Social Enterprise City — survey reveals important new trends in the sector

Click for full PDF (with thanks to Rebecca Giannelli iSE)

The latest baseline survey of social enterprise activity in the city conducted on behalf of the Birmingham Social Enterprise City steering group during February-May 2019 and published July 2019 gives us a much more detailed profile of the sector in Birmingham than we have ever previously had and reveals some significant new trends. 

It also confirms beyond doubt that social enterprises’ ability to unlock social value is a key characteristic of the sector. Over and above the services they deliver, social enterprises in Birmingham create social value worth around £40m a year through reinvesting in their businesses, spending on social mission, and involving volunteers.

Here are some of the most significant headline findings.


  • 564 social enterprises were identified.



  • 75% of social enterprises are engaged in trading activities and 74% derive at least 25% of their income from these activities.


Age profile

  • The sector in Birmingham is characterised by a high proportion of newer, younger social enterprises: almost 41% of social enterprises have been operating for three years or less. This is a substantial increase in this age-band.



  • 38% of social enterprises have turnover in the £0-£24k a year range, indicating that they are still in the early stages of trading and income-generation.
    • This reflects the high proportion of social enterprises that have been operating for three years or less. 
  • 43% of social enterprises are in turnover-bands from £25k to £400k a year but thinly represented in turnover-bands between £401k and £1m.
  • 10% have turnovers exceeding £1m.


Social enterprises as employers

  • Almost 39% of social enterprises do not yet employ staff, again reflective of the increase in newer, younger social enterprises.
  • In the two years to date it is estimated that the sector’s net job creation was over 460 FTE posts.
  • 59% are living wage employers.


Significant inter-trading — retaining the social economy pound

  • 86% spend with other social enterprises and this is worth almost £17m a year.
    • It is encouraging to see that this key message regarding the importance of inter-trading within the social economy — a key aim of City Drive and of Social Enterprise City — has been grasped and acted on.


Unlocking social value

  • 64% of social enterprises utilise volunteers and across the sector this donated effort is equivalent to almost half-a-million volunteer hours worth at least £5.6m a year.
    • This is yet another example of how social enterprises unlock additional social value. Our local surveys again reveal a little acknowledged fact — that volunteer effort is central to the social enterprise sector and enables it to deliver additional social value. 
  • 69% of social enterprises reinvest in their business — worth a further £5.6m a year.
  • 69% reinvest each year in achieving their social mission — worth almost £30m a year.


It is these last three statistics that in some ways are most revealing. In addition to the services and goods delivered, social enterprises are unlocking at least another £40m-worth of social value a year through utilising volunteers, reinvesting in their businesses and reinvesting to achieve their social aims.

For more facts and figures about the sector in Birmingham:

Download the survey infographic.

Survey report — EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.

 Survey report — FULL TEXT.

More about the profile of social enterprise in Birmingham and in the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter.

More about Birmingham Social Enterprise City and the baseline survey on the iSE website.

Also featured on BVSC’s UPDATE BRUM blog.

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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