During 2019/20, a Social Economy Task Force made up of social sector practitioners and experts from across the region was convened by West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), tasked with helping WMCA understand how best the social economy across the region could be grown and its positive impact and social value maximised.
This resulted in the combined authority adopting a flagship policy of seeking to double the size of the social economy – from around £3.5bn to £7bn – over the next decade.
WMCA believes that social economy organisations – those trading or operating for social purpose rather than personal profit – make a significant contribution to ensuring that at the local level economic growth and opportunity are inclusive. It also believes that the social and economic contribution that the social economy makes to some of the region’s most deprived neighbourhoods and weakest local economies is more important than ever as the region begins to build back following the COVID pandemic.
WMCA subsequently engaged a consultancy team made up of West Midlands social enterprise specialists to develop a ten-year framework to enable this growth.
This framework, WMCA’s Growing the Social Economy in the WMCA area: A Framework for Action, sets out what has been termed an ‘eco-system approach’ to enabling social economy growth in which key social economy stakeholders – social enterprises, charities, voluntary and community organisations, local authorities, regeneration initiatives, public procurement departments, local communities – can be brought together in a collaborative way to help grow the sector at the local level. The framework is first and foremost a plan for collaboration and local action.
In addition to this overarching framework, four detailed business cases were developed which have been adopted by the WMCA Board and now form part of the Combined Authority’s official policy objectives.
These business cases cover:
These initial four ideas each present numerous opportunities for sector engagement and development and we’ll be covering each of these in more detail in forthcoming posts.
The important thing to say at the moment is that the WMCA social economy growth plan is not set in stone; it is not about being ‘done to’.
Of course, WMCA will not be able to fund every initiative – nor is that its role.
Rather, think of it this way… The WMCA does have control of some of the ‘big levers’ – house-building, for instance, and transport infrastructure, initiatives such as retro-fitting homes for improved fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
All of these offer the potential for supply-chain opportunities and a more ‘social procurement’ approach as well as for the Combined Authority to unlock funding or make appeals to government. It’s about being part of that long game – and ensuring that wherever possible, it is played in a way that favours the social economy, builds on its strengths and particular characteristics, and helps create local economic and social opportunities that are fair and inclusive.
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