“Sometimes dreams become reality…”

The Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter was launched today. It marks an exciting new phase in the support and development of social enterprise in Birmingham.

Welcoming the initiative, Sir Albert Bore. leader of Birmingham City Council, pledged the authority’s continuing support for the initiative, saying, “Sometimes dreams become reality. But who would have thought that the meeting I had just a matter of months ago with Sarah Crawley — when she first suggested to me the idea of the Quarter — would be turned into reality in such a short time?”

Over 100 people thronged into the marketplace area in front of iSE and neighbouring Health Exchange to listen to the speeches of welcome, visit stalls, talk to social entrepreneurs, meet old and new friends and network.

“The marketplace has been such a success,” Sarah Crawley said, “and local social enterprises were so enthusiastic about the opportunity to sell their wares and showcase what they do, that we’re thinking of running the market every month. Watch out for more details.”

Helga Edstrom from the Office for Civil Society singled out women in the sector for particular praise: “Let’s hear it for women in social enterprise, because they are well represented in the sector and are responsible for driving forward many of the new initiatives that are helping to raise the profile of the sector.”

For the first time ever Birmingham had a social enterprise market — a social alternative to the well-established German Market.

Born_In_The_NHSAmongst the stallholders were:

♥ Made by Young People, the socially responsible printing and promotional items manufacturer. I especially liked their Born in the NHS mugs.

♥ The Energy Saving Co-op, an innovative new membership co-op for energy deals.

♥ Co-Wheels Birmingham, the city’s newest pay-as-you-go car club — cutting fuel bills, car running costs and environmental impact.

♥ Devenish Girl Bakery,  the social enterprise with a passion for baking and a talent for training and supporting young people into employment.

♥ Ubuntu bread and street food — South African food from Albert Smith, ex-nurse turned micro-baker, street food entrepreneur and stand-up comic!

♥ Birmingham’s secret garden — Martineau Gardens, connecting horticulture, education, wellbeing and a love for the natural environment.

♥ The Shelanu Women’s craft collective  — an extraordinary group of migrant women who recently made what one paper called “jewels for Birmingham’s crown”: a jewelled artwork and visitor workshop specially for the opening of the new Library of Birmingham.

♥ Park Lane Garden Centre — one of Aston’s best kept secrets — Garden Pathway pickles and chutneys, Garden Pathway Gardening Services, and Textiles by St Anne’s, all social enterprises that help make a positive contribution to mental health, and all developed by long-established Birmingham charity BITA Pathways as ways of delivering new opportunities for the people who use its services.

♥ Bicycle Deli — fresh local produce, fresh locally baked bread — all turned into bitingly fresh sandwiches and delivered to the door. By bicycle.

♥ Loaf — bringing back real food (and the skills to make and bake it) one loaf at a time…

The BBC were on-hand to film the events, and Indi Deal from award-winning social enterprise Aidem Digital took care of still photography. Sally Edwards from community interest company Spot On Marketing & Communication handled PR and press. This really was the social enterprise sector in action — for social enterprise, with social enterprise, by social enterprise!

Sir Albert — with some prompting from the crowd — looked forward to 999 social enterprises in Digbeth within five years. “Well, there we are,” he said, “that’s it — we’ve launched the number so there’s no turning back.”

And who knows? If the Quarter continues developing at this pace, perhaps 999 isn’t such a tall order.


 Read more — Introducing the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter.