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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:

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

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