West Midlands Combined Authority

CHARLES RAPSON, WMCA: A Social Economy Perspective

Birmingham Awards 2023 – a reflection on how social enterprise is becoming a mainstream option and contributing to the growth of the regional social economy.

The Birmingham Awards, now in its 8th year, is an increasingly prestigious event celebrating the best of the best in Arts & Culture, Pubs, Restaurants, Sports, Start-Ups, Networkers, Education, Charities, Business men & women, Social Enterprises and much more in the city. The awards ceremony takes place on 4th November at Villa Park. Tickets via Buy Tickets – Birmingham Awards 

As always, there is a specific Social Enterprise category with a shortlist including Digbeth Dining Club CIC, Himaya Haven CIC, Rainey Community Creations CIC, Safer Now, Sisters Care Services CIC, Sporting Your Futures CIC, The Jericho Foundation, The SM Consultancy, Together Minds CIC and Yearn 2B. 

But this year, Social Enterprises are starting to appear much more in other, usually mainstream, categories such as Empower Poetry CIC (Arts & Culture), The Clean Kilo (Retailer), Sport 4 Life (Sporting Initiative), Daniel Evans of BEC (Business Man), Donna Henderson from Mind (Employee of the year), Shamala Antonio – Impact 4Life Wellbeing (Entrepreneur of the year)  and more. And that is not even mentioning them all or the Charities and Community Champions in their respective categories. 

This is really rewarding to see Social Enterprises recognised alongside their mainstream pears. It means that social businesses are beginning to get the recognition they deserve. 

There are around 11,000 ‘social economy’ organisations in the West Midlands, they impact directly on the lives of over a quarter of a million people in the region who work, volunteer, or benefit from the support they provide. They contribute £3.5 billion to the region’s economy. It is a young and truly diverse sector. More so than in other parts of the UK. It is a sector of the economy that is growing and contributing to a future which is much more inclusive.  

Having spent years in the Social Economy, I am now in the privileged position with the West Midlands Combined Authority as the Social Economy Growth lead, helping the organisation fulfil it is promise to double the size and impact this sector has over the next 10 years. Things are starting to happen with place based investments in 8 locations across the region, a massive specialist business support programme for social economy businesses to compliment the more mainstream offer from Business Growth West Midlands and the Social Economy Drive 2023 happening across the region from the 13th to 17th of November 2023. 


Charles Rapson spent the last 17 years working in Social Enterprise. Running the Midlands School for Social Entrepreneurs and setting up social enterprises for the Colebridge Trust. Charles was a member of the Social Economy Task Force set up by WMCA and has now joined the organisation to see the work through. Prior to 2006, Charles worked in industry, his own business, and a family business. He has almost 50 years’ experience in all forms of business. 

Charles Rapson, Social Economy Growth Lead at WMCA
Charles Rapson, Social Economy Growth Lead at WMCA
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