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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.

#C19SupportBrum

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

iSE

Calling all social entrepreneurs — free learning programme & grant

Calling All Social Entrepreneurs – Free Learning Programme & Grant

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

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

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

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

Information Sessions on:

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

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

Digbeth — ‘Shop for Change’ marketplace

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

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

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

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

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

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

If so, send mail to Paul Barnes at iSE.

Comments now working

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

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

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

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

Start-Up Connections…from the University of Birmingham

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

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

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

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

Get along to find out more about:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register via Eventbrite.

Sarah Crawley to leave iSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please read Sarah’s own message below.

*  *  *

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

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

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

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

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

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

With best wishes,  Sarah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See PDF for more information.

Apply here.

Make Someone’s Day — new movement for friendliness launches in Birmingham

Do you know that 37% of Birmingham residents aged over 65 live alone? And that almost half of all Birmingham residents (49%) say that their neighbours are strangers to them?

A new city-wide campaign — a movement for friendliness — is being launched to try and counter this drift towards social isolation and loneliness and it is called MAKE SOMEONE’S DAY.

The whole point about Make Someone’s Day is that it is about simple, achievable steps — a chat in the bus queue, a greeting and a bit of friendliness in the check-out line or while waiting for the train — these numerous small steps, magnified across the whole city, helping to create a new spirit of neighbourliness.

In every conversation…there’s an opportunity to make a difference  — Make Someone’s Day

You can find out more about Make Someone’s Day HERE or come along to the launch in Centenary Square at 2.30pm on Friday 20th March.

Come along to the launch. And if you would like a Make Someone’s Day campaign banner or other materials for circulation or display, please send mail to Elina Rosen at BVSC who has lots — and they are free!

Download the flyer (PDF).

→ Download the invitation (PDF).

Responding to change together: Funding reimagined for a new decade — WM Funders Network announces major conference

CONFERENCE
Responding to change together: Funding reimagined for a new decade
Date: Thursday 12th March 2020, 10:30 – 15:45 GMT
Organisers: WM Funders Network, One Walsall and SCVO
Venue: Walsall Football Stadium, Bescot Stadium, Bescot Crescent, Walsall WS1 4SA
Tickets: £15.00

A forthcoming conference organised by the WM Funders Network in conjunction with One Walsall and SCVO will examine new thinking and practices that can help ensure that a funding landscape exists in the West Midlands that can genuinely help the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector meet the social challenges and new trends it faces.

The event will bring together voluntary and community groups, charities, social enterprises, trusts, social finance organisations and funding experts.

The conference, the first collaboration of its kind between the partners, will be introduced and chaired by Rita Chadha, chief executive of the Small Charities Coalition and is sponsored by Brewin Dolphin, Charity Bank and The National Lottery Community Fund. Jane Ide, Chief Executive of NAVCA will be the event’s keynote speaker.

There will be breakout sessions on topical funding issues raised by VCSE and WM funding members in late 2019. Sessions include User Involvement (why should funders get involved), Measuring Success (outputs, outcomes and impact), Partnership Working (shared learning and collaborative approaches between funders and the sector), the Value of Data (how digital can help) and Sustainability (what does this mean).

Conferences like this are invaluable not just for sharing ideas but also for demonstrating how good quality funding applications need to be supported by good communications, clear planning, good governance, purposeful data and a deep understanding of world around us — Rita Chadha, Conference Chair

Amongst the VCSE organisations who will be on hand to showcase their activities and provide funders with expert sector feedback will be the Ethical Property Company, Cranfield Trust, Citizen Coaching, Dudley CVS, and Wolverhampton CVS.

For more information about the conference send mail to Dipali Chandra at WM Funders Network.

Stay tuned to the WM Funders Network and Twitter for updates.

#respondingtogetherWM

REGISTER HERE.

 

ART launches second share offer — ‘mainstream banks still don’t understand inclusive economic growth and that’s why lenders like ART are necessary’ says CEO

Since 1997, ART has loaned nearly £30 million, helping to create and support 8,000 jobs. It now urgently needs to raise more funds or in two to three years its ability to lend will be substantially reduced, the lender says.

‘Mainstream banks still don’t understand the concept of inclusive economic growth’ — Dr Steve Walker, ART CEO

ART Business Loans, founded twenty-two years ago to support local jobs in areas underserved by mainstream finance, began life as the result of a report by the Aston Commission, a task force chaired by the late Sir Adrian Cadbury.

The Commission was set up to investigate ways of improving financial inclusion and access to business finance in Aston, its aim to try and break the cycle of financial exclusion and the indifference of the high street banks which together had helped fuel generations of unemployment in the area.

Sir Adrian Cadbury became the chair of ART’s first board and Steve Walker joined in 1996 as a secondee from Barclays Bank, where he had been Senior Corporate Manager based in Leamington. Steve became chief executive at launch in 1997 and has led ART ever since.

But this brave new world of community finance was not immediately auspicious, Steve recalls. ‘At first there were just the two of us – me on secondment and a student who today we would call an intern. We operated from kindly donated but rather ramshackle office space and in the first year we lent less than £200,000. Today, we are still based in Aston but we have six staff with a voluntary board of directors in modern offices in Innovation Birmingham Campus. We are still targeting underserved areas and communities – this remains our social mission – but we now lend £3 million a year across the whole of the West Midlands, with loans ranging from £10,000 to £150,000.’

But after helping over 1,400 West Midlands businesses grow and create jobs for over two decades, ART itself now stands at a crossroads.

‘The fact is,’ says Steve Walker, ‘we are a victim of our own success. Three-and-a-half years of Brexit uncertainty and public sector austerity haven’t helped either, of course. Demand is as big as it has ever been and we want to be able to lend more. But the harsh truth of the matter is, we have got to look at new ways of raising money for lending on to small businesses and social enterprises.’

Last year ART raised £250,000 from a pioneering community share offer using the Ethex social investment platform. This initial share offer was supported by several high-profile regional business leaders, including Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce boss Paul Faulkner, a former Chief Executive at Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest. A second share offer, providing impressive financial returns of up to 9.1 per cent per annum for five years, is open until March 24th 2020.

Since 1997, ART has loaned nearly £30 million, helping to create and support 8,000 jobs and demand for finance at the levels offered by ART continues to grow. ‘But despite the plethora of alternative finance providers who have emerged following the banking crisis,’ Steve Walker explains, ‘the appetite of the mainstream banks to lend to small businesses hasn’t grown – in fact, for reasons the banks regard as soundly commercial, it has reduced. This is why the role of a lender like ART — which is itself a social enterprise and lends in order to achieve a social purpose — remains crucial. We’re doing what mainstream lenders won’t.’

‘It is ironic,’ says Steve Walker, ‘that more than two decades after we began life we now have politicians in the West Midlands – in the shape of the metro Mayor and the West Midlands Combined Authority – who see the critical importance of what is being termed “inclusive economic growth”. They understand that “business as usual” will only increase inequalities and perpetuate financial exclusion. This is what dear Sir Adrian Cadbury was talking about thirty years ago. And yet the mainstream banks still don’t get this. They don’t see any longer-term social good – they just see lending decisions that wouldn’t be good for their profits or their shareholders.’

ART has been supported over the years by a variety of financial backers, including national and local government, businesses looking to exercise Corporate Social Responsibility, personal investors interested in both a social and financial return, and in recent years substantially by its own bankers Unity Trust Bank.

Interested in investing?

If you are interested in investing in ART and helping it do more to support the West Midlands economy you can read its full share offer document and register to buy shares HERE.

The financial return on the investment is in the form of a tax relief called Community Investment Tax Relief. This provides a deduction from tax paid each year for five years off an individual’s or company’s tax bill of five per cent, which can equate to up to 9.1 per cent for the highest taxpayer. At the end of the period the capital is returned to the investor or can be reinvested for a further five years.

Read more about ART’s 2020 share offer here.

Read the full prospectus for the share offer on the Ethex website.

ART team (l-to-r): Steve Walker, Yasar Irfat, Martin Edmonds, Christine Allen-Lloyd, Graham Donaldson, Rozna Haque

Royal Society for Public Health launches new West Mids social investment fund for VCSE health & wellbeing providers

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has just announced that it is launching a new social investment fund for the West Midlands aimed specifically at enabling voluntary and community sector and social enterprise (VCSE) health and wellbeing providers grow, scale-up and extend their reach.

The fund, which is supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Connect Fund (managed by the Barrow Cadbury Trust) will be  delivered in partnership with social investor the Key Fund.

The RSPH says that throughout 2020 it will be developing a social investment portfolio that supports six VCSE providers in health and wellbeing. It is looking for investment cases with organisations that provide meaningful social impact and help tackle social and health inequalities. The aim is to help applicants scale-up and extend their reach.

The RSPH believes that finding new ways to support VCSEs in health is important. VCSEs, it says, are increasingly recognised for the services they offer in early intervention, wellbeing and addressing social inequalities, they have a strong on-the-ground presence, and are able to integrate care approaches and reach marginalised and excluded groups.

Launch event

The fund is being launched with a briefing event on the 6th February 2020, from 9.45am – 1pm, in the Cadbury Room, Aston University, Birmingham, B4 7ET.

You can book for the launch event HERE.

Download the leaflet/programme.

Read more about the new fund on the RSPH website.

WMCA pledges to double the size of the social economy over the next decade

Further to this post, the launch of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s new strategy outlining its commitment to doubling the size of the social economy sector in the West Midlands was excellent.

It was held on Thursday 9th January at the beautiful Moseley Community Hub at the old School of Art and was attended by well over a hundred guests.

The WMCA’s new commitment to the social economy grew out of a year’s work by a specially convened sector-led task force, brought together at the Mayor’s invitation. Its task was to work out how best WMCA could add value, scale and impact to the work already happening in the West Midlands to support and grow the social economy.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, spoke passionately about his commitment to social enterprise. “My years leading John Lewis,” he explained, “showed me that linking business outcomes with social outcomes delivers huge benefits.”

He went on: “We could have held this launch in a number of city centres, but that would have been too easy. I felt there was a far more powerful symbolism in holding it here in Moseley where even as we speak a new cluster of social enterprises is developing, centred on the lovely old Victorian buildings that have been given a new lease of life and new social purpose.”

The old Moseley School of Art has been reborn as a thriving community hub and shared workspace, and just across the road are the historic Moseley Road Baths which great local determination and dedication have brought back to life (covered here and here on this blog).

West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street: harnessing business outcomes and social outcomes delivers huge benefits

The social economy currently contributes around £3.5bn a year to West Midlands GDP and the Mayor believes this can be doubled to £7bn by 2029. He outlined the six “simple and practical” ways that the task force recommended the WMCA should pursue this aim. These are:

(1)  Boost the collective identity of social enterprise by strengthening and growing its platforms. 

(2)  Develop a collaborative ten-year business case for social enterprise business support.

(3)  Use the efforts of the WMCA Data & Analytics department to develop and disseminate a consistent approach for data collection on social enterprise.

(4)  Use the WMCA’s convening role to encourage all regional public sector bodies and publicly-funded projects to spend at least 5% of their commissioning and procurement budgets with social enterprises.

(5)  Work with partners to lead a campaign to encourage closer links between social enterprises and the wider private sector.

(6)  Work with social finance and investment partners to assess gaps, barriers and improvements that could could boost the impact of social investment, as well as increasing demand.

As well as calling on local authorities in the region to ensure that at least 5% of their commissioning and procurement budgets are spent within the social economy, the Mayor is also calling on local businesses to consider using social enterprises when buying goods or services.

The Mayor ended his remarks by saying that we will see progress on this very quickly, with work to help develop a detailed business plan being put out to public tender very soon.

Many of those I spoke to feel that the WMCA’s bold commitment to growing the social economy marks a new period of opportunity for social enterprise in the West Midlands. Certainly, having an overarching framework for social economy growth in the West Midlands offers yet another dimension to Birmingham Social Enterprise City and we wholeheartedly welcome this development.

Read more on the WMCA website.

Social Enterprise City — new sector trends demand new development priorities

Since reporting in this post on the new trends in the sector that our baseline survey revealed, one of the things that iSE and members of the Social Enterprise City steering group have been thinking through is identifying a new sector development framework that reflects the ways in which the sector is changing.

Let’s remind ourselves of some of the key headlines from the survey and what they mean for the continuing development of the sector.

The survey indicated that Birmingham is characterised by a high proportion of new, young social enterprises that are in the very early stages of trading and their profiles reflect this. For example:
 
  • 41% of SEs responding were established within the past three years – a proportion almost twice that of the national comparator figure (21%).
  • 38% fall into the lowest turnover band – £0K-£24K per year.
  • 38% don’t yet employ staff.
 
Also, national comparator figures (where they exist) suggest that social enterprise growth in Birmingham may be slower than in some other parts of the country: 
 
  • Only 14% of social enterprises in Birmingham fall into the “mid-range” turnover band of 101k-£400k, compared to around 19% nationally.
  • Only about 6% of social enterprises in Birmingham fall into the “upper-range” turnover band of £401k-£901k turnover, compared to an estimated 20%+ nationally. 
 
This suggests that over the next few years, Social Enterprise City priorities should focus on increasing trading and turnover, and boosting prospects for growth and in full the steering group identified four main priorities, as follows:
 
  • Increasing trading, turnover and prospects for growth and scale.
  • Enabling more social enterprises to access contracts, markets and supply-chain opportunities that will enable them to trade their way into “mind-range” and “high-range” turnover.
  • Enabling more social enterprises to become involved in and contribute to place-based community economic development and regeneration.
  • Access to and connection with sources of social finance.
 
The next step was to combine these in a coherent and achievable strategy for sector development and we believe this can be done by focusing on “scale & growth”, “place” and “engagement & access” as shown in the simple graphic below. The boxes with dashed borders show some of the opportunities that have already been identified and which will help us achieve new levels of growth and long-term sustainability in the sector. 
 

Click for larger view

 
Of course, it won’t be possible to do all these things straight away. Some of these opportunities may only require a refocusing of effort or a different way of doing things in order to fully take advantage of them, but others will undoubtedly require extra resources and we are working on this too. A major funding bid is currently in development and if successful will dramatically increase the scale and capacity of the Birmingham Social Enterprise City partnership. We’ll bring you more news of that in due course.
 
In the meantime, the more supporters and partners who are able to reflect the above priorities in their own support programmes and delivery models, the better.
 
If you would like to get more actively involved in Birmingham Social Enterprise City, or can offer help, expertise or other resources to help benefit the social enterprise sector, we want to hear from you — please send mail to Sarah Crawley at iSE.
 
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