Let’s fix our future – join our crowdfunder campaign

Our mission is the heart of everything we do at Social Enterprise Mark CIC, and as part of the Future Economy Alliance we’re campaigning to make this way of working the national norm. 

Inequalities are rising, divisions are deepening, and the climate crisis is growing. Trains are cancelled, rivers are polluted, people are having to choose between heating and eating – while the companies behind these vital services record huge profits. Our local councils are going bankrupt, our high streets are empty, and our NHS is on its knees. Nothing works anymore. 

At the heart of this is a broken system. Do we work for the economy, or does the economy work for us? ‘Business as usual’ isn’t working – so let’s change it. Let’s unleash the power of business to benefit people and planet. Let’s build a stronger, fairer, greener economy where all of society profits. Let’s fix our future. 

We’ve joined the Future Economy Alliance to highlight the importance of working for a purpose beyond profit, and make this mission-led approach the national norm. An estimated four million of us work in mission-led organisations, and we’re living proof that business can be a force for good; we just need those in power to unleash our potential. 

Ahead of the General Election, we’re ready to guide our next government in the bold reforms needed to fix our economy – and with your help, we can take our message into the corridors of power and put these issues at the top of the political agenda. 

PLEASE SUPPORT OUR CAMPAIGN 

We’re crowdfunding to create a unique creative campaign that will really grab our leaders’ attention and put fixing our economy at the top of the policy agenda. Although we have the ambition and drive to change the system, we can’t do it alone; we’re stronger together. Will you help us? 

We’re gearing up for an exciting campaign stunt to grab the attention of our leaders and cut through the political noise with a bold message of change and hope: that we can build a new economy where all of society profits. We’re working with a creative agency to really bring our campaign to life, and anything you can donate will help make our message heard in the corridors of power.  

To build an economy that really works for our society, we need support from across that society. Every donation is a step towards a stronger, fairer, greener future for all of us. Join the Future Economy Alliance, join the movement, and let’s fix our future. 

FOLLOW FOR CAMPAIGN UPDATES 

Lucy Findlay

Are we reaching peak greenwash? Finding a better solution.

As I write the movers and shakers of the business and political world are meeting in Davos for the World Economic Forum.  I’m sure that there will be the usual platitudes about how good business is at addressing the world’s crisis as well as pointing to ‘evidence’ to support this claim.  

Economic, social and environmental trends, however, paint a different picture.  Oxfam has brought out its annual inequality report (this year’s aptly titled Inequality Inc.) to coincide with this event.  It’s depressing but not that surprising to see existing inequality continuing to grow exponentially.   

Headlines are that since the beginning of Lockdown in 2020, the world’s 5 richest men had doubled their substantial fortunes. It also shows that the power of the corporate is exacerbating inequality and climate change through behaviours that run counter to ‘good business’ – a mixture of squeezing workers, tax dodging, privatising public services and pollution – i.e. being driven by shareholder private gain rather than social and environmental good despite all the talk of business being ‘purpose led’.  Are we reaching peak greenwash? Many of the checks and balances (for example Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Reporting) are mere window dressing as are the messages about corporate altruism and putting people and the planet first.   

What is needed (confirmed by the report) is for governments to reimagine and shift their view of what makes the private sector include wider business models such as social enterprise.  It’s not a fringe, hippy activity – it should be a desirable mainstream destination.   

Even those politicians that support social enterprises are too enmeshed in the current business paradigm to realise the full potential of our sector. This is why we have become part of the Future Economy Alliance which advocates for the wider social economy to be taken more seriously in building a more sustainable, equitable future economy in the UK. 

Unfortunately, most governments and many businesses are going in the opposite direction and doubling down on corporate-led, cheaper, short-term decisions driven by excuses like the cost-of-living crisis (that affects the poorest most) as well as short-term political and shareholder expediency.  

The shareholder profit equals good efficient business equation embedded in our worldwide culture and financial systems.  It’s so ingrained that mainstream financial products and tax incentives are driven by this assumption, which is why there is a dearth of alternative businesses and finance to support their growth and flourish. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. We need to decouple shareholder profit from business and support other viable models such as social enterprises and worker cooperatives.  And it’s not only the business model that counts – it’s also about the journey that the organisation is on.  What we don’t need is a load more incentives (tax breaks and financial products) to perpetuate the business status quo- we need the government to listen and act to incentivise new and existing, good well-run social enterprises that are really delivering social and environmental value rather than shareholder value.  We also need to incentivise conversions from the extractive business model towards a more regenerative approach (through the application of tools such as those by the Doughnut Economics Lab) 

This is where accreditation comes into its own. Recent research from the platform In Good Company shows that despite the challenges of the current economic climate and consumers spending less, ethical businesses still see accreditation (66%) as important in verifying their claims and showing their ethical credentials.  Governments need to be supporting those who can back up their claims and verify true social value.   

Our accreditation journey demonstrates that social enterprises can be the best at this.  Social enterprises cannot sit still stating that their business model makes a difference without striving to be even better at what they do.  We are the leaders in setting standards for what makes good business, governments should be looking to us to demonstrate best business practices, but we need to ensure that we can independently verify any claims that we make.  This is why we would encourage existing social enterprises to look towards progression to our new Silver and Gold accreditations.  The process will help you become the best that you can be!

Crowdfunding for social enterprise, the future of match funding and how to get it!

The Crowdfunding Coach

My name is Bertie Herrtage and after 5 years as the Senior Coach at the fundraising platform Crowdfunder UK, I started my own business ‘The Crowdfunding Coach’, promoting crowdfunding education within the Third Sector. I specialise in donation and rewards based crowdfunding for social enterprises and I’m a strong advocate for the use and development of ‘match funding’ opportunities to plug the financial gap that these organisations are facing.

Social enterprises perform well when crowdfunding

Back in 2018, I started to see that social enterprise campaigns performed particularly well when crowdfunding. This was because of what we call a ‘dual motivation’ to support them. Their service to society attracted donations and their capacity for trade allows them to offer rewards, which are products or services in return for a financial contribution. The use of rewards in the crowdfunding context acts as a further incentive to give, encouraging supporters to pledge more money, increasing the average spent on a donation-only campaign from £20 to £50.

I believe that crowdfunding should be part of the financial life cycle of every social enterprise because the process is an accelerator programme in itself. Beyond raising the money they need it allows these organisations to benefit from the inherent; story telling, marketing, audience development, networking, product testing and content creation involved. With less than half of VCSE organisations rating their digital skills as “good” (Gov, 2022), crowdfunding serves us as an opportunity to correct that.

Social Investment

It’s been my experience that social enterprises are being steered towards social investment but with 42% of social enterprises under 5 years old (SE UK, 2019), they often do not have the necessary revenue to take on debt. Furthermore, with the median amount of repayable finance sought at £50,000 (Good Finance, 2023) these numbers are not appetising for banks to lend, because the due diligence and administration alone rubs out the profit in the deal. In an economic climate where the average grant awarded is £12,000 (dsc, 2023) and ‘almost half of social enterprises report the amount of suitable finance available to their organisations is insufficient’ (SE UK, 2023), we know that we need to be more creative about where this funding is going to come from.

Crowdfunding is a technology which allows for a more collaborative and transparent approach to finance. Instead of a bid for a grant or investment done behind closed doors, it’s done out in the open on a digital stage. 

Collaborative finance

Match funding is based on the belief that there is no one financial solution to the funding of these organisations. Instead, the answer is to enable a more collaborative approach to finance which involves; government, local authorities, corporations, trusts and the public. The premise being that the more funders we can encourage to host match funding opportunities through crowdfunding, the less pressure the organisations put on their own networks. This is especially relevant for smaller organisations in less affluent areas and in the context of the cost of living crisis that we’re in.

What this will take is for the traditional grant making organisations to become more comfortable trialling the distribution of their finance in new and innovative ways. By even making small pots of finance available through this method, they will be quickly able to see what the demand is, how the application process suits them and most importantly, witness the benefits of public participation and the impact of collaborating with other funds on the financing of these organisations.

The technology is already here and crowdfunding platforms like Crowdfunder UK have the potential to become one-stop-shops for organisations in need of finance. By making multiple funds available under one roof, the process of finding appropriate finance becomes much easier to navigate for these organisations and therefore much more accessible.

Here’s an example of how match funding works

Fat Macy’s

fat macy'sA social enterprise based in London which is tackling the impact of our housing crisis by providing support for those at risk of homelessness. Fat Macy’s allows those they work with to save for a deposit and develop skills through a culinary and hospitality training programme, thereby helping them into work.

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/fat-macys-big-supper-club 

After closing last week, Fat Macy’s has successfully raised £56,454 from 203 supporters of a £50,000 target (the median amount of repayable finance sought by a social enterprise).

The current breakdown of what they have raised

Match funding: £34,155

Access’s ‘The Cost of Living Resilience Fund’: £17,350

Aviva Community Fund: £10,225

Aviva Employee Giving: £1,520

Sovereign Network Group: £5,000

Solus Employee Giving: £60

The public: £22,299

Luminary Bakery

My next example is a social enterprise which uses baking as a tool to take vulnerable women on a journey to employability and entrepreneurship, equipping them with transferable skills for the working world.

In November this year, Luminary Bakery raised £51,386 from 360 supporters and if you have a few minutes to spare, please do watch their crowdfunding video, it is very inspiring!

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/youempowerher

This is the breakdown of what they raised through crowdfunding

Match funding: £31,528

British Airways ‘The Better World Community Fund’: £15,000

Avios donations: £516

British Airways Executive Club: £516

Aviva Community Fund: £13,426 

Aviva Employee Giving: £2,070

The public: £19,858

As we can see, £50,000 is an achievable target for social enterprises to reach through crowdfunding, provided that there are the match funders there to support them.

The process is simple, create a project on Crowdfunder.co.uk and by adding information about where you are based and who you benefit, you’ll quickly see which match funding opportunities are available to you. The secret is to submit your applications before launching your campaign, thereby ensuring you know exactly what the shape of the opportunity is before you start. The good news? Crowdfunder UK charges 0% fees for social enterprises.

At The Crowdfunding Coach, I offer a free 1-2-1 consultation for social enterprises. If your organisation is based in the UK and you’re interested to see how crowdfunding might be of use to you, please reach out via one of the channels below.

E: bertie@thecrowdfundingcoach.org

Instagram: the_crowdfundingcoach

LinkedIn: bertie-herrtage-11987663

 

Social Enterprises: Why Greener Methods Make Sense

In collaboration with Social Enterprise Mark CIC, I am exploring the challenges social enterprises face in adopting environmentally sustainable strategies and operations. It’s increasingly clear that as a planet we need to radically reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we release, produce less waste and help the natural environment recover. Many companies are shifting to strategies which not only ‘do less harm’ but actively help replenish the resources we use as society.

But let’s acknowledge it isn’t as easy as all that. Embarking on the journey towards more sustainable and climate-conscious operations can be a daunting task for social enterprise leaders in the UK, who already have a difficult balance of running a successful socially-driven organisation. It can seem complicated, needing time and money to make the transition to greener suppliers and methods.

It’s important to note that small businesses can make a huge difference – a recent OECD report showed that SMEs produce 70% of Europe’s carbon emissions. We can all contribute to a radically reducing greenhouse gases across the world.

It’s also important to recognise that this transition is not just about reducing your carbon footprint – it’s also a strategic move that can bring significant business benefits. In this blog, I’ll explore why greener methods make sense for social enterprises and provide six top tips to help you get started on this transformative path.

Why Greener Methods Make Business Sense

  • Meeting Customer Expectations: A Forbes report recently showed, more than three quarters of Gen Z and millennial consumers consider environmental sustainability in their purchasing decisions. By adopting greener methods, you not only meet customer expectations but also attract a larger and more loyal customer base.
  • Attracting and retaining the best talent: Gen Z and millennials care deeply about the environmental credentials of companies they work for. Over half research the sustainability of the prospective employer before they accepting a job. Greener companies also enjoy lower turnover. All companies must make sure that its strategy, purpose, operations are meaningful and fulfilling to its teams.
  • Cost Savings: Sustainability isn’t just about saving the planet; it’s about saving money too. Implementing energy-efficient technologies, reducing waste, and using less water and other resources can lead to substantial cost savings. These savings can be reinvested in your social enterprise’s mission or used to improve your products and services.
  • Risk Mitigation: Climate change and environmental degradation pose significant risks to businesses. By embracing sustainability, you can mitigate these risks. E.g. being prepared for supply chain disruptions caused by extreme weather events can keep your operations running smoothly.
  • Access to Funding: Investors and grants providers increasingly favour enterprises with strong sustainability credentials. By adopting greener methods, you improve your chances of securing funding that can help you grow and scale your social enterprise.
  • Enhanced Reputation: A reputation for environmental responsibility can set your social enterprise apart from the competition. It can open doors to partnerships, collaborations, and opportunities that may not have been available otherwise.

The Social Enterprise Mark Community Told us What’s Stopping Them:

We recently asked the Social Enterprise Mark community on LinkedIn what the main barriers are to adopting climate-conscious actions and operations. Responses showed that some social enterprises are unsure how to go about assessing their practices and adopting greener strategies and operations, or that it is too expensive or will take too much time.

Barriers % Response
Unsure what to do/how to start 46%
Too costly/resource intensive 54%
Transition is too difficult 0%
Unsure of business benefits 0%

In response to your answers, I’d like to suggest some tips on how to start considering your environmental impact which do not have to turn your business upside down or blow the budget.

Six Top Tips to Get Started Without Costing the Earth

  • Conduct a Sustainability Assessment: Start by understanding your current environmental impact. You can use free or inexpensive tools to conduct either a light-touch or more thorough assessment of your operations to identify carbon reductions. This assessment should encompass energy usage, waste production, supply chain practices, and more..
  • Set Clear Sustainability Goals: Discuss what you want to achieve around sustainability. Whether it’s reducing greenhouse gas emissions, minimising waste, or sourcing sustainable materials, having clear objectives will guide your efforts and help you track progress..
  • Get Started: explore some easy switches for supplies you already use which could have a big sustainability impact:
  1. One of the most impactful things a business (or an individual) can do is move their money to ethical financial institutions. There are banks which intentionally avoid funding fossil fuels, mining and other extractive industries and instead invest in renewable energy and technologies. 
  2. The other big switch is your energy supplier. Shifting to renewable electricity promotes its greater use across the grid and will encourage yet more future investment and lower costs. Find ways to use less energy eg. insulating your premises, or downsizing offices.
  3. Find simple ways to reduce water use and waste – saving money as well as carbon.. 
  4. Another area, albeit often with a bit more to consider in terms of time or cost, is transport. There may be lower carbon options for freight, deliveries, commuting and business travel. 
  5. One area which might be a surprise – your IT servers and web hosting can be much more carbon intensive than you’d think. Greener solutions can be found where the hosts use renewable electricity and offset the emissions from cooling refrigerants. 
  • Release the Power of Your Staff Teams! Sustainability is a collective effort. Engage your team members by raising awareness about the importance of sustainability and involving them in the decision-making process. Encourage their input and ideas for greener practices – they might come up with interesting, innovative ways to get things done differently..
  • Collaborate and Seek Expertise: Don’t go it alone. There are lots of free resources with carbon calculators, checklists and guidance. If you want more bespoke support that doesn’t cost the earth, check out companies like Green Small Business or Small99 who support SMEs on their sustainability journey.
  • Measure, Communicate and Celebrate Progress: Regularly measure your sustainability efforts to track your progress toward your goals. Communicate your achievements and challenges to your stakeholders; celebrate your progress and make your staff and customers proud! 

While the transition to more sustainable and climate-conscious operations may seem daunting or costly, it’s a journey that holds immense promise for social enterprises. 

By embracing greener methods and integrating environmental sustainability into your strategy where appropriate, you not only contribute to a healthier planet but also unlock a range of business benefits, from cost savings to enhanced reputation. You can strengthen your social mission by using responsible practices. With determination and commitment, you can navigate this green path and lead your social enterprise toward a stronger and more sustainable future.

I hope this article gives some food for thought on how social enterprises can start to consider their sustainability and start to make changes to greener practices. 

Social Enterprise vs Entrepreneurship: Are we Missing the Point?

Often the term social enterprise is laden with certain assumptions and stereotypes – many of these come with the term ‘entrepreneur’.  Entrepreneurs are presented as ‘mavericks’ challenging the status quo, systems and processes and not conforming to the norm.  In a nutshell, Silicon Valley types! 

It’s liberating to be different and to think about how to solve a problem creativelyWithout creativity and challenge many of the world’s problems would remain unaddressed with no identified solution to fill the gaps left by the state and the market. However good social enterprises should not be flash-in-the-pan start-ups aimed at ‘high growth’ to pay back shareholders, focused on a couple of heroesThey are here to stay for as long as the social challenge exists and to create and mould themselves to the next challenge whatever that isThis is why I don’t agree with the social enterprise leaders who say ‘I’m working myself out of a job’.  There will always be social and environmental challenges and we need good social enterprises to address them as they come along rather than constantly having to reinvent the wheel. 

Thinking of the current world situation with war so close both in Russia and the Middle East, I am reminded of my trips to Siberia in 2018 and 19, where I first learned of the rise of the ‘NGO’ in the early 90s when the whole economy collapsed.  People were struggling to feed themselves.  Academics at the university I attended were growing potatoes in the woods. Women (and by and large they were and are women) community leaders got together to fill the gaps as state intervention completely disappeared.  They formed organisations like the Siberia Centre that raised money and created NGOs to help the community cope and support other NGOs – a concept previously unheard of.  I don’t think that these women would have classed themselves as mavericks and entrepreneurs though.  They just got on and did what needed to be done, creating social infrastructure for the long term, where the system had failed.  Increasingly Siberian social enterprises

 are now filling these spaces (also mainly led by younger women) addressing all sorts of social and environmental problems including recycling and eco-fashion. 

What we need internationally, are good, well-run social enterprises with longevity and resilience and an ability to adapt to the challenges that society presents.  It’s a journey.  It’s not enough to just have the right legal structure and cause, we need to show continual improvement and consistent social impact.   

Social Enterprise Silver Mark

This is why we have extended our services to launch the missing step in our social enterprise pathway – the Social Enterprise Silver Mark.  The Silver Mark is aimed at social enterprises that want to show maturity and continual improvement.  They are on a journey to excellence, providing independent proof, a supportive tailored process and recommendations for achieving our highest level of excellence (the Social Enterprise Gold Mark) using the same robust criteria and assessment methodology, but with lower evidence thresholds and capacity requirements from the applicant.  The Silver Mark also offers a chance for reflection and celebration that social enterprises don’t often get because they are so busy changing the world! 

 

We will be welcoming our long-standing friend and founding Chair of The Big Issue Nigel Kershaw who join us to speak at our online celebration.  I hope to see you there.

 

 

Details of the launch event can be found here:

The Social Enterprise Silver Mark – Launch Event

 

 

If you are interested in accrediting your business to show your ethical and purposeful social enterprise credentials, you can register your interest here. You can also take our short online quiz to quickly identify if your business is eligible.

If you would like to keep up to date with our latest news please sign up for our newsletter.

The Social Enterprise Silver Mark – Launch Event

Social Enterprise Silver MarkWe are excited to share that we are launching a new tier of our comprehensive social enterprise accreditation pathway.

The Social Enterprise Silver Mark is an amplified standard of social enterprise accreditation, which demonstrates a business’ commitment to a course of continuous improvement, working towards proving social enterprise excellence. It will provide a pathway to achieving the Social Enterprise Gold Mark; the highest standard of excellence in social enterprise.

We are currently working with a small group of organisations which currently hold the Social Enterprise Mark, to assess them against the new Silver Mark framework. These will then become the inaugural recipients of the new accreditation when it is launched in later this Autumn.

Here are the details of the official launch event  – this is an online event with an exciting guest speaker and we will be showcasing the pioneering organisations that have been through the new assessment process.

Find out more about the event and sign up via our Eventbrite page.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Social Enterprise Silver Mark and how it could benefit your business, please complete this short form and we will be in touch shortly to provide more information and answer any questions you may have.

If you check this box, we will add you to our supporters mailing list, which we send regular updates to about our network of accredited social enterprises and our accreditation services. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the email.
Roots HR team

Success of free HR support for the social sector

Roots HREstablished in 2009, Roots HR CIC’s vision is to improve social sector outcomes through better people management.

As a social enterprise, their social purpose is to improve the management of people within social sector workforces through the provision of their HR services and via development opportunities for their leaders and managers.

Through profits generated in 2021/22 and in-year, they were able to provide significant levels of FREE HR support into the social sector.

During the financial year 1st April 2022 to 31st March 2023 the Roots HR team worked with over 200 social sector employers, delivering over 4,600 hours of HR consultancy supporting them with their HR needs in what was a turbulent external environment, post-pandemic and through a cost-of-living crisis.

Some highlights from their latest social impact report include:

✅ Issued over 4,440 free HR Toolkits
✅ Delivered 13 webinars

✅ Developed and delivered an 8-week, modular training programme – HR for social sector line managers
✅ Provided over 68 hours of free HR consultancy to social sector employers

✅ Produced and published 7 blogs, 4 quarterly employment newsletters and updated a portfolio of 27 HR factsheets

For more information, view their full social impact report.

Evenbreak logo

Bumper accreditation and award recognition for Evenbreak

Evenbreak, the world’s first global disability job board run by and for disabled people, has seen a landslide of summer award shortlists and a prestigious accreditation, culminating in four potential trophies and national recognition for their dedication to being the very best in inclusive employment.

RNIB Visibly Better Employer Quality StandardAfter two months of assessment, the business is proud to announce it has been accredited with an RNIB Visibly Better Employer Quality Standard. This recognises that the business has become a better and more inclusive employer for people with sight loss.

With only one in four people of working age with sight loss in employment and around 11,000 people with sight loss in the UK actively seeking work, Evenbreak is hugely passionate about improving these figures, both through its own business and also working with global businesses to support and employ the sight loss community.

Talking about the accreditation, Jane Hatton, CEO and Founder of Evenbreak, said:

Jane Hatton“All of the Evenbreak team have lived experience of disability, and we want to make sure we attract and retain the very best talent by removing any barriers they might face in recruitment and employment practices. People with sight loss are far too often excluded from the workplace, and we wanted to ensure we could access that pool of talent. The Visibly Better Employer standard helped us to check our processes for any barriers, and then let people with sight loss know that we are open to their skills.”

As well as this coup, Evenbreak has also been shortlisted for the following awards:

  • OnRec Awards 2023 under the Niche Job Board category, which will be announced on 14th September
  • UK Social Enterprise Awards 2023 – shortlisted for the category of Social Enterprise Building Diversity, Inclusion, Equity & Justice Award, which will be announced on 30th November 2023
  • The Global Recruiter UK Awards 2023 under the Best Innovation category, which will be announced on 14th November
  • The Go Global Awards 2023, held in Rhode Island, USA, which will be announced on 8th November

Jane Hatton added: “Our team works incredibly hard to open up opportunities for the disabled community in the employment market so to get credit and acknowledgment for this is hugely motivating for us all. We very much look forward to adding to our burgeoning trophy cabinet and supporting even more businesses and candidates going forward.”

For more information about Evenbreak, visit www.evenbreak.co.uk

Wooden tiles spelling 'blog' with a pen and pad in the background

University sector finances are broken; can social enterprise be the solution?

Dr Eric LybeckBy Dr Eric Lybeck, Lecturer & Presidential Fellow at University of Manchester

The world of academia, particularly within research-intensive universities, is undergoing a seismic shift. Growing financial challenges threaten our longstanding academic traditions and structures, but amidst this turmoil, might social entrepreneurship provide a means of preserving what’s best in higher learning, while at the same time, breaking down the barriers between ‘town and gown’?

The looming financial crisis in top-tier research universities

Recently, the Financial Times highlighted an alarming trend: a majority of Russell Group research-intensive universities in the UK have reported an average financial shortfall of about £2,500 for each domestic undergraduate student in the ongoing academic year.

Even more concerning, financial analysts predict this deficit could double, reaching £5,000 by the year 2029-30. This looming financial challenge recalls the pronounced funding crisis of the mid-1990s, a crisis that controversially culminated in the introduction of university tuition fees.

However, the fiscal crisis for universities goes beyond tuition fees. With uncertainty around Horizon Europe funding coming into play, inflation and related pressures, the apprehensions concerning the management of research expenses have skyrocketed. Navigating the tight rope of funding becomes harder and harder for individuals and institutions.

Zooming in on the day-to-day operations of these institutions, the root of the problem becomes evident. The days of armchair philosophers is well and truly gone. Contemporary academics find themselves ensnared in a relentless pursuit of research funds, often to merely keep their roles intact. The fierce competition of these bidding processes, combined with an archaic accounting system, exacerbates the issue. Soaring overheads are gauged against the number of full-time researchers creating perverse incentives when these cost-benefit calculations are integrated into grant proposals.

More and more value projects get sidelined as non-viable within this environment. The highly bureaucratised system becomes inherently biased towards larger-scale projects, neglecting the smaller yet often transformative experiments and more humble projects. Sadly, many academics, once at the forefront of innovation, are retreating or leaving the profession simply to conduct their research properly.

Investing in Civic Engagement

Civic University NetworkIn response to the overemphasis on ‘world leading’ research and a global student market, a ‘Civic University Commission’ was established to encourage more local engagement. This has since been supported by the government, research councils, and a ‘Civic University Network’ is based in Sheffield Hallam to document best practices.

However, while the terminology surrounding ‘civic engagement’ and ‘social responsibility’ is becoming a regular fixture in boardroom discussions, there remains a mismatch between intent and action. Initiatives hastily labelled as ‘civic’ often prove to be mere reiterations of previous efforts. Universities’ genuine commitment and strategic investment in robust civic engagement is still wanting.

This discrepancy means many community projects, despite their undeniable potential, are left in limbo, as academics, burdened with ever-increasing teaching and research responsibilities, find it difficult to engage – then, when funding is sought, the same competitive atmosphere pervades experiences, resulting in more failed bids than successful investments in community-led initiatives.

Such a lacklustre approach often leaves community partners disillusioned. They feel the brunt of unsuccessful funding bids, experience the sting of unmet promises, and grapple with the void left behind post-project completion even when initial projects are successful, but not sustained by follow on funding.

Social Entrepreneurship: A Way Forward?

With a bit of foresight and ambition, universities could solve these problems, through investment and engagement with social entrepreneurs. Imagine a more collaborative future where academic researchers partner seamlessly with community organisations, leading to projects that resonate with real-world impact.

Instead of transient associations, these alliances promise lasting change, with the flexibility to morph based on genuine community needs and not just the whims of fluctuating research grants.

However, for social entrepreneurship to gain a firm foothold in academia, several inherent challenges must be overcome:

  • Lack of experience: Academia desperately requires pioneers in this realm. Initiating student and faculty groups for exploratory projects could serve as a starting point. With firsthand experience, these pioneers can refine strategies and catalyse widespread change.
  • Time constraints: Social entrepreneurship projects, by their nature, demand patience. Universities need to recognise this and be willing to invest time in such transformative ventures.
  • Funding: Even though the ultimate aim is to attain self-sustainability, initial capital is indispensable. Governments can bridge this gap by offering specialised grants aimed at fostering both university-led and community-driven social entrepreneurial initiatives.

Conclusion

The financial clouds gathering over research-intensive universities are undeniably dark. But within this challenging environment lies a promising chance for reinvention. By embracing social entrepreneurship and bolstering civic engagement, academia has the potential to evolve and adapt in this changing landscape.

 


Dr Eric Lybeck is a Presidential Fellow and Lecturer at University of Manchester. He is committed to making universities and places better through research, engagement and teaching. He contributes regularly to media in print, television, radio and online on a number of topics including issues around culture wars, higher education policy and politics/culture generally. 

Navigating Change free events

Charity Bank host free Navigating Change events for social sector

Charity Bank logoCharity Bank is hosting a series of free events in collaboration with local and national sector partners, centred around the critical role of sustainable finance in driving positive change and fostering thriving communities.

These are free half day seminar for charities, social enterprises and community organisations, which will explore the critical role of sustainable finance in driving positive change and fostering thriving communities. Taking place in in Liverpool, London, Wolverhampton, and Southampton, with an additional virtual event to ensure that content is accessible to all, the events will share practical insights and guidance from social sector experts and leaders.

Speakers will include national and regional experts including Locality, Community First, Crowe Accountants, Brabners Solicitors, SIB Network, Charity Intelligence, and others. Together they will discuss how sustainable finance can enable charities and social enterprises to unlock their potential, the state of the sector, local challenges, and explore innovative solutions.

Each event will be hosted from 9:30am – 12:30pm at the following locations:

  • Liverpool (The Bluecoat, L1 3BX): Thursday 28th September
  • London (Museum of Brands, W11 1QT): Tuesday 3rd October
  • Southampton (Ordnance Survey, SO16 OAS): Thursday 5th October
  • Wolverhampton (ASAN, WV2 1EL): Tuesday 10th October
  • Virtual event (Via Zoom): Tuesday 17th October

To find out more and register your place, visit the Charity Bank website.

Hogan Lovells

Pro bono legal support for social enterprises

Hogan Lovells’ social enterprise practice HL BaSE is offering 6 months of free legal advice to social entrepreneurs through its HL BaSE Training programme.

Successful applicants will be matched with a small team of lawyers to advise on their legal query, starting in the week of 25th September.

Any interested social enterprises can either apply here or contact socialenterprise@hoganlovells.com with any questions.

As well as UK-based social enterprises Hogan Lovells can also offer advice to social enterprises in Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands/BeNeLux (or who require support under EU law).

Stakeholder survey summary showing key statistics

Social Enterprise Mark CIC 2023 Stakeholder Survey Summary

Earlier this year, we conducted a comprehensive survey of our Mark Holders and other key stakeholders, to ensure our services continue to address the evolving needs of the growing social enterprise sector and create meaningful impact.

Many thanks to all those who took the time to participate in the survey – your feedback is extremely valuable and will help inform our strategic direction and future development of our services.

Stakeholder survey summary 2023We are pleased to share this summary report, which highlights the key findings from the survey and illustrates the impact that we have on the social enterprise sector.

The data collected in the survey will be used to create our annual impact report, which will be published in the Autumn.

If you have any comments or questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 


Do you qualify?If you are interested in finding out more about gaining accreditation for your social enterprise, you can take our short online quiz to check your eligibility or register your interest in applying for accreditation.

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Meet the Social Enterprise Mark Holder: Roots HR CIC

Roots HR

 

Roots HR CIC is the UK’s specialist consultancy for human resources for the social sector. We enable organisations to continually improve performance and sustainability through better people management, whilst ensuring an understanding of and compliance with employment legislation.

We provide high quality and affordable services to social sector organisations. We are the only HR consultancy in the UK to use our trading surpluses to provide pro bono (free) HR services and learning and development to leaders and managers working in social sector.

When did your business become a social enterprise and why?

Roots HR has been a social enterprise since its inception in 2009; this was a key mission of our Founder and Social Enterprise Mark Ambassador, Jan Golding.

 

What social needs are you trying to address and what types of social outcome are you striving to deliver?

Our vision is to improve outcomes for beneficiaries of social sector organisations through better people management.

Photo of a man and a woman sat at a desk with full length glass windows behind themWe provide affordable, accessible and high-quality HR services to enable small to medium social sector organisations best respond to external and internal forces whenever required.

Through the provision of our fee earning work, we can fund our pro-bono services.

Individuals learn from both taking advice/attending training and from the experience of implementing this in practice. Meaning that within these social sector organisations managers are better able to manage people, people management feels inclusive, fair and “normal” to the workforce and people management risks are minimised and key talent is retained within the sector.

Ultimately this means that the social sector organisations can retain more of their income for service delivery to their beneficiaries.

 

What is your main reason for having our accreditation? What were your expectations?

Roots HR have held the Social Enterprise Mark continuously for 11 years. To us it is a visible mark that demonstrates our integrity and credibility as a social enterprise, showing we operate primarily to create benefits for people and planet.

 

What does accreditation mean to you? What does it say about your business?

Holding the Social Enterprise Mark demonstrates that Roots HR continually meets sector-agreed criteria and that we are operating as a genuine social enterprise, committed to creating positive social change.

It means that we can clearly demonstrate best practice in areas fundamental to being a social enterprise such as stakeholder engagement, social impact and ethics. The accreditation facilitates us in achieving our vision, mission, social purpose and values.

 

What benefits has there been as a result of being accredited? 

The accreditation process requires us to undertake a rigorous external assessment which is supplemented by annual checks against criteria. This process ensures that as an organisation we take stock and can reflect on our vision, mission and on the social impact we have created.

As a team we take immense pride in seeing all that we have achieved!

 

Are there any specific achievements/accomplishments that are linked to holding the accreditation?

As a social enterprise operating solely in the social sector, the accreditation is clear proof to our clients, stakeholders and the wider social sector of our social enterprise credentials; which can help differentiate us from our competition.

 

What would you say to another social enterprise considering accreditation?

As a Mark holder for over 11 years and with our Founder operating as a Social Enterprise Mark Ambassador, we would wholeheartedly encourage other social enterprises to go through the accreditation process!

Through this journey you will be able to prove your credibility; demonstrate best practice as a social enterprise and clearly articulate your social impact.

 

Any other comments/feedback?

The team at Social Enterprise Mark CIC are incredibly helpful and at Roots HR we consider them as our partners in helping us to achieve our social purpose.

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Find out more about Roots HR CIC by visiting their listing on our Mark Holder Directory.

What next

If you would like to find out more about becoming an accredited social enterprise please complete our Eligibility Quiz to find out more.

Photo of green shoots emerging from soil

Participate in research on strategy in emerging social enterprises

Are you an aspiring social change maker in London, aiming to create social impact while generating income through your venture? Whether you have a promising idea, a venture in its early stages, or one that’s started scaling up, your story matters.

Peter Nimmo, a lecturer at London South Bank University’s Business School, is conducting research which seeks to understand the critical early days of social enterprises and how strategies evolve during the start-up process.

Peter is passionate about seeing communities flourish and social businesses thrive. Join him in shaping the future of social entrepreneurship by sharing your journey for his research.

Reach out to Peter directly at nimmop@lsbu.ac.uk to contribute your insights and experiences.

You can connect with Peter on LinkedIn for updates about his research and to connect with like-minded changemakers.

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HM King’s Birthday Honours List 2023: Tailored Leisure Company

Tailored Leisure Company logoSouth Tyneside based Tara Mackings , Director of Tailored Leisure Company (TLC), was awarded a British Empire Medal in the HM King’s Birthday Honours List, for services to her community.

TLC is renowned in the North East region for their ethos and vision to overcome the barriers and social exclusion faced by disabled people, specifically in terms of access to fitness and leisure activities.

Tara has been a key driving force in developing accessible projects in the local community since its inception. Tara and the team are committed to developing accessible opportunities to get fit, have fun and relax with as little stress as possible and are passionate about overcoming the barriers and social exclusion faced by disabled people.

Tara Mackings BEM said: “I was absolutely shocked and overwhelmed when I was contacted by the Cabinet Office with the news. It’s such an amazing accolade to receive for both myself, the team and Tailored Leisure Company as a whole.

We’ve worked so hard over the years to build the concept and to receive recognition from the highest levels is just awe-inspiring, I really can’t believe it and to especially have my children share this special memory with me is just wonderful.”

The award-winning formula at TLC has seen the team pick up an influx of award nominations and wins for their ground-breaking work and they have established a strong collaborative working approach to drive the development of accessible projects across the region, with partners including SAFCs Foundation of Light, Sunderland City Council and Headway Wearside.

The exciting announcement comes on the back of recent news that the team were successful in securing a £125,000 funding award from the National Lottery Community Fund for a two-year project to further grow their work in the region.

To find out more about TLC visit www.tailoredleisure.co.uk

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Lendology CIC honoured in 2023 NatWest SE100 Awards

Lendology logoLendology CIC has been recognised as a winner in the prestigious NatWest SE100 Awards 2023.

This honour highlights their commitment to driving positive change and sustainability within the lending industry. Lendology was named Climate Champion, solidifying their dedication to combatting climate change through innovative lending solutions.

“At Lendology CIC, we firmly believe that addressing the climate crisis is crucial for building a sustainable future. Being named the Climate Champion in the NatWest SE100 Awards 2023 is a testament to our dedication. We actively incorporate environmental considerations into our lending practices, supporting energy efficiency, renewable energy adoption, and sustainable home improvements. This recognition reinforces our commitment to creating a greener and more resilient society.”Emma Lower, CEO of Lendology CIC.

To find out more about Lendology click here to visit their website.

Photo of a woman speaking with text overlay: "The world is changing, and governments and businesses need to change with it, not remain stuck in the old paradigm."

Having real teeth: A taxing issue

I’m not talking about dentists or crowns (although we do have a brilliant Mark Holder in Peninsula Dental that does this!), rather tax breaks for social enterprises and businesses that can prove they are achieving a better world through their business model.

We can help prove and evidence this as all of our social enterprise accreditations independently verify that the business is led by social and environmental objectives rather than shareholder gain, and therefore could be used to help identify such businesses where tax breaks are applicable. In this blog I examine why we now urgently need this bold step.

Many political parties claim to want more businesses that are truly ‘purpose led’ but have not backed it up with specific policy or legislation. The world is changing, and governments and businesses need to change with it, not remain stuck in the old paradigm. Straightforward tax breaks would really make a difference and stimulate the growth that is so urgently needed.

The UK Government has consistently resisted the provision of simple fiscal incentives for specific types of company, preferring to remain agnostic on structure despite evidence that social enterprises contribute so much to the economy as well as tackling social and environmental issues. The sole recent tax relief aimed at social enterprises in England (which is now finished) was Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR), which was aimed at investors rather than for the business itself and was largely irrelevant to most social enterprises as they can’t take equity investment (not to mention it was complicated to administer and understand).

Rather than incentivise certain beneficial types of company that help deliver policy objectives, the orthodoxy is that the market will provide outcomes and investment due to the profit motive. The profit driver above all other considerations comes at a cost to non-financial outcomes. The time has come for all parties to challenge this orthodoxy, particularly in delivery of goods and services that people depend upon for their daily lives.

The current scandal around water companies perfectly illustrates why we need governments to incentivise in the right way. Currently, financial rewards are reaped for those that asset strip in the name of higher dividends – ignoring the social and environmental consequences of not investing in these aspects of the business. There have been other recent well-known cases often led by private equity firms making quick returns at the expense of long-term stability and reinvestment in staff and infrastructure.

‘Shareholder primacy’ as it’s known, is also one of the relatively undiscussed but key reasons that the UK is facing relatively high levels of stagnation and inequality according to a briefing by the Common Wealth Think Tank. The researchers have noted that it leads to behaviours that are much more pronounced in the UK – i.e. extracting larger shareholder payouts rather than investing in the workforce and the company, which leads to lower productivity. Their research finds that there is a correlation between democratic governance and higher levels of investment within the business. The pressure from financial markets to ‘disgorge cash’ has impact on both investment and thus sustainable growth.

Governance (i.e. the set of rules about how the company is set up) is an essential part of being ‘purpose led’. How can you have a business that extracts as much dividend and equity for shareholders as possible yet claims to be driven by social and environmental purpose? In the UK, the main stakeholder tends to be the shareholder – with relatively low priority being given to others such as the local community, employees and the environment.

Many political parties claim to want more businesses that are truly ‘purpose led’ but have not backed it up with specific policy or legislation. The world is changing, and governments and businesses need to change with it, not remain stuck in the old paradigm. Straightforward tax breaks would really make a difference and stimulate the growth that is so urgently needed. We will be lobbying parties for this change with our social enterprise partners on the Business Plan for Britain campaign. Watch this space!

If you are interested in accrediting your business to show your ethical and purposeful social enterprise credentials, you can register your interest here. You can also take our short online quiz to quickly identify if your business is eligible.

If you would like to keep up to date with our latest news please sign up for our newsletter.

SE100 2023 badge

Social Enterprise Mark CIC named in SE100 index of top UK social enterprises

We are delighted to have been named in the NatWest SE100 Index of the UK’s top 100 social enterprises. We are in esteemed company – congratulations to all the social enterprises who made the list.

This is the third time we have been included in the index since 2020, when we were also shortlisted as a finalist for the SE100 Social Business Awards.

Managing Director Lucy Findlay said “Absolutely fantastic news that we have made it into the prestigious SE100 again this year. It’s great to be in the company of so many social enterprises truly making a difference to people’s lives and the world around us for the better.”

The SE100 Index is selected according to a number of different criteria to reflect both business and impact issues – including financial performance, how thoroughly impact is measured and managed, and commitment to both climate issues and to taking positive action on equality and diversity.

The Index was created by Pioneers Post in partnership with NatWest Social & Community Capital, the bank’s independent social investment charity.

Megan Virrels, CEO of NatWest Social & Community Capital, said: “A huge congratulations to all those named in this year’s NatWest SE100 list. Social & Community Capital has been committed to supporting UK social enterprises for over 20 years, and we are constantly inspired by the resilience, ambition, and creativity that we see in the sector.

So we’re delighted to partner with Pioneers Post again to showcase the very best social enterprises across the UK and recognise the fantastic work of these impactful organisations.”

You can view the full SE100 Index on the Pioneers Post website.

 

Help HISBE rock their Crowdfunder

HISBE logoRebel Supermarket HISBE is coming out of the last 3 years swinging! They may have got battered by covid and the cost-of-living crisis, but there’s nothing better to rally the troops than a crowdfunder! It’s had a great start, hitting £50k – and now HISBE need to reach £75k in 14 days, to unlock another £25k in match-funding.

The world needs alternatives to Tesco’s and the like… and this December, HISBE hope to celebrate 10 years of fighting for a sustainable future for food and farming. Please help them get their community supermarkets back on course for growth, by getting behind the fundraiser on Crowdfunder.co.uk.

Their supporters, customers and suppliers have done an amazing job so far, but they now need help to hit the next hurdle!

So, if you care about good food or local community, sustainability, or social enterprise, please get involved. People can simply donate, or there are some exclusive rewards on offer, like discount cards and birthday boxes, coffee training, breadmaking workshops and farm visits – you can even pay to party at the store!

Every pledge is being matched by two other funders, turning your £1 into £3 or even £4. Aviva has teamed up with Crowdfunder to support HISBE’s work through their Community Fund. And as they reach each £25k milestone, The Be The Earth Foundation drop in £25k to match their efforts.

HISBE Co-founder Ruth Anslow says “These last three years have been tough, on all of us. HISBE has been in survival mode – and we are so grateful to all our customers and supporters for sticking with us. HISBE simply wouldn’t still be here without you.

Running any small business at the moment is extra challenging, with rising costs and customers watching their pennies. But it’s even more of a balancing act for HISBE, as a social enterprise. It costs us extra to follow our values and do the right thing, whilst still keeping prices affordable for our shoppers. 

Thankfully we are now seeing the shoots of recovery in both stores, but we also need to raise funding to keep going and return HISBE to expansion-readiness. Our goal is to build a network of stores in Sussex – and we’re in talks with Lewes Council about bringing HISBE store number 3 to Lewes High Street in 2024.” 

To find out more and get involved visit the Crowdfunder campaign page.

The Good Report

Share your opinions on ethical business and the cost of living crisis

In Good Company logoIn Good Company is currently conducting research for their upcoming Good Report, looking at living sustainably, supporting small businesses with ethics and how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting both consumers and good businesses.

We all know the cost-of-living crisis is putting pressure on us as individuals and that small businesses – especially those operating with ethics – are finding it tough.

In Good Company hears lots of anecdotes about how challenging it is to be an ethical small business owner right now, and how consumer behaviour is changing as a result of the current financial climate, but so far has not seen any real detail published anywhere.

Their forthcoming Good Report will really dig into the detail behind the soundbite, and they want to hear from ethical businesses, to ensure they’re building a genuine, representative snapshot into what’s happening for ethical and sustainable businesses right now.

Visit this link to participate in the survey – https://tripetto.app/run/UAMC5SYNBD

Supporting her Enterprise (SHE) logo

Supporting Her Enterprise (SHE) Plymouth Project

Iridescent IdeasThe team at Iridescent Ideas are excited to launch their new project – SHE Plymouth – supporting women in Plymouth to explore their ideas for business or the community, increase their confidence, develop their skills and knowledge and make connections to help them start their journey.

This FREE support is open to all women in Plymouth and will provide them with:

  • Advice
  • Support
  • Training
  • Coaching
  • Networking
  • Peer support

This project is ideal for any women in Plymouth looking to get into employment; return to work after having children or taking a career break; seeking flexible working or a better work-life balance; thinking about a career change; or anyone who has an idea for a social business or to make a difference in their community. SHE Plymouth is funded by The Rank Foundation and Livewell Southwest.

For an informal chat, call Jo on 07561 034982 or email she@iridescentideas.com. Or you can register here https://forms.gle/k3VFc8L2uBsTNYWU9.

Roots HR pro bono HR services

FREE HR services from Roots HR CIC

Roots HR CIC are delighted to offer the following FREE offerings to support charities and other social sector organisations:

To find out more and book your free place, visit the Roots HR website.

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Wates and Impact Hub London expand social enterprise programme

Eight social enterprises have won a spot on a unique business support programme led by Wates Group and Impact Hub London, giving them an opportunity to expand nationally and secure larger contracts.

The seven-month Assisting Social Enterprises to Succeed (ASSETS) programme provides expert mentoring, workshops and peer sessions for a carefully selected group of social or environmental impact-driven suppliers to improve their readiness to scale up and successfully compete UK-wide. Wates employees will be volunteering their time to support the social enterprises as part of the project and Wates’ wider social value commitments.

The scheme, now in its third year, has already supported nine social enterprises, driving an average of 25% growth across the four businesses supported in 2022. Participants said it strengthened their commercial awareness and entrepreneurial talents, laying the groundwork for future business growth.

Now with the involvement of People’s Postcode Lottery and BSS – part of Travis Perkins Group – more businesses will benefit from the scheme.

From supporting young offenders into work to empowering communities to care for the spaces around them, the social enterprises awarded a spot on this year’s scheme are:

  • The Skill Mill Limitedproviding employment opportunities in construction, water and land management to young offenders.
  • Rising Stars Property Solutions creating employment and training opportunities for people from disadvantaged communities.
  • Down to Earth – offering fully accessible and inclusive homes, hospitals and school infrastructure to diverse community groups using traditional and sustainable building methods.
  • Ethstat Ethical Stationery – a sustainable and ethical procurement company that gives 100% of its profits towards ending homelessness and helping vulnerable people back to work.
  • Evolve – a company transforming the lives and aspirations of children and young people through mentoring, now looking to strengthen its offer to construction companies and housing associations through employee wellbeing programmes.
  • e50K Consultancy – supporting companies in defence, justice, construction and IT to become leaders in social value.
  • Urban Growth Learning Gardens – empowering communities to create and care for natural urban spaces in London.
  • Viewpoint Research Community Interest Company helping companies make informed decisions to improve services through customer satisfaction surveys, especially within the housing sector.

Su Pickerill, Head of Social Value at Wates, said

“It is a real privilege to be embarking on year three of ASSETS, supporting Social Enterprises (SEs) to scale and it’s great that this year we can grow the programme by bringing in BSS, part of the Travis Perkins Group, to partner with us and support more SEs. Furthermore, input from PPL will formalise research and learning to drive impact. 

“We have identified a broad cohort of SEs that will receive mentoring and workshop input and I look forward to watching their interactions with the mentors and to seeing their knowledge, awareness and impact increase.” 

Angelica Santodomingo, Senior Programmes Manager of Impact Hub London, said:

“We are delighted to launch the 2023 cohort of the Assisting Social Enterprises to Succeed (ASSETS) programme; it has a strong track record of supporting social enterprises in the construction industry supply chain, and we are excited to work with our partners to help more organisations achieve their goals and have a greater impact.”

Dave Castle, Managing Director of BSS, said:

“As a business at the heart of our communities, we take great pride in making positive local changes happen. Working closely with our customers and partners we believe that collaboration can be a real engine for change, so we are excited to be a partner in this programme and support social entrepreneurs in our industry as they look to innovate and positively impact the communities where we live and work.”

Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said:

“The launch of the ASSETS programme is a demonstration of our commitment to empowering social enterprises in the construction industry supply chain. We hope that the £78k awarded thanks to our players will enable participating businesses to scale their operations and secure larger contracts helping to foster a sustainable future for our construction industry.”

About ASSETS

Assisting Social Enterprises to Succeed (ASSETS) is a business support programme for social enterprises in the construction industry supply chain. First launched by Impact Hub London and Wates in 2021, the scheme is expanding this year through a partnership with People’s Postcode Lottery and Travis Perkins BSS, who are providing additional funding and mentors. To learn more about the impact of previous ASSETS programmes, visit the programme website.

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Learn the basics of starting your own business – new short course

Are you thinking of starting your own small business?

Bath Spa UniversityBath Spa University’s new Entrepreneurship for Beginners short course teaches you how to find your target audience, market your product or service and manage your business’s finances.

You’ll attend a series of online lectures over four days to kick start your entrepreneurial journey and discover key marketing techniques to establish your business’s brand.

Find out more: https://bit.ly/3oVDXjp

Social Enterprise Scotland Awards logo

Social Enterprise Awards Scotland open for applications

The Social Enterprise Awards Scotland are back for 2023, celebrating the incredible work and impact of social enterprises across Scotland.

The awards are a real opportunity to showcase the very best of the sector, highlighting the agility, ability and active role that social enterprises play in building places, supporting communities and making a positive impact on our environment and wellbeing.

This year, three new categories have been introduced providing further opportunities for social enterprises and those who work with them to be recognised for their impact. These are:

  • Building Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Justice Award
  • Tech for Good Award
  • Social Enterprise Volunteer Champion Award

These are in addition to the existing six award categories:

  • Social Enterprise of the Year Scotland Award
  • One to Watch Award
  • Buy Social – Market Builder Award
  • Health and Social Care Award
  • Environmental Social Enterprise Award
  • Social Enterprise Employee Champion Award

All social enterprises that operate in Scotland or individuals that work/volunteer in Scotland are eligible to enter.

Applications are open until 9am on Monday 3rd July. Visit the Social Enterprise Scotland website to find out more and start your application today!

Collaborating for social change – recent events overview

We recently partnered with Cambio and Flourish CIC to organise a series of successful events in Manchester, which brought together a vibrant community of individuals and organisations committed to extending the reach, embedding best practice in, and amplifying the impact of social enterprises.

The events, supported by the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, featured prominent figures from across the social enterprise sector, who shared their insights and emphasised the significant role played by social enterprises in sustainable civic engagement and the pursuit of equitable growth.

Photo of a room full of people watching a person speaking at the front of the roomThe first event was an invite-only roundtable event promoting collaboration across social enterprise provision for Higher Education Institutions.

The conference invited key leaders from the Civic Universities network and keynote speakers included Dr Julian Skyrme, Director of Social Responsibility at The University of Manchester and Professor Sharon Handley, Pro Vice Chancellor for Culture and Community at Manchester Metropolitan University.

This event was followed by an evening networking reception with keynote speaker Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, and a showcase of local social enterprises, including Met Much, Tales to Inspire, Equal Education Chances, and All Ears CIC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final event was our ‘Beyond Better Business’ annual conference, which looked at the future of business and how alternative economic models, which prioritise the wellbeing of people and planet over private gain, can enable businesses to make a real difference to the communities in which they are based. Guest speakers included Erinch Sahan from Doughnut Economics Action Lab, Charlotte Timson from Transform Trade, and Chris Cowcher from Plunkett Foundation.

Photo of a panel of speakers sat on high stools in front of three pop-up bannersPhoto of people sat at tables in a glass atrium building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our SEEChange partner Peter Ptashko FRSA, CEO of Cambio, expressed his gratitude to all those involved in the events, stating, “These fantastic events brought together the community in Greater Manchester to extend reach, embed practice and amplify impact in civic social enterprise. A big thank you to Andy Burnham and both the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University for catalysing that impact, as we continue to build towards a more sustainable, place-based future for business and society”.

Our Managing Director Lucy Findlay, highlighted the main event takeaways, saying, “Social enterprises can provide THE model for sustainable civic engagement and leveling up due to their combined financial and social value/impact approach, reinvesting in their communities rather than extracting for shareholders.

Without social enterprises, there is a risk of an inconsistent approach to supporting communities as funding waxes and wanes. Manchester is ahead of much of England due to better partnership working, thriving grassroots entrepreneurship, and support for social enterprise at a policy level by Mayor Andy Burnham.” 

Nickala Torkington, Co-Founder and Director of Flourish Together CIC added, “It was fantastic to bring the Social Enterprise Mark CIC conference to Manchester this year as well as shine a light on what our Universities and wider social economy are innovating and achieving. As well as showcasing local talent and discussing key turning points and solutions for our region, in benefiting people and planet,  it was great to learn from colleagues across the UK and nationally thanks to the networks and audience the event attracted.”

To keep up to date with future events, please join our newsletter mailing list.

UK social enterprise awards 2023 badge

Applications are open for the UK Social Enterprise Awards

Applications are now open for the UK Social Enterprise Awards – the biggest celebration of the leading lights in the social enterprise movement.

As well as the award for overall Social Enterprise of the Year and the ‘One-to-Watch Award’ recognising a pioneering start-up business, there are categories for social enterprises leading the way in particular fields, from education and training to public services. The awards will also recognise social enterprises tackling the climate crisis as well as those working to promote equality, diversity, inclusion and justice.

For the first time, there is a specific award recognising the ‘Social Enterprise Innovation of the Year’, shining a spotlight on the creativity in the sector.

Applications close on Friday 30th June and the winners will be announced at a gala ceremony taking place at the Roundhouse in London on 30th November.

Click here to find out more and apply.

Meet the Social Enterprise Mark Holder: bMoneyWize CIC

 

bMoneyWize CIC logo

bMoneyWize CIC is a multi-award winning and accredited social enterprise. We aim to empower individuals and families to make informed financial decisions by providing accessible, engaging, and practical financial education tools and resources.

When did your business become a social enterprise and why?

We always had a social mission and became a not-for-profit enterprise in 2015. When we decided to be classed a social enterprise when creating educational products, we could diversify our income streams and still support our social cause – financial education and numeracy.

What social needs are you trying to address and what types of social outcome are you striving to deliver?

bMoneyWize addresses these social needs related to financial literacy and education.

  1. Photo of a group of people sat around a table playing a gameImproving financial literacy: Many individuals and families lack basic financial literacy skills, leading to poor financial decision-making, debt, and financial insecurity. bMoneyWize provides accessible, engaging, and effective financial education tools and resources to help individuals and families develop the knowledge and skills to make informed financial decisions.
  2. Reducing financial exclusion: Low-income individuals and communities and other marginalised groups often face financial exclusion due to limited access to financial services and products. bMoneyWize’s financial education solutions aim to empower individuals and families with the knowledge and skills needed to access and use financial products and services effectively.
  3. Promoting financial well-being: Financial stress and insecurity can have negative impacts on individuals’ physical and mental health, as well as their overall well-being. bMoneyWize’s financial education solutions aim to promote financial well-being by helping individuals and families develop financial habits and behaviours that support their long-term financial goals.
  4. Bridging the financial education gap: Financial education is often not included in formal education curricula, leaving many individuals needing access to basic financial literacy education. bMoneyWize provides financial education solutions that can be used both in schools and at home, bridging the financial education gap and helping to build a more financially literate population.

Overall, bMoneyWize addresses essential social needs related to financial literacy and education, aiming to empower individuals and families to achieve financial well-being and security.

Photo of a group of people sat around a table playing a game

Group of people sat around a table having a conversation

 

 

 

 

 

What is your main reason for having our accreditation? What were your expectations?

We applied for accreditation to

  1. enhance our credibility,
  2. reputation,
  3. and competitiveness,
  4. and to demonstrate our commitment to quality and effectiveness.

We expect that our accreditation status will increase our audience’s confidence in the quality of our products and services.

What does accreditation mean to you? What does it say about your business?

Accreditation can provide several benefits for bMoneyWize, including enhanced credibility and recognition, improved program quality, competitive advantage, funding and partnership opportunities, and, ultimately, better outcomes for users.

What benefits has there been as a result of being accredited? E.g. did you find the assessment process useful? Do you feel the accreditation give you more credibility as a social enterprise?

Some of the benefits of being accredited have included are:

  1. Increased credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of stakeholders.
  2. Enhanced reputation and recognition as a leader in financial education.
  3. Improved ability to attract volunteers.

The assessment process was helpful for us because there was an acknowledgement of the work we had done over time. The accreditation has contributed to the increase in the number of volunteer applications.

Are there any specific achievements/accomplishments that are linked to holding the accreditation?

We have been able to attract new collaborators on new community projects.

What would you say to another social enterprise considering accreditation?

I would say, “What are you waiting for?”

Any other comments/feedback?

“Financial literacy is key for all young people and can be a significant barrier to social mobility. Promoting and helping younger people access this information can be life-changing,” says one of our volunteers.

 


Find out more about bMoneyWize CIC by visiting their listing on our Mark Holder Directory.

What next

If you would like to find out more about becoming an accredited social enterprise please complete our Eligibility Quiz to find out more.

Launch your career to new heights with Plymouth Marjon University

A woman and two mean stood in front of a blue wall with 'ambition' in letters on the wallThe MSc Business, Enterprise, and Management programme at Plymouth Marjon University is a fantastic opportunity for students from a range of backgrounds to enhance their skill development and launch themselves into a management or leadership role within their chosen context.

Whether you have studied a contextual UG degree, such as sport development and coaching, outdoor adventure education, or even something like SEND or English, this programme will expose you to the world of business and equip you with the necessary business and graduate employability skills. This programme may appeal to students who are considering portfolio or entrepreneurial careers, as students have the opportunity to develop a business idea and plan as part of the course, or those returning to education who are looking to upskill themselves for career development and progression.

Alongside a programme of study, students will also be able to take part in The Enhancement Series, which has been designed specifically for this programme. This series allows students to participate in skills development, professional network development, gain business mentoring support, and hear from industry experts, all structured alongside their academic studies.

The programme benefits from a range of practical assessments and throughout the programme, students will be given the opportunity to report and reflect on an industry of their choice, gaining valuable insights into the drivers and barriers to success within that industry. In addition, students will participate in an innovation task, where they will design and promote a new product. They will also work with real-world organisations to apply their knowledge to offer solutions or innovate for business success.

To find out more, visit www.marjon.ac.uk or contact the Programme Lead Dr Laura Wallis at lwallis@marjon.ac.uk.

Bath Spa University

Learn how to navigate the ESG landscape of the fashion industry

Photo of a woman looking at clothes on a clothes railDo you work in the fashion industry and want to learn more about sustainable business practices?

Bath Spa University is running a new two day short course in ESG Essentials for Fashion Professionals that will develop your expertise in sustainability and give you the confidence to contribute effectively to an increasingly important area in business.

Online lectures and workshops will be delivered by award-winning responsible business specialists Louise McCabe and Tara Luckman, Directors of Flourish CSR. Topics will cover people and human rights, fashion and the environment, creating positive social change and more.

The course takes place on Friday 7th and Friday 14th July, 9:00am-5:00pm.Book your place: https://bit.ly/42Jqs4G

 

B Corp

Social enterprise lender announces new B Corp status

Lendology logoLendology CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise lender, has announced today its certification as a B Corporation (or B Corp), joining a growing group of companies reinventing business by pursuing purpose. Lendology has been certified by B Lab, the not-for-profit behind the B Corp movement.

A B Corp Certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.

Chris Turner, Executive Director of B Lab UK says, “We are delighted to welcome Lendology CIC to the B Corp community. This is a movement of companies who are committed to changing how business operates and believe business really can be a force for good. We know that Lendology are going to be a fantastic addition to the community and will continue driving the conversation forward.” 

Certified B Corporations are leaders in the global movement for an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy, all of which are endorsed as Lendology’s core values.

Emma Lower, CEO at Lendology said, “We applied to become a B Corp because we wanted to demonstrate that we provide high standards of both social, environmental performance, transparency and accountability. So as well as being a social enterprise and a community interest company, being a B Corp will offer us increased employee retention, engagement and diversity. It also means we’re connected to other B Corps in terms of our suppliers.” 

By becoming a certified B-Corporation, Lendology will be held accountable for continuous social and environmental improvements, and as B Corps are required to undergo the verification process every three years in order to recertify. Because of this, B Corps are by definition focused on continuous improvement, leading to their long-term resiliency.

For more information about Lendology’s social impact visit: https://www.lendology.org.uk/about/our-social-impact/ 

Social Enterprise Mark CIC

Social Enterprise Mark CIC strengthens its Board of Directors

We are excited to announce we have appointed three new Non-Executive Directors to our Board, as we embark on an ambitious growth trajectory.

These new Directors, recruited through online board recruitment platform NuRole, bring a wealth of valuable experience to help us drive the organisation forward.

Alison BrownAlison Brown leads on partnership opportunities as Director of Community and External Engagement at the Open University, helping the faculty grow its income and influence across the UK. Her expertise includes sustainable growth, strategic communications and social impact. She holds several other non-executive roles and acts as a disability adviser to businesses in various sectors, drawing on her lived experience.

Kerryn KrigeKerryn Krige is a Senior Lecturer in Teaching Practice at the Marshall Institute for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy at the London School of Economics (LSE). She is also co-author of the book ‘The Disruptors, social entrepreneurs re-inventing business and society’ and has led two mapping studies of social entrepreneurship, with a focus on poverty and inequality.

Karen StantonProfessor Karen Stanton  is a consultant working in Higher Education. She is the former Vice-Chancellor of York St John University (2015-2019) and Solent University, Southampton (2019-2023). She led both institutions through a period of growth and transformation. Karen is passionate about widening access and participation to education and reimagining the delivery of education in a digital age. Throughout her career, she has emphasized the social purpose and impact of universities and their role as social enterprises.

We also welcome a new employee representative to the Board – Zoe Campbell has taken over from Rachel Fell, who has completed her two year tenure in the role.

We would like to extend our thanks to Sara Burgess, who has recently stepped down from the Board after seven years.

Certified Carbon Neutral Lender for Partners, People & Planet

Lendology pioneers sustainable finance with first Community Impact Report

Lendology logoLendology, a social enterprise that provides affordable lending to homeowners, has released its first-ever Community Impact Report.

The report highlights the company’s commitment to reducing its environmental impact, promoting well-being for its team members, and making a positive impact on the communities it serves.

Lendology’s notable achievements include being the first carbon-neutral lender in the UK and donating 10% of its profits to National Energy Action. The company has also implemented a “Buy Social or Local” procurement policy, installed LED lighting in its office, and donated essential items to Somerset Aid for Ukraine.

The company is committed to supporting the health and well-being of its team members, providing access to counseling services, offering above statutory minimum annual leave entitlements, and partnering with Growing Vision to deliver coaching and mentoring sessions.

Looking ahead to 2023, Lendology has committed to supporting National Energy Action with a percentage of its profits, organizing two volunteer days for all team members to give time to local charities, and trialing a four-day working week to improve work-life balance.

Lendology plans to align its service delivery with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, embed its “Buy Local or Social Procurement Policy,” and train each team member to become “Energy Champions” to support the reduction of energy consumption at work and home.

Emma Lower, CEO of Lendology, said: “At Lendology, we want to go further in reducing our impact on the environment and ensuring our team members are healthy and happy. We are thrilled to launch our first-ever Community Impact Report, highlighting our achievements to date and plans for 2023 and beyond.”

At Lendology, the team believes that every homeowner should be able to live in a home that supports their health and well-being without excess cold or heat, and access to affordable lending is key to making that happen. They are committed to achieving their sustainable development goals and continuing to make a positive impact on the communities they serve.

To learn more about Lendology’s sustainable finance journey, please visit their website and download their Community Impact Report.

For more information about the loan scheme, visit www.lendology.org.uk or call 01823 461099.

Square image with yellow background and white text: Have your say

Have your say on the future development of our services

As a customer-focused organisation, we conduct an annual stakeholder survey to ensure our services continue to address the evolving needs of the growing social enterprise sector and create meaningful impact.

We greatly value your input to inform the future development of our services and welcome you to participate in the survey.

Roots HRAs a thank you for your time, there is the option to be included in a prize draw* for a chance to win 4 hours of HR advice line support from social sector specialists Roots HR via their COMPLY service, valued at £396 + VAT. Support is delivered by social sector HR experts. Hours remain available to use for up to 12 months from the date you are notified of your win.**

Please complete the survey below, or click this link to complete the survey in a new window.

Please note: the survey will close at midnight on Friday 23rd June 2023.

 

*The winner will be drawn at random from all complete survey responses after the survey closes.
**Access to the HR advice line is by phone or email. All work is undertaken remotely. Usage of time is recorded on a timesheet in multiples of 15 minutes.

Photo of a woman speaking with text overlay: "This is why social enterprises are far more than businesses, in the conventional narrow interpretation of the word. They are the fabric of the community that picks up those that are left behind for whatever reason by the wider economy and society due to market failure as well as providing goods and services that add social value."

Why should we be thinking beyond the ‘better business’ message?

In a few weeks we are holding our Beyond Better Business conference in Manchester.  It will be preceded by a drinks reception, which Andy Burnham will be attending the night beforehand, showcasing and celebrating local social enterprises.   

This theme is very pertinent and current in many ways, but particularly whilst the actions of business are increasingly being put under the spotlight following the allegations at the CBI, a body that purports to represent the wider business world in good practice and leadership.  


Whenever I have communicated with the CBI we seem to have been on a very different wavelength and it’s a constant source of frustration in many business fora that social enterprises are not understood or somehow seen as ‘not proper business’ because we put our stakeholders before financial gains for shareholders. We are often marginalised and ignored. The same goes for business departments of government.   

But this is not to say that the wider business community cannot learn and adapt to become more like social enterprises. B Lab (the home of B Corp for the UK) for instance use the strapline Let’s use business as a force for good. They talk about “redefining the role of business within our economic system so that every business is a force for good”. However, social enterprises have social good as their core mission, it goes beyond mere window dressing or ‘purpose signalling’… It’s in their DNA. 

This is why social enterprises are far more than businesses, in the conventional narrow interpretation of the word. They are the fabric of the community that picks up those that are left behind for whatever reason by the wider economy and society due to market failure as well as providing goods and services that add social value.   

The social enterprise raison d’être is making a difference by tacking some of the knotty issues that society faces, in a nimble and entrepreneurial way. They often fill the gaps that other businesses don’t or won’t reach, because their central mission is to solve a social/environmental problem (whilst making money to sustain themselves in achieving their social/environmental mission). It is this emphasis which makes social enterprises different from the mainstream business community. Many businesses that are not set up in this way just don’t get the values and motivations that drive social enterprises, their leaders and their wider stakeholders. 

This is why social enterprises are far more than businesses, in the conventional narrow interpretation of the word. They are the fabric of the community that picks up those that are left behind for whatever reason by the wider economy and society due to market failure as well as providing goods and services that add social value.   

I hope that at last we will soon see a paradigm shift in the concept and interpretation of ‘business’, the finance that supports it, along with the organisations that represent it. We need an end to macho toxic cultures that interpret ‘being commercial’ as financial growth before everything else with a bit of ‘purpose signalling’ to cover the cracks.   

If you want to join in and be part of this movement please come to our conference and if you’re a social enterprise, you can future proof your credentials and show your commitment to making a positive impact by becoming an accredited social enterprise!  

Free bursary tickets for Beyond Better Business conference

W are excited to announce we have ten free bursary tickets available for our Beyond Better Business conference in Manchester on 17th May.

This is possible thanks to kind support from The Growth Company, which is a Social Enterprise Gold Mark holder.

These free tickets are available on a first come, first served basis and are limited to one per organisation. Priority is given to organisations which hold any of our accreditations, although we welcome other social enterprises to express an interest.

The conference will explore the future of business and how alternative economic models, which prioritise the wellbeing of people and planet over private gain, can go beyond ‘better business’ to enable businesses to make a real difference to the communities in which they are based. Confirmed speakers include Erinch Sahan of Doughnut Economics Action Lab, Charlotte Timson of Transform Trade, and Chris Cowcher of Plunkett Foundation.

Click here to find out more and book your ticket(s).

Orange background with white speech bubbles icon and text: it was really stimulating and one of the most thought provoking conferences I have been to for a while - previous attendeeOrange background with white text box: TESTIMONIAL - "This was excellent, I wanted to express how valuable the dialogue of the last 2 days has been. The experience has been superbly challenging, as I believe social enterprise should be" - previous attendee

Image of hands typing on a laptop keyboard

Click start your career with Bath Spa University

Bath Spa UniversityBath Spa University is running a new, fully funded creative digital programme, designed to help you pursue a new career.

Over the 12 weeks, Click Start participants will learn digital skills needed to start a career in tech, including skills in UX/UI design, digital marketing and web development. They’ll be supported through the course by a personal career coach, provided by Catch22.

You must be aged 18-30, live in or near an area of deprivation in the South West and have the right to work in the UK. Click Start starts 24th April.

Find out more and apply now on the Bath Spa University website.

Apply today - ASSETS. Image of a female wearing a white hard hat speaking to a man wearing a yellow hard hat

Support for social enterprises in the construction sector

Are you a social enterprise in the construction sector?

Impact Hub London and Wates, in partnership with the Postcode Innovation Trust and Travis Perkins,  have just opened applications for ASSETS (Assisting Social Enterprises to Succeed). This an innovative 7-month business support programme for social enterprises in the construction industry supply chain, who are aiming to scale their operations nationally and secure larger contracts.

For the third year in a row, social and environmental impact-driven organisations can join this free programme to help their businesses scale up and successfully compete UK-wide.

Visit the Impact Hub London website to find out more, check your eligibility and apply by 7th April.

Photo of a building at night with lights on inside

Mastercall launches Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) service

In response to the recent crisis impacting on the NHS and in particularly the surge in acute respiratory infections, social enterprise Mastercall has launched a new Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) service at its HQ in Hazel Grove, Stockport.

All GP practices in Stockport can refer patients for a same day appointment. Referrals are for adults and children with acute respiratory symptoms. GP practice receptionists can make direct referrals to the service for same day appointments. Patients will be texted with advice and guidance whilst they wait for their appointment. Next day appointments can also be made subject to confirmation from the GP that the patient is safe to wait.

The service is being very well received with great uptake. This will undoubtedly help to reduce the strain on GP practices in the area as well as wider services. The service also provides an excellent patient experience due to same day access appointments. A faster response to treatment will also hopefully reduce worsening symptoms and prevent onward referral to A&E/hospital admission.

Dr Viren Mehta, Chair of Stockport GP & Primary Care Board, says of the service: “Our GP practices in Stockport are already offering more appointments than ever before to our patients, and latest data published shows that our practices offer one of the highest levels of appointments across the whole of Greater Manchester. However, demand continues to outstrip capacity and we are therefore delighted to work collaboratively with our colleagues at Mastercall in launching the new Acute Respiratory Infection service for our patients.

The service is available to adults and children with symptoms of respiratory infections such as coughs, wheezing and fever who may need to be examined by a clinician. People with milder symptoms may be directed to their local pharmacy. We hope this new service helps to ensure people who need a same day appointment can be seen by a clinician and reduce pressure on our emergency services.”

To find out more about Mastercall visit https://mastercall.org.uk/.

Women in meeting

Join our Social Enterprise Women’s Leadership Network

We were excited to host the latest meeting of our Social Enterprise Women’s Leadership Network last week, which coincided with the celebrations around International Women’s Day.

We were joined by Dr Sharon Zivkovic (who joined us all the way from Australia!) and Cathy Brown, who spoke about neurodiversity in women’s leadership, using their personal experiences as neurodiverse social entrepreneurs.

We launched this network on International Women’s Day in 2021, to address the gap in support for women leaders in social enterprise. Meeting every couple of months, the network brings together women from across the world to benefit from much needed peer support, thought leadership and shared learning.

Having initially kept the group fairly small while we established the network, we would now love to welcome more women leaders to join us. If you are interested in joining please contact us at marketing@socialenterprisemark.org.uk and we will share details of the upcoming meeting dates.

Lendology CIC logo

Lendology announces Fair Tax Accreditation

Lendology, a Social Enterprise lender, this week announced its Fair Tax Accreditation, aimed at promoting transparency and ethical practices in the financial services industry. The accreditation outlines Lendology’s approach to taxation and corporate responsibility and reflects the company’s dedication to operating in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Lendology Fair Tax accreditation with photo of CEO Emma Lower

At the core of Lendology’s Fair Tax Accreditation is a pledge to pay their fair share of taxes in the countries where they operate. This means that the company will not engage in aggressive tax avoidance schemes or exploit loopholes in tax laws to minimize their tax bill. Instead, Lendology will work within the legal framework of each country to ensure that they are contributing their fair share to public services and infrastructure.

“Lendology are committed to operating with the highest standards of transparency and ethical behaviour,” said Emma Lower, CEO at Lendology CIC. “Our Fair Tax Accreditation reflects our dedication to paying our fair share of taxes and to contributing to the broader social and economic well-being of the communities in which we operate.” 

“Our taxes as an organisation contribute to a better society beyond our day to day work. I am thrilled to say that we have always been committed to paying our fair share of tax, and the Fair Tax mark now proves this without doubt. I highly recommend the Fair Tax Mark team who are very knowledgeable about all tax matters and are working hard to help organisations demonstrate their commitment to payment of their fair share of tax. We hope that our addition to their members encourages others to join the movement,” said Anna Osborne, Commercial & Finance Director of Lendology CIC.

Lendology’s Fair Tax Accreditation also includes a commitment to maintaining an open and transparent dialogue with tax authorities and to proactively engaging with them to ensure compliance with all relevant tax laws and regulations. The company will provide timely and accurate tax returns, respond promptly to any queries or requests for information, and work collaboratively with tax authorities to resolve any issues that may arise.

In addition to its commitment to fair taxation, Lendology pledges to support its local communities and to operate in an environmentally responsible manner. The company aims to reduce its carbon footprint, support local charities and community organizations, and encourage its employees to volunteer their time and expertise to charitable causes.

Lendology’s Fair Tax Accreditation reflects the company’s commitment to operating ethically and responsibly, and to contributing to the broader social and economic well-being of the communities in which it operates. As consumers and investors become increasingly focused on issues such as corporate responsibility and sustainability, initiatives like Lendology’s Fair Tax Accreditation are likely to become more important in the financial services industry.

For more information about Lendology’s Fair Tax Accreditation, please visit https://www.lendology.org.uk/ or call Lendology on 01823 461099.

Lucy Findlay

Deeper than ESG – finding our soul

International Women's Day logoOn this International Women’s Day let’s think differently and do the world a favour by acting differently. It’s not about more of the same with a ‘female’ badge attached to it.

Women often feel that they don’t fit in the male-led business world, because they want to make a difference, not just make lots of money and be judged on how much their business turns over (this applies to many men that don’t fit the standard mould too!)

Growth vs degrowth or scaling up vs scaling out – we are not anti-growth, we are instead trying to make the world question the old assumptions and value not just financial outcomes that lead to certain types of behaviours, e.g. excessive personal financial profiteering of those in positions of power, taking priority over social and environmental considerations such as pollution, social inequality and exploitation.

A recent article The struggle for the soul of the B Corp movement by Anjli Raval of the Financial Times has ignited a debate on social media about how we truly know and identify businesses that are doing the best by people and planet, brought on by the B Corp certification being awarded controversially to the likes of Nespresso and Brewdog (now removed).

Subsequently I have been doing a lot of thinking around this issue. How do we truly know that a business is values based? There are so many different methodologies out there from looking at the outputs and outcomes (social value, impact and the rise of ESG reporting), to proving the DNA/governance of the business and its drivers (purpose driven and/or asset locked), to name a few.

There is no single answer, as we know that if an organisation is determined to ‘greenwash’, those in control will probably find a way to do it. However, there are ways in which we can reduce the likelihood and challenge the fundamentals of business – i.e. who owns it, who benefits (profits) from it, who is on the Board and the main mission all help.

Our Social Enterprise Mark accreditation independently proves that individual #shareholders are not in the driving seat, due to what’s termed an asset lock, which limits profits from dividends and on sale/closure. It also requires that social impact is measured and reported. Although B Corp certification does require a purpose driven mission statement, there is no restriction on shareholders profits and the pick and choose approach via the points based system can potentially let businesses off the hook – i.e. disguise the #antisocial actions. Our Social Enterprise Gold Mark goes even further, by further examining stakeholder involvement, social impact and business ethics – points are used  but there is a minimum number of points required.

In order to make a fundamental shift in this logjam we need to be much more revolutionary and precise in what we mean by the term business growth. We are truly stuck on one business model that provides a very limited set of benefits… Our traditional methods of accounting and valuing a business all point in this direction and investors perpetuate this. They are all holding us back and are not fit for purpose!

The criticism of this limitation of profits approach to business ethics is mainly due to the reduction in ability to attract growth investment (i.e. equity investors that take a stake in future profits and sale of the company) especially at start-up and growth phase. Social impact investment tends to be this type of funding – it requires very high rates of financial return as well as a social return.

Many people don’t realise that social enterprises which look for additional finance to grow are therefore largely reliant on debt finance (often known as social investment, with expensive interest rates) or grants (tend to be linked to specific outputs and hard to come by and need to be replaced).

In order to make a fundamental shift in this logjam we need to be much more revolutionary and precise in what we mean by the term business growth. We are truly stuck on one business model that provides a very limited set of benefits – i.e. financial return with financial products that respond in similar limited way. Our traditional methods of accounting and valuing a business all point in this direction and investors perpetuate this. They are all holding us back and are not fit for purpose!

There is a growing movement that recognises the challenge, with solutions that help redress the imbalance of financial interests as opposed to sustainability, yet to penetrate mainstream education of economists, business schools and accountancy let alone the professions and professional bodies themselves.

Rethinking Economics logoBut there are signs that this is changing. The Rethinking Economics network is doing some excellent work in this education space and there are forward looking professionals leading the charge for change.

The frustration is the time and the lack of progressive thinking from mainstream economists, politicians and financial professionals. I hope that over the next year we see an acceleration of a shift in thinking and that I am not saying the same all over again on IWD2024!

Michaela Buck

Mastercall CEO shortlisted for ‘Woman of Impact’ Award

Mastercall logoMichaela Buck, the CEO of award-winning social enterprise healthcare provider Mastercall, has been shortlisted for the “Woman of Impact” category at the Impact Awards 2023.

The award is in the field of social impact technology and acknowledges Michaela as a social entrepreneur, helping to drive digital integration and innovation in health and social care.

This has ultimately helped to drive a positive change in the safe and effective management of patients, empowering them to manage their own health/wellbeing whilst improving health outcomes.

Voting for the awards is now open at https://form.jotform.com/230534089553357. The awards ceremony will take place at Media City, Manchester from 4-8pm on 22nd March 2023.

To learn more about Mastercall, please visit www.mastercall.org.uk

National Empty Homes Week 2023

Lendology raising awareness of Empty Homes Week 2023

Each year, Empty Homes Week offers social enterprise lender Lendology an opportunity to demonstrate the action it is taking to bring empty homes back into use.

Empty Homes Week is a fantastic opportunity to publicise information and assistance for owners of empty properties and to offer residents’ advice on how to report any empty homes causing concern in their neighbourhoods.

Lendology CIC provides council funded loans to homeowners.  The loan scheme allows homeowners to spread the cost of completing a renovation project.  Lendology is able to consider applications from individuals who may have inherited a property but be unsure how to bring it back into use, through to companies converting a portfolio of properties.

Emma Lower, CEO of Lendology said “Empty homes are a valuable resource being put to waste at a time when housing is so important. We understand the challenges people face in financing and renovating empty homes, and a lot of homeowners are unaware of this lending scheme. Our unique approach to lending allows us to solve a range of finance issues in local communities and we love turning empty houses into loved homes”.

For more information about the loan scheme, visit www.lendology.org.uk or call 01823 461099.

WISE100 badge - I am on the WISE100 Top 100 list

Lucy Findlay named on WISE100 list of leading women in social enterprise

Our Managing Director Lucy Findlay MBE has been named on a national index of the top women in social enterprise.

The annual WISE100 list, created by Pioneers Post in partnership with NatWest Social & Community Capital, recognises inspiring and influential women in social enterprise, impact investment and social innovation.

Responding to the announcement, Lucy Findlay said “It is a great honour to be named again in this list of amazing women. Their stories are not only inspirational, but illustrate how important the role of female leadership is to the world of social enterprise.

I am looking forward to attending the awards ceremony in London next month and meeting the other fantastic WISE100 women.”

The WISE100 is an initiative to celebrate, support & share expertise, learning and inspiration among Women In Social Enterprise across the UK. From the WISE100 index, 22 finalists have been selected across four categories for the UK Women in Social Enterprise Awards, including Social Enterprise Mark holders Charity Bank (Carolyn Sims) and Impact Hub London (Angelica Santodomingo).

The award winners will be announced on 7th March at a special ceremony, hosted at Coutts, the bank for “trailblazers and pioneers” – and part of the NatWest group – at its central London venue.

Click here to view the full WISE100 list.

Group of people stood outside The ReUsers shop

Social enterprise department store celebrates 10th birthday

Sutton Coldfield-based department store, The ReUsers, celebrates ten years of trading this month.

The social enterprise, part of the JERICHO group, which prevents waste from entering landfill by providing used goods at cost-effective prices, uses its income to help people who face real and significant challenges in getting a job. These could include trauma, insufficient work experience, health & wellbeing needs, education barriers and communication challenges.

Since opening in 2013, a total of 1.3 million kilograms have been diverted enabling over 130 individuals to be supported including 80 young people as apprentices and 16 survivors of modern slavery.

Richard Craythorn, ReUsers Manager said “Over the last 10 years, I have watched the ReUsers grow from an idea to a fully-fledged social enterprise with incredible positive social and environmental outcomes. I wish to thank all of our regular loyal customers, neighbours, partners and supporters for getting behind this project and helping our team to achieve such a positive success. I must also pay homage to the wonderful team who work at ReUsers, day in and day out, whatever the weather. Without their hard work and commitment, ReUsers would have stayed as just a great idea.”

Richard Beard, JERICHO CEO, said “The ReUsers is very much the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the JERICHO family of social enterprises – it continues to deliver unrivalled levels of social, environmental and economic impact and I’m extremely proud of all that Rich and his team have achieved over the last 10 years”

To celebrate ten incredible years, The ReUsers will be holding a 20% off store-wide sale between Monday 13th and Friday 17th February.

Iridescent Ideas

Free workshops with Iridescent Ideas

Iridescent Ideas CIC, which delivers business support for social enterprises and charities across the UK, is running a number of free workshops in February and March:

Wednesday 15th February 10am – 12pm: Leaving the Classroom

Picture of an open red door on a yellow background with white cloudsFREE Online Workshops for teachers, TAs and educators considering a career change, starting your own business or finding a new way to use your skills.

Join Iridescent Ideas Director, Gareth Hart, for this FREE workshop exploring ways you could leave the classroom and still continue making a positive impact as an educator.

This workshop will give you the opportunity to explore, alongside like-minded individuals, other ways you can continue to use your skills, knowledge and expertise, and make your own ideas become a reality.

Gareth will provide an overview of social enterprise, charities and other types of community organisations as potential options for moving forward. You will have the chance to discuss ideas, what support and advice you might need to make a positive change and explore what support is available to help you get there.

To book or for more info visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/511661592597


Wednesday 8th March 10am – 12pm: Start It! How to start a Social Enterprise – FREE Online Workshop

Iridescent Ideas: Start ItJoin us for this FREE session, funded by the Rank Foundation, all about how to get started making your good idea into a social enterprise reality.

Thinking about starting an ethical or social business? Join Gareth Hart, Director of Iridescent Ideas CIC, for this FREE session all about how to get started making your good idea into a social enterprise reality. We’ll cover:

  • basic business planning
  • a simple overview of legal structures suitable for social enterprises
  • how you can put a social vision at the heart of your business

To book or for more info visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/start-it-how-to-start-a-social-enterprise-free-online-workshop-tickets-522536279077


Thursday 16th March 11am – 1pm: Fund It! Funding & Finance FREE Online Workshop

Iridescent Ideas: Fund ItJoin us  for this FREE  online session all about how to finance and fund your social enterprise or community project. Hosted by Gareth Hart of Iridescent Ideas CIC and funded by the Rank Foundation.

This informative workshop will cover:

  • social investment
  • start up grants
  • sources of finance to help you grow your business

To book or for more info visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fund-it-funding-finance-free-online-workshop-tickets-522543891847


Thursday 23rd March 1pm – 3pm Prove It! Measuring Impact FREE Online Workshop

Iridescent Ideas: Prove ItJoin Gareth Hart, Director of Iridescent Ideas CIC, for this FREE session funded by The Rank Foundation, covering how to measure and manage the difference you make AND how to use this powerful information to help you develop your business and earn income.

To book or for more info visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/prove-it-measuring-impact-free-online-workshop-tickets-522549739337

 

To view all Iridescent Ideas’ events, visit their Facebook page.

Text: "13 years of' and Social Enterprise Mark CIC logo with text "upholding the standard for social enterprise"

Celebrating 13 years of impact as a social enterprise accreditation authority

Lucy Findlay at launch of the Social Enterprise Mark in 2010

Lucy Findlay at launch of the Social Enterprise Mark in 2010

It’s hard to believe that today marks 13 years since we launched the Social Enterprise Mark. We are now officially a teenager!

After a challenging few years, where we have, amongst other things, faced capacity issues, we are excited to move into this new phase of growth to further develop the business, including updating our systems and expanding our assessment capacity in order  to help us reach out to more businesses globally, helping them drive their ethical and sustainable business practice and standards.

Consistently for the last 13 years, we have been committed to raising the standards of, as well as building the capabilities of, social enterprises as competitive, sustainable businesses dedicated to maximising social impact, and also broadening the reach, awareness, understanding and adoption of the social enterprise business model.

Even with the immense challenges thrown at us all over the past few years, we have been delighted to see our international network of accredited social enterprises continue to grow, as more and more organisations seek to prove their social enterprise credentials. In 2021/22, the total number of organisations holding one of our accreditations increased by 10%.

Yellow background with orange and white circles and Social Enterprise Mark logo with text 'Impact Report 21/22"With a larger network comes increased opportunities to create impact, and to mark our anniversary, we are excited to share our 2021/22 impact report, which summarises the impact we created during 2021/22 in our role as an advocate for the social enterprise sector.

In creating this report, we used data from our 2022 stakeholder survey, which consulted our Mark holders and wider stakeholders on the development of our accreditation services, to ensure our services continue to address the evolving needs of the growing social enterprise sector.

As a customer-focused organisation, we were delighted to see increases in key indicators of customer satisfaction, including 100% of Mark holder respondents agreeing that our social enterprise accreditations “prove their commitment to contributing towards the creation of a stronger and fairer economy” and “help them communicate the significance of being an accredited social enterprise to our employees, partners and other stakeholders”.

It was also pleasing to see that over 95% of respondents agreed we play an important role as an advocate and representative for the social enterprise sector. As this is one of our core values, it is really important to us that we are living up to this (and our other values).

A key area we focused on in the last year was our networking function – we have successfully developed several networks to better support our diverse community of Mark holders and supporters, including an international women’s leadership network and our growing HEI network, as well as connecting and expanding our Ambassadors,. We were excited to establish a new partnership with Cambio House for Change to host not one, but two national conferences, which focused on how social enterprise can be better embedded into higher education.

Group of people holding Social Enterprise Mark certificatesWe also further developed our existing partnership with Social Impact Ireland to accredit and raise the visibility of new and existing social enterprises in Ireland. Attending the official launch of the Social Enterprise Mark Ireland in Dublin in November was one of my highlights of 2022. As I mentioned in my previous blog, it was great to meet the first cohort of eight inspirational social enterprises that have been supported by Social Impact Ireland to achieve the Social Enterprise Mark.

We see 2023 as a key transitional year as we strengthen our Board, team, systems and processes to better equip us to reach the next phase in our journey, growing our gravitas, ethics, values and maturity.

Calling all social enterprises: the State of Social Enterprise survey is now live

The State of Social Enterprise survey 2023

The State of Social Enterprise survey is now live!

Run every two years by Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), the State of Social Enterprise (SOSE) survey is the most comprehensive survey of UK social enterprises. Results are used by government, social investors, sector bodies and support organisations.

This vital evidence helps shape policy, influence support, funding and finance to grow the social enterprise movement. SEUK is working closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to ensure that vital data and evidence on social enterprise helps inform policy-making. Data from SOSE has been instrumental in major legislation including the passing of the Social Value Act, the creation of Big Society Capital and Access -The Foundation for Social Investment.

SEUK is calling on all social enterprises to take part. If you’re an SEUK member you will be contacted by market research company, BMG Research, which is carrying out the survey. Social enterprises who are not SEUK members can participate by registering their interest at research@socialenterprise.org.uk.

Get your voice heard and help show why social enterprise is business at its best! Click here to find out more and get involved.

The Growth Company are Social Enterprise Gold Mark holders

Meet the Social Enterprise Gold Mark Holder: The Growth Company

The Growth Company logo

Established in 1989, The Growth Company is an economic development agency which enables growth, creates jobs, and improves lives.

We are an and are leading provider of education, skills, employment, youth and offender rehabilitation support. We also provide business support and finance services designed to drive productivity, improve innovation and create high quality and inclusive jobs. We work with public, private and third sector partners, delivering economic development projects that achieve growth outcomes across a range of specialisms.

When did your business become a social enterprise and why?

The Growth Company has always identified as a social enterprise. This ties in with our mission to enable growth, create jobs and improve lives. As a commercially driven not-for-profit, any surplus we make is reinvested into our services, supporting growth that has real impact.

What social needs are you trying to address and what types of social outcome are you striving to deliver?

Our core objective is sustainable economic growth, therefore a key focus in our multifaceted work is to support and provide opportunities for individuals, communities and businesses to thrive. This is through advisory business support services, employment and skills platforms and our commercial services offering.

We aim to drive growth that is equitable by ensuring our services meet the diverse needs of the areas in which we work and have core functions/groups within our organisations, such as our EDI Steering Group and sub-networks to drive this agenda both internally and externally.

What is your main reason for having our accreditation? What were your expectations?

We wanted to stand out and really cement our reputation and credibility as a social enterprise and show that we put the interests of people and planet above stakeholder gain. Going through the Social Enterprise Mark, and subsequently, the Social Enterprise Gold Mark assessment process, was seen as the best and most value adding way to help us achieve this.

What does accreditation mean to you? What does it say about your business?

We are immensely proud that we can objectively demonstrate best practice across several key business areas that are central to social enterprise excellence, including governance, stakeholder engagement, business ethics, financial transparency and social impact.

This shows The Growth Company is driven by its values, and continues to make a positive difference to the people we work with and the world we live in.

The Growth Company are Social Enterprise Gold Mark holders

What benefits has there been as a result of being accredited? E.g. did you find the assessment process useful? Do you feel the accreditation give you more credibility as a social enterprise?

Absolutely, being accredited has really helped to give us creditability as a genuine social enterprise and proves our credentials as an organisation which is committed to creating social value for people and the planet.

We found the assessment process extremely useful and value adding. It made us take a step back as a business and reflect on the work we are doing to support our customers and wider stakeholders and made us realise just what a positive difference we make. All the team at Social Enterprise Mark CIC were very helpful and extremely knowledgeable. Our Assessment Manager supported us throughout the process and was always on hand to provide guidance during the assessment process, whilst remaining objective and impartial. His knowledge was exceptional.

Are there any specific achievements/accomplishments that are linked to holding the accreditation?

As above, being accredited has really help to give us creditably as a genuine social enterprise and proves our credentials as an organisation which is committed to creating social value for people and the planet.

We feel we will be better placed to answer this question in more detail when we have held the accreditation for a longer period of time.

What would you say to another social enterprise considering accreditation?

The progress that the Growth Company has made in our journey to gaining accreditation is significant and due to the robust nature of the assessment, we felt it helped to put a mirror in front of our organisation and highlight how well we have developed as a social enterprise in challenging times but also how we can continue to improve our practices to meet the needs of both colleagues, customers and future talent.

The process is detailed and the feedback is honest and challenging which is exactly what we were looking for.

Any other comments?

What worked well for our organisation was to have continued catch up meetings with the Social Enterprise Mark CIC team to update and ensure we were on track. I would also advise keeping contact to one or two members of your organisations who can manage the process centrally. We are a large social enterprise with over 1,500 members of staff, so internally there is a lot of coordination of obtaining information and arranging interview assessments, but throughout we found the Social Enterprise Mark CIC team very supportive and they offered guidance and appropriate timelines that could ensure we were progressing with our application in the best way possible.

 


Find out more about The Growth Company by visiting their listing on our Mark Holder Directory, and find out more about our International Mark Holders on our website.

What next

If you would like to find out more about becoming an accredited social enterprise please complete our Eligibility Quiz to find out more.

Rediscovery Centre achieves the Social Enterprise Mark

Meet the Social Enterprise Mark Holder: The Rediscovery Centre

The Rediscovery Centre logo

The Rediscovery Centre is the National Centre for the Circular Economy in Ireland, a creative movement connecting people, ideas, and resources to support greener low-carbon living.

We bring together the skills and expertise of artists, scientists, designers and craftspeople united in a common purpose of sustainability. Located in a bespoke demonstration eco-facility, we operate a multi-faceted visitor centre and unique social enterprise that champions & highlights the actions required to achieve a circular economy. This includes, a range of educational and research programmes, a shop, a cafe, and four workshops: Rediscover Furniture, Rediscover Fashion, Rediscover Paint, and Rediscover Cycling. Our workshops provide training and courses related to reuse, repair, resource efficiency & low carbon living, and utilise unwanted materials for new product development and design.

When did your business become a social enterprise and why?

We established ourselves as a social enterprise from the very beginning, with the inception of Rediscover Furniture in 2004. The organisation was developed in response to a public consultation regarding the needs of Ballymun during the regeneration of the town, so the ideologies of social enterprise were the foundations of the Centre.

What social needs are you trying to address and what types of social outcome are you striving to deliver?

From the beginning, we aimed to address two key needs in the area: to create opportunities for people to divert their waste into something of value, and to provide employment and training opportunities for local people.

What is your main reason for having our accreditation? What were your expectations?

A large part of what The Rediscovery Centre has been trying to do is to elevate the discourse around second-hand reuse, to show that secondhand items are not low quality. We also wanted to promote the quality of training we provide through our employment progression schemes.

This accreditation elevates the credibility of our social and environmental work.

Rediscovery Centre awarded the Social Enterprise Mark

What does accreditation mean to you? What does it say about your business?

Accreditation means reassurance to ourselves that we are doing a good job, as well as elevating our credibility to customers and clients.

What benefits has there been as a result of being accredited? E.g. did you find the assessment process useful? Do you feel the accreditation give you more credibility as a social enterprise?

It’s beneficial to see what our peers think is important in relation to regulation and accreditation. Additionally, the assessment process allowed us the opportunity to reflect on all that we have done, which is always a useful tool, and to take pride in all we have achieved since the Centre’s inception.

Are there any specific achievements/accomplishments that are linked to holding the accreditation?

We have an incredibly high level of progression of our trainees, which we are very proud of as a social enterprise.

What would you say to another social enterprise considering accreditation?

Go for it!

 


Find out more about The Rediscovery Centre by visiting their listing on our Mark Holder Directory, and find out more about our International Mark Holders on our website.

What next

If you would like to find out more about becoming an accredited social enterprise please complete our Eligibility Quiz to find out more.

Pink background with colourful letters spelling out 'join our team'

We are recruiting

We are currently recruiting an experienced Business Development Manager to cover a period of maternity leave (up to 12 months).

We are looking for a consultative salesperson, preferably with experience in the social business sector, to help us drive sustainable growth for our social enterprise, particularly in the areas of health and higher education.

The successful candidate with work closely with our Marketing and Communications Manager to create demand, as well as closing sales deals and leading business development activity with the Managing Director to ensure we set and hit the right targets.

We are flexible both in terms of location and also employment terms and hours (we will consider associates/freelancers as well as direct employment).

Click here to view the job description and to apply, please send us your CV with a covering letter outlining how you meet the person specification.

Bath Social Impact Network

New network in B&NES dedicated to growing the social economy

Bath Spa UniversityLaunched as a partnership between Bath Spa University and 3SG, the Bath Social Impact Network brings together like-minded groups and individuals to improve and grow the social economy in Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES).

Created with social enterprises at the heart, along with B Corps, CICs, co-ops, and those interested in the work of these types of organisations, the Bath Social Impact Network will provide the support its members need to flourish through collaboration and idea generation.

Find out more at the launch event in Bath on Thursday 23rd February from 5pm-7pm. Find out more and sign up here.

Social Enterprise Mark CIC

Vacancies to join our Board of Directors

As we embark on an ambitious growth trajectory to develop our international presence as an award-winning social enterprise accreditation authority, we are currently recruiting up to three new Non-Executive Directors to strengthen our Board.

We are particularly looking for candidates who can bring a strong background in SMEs, Higher Education or healthcare.

We are partnering with Nurole, the leading board-level hiring platform, to find the best candidates. You can find out more and register your interest on the Nurole website. For any questions or problems, please contact fionn.connolly@nurole.com

The deadline for applications is Thursday 2nd February. Interviews will take place on 27th and 28th February.

These roles are unremunerated, but reasonable and pre-agreed domestic travel expenses will be covered. The appointment is for a three-year term, which can be renewed once at the discretion of the Board.

Click here to view profiles of the existing board members.

Pro-bono alert

Does your social enterprise need expert help?

ProBono Alert is a new and simple tool that social enterprises and other good causes can access via Google Chrome. It’s a plugin that automatically tells you when free support that you need is available.

Developed in partnership with leading businesses and charities – ProBono Alert makes it quick and easy to get the pro bono support you need and it’s free to use.

Download Pro Bono Alert today to find out what free support is available

Photo of Lucy Findlay with text overlay: Access to finance: challenging social investors to think differently

Access to finance: challenging social investors to think differently

Good Finance logoIn a guest blog for Good Finance UK, Lucy explores common barriers to accessing finance, including her own lived experience as founding Managing Director of Social Enterprise Mark CIC, and challenges social investors to escape the ‘business-as-usual’ approach that enables inequity.


Time and again access to finance comes out as the number one barrier to growth for social enterprises.

In this post, I want to drill down into what we mean by the terms ‘access to finance’ and how social investors can provide more flexible, accessible solutions.

In my research for this blog, I investigated the data that originates from the State of Social Enterprise Report in 2021 (SEUK). Interestingly, the effects of Covid and the economic crisis have reduced access to debt and equity finance (social finance) as a barrier to growth from 18% in 2019 to 6% in 2021.

The much larger barriers to growth were:

·       72%: Operational issues e.g. accessing customers,
·       61%: Economic factors such as cash flow
·       36%: Financial reasons e.g. grants.

Does this mean that social finance becomes largely irrelevant in times of crisis?  Even more so when we see the eye watering interest rate rises that are likely to see over the next year.

My thoughts are that this is not the case. However, we must see social finance within the wider context of pressures facing social enterprises and, as with any product/service, it needs to adapt, and provide flexible and hybrid products. In tandem, we also need to see social enterprises acting with a social value/sustainability head on rather than acting like corporates in their growth ambitions.

Continue reading Lucy’s blog on the Good Finance website.

An International Business Model: The Challenges and Highlights

Visiting Dublin during 2022’s Global Entrepreneurship week to announce the first cohort of Social Enterprise Mark Holders at the renowned Rediscovery Centre was a Watershed moment. The event had a great celebratory atmosphere beginning with the launch of the Social Enterprise Mark Ireland and hearing of the support from Social Enterprise Republic of Ireland (SERI) for accreditation and how important it is in gaining credibility for the sector as well as the ensuring quality standards are set and maintained.   


I would like to celebrate each and every one of those social enterprises who all spoke so eloquently about what the award meant to them. The event included moving stories about the journeys that founders and their supporters had been on.

To quote the founder of Alex’s Adventure, Nicole Ryan, “Gaining the Social Enterprise Mark for Alex’s Adventure has been one of the highlights of my career”. The death of her 18 year old brother in an accidental overdose in a nightclub inspired her to change the world for the better and become his story teller and catalyst. She gave up her engineering career to speak across the country to young people and help them make the right choices leading to Alex’s Adventure drugs education programme.

More pictures and case studies can be seen on the Social Enterprise Mark Ireland website.   

For a small social enterprise such as ours, getting the international business model right is a challenge both for capacity and quality assurance. Our international delivery partners have been crucial in sharing their understanding of the local social enterprise community as well as what we are trying to achieve, i.e. a clearer standard for social enterprises to ensure there is a robust business model which will support businesses to make a real difference and tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges, e.g. global inequality and climate change.

We essentially want greater recognition of the social enterprise business model as part of the redistributive business solution in a world where business is often extractive. 

Social Impact Ireland team

Going forwards, we want to achieve sustainable scale through both a network of licensed partners and a network of peer assessors. Key to this has been our partnership with Social Impact Ireland, who have worked with us for the last three years to capacity-build and support a number of social enterprises as well as getting these businesses prepared for accreditation via the Social Enterprise Mark

This was a long journey given the different governance structures as well as the lack of recognition and relative youth of the social enterprise sector in the Republic of Ireland. It required patience and diligence from both sides, but I think it’s fair to say it was a true partnership that worked together to overcome what could have been insurmountable obstacles at times.   

In 2023 we want to build on our learning and, alongside building more partners, equip our Mark holders themselves to grow through a programme of trained peer assessors, who will help us spread the word and develop our own capacity to respond to the huge opportunities that international accreditation of social enterprise can bring.

Watch out for more in our newsletters and social media 

Siul Eile knock mealdown

Meet the Social Enterprise Mark Holder: Siul Eile

Siul Eile is a social enterprise helping communities come together to form walking programs and challenges using the under-utilised local environment in their own community and to develop a sustainable walking culture in their community.

We build walking programs using quiet country roads, forest paths, tracks and trails. It is designed for local communities to live quality healthy lives, socialise together and to combat isolation.

Siul Eile knock mealdown

When did your business become a social enterprise and why?

We became a social enterprise in 2017 after completing a social enterprise incubator program with Social Impact Ireland. The reason we choose the social enterprise route was we could see the positive impact our walking programs were having on communities.

What social needs are you trying to address and what types of social outcome are you striving to deliver?

Removing barriers to improving the health and wellbeing of communities. We are striving to deliver improved physical and mental health as well as creating more social opportunities through our walking programs and events.

What is your main reason for having our accreditation? What were your expectations?

The main reason for having the accreditation is it shows we are a bona fide social enterprise.

What does accreditation mean to you? What does it say about your business?

The Social Enterprise Mark means we can proudly showcase our social enterprise credentials. It makes our business stand out from our competitors.

What benefits has there been as a result of being accredited? E.g. did you find the assessment process useful? Do you feel the accreditation give you more credibility as a social enterprise?

The benefits of being accredited include the time out taken in the assessment process to take a deep look into the social impact and the business side of our social enterprise. The accreditation also gives us more confidence and greater purpose going forward when dealing with other organisations.

Are there any specific achievements/accomplishments that are linked to holding the accreditation?

We are one of the first social enterprises in Ireland to hold the accreditation.

What would you say to another social enterprise considering accreditation?

Go for it! The process is rewarding even before getting the accreditation as it looks into all the essential aspects of being a social enterprise operating at the highest of standards.

Find out more about Siul Eile by visiting their listing on our Mark Holder Directory, and find out more about our International Mark Holders on our website.

Siul Eile logo

What next

If you would like to find out more about becoming an accredited social enterprise please complete our Eligibility Quiz to find out more.

SEEchange THE GOLDEN THREAD: Embedding Student Social Enterprise Across HE

HEI Conference Nov 2022

Case Study - How accreditation benefits social enterprises - Paul Tarrant

How accreditation benefits social enterprises – Paul Tarrant

How accreditation benefits social enterprises – Gareth Hart

Business Investment: What is Degrowth?

By Lucy Findlay MBE, Managing Director of Social Enterprise Mark CIC

What is Degrowth? Is it something you’re familiar with? Keep reading and I’ll explain why it’s important.

During the 10th Anniversary Party for Big Society Capital, I was asked, along with 9 others about my experience of social impact investment for their blog. My answer was ‘I think it is a confusing term as lots of people have different interpretations of what social impact investment actually entails and sometimes that can be a bit of a barrier, especially for women and ethnic minorities who think ‘well why can’t I just go and get this investment from a bank? Why do I need this type of investment and what does it mean, does it mean I get special credit for activities that I am doing?’

Therein lies the problem. Why can’t we just go to a bank, why don’t banks understand our sector, why is there a need for social investment and does social investment solve the root cause? In my view, the root cause is the way, the narrow way, that business has been defined over the years as well as the narrow group of people that define it. Most specifically to the assumptions around the term ‘growth’ and ‘return on investment’.

For this reason, my antennae are being increasingly attuned to the term ‘growth’ and questioning what that means. For most automatic equates to getting bigger financially and greater financial  return for shareholders and other investors.

Ten voices from across the social impact investment sector on ten years Big Society Capital

Is Green Growth just “another” wealth creator?

More recently the term ‘green growth’ has gathered momentum – as a more palatable version. The assumption behind this term is that we can invest in green technologies and the green economy and keep on growing the financial bottom line which will help tackle climate change ie we can have it all and wealth will trickle down to the poorest. However, in a week of record summer temperatures in a cost of living crisis this is not the reality that we are seeing. Climate change targets are not going to be hit and social polarisation is getting worse, not better. This largely because profit and financial growth are still the main concern when it comes to growing an economy and aim of business – ie is Green Growth just another wealth creator? I’ll let that question sit with you.

degrowth-image-Creative-Commons-Licence

Let’s talk Degrowth…

We need to think completely differently about growth to create sustainability – a system change. I was pleasantly surprised to see that some in the investment community are beginning to engage and embrace this idea. I came across an excellent seminar this week on concept of ‘Degrowth’ organised by US Investment Bank, Jeffries.

Degrowth, essentially recognises that we need to put social and environmental concerns before profit and create business that works in harmony with society and the environment, rather than fighting it on the fringes through tick box mitigation measures whilst carrying on with the same financial growth trajectories and assumptions.

This requires a complete rethink of what business is and why discussions in current business communities often feel ‘cross purpose’, even within the specialist social enterprise and investment community. We need to think radically about how we design a different ecosystem led by those that have been marginalised by it rather than adapting the current system incrementally led by those that have ingrained.

 

Do you feel confident with the investment options available?

Here are some helpful Links

Guides & Resources by Good Finance

Social Investors, Funds & Advisers

Jennifer Wilkins’ Presentation on Degrowth to Jefferies

Big Society Capital Website

Blog: Ten voices from across the social impact investment sector on ten years

Photo Credit
Big Society Capital 

Employee Ownership

Dispelling the myths of Social Enterprise, Employee Ownership and Purposeful Business

It is frustrating that the wider world tends to have a very narrow understanding of what the key characteristics of being a good business are. This is not helped by the media’s portrayal of a macho business world in programmes such as The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den and follows the news that often focuses on corporate scandal and businesses that are solely focused on the delivery of profit for shareholders at the expense of other models of business.

The rise of the ‘Purposeful Business

This polar focus is not the reality as most business owners and stakeholders realise that there is more to being a business than just making a financial profit, particularly in the light of climate change.  The rise of the ‘purposeful business’ has become a noticeable trend over the last few years. These types of businesses should aim to tackle the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and address the negative effects of economic development.

One of the main ways to ensure that a business is driven by a social purpose and social impact though is to embed this in the governance of the business through either a specific legal structure/form such as a Community Interest Company (CIC) or an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) that can limit shareholder financial gain.

Another way to ensure that a business is social values-driven is to write purpose, values and rules into governance both within governing documents and via the modus operandi of the Board of Directors and in the interaction with stakeholders.  This means that such a business can have a variety of legal forms. Social enterprises (SEs) and employee owned businesses (EOs) are good examples of these types of business. The Social Enterprise Mark ensures that that there is rigour in this approach by accrediting governing documents, trading levels and social impact.

Below we look in more detail at the overlap between the two and bust some myths associated with both:

Why consider employee ownership?

Becoming an employee-owned business intrinsically helps to create a people-centred business that values its staff. As the first large law firm in the UK to give all eligible members of staff an equal share in its profits, Stephens Scown is leading this approach and attracting interest from beyond the legal sector. In their experience, employee ownership means staff become more engaged and motivated to achieve growth with a view to the wider ethos and impact of the business. It also promotes a culture focused on each person’s contribution to the business and this in turn can support the development of a purposeful business.

The link between employee ownership and social enterprise

Becoming a social enterprise creates a values-led business because it puts people and planet before profit for shareholders. The Social Enterprise Mark has 12 years’ experience of applying and accrediting this approach internationally in all sectors. Additionally, in many cases there is an overlap between social enterprises and employee owned businesses because of the close relationship to values and valuing people. A good example of this is Social Enterprise Gold Mark Holder Integrated Care 24 urgent care providers which have offered company shares to all employees with the aim of gaining better staff engagement and ownership.

   

Myths around EO and SE abound, though. Here we outline a few of them:

Employee ownership and social enterprise models only work for a certain size of company

Not true… The John Lewis Partnership is a longstanding example of a large employee owned business. Market Carpets in Devon with 29 employees is a smaller example. In the social enterprise world we have a number of mark-holders with multi-million pound turnover such as University of Westminster and The Growth Company.

All the shares must be held by employees in the case of EO

A founder in an EO may wish to retain a shareholding as they are not retiring or it may be a family business with family members actively working in the business.

A social enterprise cannot have shareholders

Most do not have shareholders, but there are shareholder models such as Community Interest Companies Ltd by Shares and Community Benefit Societies but any dividend distribution is either zero or limited to 35% of profits.  At Social Enterprise Mark, a dividend cap of up to 49% of profits is also acceptable.

The employees use their own money to buy the company in the case of an EO

Not true…the company could seek bank funding but usually the purchase price is settled using the profits of the company over a period of time.

Both SE and EO are very niche rather than mainstream business models

Not true – in January 2021 it was found that employee ownership represented 1 in 20 private company sales. It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 social enterprises in the UK. So long as the business is maximising social value rather than profit for individuals the many businesses could qualify as Social Enterprise’s for the Social Enterprise Mark.

A founder/shareholder (if a social enterprise has shareholders) will lose money if they choose Employee Ownership or Social Enterprise over a trade sale/company sale

True and false in both cases – it may be that the perfect purchaser wants to buy the company for more than it is worth because it fits into their strategic plan or the company is their main supplier in the case of an EO. If certain criteria are met, choosing employee ownership can be advantageous from a tax perspective for a founder as there is a capital gains tax exemption if at least half the business becomes employee owed. In the case of a CIC limited by shares, shares can be sold at a rate that a buyer is prepared to pay. This rate is likely to be limited, however, due to the limitations placed on assets and profit distribution.

If a business is employee-owned the employees could do what they like with it!

Not true – the company’s managers are accountable to the employees rather than external shareholders. If the company has a governing document, this will usually set out how decisions should be made and if certain criteria should be prioritised in decision making such as the likely impact on the climate or employees of a decision.

A social enterprise can be sold to a private company and lose its social enterprise status

True and false – a social enterprise should have some form of asset lock which maintains its independence from its parent that it is sold onto. In the case of the Social Enterprise Mark accreditation there’s a requirement that any parent company also holds an asset lock or can demonstrate a business case as to why it doesn’t (in very rare cases)

Offering different legal structures for a business out outside the Company Ltd by Shares model helps to ‘bake in’ social impact for employees and stakeholders.

Greater understanding and uptake of these models would help to ensure that social and environmental action are part of the business DNA.

We need greater profile of these alternatives rather than resorting to more common legal forms which put individual shareholder gain at the centre.

As the old saying goes ‘legal form should follow business function’.

By Catherine Carlton (Stephens Scown LLP) and Lucy Findlay (Social Enterprise Mark CIC)

EDEEY

EDEEY: Helping Aspiring Entrepreneurs Conference

The Ethical Digital Entrepreneurship for European Youth (EDEEY project) conference will showcase online learning platform that supports aspiring #entrepreneurs who are starting out on their ethical and social enterprise journey.

At the London conference you will hear from young people who are winners in the EDEEY competition to come up with a business idea and create a business plan. Expert speakers at the conference include our own Lucy Findlay MBE along with Christina Bonarou from Symplexis (Greece) and Sculpt’s Chief Executive Dr. Claire Bonham.

The learning platform has four available courses on:

1. Business Planning

2. Access to Finance and other support for your enterprise

3. Social Media and Content Marketing

4. GDPR and Digital Skills

Sculpt will be sharing the pilot cohort experience of the training resources in the UK, Cyprus, Czech Republic and Greece, and there will also be an opportunity to explore the online learning platform.

Lucy Findlay MBE says, “I am pleased to support the work of Sculpt. It’s really important for young people to find a source of support and guidance in their aspirations to help create a better world as well as to network and share with those with who have the same values.”

Book your place to attend in-person 22 June 2022 here.

Download the conference flyer here: Sculpt – EDEEY Conference JUNE 2022

 

Comm Growth Plan 2022

Community Enterprise Growth Plan: The Future of Dormant Funds

A coalition of organisations including partners Access Foundation, Impact Investing Institute, NAVCA, Power to Change, School for Social Entrepreneurs, Social Enterprise UK and Big Society Capital are launching The Community Enterprise Growth Plan.

Social enterprise, charity representative bodies and social investors have joined forces to call on Government to get behind a new plan to back enterprises in underserved places and communities in the forthcoming consultation on Dormant Assets.

The proposed new ‘Community Enterprise Growth Plan’ focuses on the untapped potential for growing enterprises with a social purpose across the country, particularly in places and communities that have been deprived of investment in the past. This includes areas identified by the index of multiple deprivation and those led by or serving protected groups such as people from ethnic minority backgrounds, those with an impairment or facing gender bias.

A 12-week consultation on the future use of dormant assets in England is expected to be launched this summer. The expanded scheme could release more than £880m additional funds for charities and social enterprises.

GENERAL INFORMATION HERE.

LAUNCH PLAN HERE.

EXPRESS INTEREST HERE.

#CommEntGrowthPlan

SEUK Social Enterprise Awards 2022 – Open for Applications!

Applications are now open for the 2022 UK Social Enterprise Awards

The SEUK Awards are the biggest celebration of the year in the social enterprise calendar, recognising the best in the sector – both organisations for their business excellence and contribution to society, as well as the incredible individuals who work at the heart of the social enterprise movement.

SEUK Social Enterprise Awards 2022There are a total of 15 categories at this year’s Awards which capture the breadth, diversity and impact of the social enterprise community. As well as the award for overall Social Enterprise of the Year and the ‘One-to-Watch Award’ recognising a pioneering start-up business there are also more specific categories for social enterprises working in particular areas such as healthcare or in providing education, training and jobs. There are also awards for social enterprises tackling the climate crisis and those leading the way in promoting diversity, inclusion, equity and justice across their work.

Organisations which support the growth and development of the social enterprise sector can apply for the ‘Buy Social Market Builder’ Award and there is also a category recognising the Social Investment Deal of the Year.

Winners will be announced at a gala ceremony taking place on 8 December 2022 at the iconic Roundhouse in Camden, London.

Click here to find out more and to apply – Applications close on 1 July 2022.

If you’ve any questions about the application process, please contact info@seukevents.org.

Good luck!

SEMCIC Stakeholder Survey 2022

As we look to move into a new phase of growth, we are keen to consult our stakeholders on the development of our accreditation services, to ensure our services continue to address the evolving needs of the growing social enterprise sector.

We invite you to take part in our 2022 Stakeholder Survey, to share your thoughts on the services we provide and our role in the sector, as well as our future strategic direction.

The deadline to complete the survey is Monday 30th of May and your participation is greatly appreciated!

As a thank you for your time, you have the option to be entered into a prize draw for a chance to win a free one-to-one marketing masterclass from our Marketing Lead at Social Enterprise Mark.

Kind Regards,

Social Enterprise Mark CIC

Be the Best

The Golden Thread: Embedding social enterprise for better student outcomes

All professional worlds have their own jargon.  The term ‘being student-centred’ is an important one for universities, but can be a challenge to achieve for an institution that has so many competing priorities. The increasing politicisation of the university world has also led to challenges around what exactly this term means.

On 25th April 2022, we held our first face-to-face networking meeting as part of a collaboration conference, for two years at the University of Westminster, one of our Social Enterprise Gold Mark holders. It was a really exciting and energetic event. The summary report can be found on our website.

Dr Peter Bonfield, Vice Chancellor, University of WestminsterBeing more student-centred around social enterprise was a key topic flagged up at the event. Dr Peter Bonfield, Vice Chancellor at University of Westminster said that 1 in 5 of their students go on to set up their own businesses, with many looking to make a difference to society and create a better world. Generational trends show that Generation Z are much more socially and environmentally conscious with many dedicated to fighting social and environmental change.

Mission and values are therefore of increased importance to students in gaining a higher education. They also want to see evidence of how these are being delivered at all levels of the institution. This is why the social enterprise business model is so crucial.  It provides the framework for a business that is creating social and environmental value as its raison d’etre.  It links directly into, for example, the delivery the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and civic responsibilities.

It is not a by-product; it is a state of mind and culture – the Golden Thread.

Findings from our conference show that there is a need to make better connections between the different threads from the student’s point of view, both inside and outside the teaching environment. For instance, extra-curricular activity needs better academic credit as well as making the better links to local social enterprises by bringing the ‘outside in’ through knowledge exchange (KE) activities.

Finance is another area that needs greater connection and thought. Many universities are still not embedding social value with equal emphasis to financial value into their finance modules themselves. This leaves a disjointed approach whereby social value often sits separately in a different function within the institution.

SEEchange Conference Roundtable DiscussionsAchieving the right advice and type of funding and support is also a challenge with much start-up funding and support focusing on a narrow base of STEM and high growth companies. Pitching competitions can also act as a barrier as many more socially motivated and marginalised students to not feel confident in this style. We need more links to peer-to-peer lending and support programmes outside the university setting as well as pivoting internal university support (including pump priming and growth capital) to help social enterprises grow sustainably.

When a university shows leadership in this area, we see jigsaw pieces come together for students too. There are good examples of how universities, such as Westminster (that hold our Gold Mark) have done this as set out in my joint article with Diana Beech for HEPI.

By making more distinctive links between student’s needs, teaching, the community, research and values, we see the best outcomes for a supportive environment and greater sustainability for all in the longer term.

Lucy Findlay MBE

Managing Director, Social Enterprise Mark CIC

SEEchange conference

SEEchange Collaboration Conference

On Monday 25th April 2022, Social Enterprise Mark CIC and Cambio: House of Social Change came together for SEEchange THE GOLDEN THREAD collaboration conference focused on the universities sector and social enterprise engagement.

The conference was delighted to welcome a diverse range of expert speakers and roundtable facilitators and the input, energy and enthusiasm throughout the day whether in the thought-leader sessions, panel Q&A, roundtables or networking…. There was certainly a lot of valuable networking going on, which is fantastic!

Feedback from the conference has been really encouraging in that people enjoyed being ‘in the room’ and being a collective has allowed for those adhoc conversations and meet ups that often bring opportunity and action, perhaps an element of dialogue that is often hard to simulate on a Zoom call.

Absolutely outstanding conference yesterday… making many new connections!”

“Really energetic discussion on our table!”

“Excellent event…. Great speakers with short talks, lots of networking… Superb hospitality.”

For those who attended the event thank you for letting us know what comes from the event for you and your organisation…. new connections, new opportunities, a contract or collaboration of like-minded enterprises. We’d love to hear about it!

Finally, a short summary is available to download here SEEchange Conference SUMMARY April 2022 Final and we’re very much looking forward to the Pioneers Post article so please keep an eye on our social media channels for that release soon!

It is really important that we acknowledge the kind support from our partners who enabled this event to take place:

Nat West SE100 Awards 2022

NatWest SE100 Index & Social Business Awards 2022 – Open for Applications!

Pioneers Post and NatWest are once again seeking entries for the NatWest SE100 Index & Social Business Awards.

This is your #socent chance to be counted among the UK’s top #socialenterprises for 2022.

There is also a new Equality Award is being launched for this year’s NatWest SE100 Awards. The new category will recognise social enterprises that are leading by example and inspiring others to embed equity, equality, diversity and inclusion into their organisations and their work in communities across the UK.

Nat West SE100 Awards 2022

IWD Women’s Networking – Back in the Room!

Our first in-person networking event of 2022 to celebrate International Women’s Day 2022 was a great success and so lovely to see so many inspiring women attending.

In partnership with our office landlords Millfields Trust, we co-hosted this women-led networking event as we celebrated IWD at the Millfields Trust.  Our co-hosted event was over subscribed and attended by women across the City from all different sectors.  We all enjoyed an inspiring and engaging presentation from Jenny Evans who works at YTKO, as part of their fully funded Outset programme, helping other start-ups and entrepreneurs succeed and follow their passions!

Jenny offered valuable advice of how to #breakthebias for women in business having experienced difficult situations herself throughout her time of running her own businesses.

We felt very honoured to have the presence of the Lord Mayor, Councillor Terri Beer who presented gifts personally made by Jenny Evans; a pure silk cushion and notepad, as well as a free 1:1 Marketing Masterclass from the SEM CIC current Marketing Lead Sallie Ryan.

The lucky winners were:  Louise from Go South West and Antionio of Rhizome Artists’ Collective.

Thank you to all who attended and made our first event of the year a great success!

#IWD2022 # BreakingBusinessBias

IWD Reflections for 2022

Welcome to a very poignant International Women’s Day. 

This year it is so sad to remember where I was 2 years ago when I celebrated with my Siberian peer exchange and good friend Irina Makeeva and her family in Novosibirsk, followed by a trip to see Swan Lake.  In the days following, I met so many amazing people interested in and actively engaging in making a difference to their local and regional economies through social enterprise and social innovation. 

One of my most abiding memories, however, was when I listened to a disabled girl sing a popular tune at the local folklore school with her friends.  She sang with so much passion and hope.  She was due to sing the song with the star Jasmin who made the song a hit later that year, but then Covid19 intervened.

This year we have agreed with our Russian peers that we need to support one another symbolically – Women in Solidarity.  We are making a small gesture of cooking each other’s national dishes.  I have just made a big pot of Borsht!

Today we also celebrate a year of our Women’s Leadership Network which was launched on IWD21.  In a world where women often don’t identify with the term ‘leader’ we have together to exchange stories, tips and thoughts from inspirational women.  These are now all recorded and can be viewed on our YouTube channel. At today’s event we will be hearing from Daniela Papi-Thornton who will be speaking about her leadership journey and thoughts on reclaiming social entrepreneurship from the niche.

On Wednesday we are extending our celebrations to partner with out friends at Millfields Trust to run another women’s networking session in Plymouth on the theme of Breaking the Bias featuring Jenny Evans, an award winning young entrepreneur and artist. She studied textiles at Cardiff Metropolitan University, has won Santander’s University Entrepreneur’s national competition in 2017, and went on to set up a high growth, investor backed business in 2018 after raising a seed round of £350,000.   It’s not too late to sign up!

 

Lucy Findlay MBE

Managing Director, Social Enterprise Mark CIC

#BreakTheBias #IWD2022

APPG Inquiry into the impact of COVID on social enterprises

Great to hear from Charles Courtenay (Earl of Devon) Liz Minns Social Enterprise UK Karen Lynch (nee Borsberry-Woods) Lindsey Hall Real Ideas Organisation as some of the Panelists at the #APPG Inquiry Report Launch on behalf of Lucy Findlay MBE who contributed to the #socialenterpise sector evidencing on behalf of Social Enterprise Mark CIC and #SE_Mark Holders.

The role of the Inquiry was to investigate the impact of COVID on social enterprises and what lessons can be learned.

The UK’s 100,000 social enterprises experienced the pandemic in a unique way having to balance both increased demand from those people they support and pressure on their business. Many adapted their business models and pivoted to support their communities at a faster rate than their peers.

The inquiry identified four key themes during the course of its work.

  1. Lack of understanding of social enterprise across HM Government
  2. The importance of place-based working and local delivery
  3. The vital contribution of social enterprises to public services
  4. The substantial opportunity for social enterprises to contribute to the UK’s recovery and levelling up after the pandemic

Resonant themes include localism, joined up working, social economy and move of #socent to Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)… lots to unpack, well worth a read.

📔 3 mins and a good ☕️

READ MORE and download the full report:
Inquiry into the impact of COVID on social enterprises » Social Enterprise UK

WiSE100 2022 list announced

WiSE100 Announced…. Our Congratulations to All

Exciting announcements this afternoon as the NatWest WiSE100 top women in social enterprise list is revealed!

Pioneers Post has now shared the incredible 100 women in the UK who are leading the way across the social enterprise sector…. and we are delighted that our own Lucy Findlay MBE is featured for the third consecutive year….

I am absolutely delighted to be named again this year in this prestigious list of amazing women.  It’s important to recognise the leadership of women, many often do not identify with the term ‘leader’.  Now more than ever we need a diversity in perspective that can help bring about a better world.

Lucy Findlay MBE, Founder & Managing Director, Social Enterprise Mark CIC

Also in the 2022 list of Women in Social Enterprise 100, we extend our warmest congratulations to Mark Holders who are brilliant ambassadors for the social enterprise sector: Devi Clark and Emma Lange of Impact Hub Kings Cross, Emma Lower of Lendology CIC, Julie Hawker CEO of Cosmic IT, Jacqueline Hollows of Beyond Recovery and Shannon Gorman of Resonance.

Next week, Pioneers Post will reveal the finalists in each of the four awards categories: Social Business Leader, Star of the Future, Environmental Champion and Social Business Champion. This will be followed on 18th March 2022 with a daytime celebration of the final Awards and winners of each category kindly hosted by NatWest Social & Community Capital. Book here to secure your free place (tickets numbers are restricted but still available).

Read more and explore the full #WiSE100 list here.

Photo of Lucy Findlay with quote text overlay: "As a sector we need to be the leaders in openness and transparency... in this world of increasing greenwash and hype around ‘purpose’ and ethics, so we are not left behind as others with louder voices and more power eclipse our voices through these means."

Tackling greenwashing through credible, independent standards

As we embark on our 13th year of providing clear and credible standards for the social enterprise sector, we remain committed to protecting the integrity of genuine social enterprises by supporting them to prove their credentials and lead the world in ethical and sustainable business practice.

Lucy Findlay at launch of the Social Enterprise Mark in 2010

Lucy Findlay at launch of the Social Enterprise Mark in 2010

We have seen many changes in the market over the 12 years since we launched the Social Enterprise Mark, and in recent years there has been a growing proliferation in marketing claims around ‘purpose’, ‘good business’ and ‘sustainability’. This has led to a more crowded marketplace for those businesses seeking to stand out based on their social enterprise credentials.

We have seen widespread ‘greenwashing’ – the practice of using misleading PR and marketing claims to appeal to ethical and environmentally-conscious consumers. Sadly, this is now commonplace in consumer markets and many large corporates often focus on specific areas of how their product/service is ‘environmentally-friendly’, ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’, while ignoring the other areas where they have a significant negative environmental impact.

With increasing numbers of consumers looking to spend their money with ethical and sustainable businesses, it is vital they are able to cut through this greenwash to identify those businesses that are genuinely focused on creating social or environmental benefits.

For example, in 2019 Shell announced a $300 million investment in ‘natural ecosystems’ as part of a strategy to take action against climate change. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has pointed out that such actions do not mitigate or offset the continued release of greenhouse gases that result from Shell’s extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

With increasing numbers of consumers looking to spend their money with ethical and sustainable businesses, it is vital that they are able to cut through this greenwash to identify those businesses that are genuinely focused on creating social or environmental benefits.

Following research by the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) in 2021, which showed a staggering 40% of green claims made online could be misleading consumers, new regulatory guidance has recently come into force in the UK, which protects consumers from misleading claims, and also protects businesses from unfair competition. The Green Claims Code, which sets out six key principles to help businesses ensure their green claims are genuine and not misleading, aims to creates a level playing field for those businesses whose products genuinely represent a better choice for the environment and who can make truthful environmental claims.

Our friend Sian Conway-Wood, Founder of the #EthicalHour online community, recently ran a webinar, which gave a really useful overview of the Green Claims Code and provided guidance to support businesses to get ready for the new guidance and use their sustainability as a competitive advantage whilst remaining compliant. We would recommend getting in touch with Sian if you would like support with turning your sustainability into a selling point.

Interestingly, the CMA guidance states that claims must not focus on a minor part of what the business does if the core business produces significant negative effects… I refer you back to the Shell example given above! Dependent on the power, resources and willingness of the CMA to act, hopefully the subsequent investigations (and probable high fines for those found to be flouting the regulations) will lead to a reduction in greenwashing. This would enable more social enterprises to truly differentiate themselves and stand out as the ethical and sustainable option.

Green Claims Code principle 5: substantiate any claims madeOne of the central principles of the Green Claims Code is that claims are substantiated by credible evidence. Part of this is being able to demonstrate that the claim has been subject to independent scrutiny/verification.

So, how can businesses that are genuinely driven by a motivation to create value for people and planet effectively back up their claims? One way to gain independent verification is through gaining external accreditation/certification.

In its guidance, the CMA states, “Symbols, trust or quality marks awarded by independent third parties on the basis of a formal assessment against lawful and objective criteria are less likely to be misleading. For example, where these endorsements are based on clear, publicly available criteria, or internationally accepted methodologies.”

Additionally, from a consumer point of view, they are more likely to trust claims that have been independently verified. Research commissioned by Compare Ethics in 2020 showed 83% of consumers would be more likely to trust a product’s sustainability claim if it had been verified by a third party.

Our own social enterprise accreditations provide independent assurance that an organisation has met a set of robust sector-agreed criteria, which are fully transparent and made public for anyone to view, which should create more customer/consumer trust in the claims made around being a social enterprise.

As a sector we need to be the leaders in openness and transparency, and we can’t expect people to take our claims for granted, especially in this world of increasing greenwash and hype around ‘purpose’ and ethics.

As social enterprise is still not a distinct legal form in most countries, in effect any business can claim to be one. By providing a clear and credible set of standards against which to assess social enterprises, we can hold these businesses to account for their claims and in doing so support them to prove their credentials and stand out from the crowd as in independently verified social enterprise, which is creating positive impacts for people and planet.

As one of our Social Enterprise Mark holders recently stated, “We can now proudly show that we have been assessed against a recognised and reputable framework, and that the work we do as a social enterprise has been validated by experts in the field… The accreditation process is very rewarding and has certainly been hugely beneficial to our organisation.”

As a sector we need to be the leaders in openness and transparency, and we can’t expect people to take our claims for granted, especially in this world of increasing greenwash and hype around ‘purpose’ and ethics. If we are not careful, we will be left behind as others with louder voices and more power eclipse our voices through these means.

Meaningful accreditation and showing our distinctiveness is an important part of getting our house in order to tackle the world’s challenges as we grow in maturity and stature.

If you are interested in finding out more about how accreditation can benefit your social enterprise, please complete our short online form and a member of the team will be in touch.