Rethinking the ‘social enterprise city’ idea

Participants at the event (photo courtesy Stuart Emmerson SEUK WM)

Further to this post, I’m delighted to announce that the “Is Birmingham a Social Enterprise City?” event we sponsored as part of City Drive was a great success. 

We hoped that the event would provide an opportunity to rethink the ‘social enterprise city’ concept, to think about its continuing relevance, and to consider what a social enterprise city – especially Birmingham – might look like in a period of such political, economic and financial uncertainty. And that is very much what happened. Everyone who participated said they found it very satisfying to be able to take a step back and think more critically about the idea of ‘social enterprise places’.

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We found that:

» There continues to be strong interest in the idea of positioning Birmingham as a social enterprise city, although participants also felt that to be genuinely meaningful this would have to be a ‘social enterprise city’ with more ambitious aims, capable of responding to the numerous long-term problems that Birmingham faces as a consequence of austerity, reduced government funding and the deepest service cuts in a generation.

» The development of such an initiative would need the active support of a much wider alliance of supporters — far beyond what might be termed the ‘usual’ players.

» While the ‘social enterprise place’ model does have some limitations — not least the limited capacity of organisers and the need to raise development resources — participants generally still do believe that the concept continues to offer huge advantages for the sector in terms of awareness and presence; influence; inter-trading; collaboration and partnership; promoting self-help and peer support.

» Much more would have to be done in terms of scoping and planning the idea, securing political leadership and commitment and widening the alliance of active development participants.

On balance participants felt that we should be seeking to establish Birmingham’s rightful place as a social enterprise city — because in all but name that is precisely what it already is!

 Read the report.


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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