Explaining Birmingham’s social economy

26 educators, students and entrepreneurs from Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovenia and Lithuania – on Bridging to the Future’s exchange project

Last week, Simon Veasey from ISE and myself did our bit for international relations. We were asked by Bridging to the Future’s MD Duncan Chamberlain to help give an overview of social enterprise and the wider social economy in Birmingham to a group of 26 educators, students and entrepreneurs from Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovenia and Lithuania who were in the UK on a week-long European exchange programme with Bridging to the Future.

We joined the group at one of the longest standing mental health social enterprises in the Digbeth Quarter, Better Pathways, where we were kindly accommodated and made very welcome.

Better Pathways’ Operations Manager Raj Gill kindly agreed to kick the proceedings off by explaining how her organisation operates and the role social enterprise plays within it.

We then spoke and answered questions about the social economy in Birmingham.

Simon spoke about the realities of operating a specialist business development agency — how business support is delivered, and the need to operate as a commercially viable social enterprise able to win delivery contracts. I explained that creating favourable conditions for sector growth also involves working with a wide range of other types of stakeholders, including local policy-makers and key public authorities.

The group had had a very busy day and were showing signs of exhaustion but two of the group — both tutors — stayed behind to talk further and clarify some of the points we had made. 

We hope we sent them away with plenty to think about and at least some idea of the long history of social enterprise support and development in Birmingham. Our thanks again to Better Pathways for kindly offering to host this session.

Incidentally, Better Pathways currently has an excellent dedicated training space to let. For details send mail to chief exec Sue Roberts.

Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

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