Social Enterprise Drive 21 — all events open for booking

Further to this post, Social Enterprise Drive 2021 (previously City Drive), Birmingham’s very own festival of social enterprise, is fast approaching. All events are open for booking now.

This year, #SED2021 focuses on bringing experiences of social enterprise to the people of Birmingham and the broader West Midlands, by raising awareness and supporting businesses and residents to get involved in their Social Enterprise City. There are 21 online events taking place over 5 days, each showcasing the positive change social enterprises create through innovative approaches and transformational initiatives.

On Thursday 22 April, the STRONGER TOGETHER Conference theme is social enterprise growth featuring 17 expert speakers over 6 sessions that can be chosen and attended to suit your day. In addition, the final session of the day is an open networking hour to meet, connect, collaborate and kickstart those enterprise conversations we’ve all missed over the last year!

How you can help

Birmingham is a ‘go to’ social enterprise place and SED2021 has a social enterprise something for everyone. Please help by:

  • Sharing information/publicity with your networks.
  • Booking on to events yourself and alerting your teams and your community and enterprise partners.
  • Tagging #SED2021 in your social media. iSE will reply and promote your organisation by way of thanks and re-sharing.
  • Including SED2021 details in your organisation newsletters.


Browse all events and book

Human Library Birmingham offers free mentoring for SE leaders & founders in WM

iSE, which manages the Human Lending Library initiative for Birmingham has just announced the following:

Free mentoring offer for SE leaders and founders in the WM from the Human Lending Library Birmingham

The Human Lending Library provides access to high-value mentoring for social entrepreneurs.

From strategy to governance, raising investment and tech, marketing and sales, problem-solving and overcoming business growth challenges, it’s a great opportunity for social entrepreneurs to increase their social impact and solve enterprise growth challenges with a fresh pair of eyes, whilst developing commercial contacts.

Our portfolio of mentors encompasses a full spectrum of business experience across different sectors including tech, retail, marketing, public relations, publishing and more, and includes the founders of Pret-a-MangerJohn FriedaMumsnet, Carphone Warehouse and MajesticWine – to name but a few. All mentors can be browsed here.

Apply here — it takes a few minutes.

Or send mail to Elizabeth Forrester at iSE.

Read more about the Human Lending Library

HUB109 announces ‘Future High Street’ platform — an open call for opinion, ideas and collaboration

We’ve written about Erdington’s HUB109 a couple of times on this blog (here and here). HUB109 is Erdington’s managed workspace and business incubator.

Founder Sean Alimajstorovic has just announced that HUB109 CIC is launching something called Future High Street. Its aim is to crowdsource ideas and innovation and enable partnerships and collaboration that can help re-imagine not just Erdington’s local high street, but declining high streets elsewhere in the city too, where a slow downward spiral of closures and voids has been massively accelerated by Covid.

Future High Streets plans to examine four key ideas:

  • What do you want the High Street to be?
  • How can we improve our High Streets?
  • How can we bring and implement innovative solutions and concepts to our High Streets?
  • How can we prepare the High Streets for coming decades?


HUB109 is asking you to contribute in one or all of the following ways:


Read the full story here.

City Drive is back — now rebranded Social Enterprise Drive 21, packed with events, fully online

With 21 online events over five days from 19th-23rd April, Social Enterprise Drive 2021 (the rebranded City Drive) is back for its eighth year, celebrating social enterprise in Birmingham and beyond.

While tirelessly organised as ever by the team at iSE, Social Enterprise Drive couldn’t happen without the support of its sponsors, the support of the social enterprises that offer to deliver events — and the support of you, the people who come along every year to participate in a sector celebration that to the best of my knowledge has no real counterpart anywhere else in the country.

Social Enterprise Drive is truly a collaboration — by the sector, for the sector, with the sector — and that it has become a fixture in the social enterprise ‘season’ that not even COVID has been able to halt speaks volumes about the determination iSE brings to this. It is appropriate, then, that the flagship event of the week is ‘Stronger Together’ on Thursday 22nd April (09.10am-3.30pm), a social enterprise conference about the power of collaborating for growth.

As Sarah Crawley notes with some sadness in her introduction to the programme, this will be the last Social Enterprise Drive she curates, as she is soon to step down as chief exec of iSE. Personally, I don’t quite believe her: I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that she has a hand — somehow — in Social Enterprise Drive 2022. Think of it — a Social Enterprise Drive that coincides with the opening of the Common Wealth Games? I think she might find that challenge too hard too ignore…

Well done to everyone who has made Social Enterprise 2021 happen.

View the full programme

All booking links

‘Transforming Public Procurement’ Green Paper — consultation ends 10th March

I wrote some while back about the publication of the Government’s Green Paper, Transforming Public Procurement. I was reminded today (thank you, Sarah Crawley) that the consultation on these proposed changes closes on the 10th March.

If, like me, you are struggling to fully understand the implications this Green Paper may have for social sector organisations, then some of the heavy lifting in analysis has been done. And make no mistake — concern regarding at least some of the proposals is mounting.

NCVO believes that in seeking to slash red tape and simplify procurement rules too little thought has been given to the commissioning of services as opposed to the purchase of goods and works. A new “one-size-fits-all approach”, NCVO’s Rebecca Young says in this blog post, will encourage authorities “to design services to fit the procurement process rather than the other way around”.

Lloyds Bank Foundation echoes this same point: “In trying to simplify the rules, the Government proposes bringing together lots of different rules into one. The collateral damage in doing so is to assume that purchasing paper clips for Whitehall requires the same process as funding wrap-around support for someone facing homelessness in Port Talbot.”

Locality has a very useful blog post written by Julian Blake, a partner at Stone King LLP, which argues that services should be procured simply and collaboratively and should be “local by default”. Locality argues that public procurement can and should play a key role in how local authorities shape local places and support local wealth creation. 

A piece on the Homecare Insight blog by Matthew Wort, a partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors, makes similar arguments but usefully suggests that in the limited time now left those wishing to contribute to the government’s consultation should focus their fire on two questions:

Q8. Are there areas where our proposed reforms could go further to foster more effective innovation in procurement?

Q9. Are there specific issues you have faced when interacting with contracting authorities that have not been raised here and which inhibit the potential for innovative solutions or ideas?

I hope some of these pointers are useful to anyone looking to make a last minute contribution to this Green Paper consultation.


ChangeKitchen builds on supper club success

Further to this post, ChangeKitchen CIC has announced that it is building on the success of its Valentine’s Day click+collect suppers — each order included a donated ‘community meal’ — by launching a new and similarly arranged supper club.

The Social Supper Club officially launches on Saturday 6th March 2021 — the weekend before International Women’s Day.

For every £20 spent on supper club orders ChangeKitchen CIC will provide £5 of nutritious homemade meals back into the local community. Click+collect suppers are for pick-up from ChangeKitchen at 196-198 Edward Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham B12 9LX for heating and eating at home.

Financial support from the National Lottery’s social enterprise support fund enabled ChangeKitchen CIC to re-evaluate its business model and develop new services and catering offers that are Covid-secure while also delivering additional community benefit. The National Lottery social enterprise support fund has distributed £18.7m-worth of vital financial support to 618 social enterprises during the pandemic.

Read the full story over on the ChangeKitchen website.

iSE is seeking a new chief executive

iSE’s CEO, Sarah Crawley — the search for her successor is again underway

I’m not going to embarrass either myself or Sarah Crawley by repeating everything I said in this post when last her departure from iSE was announced.

She didn’t leave. Her plans coincided with the outbreak of the Covid pandemic and lockdown and she delayed her departure at the request of iSE’s Board which wanted Sarah at the helm to steer the organisation through the crisis.

Well, she has done that and a new recruitment exercise is underway to find her successor as iSE’s chief executive. Roots HR CIC is handling the recruitment.

Trust me when I say that jobs of this significance in the social enterprise support sector don’t come up every day.

The closing date for applications is Thursday 12th March 2021 at 12 noon.

 Advert and full details here.

WMCA launches Community Recovery Innovation Challenge — three top prizes of £15,000

West Midlands Combined Authority has launched a brand new competition for bright ideas that will help people in communities across the West Midlands get through the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

The Community Recovery Innovation Challenge will provide three top projects with up to £15,000 in investment and coaching. There will also be cash prizes and support for an additional 20 shortlisted projects.

» Are you based in the West Midlands?

» Do you have an innovative idea or project that can improve the lives of citizens as we build back better from the pandemic?

» Would you like the chance to get coaching and support that could take your project to the next level?

Entries close on Sunday 21 March 2021.

Read the full story on the WMCA website

University of Birmingham’s fully-funded Impact Internships

Not to be confused with the internships programme covered in this earlier post, the University of Birmingham also operates a scheme called Impact Internships.

These are designed specifically to enable start-ups, social enterprises and SMEs to recruit talented students or graduates from the university to provide support with specific projects.

The scheme offers fully funded internships, taking place over the summer for a period of 20 working days, either on a full time or part-time basis. The intern could contribute to a specific project or their work could involve whatever best suits your business requirements at this time. If you have a graduate role you would like to recruit for, you may wish to offer an initial trial period of 20 working days and utilise the funding this way.

The programme will be advertised to final year students and recent graduates in March 2021, with recruitment taking place in April 2021.

If you wish to recruit an intern through the scheme, please complete this short registration form by Sunday 14th February 2021.

If you have any questions or need more information please email the team.

Read more about the University of Birmingham’s Impact Internships 

WMCA launches new creative & cultural social enterprise support pilot

The West Midlands Combined Authority has just launched a pilot project to test new approaches to developing cultural & creative social enterprises. The programme is supported by the Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP, Black Country Consortium (LEP) and Arts Council England.

WMCA says the project is designed to provide a rapid pilot to address challenges raised by the Covid-19 epidemic, particularly for smaller, diverse-led organisations operating hyper-locally within their communities. It will provide an opportunity for selected cultural & creative social enterprises to focus on business development through a core grant and a tailored training & mentoring support offer. Participating organisations will also be resourced to support micro social enterprises in their area.

Key facts

WMCA is looking to award two £30,000 grants to eligible cultural & creative social enterprises to enable them to develop their own business models and in turn support five micro-social enterprises with advice, business support and a small grant.

No match funding required.

Applications for the two host organisation roles are now open and close on 1st March 2021.

Read full information and applications details on the WMCA website

The state of economic justice in Birmingham & the Black Country 2021 — major new report published

The funding that The Barrow Cadbury Trust invests in its Economic Justice programme continues to help break new and important ground.

The New Policy Institute (NPI), supported by The Barrow Cadbury Trust, has just published its second major analysis of economic justice in Birmingham and the Black Country.

The State of Economic Justice in Birmingham and the Black Country 2021 examines the state of ‘economic justice’ in Birmingham and the four local authority areas of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton under four headings:

» Population and public.
» Household and community resources.
» Productivity and jobs.
» Employment, pay and job security.
» Housing.

The report follows the IPPR’s definition of economic justice as ‘an economy that fairly generates and distributes its rewards’.

The report acknowledges that the existence of many deeply deprived local areas in Birmingham and the Black Country will “not be news to people who know the area well”. But its aim — and it is a vital one — is to ensure “that what is known through experience is reflected in official statistics”. And this is what the report does an excellent job of — setting Birmingham and Black Country data in a national context.

The wealth of data and analysis in NPI’s new report will act as a source-book for a long time to come for anyone whose work touches on social and economic justice in Birmingham and the Black Country.

ChangeKitchen CIC — order your click+collect Valentine’s Day supper and donate a community meal for four

ChangeKitchen CIC has announced a new Click+Collect supper club, starting 14th February with a Valentine’s soul food menu that ‘shares some love’ by also reducing food poverty in Birmingham communities. Now you can treat someone you love to a delicious Valentine’s meal while also donating a nutritious family meal for four to the community.

With so many people wanting to connect in new ways while in lockdown, it’s more important than ever to show those we love just how much they mean to us.

ChangeKitchen’s three-course pan-African vegan Valentine’s meal is one way to celebrate those who are special in your life. So set the table, light the candles and let ChangeKitchen CIC provide that romantic restaurant quality meal to share. Order today to pick up in person from anytime between 5-7pm on Sunday 14th February and heat at home.

Read the full story & order here

Harness the power of smart phone tech to make better videos — watch the workshop replay

Image: courtesy BVSC

I wrote in a recent post about a free online workshop on smart phone video production skills being offered by Ruth Duggal of Make Your Own Video Training Academy (MYO VDO) in conjunction with BVSC. That webinar took place on 20th January but you can still view the recording here (on YouTube). In a brisk 57 minutes Ruth covers a fantastic amount:

  • Why video is such an effective method of communication.
  • What is a “well-made” video?
  • How and why you should be “authentic”.
  • Video and the “trust factor”.
  • Building a viewer profile.
  • Common barriers to make-your-own video production and how to overcome them.
  • Video as part of a communications strategy.
  • Storyboards and how to use them.
  • Gaining confidence and overcoming camera shyness.
  • The 5 Ps of presenting.
  • DIY vs call-in-the-professionals.
  • Equipment — what you need and (more importantly) what you don’t need…


… And more.

There are also download links to free templates — such as analysing your viewer profile and 50 types of video you can make.

If you didn’t manage to catch the webinar then tune-in for a complete replay. I must say, video is a complete mystery to me and I found this an hour well-spent.

Watch the webinar recording

Ruth Duggal and the MYO VDO academy

Could your social enterprise benefit from the support of bright and motivated University of Birmingham students?

Last year we helped promote placements for University of Birmingham College of Arts & Law students and this was extremely successful — the take-up amongst Birmingham social enterprises was excellent.

The university’s 2021 placement offer is just in — please see below.


Could you benefit from the support of bright and motivated University of Birmingham students?

Placement students from the College of Arts and Law can help your organisation in a host of ways through the Professional Skills Module, which co-ordinates 70-hour work placements running from June-December. Our students are keen to work with charities, social enterprises, start-ups and SMEs as they provide a more rounded experience and responsibility.

We are seeking virtual roles, with a dedicated project or research focus and remote supervisory guidance; or location-based roles, within Covid guidelines, with a virtual contingency. The extra capacity and support you gain will help towards the students’ degree.

What could you achieve with the energy, creativity, writing and research skills of some of our brightest minds during these challenging times?

Download the PDF for further details

Or send mail to Lesley Griffiths, Placements Officer

BVSC/Shuut Videos — harness the power of smartphone video tech in a free online workshop

Image: courtesy BVSC

Free workshop: How To Get Better At Video
Date: Wednesday 20th January 2021
Time: 10.00-11.00

Charities and voluntary organisations have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Demand for services has increased yet fundraising opportunities – especially in-person – have disappeared overnight. It doesn’t take an economist to work out that the funding gap is getting wider.

The key for many will lie in effective digital communications. But executing an effective digital comms strategy is not so simple, especially for smaller organisations. With every penny spent on frontline provision, there’s often nothing in the pot to pay communications professionals — and overstretched staff and volunteers often lack the time to organise and run digital campaigns, even if they know how.

So what can you do? Get smart about your communications — by making videos with your phone…

Read more about the free online workshop that BVSC and Ruth Duggal of Shuut videos are offering and book your place.

School for Social Entrepreneurs is promoting three new programmes

The School for Social Entrepreneurs is currently promoting three new programmes of support for social entrepreneurs and we said we’d help get the word out. The programmes are as follows:

Black Social Entrepreneurs Futures Programme

This programme is for people who identify as all of the following:

  • Black.
  • Supporting predominately Black communities.
  • Based in and working in the West Midlands.
  • Have already set up your Social Enterprise.


The programme will help you:

  • Strengthen your project with our free learning programme.
  • Grow your income from trading, so you can increase your social impact.
  • Gain a network of peers, who will help you develop your plans and act as a sounding board.
  • Get 1-to-1 advice from a business expert.
  • Get mentoring from a senior manager from Gowling WLG.


Apply no later than midnight on 31st January (sooner would be better).


Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme

The Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs Programme is run in partnership with the School for Social Entrepreneurs, and jointly funded by The National Lottery Community Fund.

The programme formally opens for applications in the new year but is now open for Expressions of Interest.

It could support you with:

  • A free learning programme, shaped by your needs, to help you adapt to a post-Covid new normal.
  • A grant (£1,000 – £7,000).
  • Mentoring.
  • A supportive community of like-minded peers.


There are 3 levels you could apply to:

Start Up
» Your project is in the planning stages but ready to start, or less than two years old. It makes £0 – £15,000 a year.
» You want to learn how to establish your organisation.

Register interest in the 2021-22 programme and SSE will email you when applications open.

Trade Up
» Your project has been running for at least a year.
» It makes at least £15,000 a year.

Register interest in the 2021-22 programme and SSE will email you when applications open.

Scale Up
Your project was probably established two or more years ago, and probably has two or more paid members of staff.
» It makes at least £75,000 a year (no upper limit).

Register interest in the 2021-22 programme and SSE will email you when applications open.

For more information and advance expressions of interest.

Heritage Trade Up Programme

Are you looking to strengthen the financial resilience and governance capabilities of your heritage organisation? This programme, in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund, will offer eight months of capacity building support for a broad range of heritage sector organisations from across the UK.

SSE will support you to develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes you need to develop enterprise models and deepen social and/or environmental impact. You will be part of a safe and supportive group of like-minded peers.

The programme offers:

  • Eight days of cohort-based learning between October 2021 – June 2022.
  • Up to £10,00 Match Trading grant.
  • Support network of like-minded peers.


The application window opens in February 2021 – register your interest to be alerted when recruitment goes live.

Green Paper aims to ‘transform’ public procurement

New plans to radically reform public procurement regulations have been published in the Green Paper ‘Transforming public procurement‘ (Dec 2020, CP 353).

The end of the Transition Period offers an “historic opportunity to overhaul our outdated public procurement regime,” the Green Paper says, and calls for the opening up public procurement to a more diverse supply base so that it is easier for new entrants such as small businesses, social enterprises and voluntary and charitable organisations to compete and win public contracts.

Yes, we have heard this before, and we will have to wait to see how these proposals actually play out in practical terms. However, if fully implemented, the Green Paper lays out changes in procurement legislation that would:

  • Sweep aside over 300 individual rules and introduce a single unified rule book.
  • Overhaul numerous complex procedures and replace them with three simple modern procedures.
  • Allow more freedom for suppliers and the public sector to work together and innovate.
  • Allow buyers to include the wider social benefits of a supplier when assessing who to award a contract to.
  • Give buyers the power to properly take account of a bidder’s past performance and exclude suppliers who have failed to deliver in the past.
  • Establish a new unit to oversee public procurement with powers to improve commercial skills of public sector contractors.
  • Introduce a single digital platform for registering contracts.


The proposed new rules will allow the public sector to ‘buy British’ for contracts not subject to international trade rules and ‘reserve’ public works contracts under £4.7m and goods and services contracts under £122k for small businesses, voluntary, community and social enterprises, or to bidders in specific geographical areas. (UPDATE 21/12/20: Further government guidance on the ‘reserving’ of contracts has just been issued — Policy Note PN 11/20 — and Andrew Millcross on Anthony Collins Solicitors’ blog makes interesting observations this.)

The Green Paper also seems to introduce a slightly broader interpretation of social value: “When public bodies are considering how social value benefits can be delivered through their contracts,” the press statement says, “the new rules will make it possible for them to consider full value to society and not just the public body undertaking the procurement. This means more, wider opportunities to deliver social value through public contracts.”

The Green Paper is subject to public consultation until 10th March 2021.

Cabinet Office press statement.

Transforming public procurement — full Green Paper.

→ There is extensive commentary on the proposals over on the How to Crack a Nut blog (which is written by a Professor of Economic Law and member of the European Procurement Law Group).

Roots HR CIC is recruiting

Founded in 2009, Roots HR CIC provides high quality and affordable HR services to social sector organisations. It has just announced the following vacancy:

Founder and Chief Executive, Jan Golding, is leaving her employed role in April 2021 to pursue new goals, while retaining her role as Chair of the Board.

With an unprecedented demand for our services at this time, it is an appropriate point to conduct a strategic review of the organisation with the aim of increasing and improving the support we offer to the social sector.

We are therefore seeking to appoint an Interim Chief Executive who will lead the organisation and conduct this review while overseeing the governance, finance and operations of the business whilst ensuring we continue to maximise our social impact.

Closing date: 8th January 2021.

We wish Jan well for the future, and we wish Roots HR CIC every success in recruiting to this role.


UK Shared Prosperity Fund — £220m extra funding for ‘piloting and testing new approaches’

With thanks to Debbie Assinder who posted this on LinkedIn.

In the November Spending Review, the chancellor announced that £220 million will be allocated in 2021/22 to help local areas prepare for the introduction of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).

From 2022 the  UKSPF replaces EU structural funds such as ERDF and ESF and will be worth about £1.5bn a year. The UKSPF will be allocated to bespoke employment and skills programmes tailored to the needs of local areas. Funding will also be targeted to the areas most in need, such as ex-industrial areas, deprived towns and rural and coastal communities.

While full details about the UKSPF will not be announced until spring 2021 it’s encouraging to see an explicit commitment to early funds being dedicated to enabling “communities to pilot programmes and new approaches”.

We must ensure that social enterprises and VCOs in local communities are ready and able to access these funds.

Read more on this story in the Local Government Chronicle 

New BVSC report reveals detailed picture of the impact of the Covid crisis on Birmingham’s VCS — and the sector’s contribution

A new report just published by BVSC reveals a fascinating and detailed picture of the impact of the Covid crisis on Birmingham’s voluntary and community sector.

Birmingham Voluntary Service Council: State of the Sector 2020: Digest of Headlines brings together key findings from a survey redesigned from the ground up to furnish as much data as possible about VCOs in Birmingham as they entered lockdown and as lockdown was lifted.

We all know that the VCSE has been instrumental in the civil response to Covid. 89% of respondents report significantly changing their service delivery in order to meet new and emerging need arising from the pandemic – and doing this often with no additional funding. And while some organisations necessarily had to cut back or curtail some services, over 65% of VCOs actually expanded their services during the lockdown period in order to meet rising demand.

If you want to know more about what being part of the civil response to Covid has actually meant in practice for VCOs in Birmingham, including the likely longer-term trends in income, staffing capacity and volunteering, then you’ll find this report interesting.

(And in the interests of full disclosure, yes I did do some of the work involved.)

Go to the BVSC blog to read a full post from chief executive Brian Carr offering a commentary on key headlines — also, download the full report.