Social Enterprise City — new sector trends demand new development priorities

Since reporting in this post on the new trends in the sector that our baseline survey revealed, one of the things that iSE and members of the Social Enterprise City steering group have been thinking through is identifying a new sector development framework that reflects the ways in which the sector is changing.

Let’s remind ourselves of some of the key headlines from the survey and what they mean for the continuing development of the sector.

The survey indicated that Birmingham is characterised by a high proportion of new, young social enterprises that are in the very early stages of trading and their profiles reflect this. For example:
  • 41% of SEs responding were established within the past three years – a proportion almost twice that of the national comparator figure (21%).
  • 38% fall into the lowest turnover band – £0K-£24K per year.
  • 38% don’t yet employ staff.
Also, national comparator figures (where they exist) suggest that social enterprise growth in Birmingham may be slower than in some other parts of the country: 
  • Only 14% of social enterprises in Birmingham fall into the “mid-range” turnover band of 101k-£400k, compared to around 19% nationally.
  • Only about 6% of social enterprises in Birmingham fall into the “upper-range” turnover band of £401k-£901k turnover, compared to an estimated 20%+ nationally. 
This suggests that over the next few years, Social Enterprise City priorities should focus on increasing trading and turnover, and boosting prospects for growth and in full the steering group identified four main priorities, as follows:
  • Increasing trading, turnover and prospects for growth and scale.
  • Enabling more social enterprises to access contracts, markets and supply-chain opportunities that will enable them to trade their way into “mind-range” and “high-range” turnover.
  • Enabling more social enterprises to become involved in and contribute to place-based community economic development and regeneration.
  • Access to and connection with sources of social finance.
The next step was to combine these in a coherent and achievable strategy for sector development and we believe this can be done by focusing on “scale & growth”, “place” and “engagement & access” as shown in the simple graphic below. The boxes with dashed borders show some of the opportunities that have already been identified and which will help us achieve new levels of growth and long-term sustainability in the sector. 

Click for larger view

Of course, it won’t be possible to do all these things straight away. Some of these opportunities may only require a refocusing of effort or a different way of doing things in order to fully take advantage of them, but others will undoubtedly require extra resources and we are working on this too. A major funding bid is currently in development and if successful will dramatically increase the scale and capacity of the Birmingham Social Enterprise City partnership. We’ll bring you more news of that in due course.
In the meantime, the more supporters and partners who are able to reflect the above priorities in their own support programmes and delivery models, the better.
If you would like to get more actively involved in Birmingham Social Enterprise City, or can offer help, expertise or other resources to help benefit the social enterprise sector, we want to hear from you — please send mail to Sarah Crawley at iSE.
See all posts tagged ‘Social Enterprise City‘.
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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