s a long report, and it has 27 often quite detailed recommendations, but I’ll try and boil it down.

Essentially, he says that town and city centres must be reconfigured as leisure, cultural and community destinations — part of a broad shift to wellbeing, leisure, experiences and activity rather than shopping. They will be greener places, where local communities have much greater power over planning decisions and purpose. Mixed-use ‘mobility hubs’ should replace cars; legislative changes should be made to enable social enterprises, charities and community trusts to have a much greater high street presence. ‘In a post-COVID and post-retail world,’ he says, ‘we need to think of property as a platform to enable meaningful work, local trade, wellbeing [and] belonging.’  

I’m not saying I disbelieve this. Quite the reverse. What I am sceptical about, however, is that the political will exists for such a transformation. Grimsey concedes this point. But he also makes a compelling rejoinder: it will be easier to begin planning for this transformation in a systematic and organised way now, rather than later, when great swathes of city centre property have been scooped up at knock-down prices by venture capitalists and offshore investors. Good luck negotiating with them, he says.

I will admit I find it all rather hard to envisage. City centres in which the stranglehold of corporate retailing has been broken?

I think this is what makes Grimsey and his latest report so interesting. While I can’t imagine such a seismic shift, Grimsey knows it is already happening. And he is telling us that we need to decide what to do about it as a matter of urgency.

For anyone currently seeking to influence Covid-19 recovery plans this is important reading.

Read Grimsey Review: Build Back Better: Covid-19 Supplement for Town Centres

Read Power to Change’s response to the report.

WiSE Wednesday #5 — Finance & funding your enterprise: Matt Smith, chief executive The Key Fund

WiSE Wednesday – FINANCE & FUNDING YOUR ENTERPRISE with Matt Smith, CEO of The Key Fund

iSE CIC would like to welcome you to hear expert speaker, Matt Smith, CEO, The Key Fund, discussing enterprise finance and funding options in the fifth of a special series of social enterprise webinars designed to bring business experts to your screens.

The Key Fund works to provide finance options to help social enterprises to start up, become sustainable and grow, leading to tangible social impacts such as job creation and re-invigorating communities.

The current circumstances make questions of finance and funding even more critical for social enterprise leaders and managers. Matt will guide us through crisis funds, recovery funds and provide insights in what investors are looking for.

WHO: Matt Smith (CEO, The Key Fund)
WHAT: Finance & Funding Your Enterprise
WHEN: Wednesday 24th June @ 2.00pm plus Q&A

Register for your webinar place

→ Or email Sallie Ryan for the log on details

→ Read more about the WiSE Wednesday webinar series

New body established to plan recovery of region’s cultural sector

I’ll mention this here because it’s something I only found out about by accident. It may also have escaped the notice of some cultural, arts and creative enterprises.

Culture Central is leading a new body responsible for planning the recovery of the West Midlands’ arts and cultural sector, which is vital vital not just culturally and creatively but also economically.

Culture Central says of the new West Midlands Culture Response Unit (WMCRU):

Covid-19 has decimated the cultural sector around the world. We think that the West Midlands should respond to this unprecedented threat in a typically generous, loud and collaborative manner.

The West Midlands Culture Response Unit will develop and deliver an action-orientated, sector-led response to the Covid-19 crisis in the short, medium and long term. The purpose is to ensure the visibility, viability and recovery of the Cultural Sector in the West Midlands.

The unit is led by Culture Central…and is intended to exist for at least 6 months, during which time we will support the implementation of a continuity and recovery response.

If this is something you want to be part of, contribute to, or simply have a keen interest in because the region’s arts and cultural scene is close to your heart, then find out more at the links below:

REGISTER for news and updates from the WMCRU, follow the Facebook discussion group and more

Blog post about the WMCRU by Culture Central director, Erica Love

Coverage of the new unit on the GBSLEP website

 

Locality report calls for communities to be at the heart of recovery planning

In a recent post we wrote about a Covid-19 Social Economy Update published jointly by BSSEC, iSE and Birmingham Social Enterprise City

We have been using this briefing paper to inform and influence key policy-makers and decision-makers — including Ministers — arguing for ‘recovery partnerships’ that are more inclusive and which ensure that the organisations whose efforts were vital to the early civil society response to coronavirus — social enterprises, charities, voluntary organisations, community groups — are also able to contribute to the recovery plans that public authorities are now responsible for.

Such organisations were instrumental in making a combined and co-ordinated civil society and public sector response possible.

And yet this is already in danger of being forgotten as public authorities establish recovery groups that offer no access routes for social enterprises, civil society groups or local communities.

If recovery planning is to be more than just business-as-usual this has to change. Social sector and civil society participation in these recovery partnerships has to be meaningful and recovery must mean economic, social and community recovery. 

Locality has just published an excellent report called We Were Built for This: How community organisations helped us through the coronavirus crisis –- and how we can build a better future. It makes a similar argument from the particular perspective of community organisations.

The report makes the case for putting neighbourhoods at the heart of local economic development planning, strengthening community powers through the Devolution White Paper, ensuring greater investment in local councils and the communities they represent, embedding the kind of procurement flexibility and innovation that made rapid emergency response possible through public/civil society partnerships in the early weeks of the crisis, and investment to support and further develop the thousands of mutual aid groups that formed at the local level.

Anyone working to inform and influence recovery planning in their own areas will find something of use in Locality’s report.

Read more about We Were Built for This on the Locality website.

Read all posts on this blog tagged Coronavirus updates.

Finance Bill could result in scrapping of Social Investment Tax Relief

Just when you thought that there was no news other than Covid-19 something comes along that sneaks under the radar. I’m indebted to David Alcock at Anthony Collins Solicitors for flagging this up in his LinkedIn feed — I would have missed it otherwise.

If passed into law, The Finance Bill, currently in the Committee stage in the House of Commons, could result in the removal of Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR). A recent article in The Guardian explains this.

SITR is the only tax break specifically aimed at social enterprises. It enables investors to receive 30% income tax relief on the shares they buy or the money they lend to social enterprises. Its introduction in 2014 was intended to stimulate the social investment marketplace and increase the range and number of investors willing to put money into social ventures, but the legislation at that time also included a clause that would bring the scheme to an end in April 2021.

It is true that to date SITR has been under-utilised and has not produced the level of investment originally predicted, but this must be qualified by saying that SITR is over-complicated, little understood, ineffectively marketed and subject to extremely low public awareness. 

For some time now, Big Society Capital has been campaigning for the Treasury to clarify its position on SITR and in a letter to the Treasury signed by 33 of the UK’s leading social investors and third sector organisations is urging reform and extension of the scheme.

SITR may need reform and improvement, but now is surely not the time to scrap legislation that can help get money into social enterprises and other social purpose organisations.

If you feel strongly about this you can use the very simple Write to Them website to identify your MP and compose and send a letter. Once written, you get an automated email confirmation notice that enables you to authenticate the letter; it is then sent via the website, and each letter is assigned an electronic signature further authenticating it. WriteToThem is independent and is run by the charity mySociety.

Voluntary Sector Studies Network to host free 2-day e-conference

Times Like These: Researching civil society responses to and recovery from COVID-19

This forthcoming free e-conference may be of interest to some.

The Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) has just announced that this year its annual conference will be free and online. The conference theme concerns the wider civil society response to Covid-19. The focus will be on discussing current research and big ideas on civil society responses to and implications of COVID-19. There will be sessions on philanthropy and voluntary organisations, volunteering and mutual aid.

The aim is to bring together researchers and practitioners to explore what has been learnt from this crisis, and what it means for the future of civil society.

Keynote speakers already include Karl Wilding (NCVO), Anna Fowlie (SCVO), Nasar Haghamed (Islamic World Relief), and our own Brian Carr from BVSC. More speakers will be announced soon.

VSSN welcomes proposals from researchers (new and old), practitioners and others who have evidence to share on how civil society is responding to and affected by Covid-19. The deadline for expressions of interest is 5pm on the 30th June 2020.

→ More about the conference here.

REGISTER (free).

iSE celebrates 20th anniversary

During June 2020 iSE celebrates its 20th anniversary. BSSEC and iSE have worked together for almost the entirety of that time and for a good part of it Sarah has also served as chair of BSSEC and one of its Directors.

I think many will agree that without the efforts of Sarah and her various teams over the past two decades, the social enterprise sector in Birmingham — and indeed beyond — would not be what it currently is. Congratulations on your twentieth anniversary, iSE.

The message below explains how iSE will be celebrating…

*

iSE co-founder Sarah Crawley: June 2020 marks the organisation’s 20th anniversary

June sees iSE joint founder and current CEO, Sarah Crawley, and the team mark the date when iSE was incorporated as a community interest company — 23rd June 2000 — and celebrate twenty years of operating as a social enterprise.

Sarah has led iSE CIC through successive periods of change — some good, some extremely challenging — and iSE is now widely recognised as one of the most sustainable local and regional social enterprise development agencies in what is a very tough and demanding marketplace.

Throughout June, iSE will be sharing highlights from the last 20 years so please feel free to enjoy some quick reads, news and messages on our website here.

Sarah Crawley says, ‘This anniversary is our way of not only sharing our story but thanking all those amazing entrepreneurs, supporters and #socent friends who have been, and still are, part of our sustainability and success. Real achievement is always a collaboration of great people willing to share ideas, passion and knowledge – it’s definitely a “team game”!’

‘iSE — or, to use our full registered name, Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs CIC — makes me hugely proud. To have sustained through 20 years feels to me like a massive achievement. Our staff and our Board have been integral to our success and sustainability. Over the years we have flexed and changed to continue to meet the needs of trading social businesses and this has enabled us to focus especially on supporting economically marginalised groups and the development of the trading environment for social enterprises. Relationships and strong, working partnerships are at the heart of everything we do: we recognise when we don’t have the skills but others do, and we want to thank everyone we have worked with over the past 20 years for your support and commitment.’

WiSE WEDNESDAY WEBINAR | 10th June 2020, 10.00am

Sarah is the expert speaker for the next free WiSE Wednesday webinar on the subject of LEADERSHIP, ADVERSITY & SUSTAINABILITY.

Ensuring sustainability through adversity, while maintaining enthusiasm and leading a diverse team, Sarah shares her journey and key learning points from the last twenty years and helps us look ahead to post-lockdown opportunities and the social enterprise landscape ahead. There really couldn’t be a more appropriate topic in the current circumstances, could there?

→ PLEASE BOOK ON TO #WiSEWednesday WEBINAR #4 HERE.

Read more about the WiSE Wednesday webinar series.

→ Read previous posts on this blog about WiSE Wednesday webinars.

Accord Group emergency volunteering roles to support vulnerable residents — update

The Accord Group is one of the largest housing and social care organisations in the Midlands, providing 13,000 affordable homes and health and social care to 80,000 people and employing nearly 4,000.

In the first few days of April Accord was appealing for emergency volunteers to support its critical services during the Covid-19 emergency.

We have just received an update. Eighteen new volunteer roles are currently being advertised on the Do-It website.

This PDF gives details of the times/days of the roles and locations. The roles are split more or less equally between Volunteer Grocery Shopping/Delivery, and Admin Volunteering.

If you have any questions about these roles you can contact Dee Kumari at Accord: send mail or text/call 07788 385390. Thank you.

Details of roles.

Apply to volunteer.

→ See all posts tagged coronavirus updates.