Human Lending Library launches in Birmingham

Following in the footsteps of London, Manchester and New York, iSE is delighted to be working with charity Expert Impact to bring the Human Lending Library to Birmingham.

What is the Human Lending Library?

The Human Lending Library connects some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs to organisations making a positive social or environmental impact.

Through the Human Lending Library social entrepreneurs looking for business advice can ‘borrow’ an Expert, for free, to help them solve their challenges and scale.

Experts include the founders of Pret-a-Manger, John Frieda, Mumsnet and many other leading companies. Browse all the experts here.

More than 200 charity and social enterprise leaders have used the service to date including Change Please, a coffee company that trains and employs homeless people as baristas; Harry Specters, a luxury chocolate company staffed by people with autism; and OLIO, an app connecting neighbours to combat food waste.

Read more on the iSE website and complete the online APPLICATION

How it works — on the Expert Impact website 

New ICO guidance — Community groups and COVID-19: what you need to know about data protection

Ian Hulme, Director for Regulatory Assurance at the Information Commissioner’s Office has just published a blog about data protection as it relates to the efforts of small voluntary organisations, community groups and social enterprises during the coronavirus crisis.

Some I have spoken to in the wider third sector say it is exactly the information they have been waiting for and that it is especially important for small, unconstituted and new-start groups that have formed specifically to help during the coronavirus emergency.

Ian Hulme summarises the ICO’s (mercifully short) guidance under six key headings:

  • Keep it clear.
  • Keep sharing.
  • Keep it lawful.
  • Keep it secure.
  • Keep it to a minimum.
  • Keep a record of what you’ve done.


If you are struggling to come up with simple, common sense and proportionate data protection guidelines for a coronavirus support group, this may be just what you need.

Read Community groups and COVID-19: what you need to know about data protection.

The social entrepreneur — thinking aloud… #1

This just in from Sarah Crawley at iSE — the first in a series of posts reflecting on the lessons she is learning as she helps her own and other social enterprises navigate these unprecedented times…

Read on. You may find something you can take heart from.

* * *

As a passionate supporter of social enterprise and social entrepreneurs I’ve been giving some thought to what’s happening to our businesses, the decisions that need to be made and the stages we are going through in this current situation.

My reflection is that our personal situations regarding making sure we, our families and friends have access to food, money, entertainment, shelter, personal contact and exercise are similarly reflected in our approach to our businesses as we aim to stabilise them.

Just as at ‘home’ we are trying to understand how to ‘be’ in this new world, at work we are implementing home-working, mothballing offices, making decisions concerning what work is possible at ‘home’ and bringing in new systems and processes.

What’s important at this time is to realise you aren’t on your own and that all social business leaders are struggling with the same issues. Stabilising the situation is in our DNA and building on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for our businesses we need:

  • Technology to support home working and space to work in.
  • Security of future work coming in.
  • Good communication and support for the psychological needs of our teams.
  • The knowledge that we will be able to continue our businesses and create social value and finally reach a place where we can get innovative, problem-solve and accept the situation we are in.


Many of the organisations we at iSE have been speaking to are very much in this space. ISE has been learning how to use the technology both between ourselves and externally.

Each day we have a team meeting on Zoom to check in personally around mood and also concerning our priorities for the day. We have a virtual cup of coffee – my personal guilty pleasure. We have been looking at what can be delivered virtually, what needs to be mothballed until the autumn and our financial situation.

I think iSE has moved through ‘Stabilise’ and into ‘Sustain’. What I mean by this is that by securing the business so that we can deliver we are now able to make decisions on actual delivery, plan and have clarity on income-generation and work plans.

We are focusing on what we do really well, simplifying what we do and looking after the income streams. The final stage of our development of social businesses will be an understanding of how our businesses will be operating post-lockdown which will inevitably be very different.

Who will be our customers in the future? What will they want? How will products and services be manufactured and delivered? Will people have the money to buy it? We will all need to plan for this — reimagining our businesses for the new operating environment. I’m calling this stage ‘Build’ and it involves rethinking your future in what will inevitably be a new world. It’s an opportunity to think big and create even more social value, which will inevitably be even more important in the new landscape that will emerge.

At the moment I’m desperately trying to understand what our new future will be but I can’t see it yet and it feels too early to understand.

So stabilise, sustain and build – what stage are you at? Feel free to comment and pass on any thoughts on this.

Wishing you all safe and well,

Sarah Crawley CEO iSE

Send mail to Sarah

iSE website

Sarah has been a social entrepreneur for over 20 years, working to support and grow the social enterprise sector in Birmingham, the West Midlands and nationally


iSE — free business support for more established Birmingham & Solihull social enterprise leadership teams

iSE CIC is now able to offer social enterprise chief executives, owners and leaders insightful and in-depth business support through these challenging times, thanks to a new GBSLEP and ERDF funded project.

Directed at more established Birmingham & Solihull social enterprises and their senior management teams, this business support package provides an initial 3 hour Diagnostic Triage identifying your mission-critical business areas.

Through challenging times, it’s easy to ‘just keep going’ when actually the real need is to understand exactly where your enterprise is, what the key areas of activity are, and how to adapt, innovate and diversify to ensure your enterprise is able to survive, sustain and build for the future.

The initial Diagnostic Triage by one of our Lead Social Enterprise Consultants will take you through an objective, comprehensive review to establish where your areas of focus need to be, and challenge your thinking about your enterprise next steps.

Your SE Consultant will then tailor 12 hours of practical, relevant business support for you and your enterprise enabling you to overcome challenges, develop further resilience and implement the building blocks for your sustainable enterprise future.

For a further conversation on how best to engage with this high-value business support programme, please contact Simon Veasey — send mail or ring 0121 771 1411.

Accord social housing and care group seeks emergency volunteers

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.

We have just received the following appeal for emergency volunteers who can support Accord’s critical services during the Covid-19 emergency.

Read on to find out more… 


Like a number of other organisations, Accord has been planning its response to Covid-19 – seeking to identify critical services, plan to keep them open, and thinking about the wider implications.

We would like to ask for your help in case we need to call on volunteers to assist us to support elderly, frail, disabled, and vulnerable people and families in Accord.

In order to prepare for this, we are asking volunteers from the voluntary sector and faith groups to let us know in advance how they can help. At present we are looking for support which will mainly be remote, admin support, grocery shopping, transportation and befriending.

If you are able and willing to offer support as an individual or organisation, we need to know what sort of experience, skills and resources you may have, and whether you have recent DBS checks and/or are ‘known and trusted’ by a council, health and social care service, voluntary sector organisation, or faith group.

For example, do you have any current or previous experience of working in nursing or social care? Have you any experience of providing informal care to a friend or family member, and what sort of help do you think you could provide? If you don’t have any experience as above, what help could you offer?

Training and support will be given when you start. Please contact Dee Kumari at Accord: send mail or text/call 07788 385390. Thank you.

Volunteers are sought for the following Accord locations in the  Midlands: Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Sandwell & Dudley, Telford, Walsall, Stafford, Burton.

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…

* * *

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.

* * *

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