It was launched today by Cllr Sue Anderson, who said, “About half the sector places less than 10% of what it spends on supplies with other third sector organisations. Clearly, you can do better than that — third sector organisations can buy from each other and turn their spend to mutual benefit.”
And that is the whole idea of SfC. By buying more goods and services from within the sector we can trade for mutual benefit.
We can also seek out new markets — and this too will be both a good and a necessary thing. With the marketplace for most social enterprises still dominated by public sector customers, there has never been a more urgent need for social enterprises to diversify. While we have previously looked to the public sector as a market for growth and sustainability, in the coming months and years this will no longer be the case. Public spending cuts will work their way right through the system.
The great thing about the launch was the energy and excitement. Social enterprise trade fairs have been tried before — and with only mixed success, it must be said. But the SfC campaign seems to have given new stimulus and focus to why inter-trading in the sector is a good thing. There was lots of business being done by exhibitors — you could see it taking place. This is almost never the case at these kinds of events.
One of the most useful spin-offs to this work is a paper iSE has published to coincide with the SfC launch called Shop for Change: An Analysis of Trends in Social Enterprise Markets. This offers unprecedented insights regarding social enterprises and the markets they operate in. I think this analysis is a significant resource and will be useful not just to social enterprises in their business planning but also to business support organisations seeking to develop the most useful and timely assistance they can for the sector.
Well done to the whole team at iSE — and to the folks at Enta, who hosted the event at their terrific new Mill Wharf centre.