John Taylor Hospice launches ‘special moments’ art competition for children

Mandy Pritchard (L), JTH Health Care Assistant and Mark Jones (R), JTH Head of Community Engagement

Children aged 11 and under across Birmingham and the West Midlands are being offered the chance to win art materials in a competition to picture their ‘special moments’. The art produced by winners and runners-up will be featured in a special month-long exhibition at Oikos Café, a popular community enterprise café on Erdington High Street. The café is operated by OIKOS Church. The competition — Moments that Matter — has been organised jointly by John Taylor Hospice (JTH) in partnership with the Oikos Café.

“We’re urging children to paint, draw or colour their special moments,” says JTH’s head of community engagement, Mark Jones, “because our motto is ‘every moment matters’. We want children across the region to create a picture of their special moments — the things that make life worthwhile to them. That could be a a favourite holiday, a drawing of a treasured pet, a painting of their family or simply a picture of something they love to do.”

The hospice cares for people as they approach the end of their lives and believes that celebrating life — all the special moments and memories that have made up that life — is a central part of this.

The Moments that Matter competition has been launched by the hospice as part of the Birmingham-wide festival A Matter of Life and Death which aims to encourage people of all ages to have open and honest conversations about living and dying.

The competition forms part of the hospice’s community engagement work with schools, groups and local businesses.

The exhibition featuring the winning artwork will run throughout May and winners will also be invited to a special Café Arts Evening of Creativity at Oikos Café on Friday 17 May from 6pm where their prizes will be presented.

The closing date for the competition is Wednesday 24 April.

Full details including entry forms are on the JTH website.

Forthcoming free training sessions at the Women’s Enterprise Hub

The Women’s Enterprise Hub has just announced the following sessions. Book early to avoid disappointment.

Social Media Workshop 27th February 10am-1pm

Learn all you need to know about Social Media for your organisation:

• General introduction to different social media platforms.
• The uses of each platform.
• Social Media Do’s and Dont’s.
• Learn how to set up a Facebook page.

Booking essential. To book a place please contact Mariam Yate — send mail or ring 0121 663 1711.

Sales Training Workshop 26th March 10am-1.30pm

Impact Sales Coaching is delivering an intensive and interactive sales training experience. Develop your skills and learn the following:

• Enhancing your sales mindset, confidence, resilience and motivation.
• Insight into sales strategy.
• Working with prospect stakeholders including gatekeepers, influencers and decision makers.
• Step-by-step process for overcoming and thriving on sales objections.

The training will be delivered by Adam Wootton, Managing Director of Impact Sales who has helped many businesses of different sizes and sectors throughout Birmingham and the black country.

Booking essential. To book a place please contact Mariam Yate — send mail or ring 0121 663 1711.

New CIC opens its doors on Erdington High St — HUB 109 has great ambitions

HUB 109, Erdington High Street

A new Community Interest Company has opened its doors at 109 High Street, Erdington, and is busy combining serviced and hot desking space, business incubation support, business consultancy and social benefit. It is called HUB 109 and its founder Sean Alimajstorovic has been explaining the enterprise’s purpose.

“Incorporated as recently as December 2018, HUB 109’s newly refurbished premises offer cost-effective solutions for local businesses — whether they are seeking shared hot desking space, incubation and start-up support, networking opportunities or permanent tenancies,” explains Sean. “It’s all about providing benefit to business start ups.”

He continues: “Our mission is to help and support entrepreneurs or intending entrepreneurs, freelancers, sole traders and recent graduates starting in business. We provide assistance to all those who are contributing to making ‘a good economy’ — by which we mean those who are seeking social, environmental as well as financial impact and those who are working in a range of industries across the green economy, social enterprise, arts, social finances and creative ventures.”

The business was prompted by Sean’s own experience. “I found from personal experience of the start up process that finding the space to work from, identifying help and advice, accessing professional networks and meeting the right people all present big barriers for new businesses. But the single biggest obstacle for start ups is the cost and inflexibility of workspace accommodation. I was convinced we could help with that.”

HUB 109 provides start ups and businesses with an affordable and supportive incubator environment, including workspace, meeting rooms, consultancy services, resources, and events.

But its ambitions don’t end there. “We want to help others overcome the barriers to socially focused enterprise and entrepreneurship,” Sean says, “and become a platform for business activity that’s driven by social purpose. Come and see us at HUB 109 and let’s find out how we can help your venture.”

Find out more: HUB 109 website, send mail or ring 0121 405 4405.

Calling Birmingham-based social enterprises — City Drive is back for 2019: be part of it

CityDrive 2019 is a week-long festival of social enterprise in Birmingham organised by iSE.

iSE is now seeking social enterprises that want to be part of the exciting CityDrive 2019 programme. From pop-ups, workshops and marketplaces, talks, debates, networks and awareness raising, CityDrive will involve hundreds of people from all over the city.

The events have five calls to action to guide participants in identifying how they can get involved in social enterprise:

» Start a social enterprise.
» Work for a social enterprise.
» Volunteer for a social enterprise.
» Invest in a social enterprise.
» Buy from a social enterprise.

If you have an idea for an event, no matter what it may be — the more interesting and unusual the better! — please do get in touch, ideally by the 15th Feb 2019 (to allow time for programme planning). You can send mail to Sarah Crawley or to Elizabeth Forrester.

To get your creative ideas flowing, have a look at last year’s programme.

More information here.

Keeping swimming open at Moseley Road Baths — this historic Edwardian pool is now run by a community-managed charity

The historic Edwardian Moseley Rd Baths

There are only three Grade II* listed swimming baths in the country still in use for public swimming and of these Birmingham’s Moseley Road Baths, an Edwardian time capsule which first opened its doors to the public in 1907, is the oldest. It has been saved as a result of a determined community action campaign and is now operated under license by a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).

Many of the iconic original Edwardian features of the baths remain intact — its private washing rooms with baths (in use until 2004), original oak ticket offices and attendants’ kiosks, a three sided spectator gallery, and possibly the only surviving example of steam-heated drying racks in a British swimming pool.

But the building has been under threat of closure for decades due to underfunding and the scale of ongoing maintenance. Major structural problems saw the Gala Pool close in August 2003, but it was the local authority’s decision to shut the building entirely in March 2017 that galvanised the Moseley Road Baths Action Group’s campaign to save the baths and prevent local swimming being lost forever.

The coalition of organisations working together to save the baths includes Friends of Moseley Road Baths, Moseley Road Baths Action Group, Historic England (which has made grant of almost £660,000 for urgent repairs to the roof of the Gala Pool), the National Trust and the World Monuments Fund.

A successful application to the Bright Ideas Fund enabled the group to engage approved business consultants Development in Social Enterprise CIC (DISE) which had previously assisted Castle Vale Library and Castle Vale Pool move into community management.

DISE has worked with the group to develop a viable proposal to keep swimming open at Moseley Road Baths using a part-staffed and part-volunteer model which was already working at Castle Vale Pool and community-run leisure facilities.

The business plan formed the basis of discussions with Birmingham City Council which subsequently saw the newly formed Moseley Road Baths CIO secure a licence to operate from 1st April 2018.

The chair of Moseley Road Baths CIO, Karen Leach says, “DISE’s experience of assisting similar community enterprises within Birmingham gave us the confidence that we had an achievable business plan that would satisfy the Council’s requirements and ensure that our greatly valued local heritage swimming facility remains for the benefit of local people.”

DISE’s continuing advice and support led to additional funding being secured to help make the business plan operational, including recruiting volunteers, further fundraising, training lifeguards and promoting and marketing the baths to users.

Around 50 volunteers and nine staff members now manage the pool, which is open seven days a week and used by the community, schools and swimming clubs. It is envisaged that after three years the facility will be operating at full capacity, producing an annual surplus and reaching around 20,000 local residents.

Dave Lane, Managing Director of DISE said: “Safeguarding swimming at this magnificent building will increase the likelihood of wider investment to develop this community asset for future generations, and further demonstrates the power of community-led partnerships to save local services.”

Birmingham City Council is continuing to invest in the service while a longer-term solution for the site is developed by the Moseley Road Baths coalition. This important historic sports venue is now — against all the odds — expected to feature in the cultural programming for Birmingham’s hosting of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Since April 2018, 4,200 school children have learnt to swim at the baths, almost 10,000 swimmers have used the pool and 40 volunteers have been recruited and trained.

If anyone ever doubted what can be achieved by new forms of community-based social enterprise and resident action, they should look to the example of the 102-year old Moseley Road Baths.

For opening times, events and more information about how you can support Moseley Road Baths by volunteering

Moseley Road Baths interior

Third sector digital leaders programme

The School for Social Entrepreneurs and Zoe Amar Digital have just announced a partnership to deliver Third Sector Digital Leaders, a course to help charity, social enterprise and non-profit leaders be confident about leading digital change in their organisations, helping them be more sustainable and relevant and creating the digital leaders of tomorrow.

This Free 4-day course is aimed at CEOs, trustees, directors and heads of digital at charities, voluntary and community organisations and social enterprises.

The course will take place from 10:30am – 4:30pm in Birmingham across four dates: 18th March, 19th March, 28th March, and 29th March.

The deadline to apply is quite near: 5pm on 15th February.

Previous participants, who paid to come on this course, have said:

“A really useful and crucial course. This is one of the biggest areas for CEOs in the 3rd Sector” — Simon Hopkins, Turn2Us.

“This course was amazing, a real transformational learning experience. Really practical and useful and will frame our whole approach to digital” — Tracey Franklin, Inspire.

More information and applications

Complete the Birmingham Social Enterprise City survey and be entered in our FREE prize draw — 1st prize, an iPad



UPDATE (03/06/19): Please note that the survey has now ended. The prize draw will take place in the next few days.

Further to this post, the Birmingham Social Enterprise City steering group is conducting a baseline survey to establish key facts about the sector’s social and economic contribution. 
The survey is aimed at social enterprises, co-operatives, mutuals, trading third sector organisations, and charities with trading or social enterprise arms. Completion time is about 10-15 minutes.  Please note that there has been some confusion regarding what we mean by ‘trading’ and some organisations have in some cases wrongly identified themselves as not trading when in fact they are. To be clear, in questions 2 and 4 which refer to ‘trading’ we mean: offering goods or services for sale, whether to end-users, commissioners or under contract to third parties who pay you to undertake work.
UPDATE:  Free prize draw deadline further extended: Every completed questionnaire will be entered in our FREE prize draw. The 1st prize is an iPad 9.7in.*  The 2nd prize is a Madlug backpack, with a matching backpack donated to a child in care.**
Please support this effort — and the sector — by taking the survey. The more completions we get, the better the evidence-base we can produce.  And a strong evidence-base makes a critical difference to the resources we can attract to support the continuing development of the sector. 
Thank you!
* & **: Closing date for entry in the free prize draw is 10am on Wed 29th May 2019. Winners will be announced the following week. 
More about Birmingham Social Enterprise City

Coventry & Warwickshire CDA announces FREE social enterprise support programme for 2019

Coventry and Warwickshire Co-operative Development Agency has just announced that its social enterprise support programme for 2019 is now open.

Pre start, start-up and growth social enterprises based in Coventry and Warwickshire can apply for between 12 and 24 hours dedicated support from professionally qualified business advisers. The programme is appropriate for community groups, community interest companies, charities and co-operative societies delivering social and environmental impact.

Organisations that have received support under C&W CDA’s previous programmes are welcome to apply.

Support is free of charge thanks to funding from the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council.

To discuss your support needs further please contact Andy Wynne or Kate Launchbury.

Tel: 02476 633911 and website contact form.

Open PDF flyer

Big Issue Invest reflects on two years of Impact Loans England

Just the other day I was talking to someone about the social finance sector and they said, ‘Don’t you think it has changed almost out of all recognition over the past couple of years or so?’

Somewhat sceptical that it had, I asked them how. They said, ‘There aren’t just more providers, there are more products, and these are more varied — there’s more “blended finance” mixing grant, loan and support, and there seems a greater willingness to lend to smaller, younger social ventures.’

I was thinking about this and wondering to what degree it was true — and then my attention was drawn to this post by Big Issue Invest’s deputy chief exec Daniel Wilson-Dodd, reflecting on two years’ learning from his organisation’s Impact Loans England programme.

He focuses on eight key messages — and some of them will make you sit up and take notice. For example: social funders should be open to as wide a range of applicants as possible; those seeking finance experience social and cultural barriers; borrowers are customers.

The thing that struck me is that almost all of the messages are about why social funders should act and think differently — and how they can do this.

I found this fascinating because it suggests that the social finance sector is changing — and for the better. And this is a good thing, because it is a market that has been liberally supported in its development by public, philanthropic and government funding. And yet it hasn’t always seemed that this free money to help “develop the marketplace” has resulted in an inclusive approach to or a sympathetic understanding of the social sector these providers seek to do business with.

But one thing doesn’t seem to be changing — or at least, isn’t changing very quickly. The growth and proliferation of finance providers and products seems to be racing ahead of the social sector’s awareness and understanding of social finance — how it works, what it can do and what its providers want. The Good Finance website alone lists sixty-one social finance providers. It’s no wonder that the social sector’s awareness and understanding of social finance is generally poor — who on earth has got the time to navigate this rapidly expanding marketplace?

Perhaps it is no coincidence that this generally poor awareness of social finance coincides with probably the greatest contraction we have seen in recent years in the provision of specialist business support and advice for social enterprises and social ventures?

I can’t help but think that social finance ‘education’ should be fully integrated into the delivery of specialist business support for the social sector — and of course that more of this should be available and free-at-the-point-of-delivery.

Surely this, more than any other single measure, would help expand the constituency of enterprises able to make an informed assessment of whether repayable social finance is for them and can help offer a route to growth and expansion — to helping more people, to delivering greater impact, to creating more social value.

Impact Loans England — Two Years On: Daniel Wilson-Dodd

Big Issue Invest

Impact Loans England

Birmingham Social Enterprise City — major survey planned to help build the social enterprise evidence-base for Birmingham

As part of the sector’s Birmingham Social Enterprise City initiative we will shortly launch a baseline survey to establish key facts about the sector’s social and economic contribution, its social value and impact, its size and scale, and its employment levels.

This will be an ambitious survey and producing high quality data will depend on achieving a high response rate. We have spent a long time fine-tuning the design of the survey so that it is as easy to complete as possible — and we hope that social enterprises will be patient and enthusiastic and complete it in huge numbers.

Many surveys achieve very little but we know, based on previous surveys we have been involved with, that key data about the social enterprise sector does matter to local policy-makers, to funders and to commissioners. For instance, a strong evidence-base makes a critical difference to the resources that can be attracted to help support the sector.

So watch this space. In due course, a link to the survey will be posted here on the BSSEC blog as well as being sent out to all known social enterprises and trading third sector organisations in Birmingham. You’ll be able to support this effort — and the sector — by completing the questionnaire. More news soon.

Read all posts tagged Birmingham Social Enterprise City

Coverage of the Birmingham Social Enterprise City official launch event

A thank you message from Sarah Crawley

The launch event in pictures — iSE, great photos by Cuthbert Design

Coverage of how Unity Trust Bank hosted the launch in its brand new Brindleyplace headquarters 

More about Birmingham Social Enterprise City on the SEUK website

Don’t forget — applications for UnLtd’s Thrive accelerator programme close on the 14th February. Don’t miss out

Thrive is UnLtd’s new social accelerator that helps ambitious social ventures to scale-up their activities. It offers successful social ventures six months of intensive support with the opportunity to secure investment of up to £50,000 for their social venture.

The current programme is Thrive A2E (Access to Employment), an accelerator for ambitious social ventures with innovative ideas to support training and employment for those distant from the labour market. UnLtd is looking to support up to 22 social ventures in 2019 and the programme will run from June to December 2019. 

But applications close on the 14th February 2019 — so if you have your heart set on being part of this flagship programme, you need to get cracking and apply now.

Find out more about Thrive A2E.



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 its 2019 Impact Internships programme (formerly Enterprising Internships).

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 2019.

If you have a short term project to complete or research that you lack the time or capacity for, then a fully funded intern could be the answer — Impact Internships

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 2019 onwards.

You can register your interest here.

This PDF has more information about the scheme as does this page of the university’s website.

If you have any other questions about the programme please send mail to Helen Hobson, Internships Officer, University of Birmingham. 

Please note that expressions of Interest must be submitted by Friday 15 February 2019.

ART Business Loans announces major community share offer

BSSEC member ART Business Loans has just announced the launch of a major community share offer aimed at raising £500,000 from individuals and organisations that can be lent to businesses, social enterprises and third sector organisations in the West Midlands, enabling them to protect or create local jobs.

The share offer is being made in partnership with Ethex, a leader in ‘positive investment’ — putting investors’ money directly into businesses whose social mission and impact the investors support.

ART’s chief executive, Dr Steve Walker, who was recognised in 2018 as Responsible Finance Leader of the Year, says the money raised will be used to support business, enterprise and innovation by offering loans to viable businesses that cannot access any or all of the finance they need from the banks. “Having access to appropriate finance will enable those businesses to invest in people, premises and equipment, and support growth or diversification. Our current loan portfolio is over £5m and we are seeking additional capital through this community share offer to enable us to lend even more to West Midlands businesses in the year ahead.”

Shares in ART are eligible for Community Investment Tax Relief (CITR) which offers individuals and companies tax relief at 5% per annum of the sum invested over five years off their UK income tax or corporation tax. At the end of that time the shares may either be withdrawn or reinvested in ART. But as well as CITR the scheme also offers lenders additional security via an Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) from the British Business Bank. Using both CITR and EFG in conjunction represents a first for the social finance sector, Steve Walker says.

“In addition to receiving this financial return, investors will be putting their money to work for the benefit of the local economy,” says Steve. “Research shows that there are many small to medium sized enterprises in the West Midlands which remain unable to access appropriate finance to support their business plans, despite new alternative sources to the banks entering the market over the past ten years. Many of these new sources have similar lending criteria to the banks or are charging very high interest rates. We are all about providing responsible finance and bring our expertise to bear in making lending decisions.”

The share offer will be open from 7th January to 24th March 2019 and can be taken up by either individuals or organisations. The minimum investment is £500 and the maximum £100,000.

Anyone interested in the investment opportunity can register to buy shares and read the full share offer document HERE. Investors should be aware that their capital will be at risk.

→ You can find out more about how CITR works HERE.

iSE’s start-up programme FUSE is back for 2019

iSE is seeking its next cohort of social change-makers, do-ers, entrepreneurs and innovators to join FUSE, its acclaimed start-up programme. Could it be you?

FUSE offers six months of free business support and includes workshops, coaching and mentoring. For more information send mail to Mariam Yate.


Community Energy Birmingham launches new ethical share offer

Community Energy Birmingham (CEB) has some exciting news. It is looking to grow its existing portfolio of renewable energy generation on community energy buildings in Birmingham, and has recently launched a new share offer.

CEB — which is a community renewables co-operative registered as a Society for Community Benefit — already operates six solar PV systems in Birmingham on community buildings where the organisations receive the benefit of clean and reduced cost electricity. It has now identified a new community project in time to benefit from the final stages of the government’s Feed in Tariff payment before the closure of the scheme on 31 March 2019. This will be CEB’s largest solar roof to date, with a peak capacity of 50 kW. The total investment opportunity is around £44,000 and CEB reports that 40% of this amount has already been raised.

CEB’s investors are drawn from local people of Birmingham. As an investor you would receive 4% interest on your shares, knowing your money is being invested ethically. The minimum investment is £250 and an installment plan is available.

Full details, including the Share Offer document, are available here.

If you are interested in investing in this share offer but would like someone to talk you through the process you can send mail to CEB.


JTH announces Christmas tree recycling scheme

JTH volunteers are ready and waiting to recycle your Christmas tree

John Taylor Hospice has a brilliant plan that will take the hassle out of your new year Christmas tree disposal – it has just announced a Christmas tree collection and recycling scheme which will be good for the environment and good for its fundraising.

For a suggested donation of £8, hospice volunteers will collect real Christmas trees between 11 and 13 January in the B23, B24, B72, B73 and B76 areas of Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield.

The scheme, which is being run in partnership with facilities management company Mitie and public services provider Amey, will raise vital funds to support the work of the hospice.

You can find out more — and book — here.

Other similar schemes are also available covering other parts of the city:

→ St Mary’s Hospice is also offering a collection and recycling service covering a range of postcode areas: more here.

→ Birmingham City Council provides a free recycling service for all residents able to deliver their trees to any of the following four country parks: Lickey Hills Country Park; Cotteridge Park; Sutton Park; or Woodgate Valley Country Park. 

→ Birmingham Mail has a piece here on other ‘treecycling’ schemes. 


Birmingham social enterprise city — a thank you & news…

Following the marvellous official launch event for Birmingham Social Enterprise City (which is covered HERE on this blog and HERE over on the iSE website) Sarah Crawley writes with a special thank you…

Hi Everyone,

It’s almost Christmas and as we draw breath and plan for 2019 I want to thank you for attending the launch of Birmingham as a social enterprise city on the 15th November and share with you some of the plans the steering group has for 2019 to support our continued growth as a valued sector in the city.

Sarah Crawley speaking at launch

The steering group is a voluntary open group of organisations and agencies that meet bi-monthly to progress agreed work packages. These have been mutually developed and cover the key themes of access to markets, professional development and leadership, data (economic and social), young people and social enterprise awareness. The work has been formulated based on researched need and is by no means exclusive.

Most of the planned work will be piloted in 2019 with a view to rolling it out in subsequent years and it includes work with schools to provide a programme of activity to raise awareness of social enterprise and the opportunities it creates to address social issues that concern young people, programmes for leadership in the sector that include experiential and workshop based approaches and an internship programme working with Birmingham University to create career paths for young people coming into the social enterprise world. Resources have already been identified and these programmes are likely to be very low cost or free. Contact us if you are interested in any of these opportunities.

Mapping is a major issue for us as a sector and Alun Severn will be commencing a new sector mapping exercise in January and we have an ambition to be the city of a thousand social enterprises so we would really value your help in completing the short questionnaire we will be sending out.

Access to markets is very important to all of us no matter what kind of social enterprise we run. There are meetings currently being held to explore opportunities with Hs2 and the Commonwealth games amongst other things. Watch this space and we will push out any opportunities as they emerge.

City Drive is the sector’s most important promotional event of the year where we get the opportunity to raise awareness of our businesses and our work to everyone! The dates are set for 2019 and we will commence on Monday the 8th April and this year and continue until Saturday 13th April.

Please do get in contact with your proposals for events and we will include them in the programme. We already have 11 events registered. This is your opportunity to get noticed in Birmingham!

Please contact email me, Sarah Crawley, or Rebecca Giannelli to talk City Drive!

With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,


See all posts tagged Birmingham Social Enterprise City

 Birmingham Social Enterprise City launch event in pictures

See all posts tagged City Drive

John Taylor Hospice — ‘third shop will be our largest so far’

John Taylor Hospice Head of Retail Andrew Ray at the Castle Bromwich shop opening in December

We recently covered the opening of John Taylor Hospice’s second retail outlet. JTH has now announced that its third shop to open this year will be in Castle Bromwich and will open in December.

The organisation is is looking for people willing to give a few hours each week to help make the new shop a success. 

Volunteers will be given the opportunity to gain National Vocational Qualifications in retail and customer care and will have the chance to gain experience in customer service, stock rotation, window dressing and other skills.

John Taylor Hospice Head of Retail Andrew Ray says: “Our store in Castle Bromwich is the third we have opened this year and it’s our biggest. Housed in two retail units at a prime shopping centre, we expect it to be very successful. People who volunteer will be joining a lovely team who are all helping the hospice make every moment matter for hundreds of local families.”

John Taylor Hospice provides specialist care for people living with a terminal illness and their families. Proceeds from the shops help to ensure that care into the future.

If you’d like to find out more about volunteering in the Castle Bromwich shop please contact John Taylor Hospice’s Volunteer Resource Co-ordinator Paddy Breen on 0121 728 6738 or send mail.

Alternatively you can find out more HERE on the JTH website and download job descriptions and application forms.


Social enterprise in Orlando, Florida

Simon Veasey, iSE’s director of business development, has just returned from a holiday in Orlando, Florida. But it wasn’t all Mickey Mouse and Disney — he also made time to visit some of the city’s social enterprises. He has been kind enough to write the guest blog below for us.


Simon writes:

I just got back from leave in Orlando, where I met some interesting social enterprises.

Orlando is a modern, pristinely clean city, with a tropical climate that makes it the go-to holiday and retirement destination for millions across the world every year. But what many people don’t know is that away from Disney and Universal, Orlando is also a thriving hub for social enterprise — #whoknew!

I was intrigued to find out more.

I hooked up with Ben Hoyer and Kyle Steele, two of Orlando’s leading social entrepreneurs at Down Town Credo, a social enterprise coffee shop, co-working space and barbecue in the heart of Orlando’s attractive business quarter.

Down Town Credo nestles naturally in amongst the high rise and perfectly manicured landscaping. Indeed, there is little that signals its social intentions until you pick a coffee or a sandwich from their varied menu and realise that each item only has a “suggested” price. You can pay what you like or what you can afford — and any additional payment goes back to supporting Down Town Credo’s providers and international coffee growers. It’s a concept that seems to work well judging by positive online reviewers.

Sitting down with Ben and Kyle I naively ask about “social issues” in Orlando. To the visitor there doesn’t appear to be any at all! The reality is very different, as the pair explained. Orlando is in the top ten human trafficking locations in the world, the thriving tourism economy is driven on low wages and the popularity of the area has raised property prices to a level that are unaffordable for many of the workers in the industry. Over 1,000 individuals a day move into central Florida and many of these people are competing for a dwindling supply of affordable accommodation. Working poverty is very high.

‘Doing’ social enterprise in the US is certainly different. For instance, America doesn’t have a specific social enterprise legal structure. The only broadly appropriate legal form is that of “Benefit Corporations” which has no real legal standing.

Rally is Orlando’s social enterprise incubator and brings together budding social entrepreneurs and commercial organisations with a social conscious in a package very similar to iSE’s FUSE programme back here in Birmingham. However, the Rally model provides participants with the opportunity to pitch for a $25,000 grant while the commercial organisations are introduced to investors.

Ben holds a growing list of high net worth individuals who have a desire to invest both time and money in start-up organisations that have a social mission. Mentors approach the incubator to “give something back” by supporting the start-ups and donate or invest as required which helps to fund the training and development programmes. It is a very different culture to this side of the Atlantic.

The lack of an asset lock encourages investment by individuals and corporations especially when those donations and investments are backed up by significant tax benefits — but both Ben and Kyle concede that without the safeguards of a legal structure it can be harder to differentiate between a social enterprise and a corporate and I was left with the impression that they would welcome a stronger legal definition as this would strengthen their marketing message to customers.

All in all a fascinating couple of hours seeing an area of Orlando I wouldn’t normally visit on vacation, and enjoying good coffee with like-minded individuals.

If your family holiday takes you to Orlando, make a bit of a detour and visit Down Town Credo. You’ll be impressed.

Simon Veasey, iSE

Down Town Credo, Orlando, Florida (photo: Simon Veasey)


Down Town Credo, Orlando, Florida (photo: Simon Veasey)


Down Town Credo, Orlando, Florida (photo: Simon Veasey)


Down Town Credo, Orlando, Florida (photo: Simon Veasey)

Special feature: Birmingham social enterprise city — official launch was a night to remember

At the official launch of Birmingham Social Enterprise City. L-to-R: Claire Dove, VCSE Crown Representative; Margaret Willis, chief executive Unity Trust Bank; Karolina Medwecka-Piasecka Birmingham City Council; Peter Holbrook, chief executive SEUK; Sarah Crawley, chief executive iSE [photos:]

In a social media age superlatives have become a devalued currency and so I won’t employ them here. But I think it can safely be said that last night’s official launch event to mark Birmingham’s recognition as a social enterprise city was a genuine milestone for the sector. I don’t think the sector has ever seen such an ambitious event — nor one that better illustrates how seriously social enterprise is regarded in Birmingham.

For starters, it was graciously hosted by Unity Trust Bank, which offered its brand new Brindley Place headquarters as the host venue within days of having taken up residence there. Since its establishment thirty-five years ago as a bank for the trade union movement, UTB has grown into a significant ethical bank, and the bank of choice for many social sector organisations. Its unstinting support for our social enterprise city initiative takes partnership and collaboration with the social enterprise sector to new levels, however.

Taking place on Social Enterprise Day, and timed to fall within Global Entrepreneurship Week, the keynote speakers at the launch included Margaret Willis the chief executive officer of Unity Trust Bank, Claire Dove, the government’s VCSE Crown Representative, Peter Holbrook CBE, chief executive of SEUK, and Sarah Crawley, chief executive of iSE and chair of the Birmingham Social Enterprise City steering group — and the unstoppable prime mover behind the social enterprise city initiative.

The event showcased the social value that social enterprises can create and many of the businesses exhibiting had prepared social value infographics to show this. You can view these yourself by downloading the zip file containing all of the infographics (please note that this is a file of 21 PDFs but they’re small and it downloads quickly).

Around 150 guests, including staff from fifty or sixty social enterprises, thronged Unity Trust’s elegant new space. Opening the event, Sarah emphasised that this wasn’t something for the few — it was for everyone who has been part of creating the decades-long  movement of social enterprises that Birmingham is now renowned for. 

Claire Dove said that being designated a social enterprise place was a great privilege, but that this also brought with it great responsibilities and she was delighted to see Birmingham rising to this challenge. She noted that Birmingham was the first social enterprise city she was aware in which the achievement of social value is given such a prominent place.

Peter Holbrook said that despite the political turbulence of the present time social enterprises were demonstrating their resilience by diversifying, finding new markets and new sources of revenue, and are now in the forefront of finding new and more inclusive economic models around the world. “Anyone who has an interest in creating shared economic growth and inclusive prosperity,” he said, “should be looking to the social enterprise movement.” 

Margaret Willis said it was an absolute privilege to be welcoming friends, partners, colleagues and customers to Unity Trust Bank’s new headquarters. “This,” she said, “is an illustration of our founding principles and the complete commitment we have as an ethical bank to working together with all of those who share a determination to create social change.” She too noted that in these uncertain and politically divided times the appetite for social change has never been greater. (It should also be said that Margaret was very funny — not something one often says about bankers, as I think she would acknowledge. Perhaps I am slow but her remark about bankers was new to me: “They say that a tragedy is a boat-load of bankers sinking; they say that a catastrophe is when it turns out that they can all swim.”)

Events like these are great for confirming a sense of belonging, of community, of being part of a shared endeavour. But in closing the proceedings Sarah emphasised that it is the things we do between meetings and outside events such as these that really matter.

“You don’t need to be told what you can do to support Birmingham Social Enterprise City,” she said. “It’s as much your idea as it is anyone’s and we can all play our part. Here’s some ideas. One of the biggest obstacles we face is that even now the public profile and understanding of social enterprise is not what it should be. So help raise awareness and understanding — promote the social enterprise message. That’s something everyone can do. Think about your social impact and how you can make this better known and better appreciated. Look at the infographics some of the enterprises here tonight have produced. We can help each other to improve our impact messages and social value reporting. And think about how you can buy differently — how you can buy for good by sourcing everything you can from social enterprises. Obviously, if they are Birmingham social enterprises, all the better, but let’s work together to help the sector grow — wherever it may be.”

See more about Birmingham Social Enterprise City on the iSE website.

Read all posts tagged Birmingham Social Enterprise City.

→ Find out more about SEUK’s social enterprise places initiative.

Birmingham social enterprise city — action plan.

Read the social value infographics prepared by 21 of the social enterprises that attended (zip file of PDFs).

A specimen social value infographic