Today we reveal the findings from Fightback Britain – our report on the findings of the State of Social Enterprise survey which we carried out earlier this year. We chose the name because the evidence shows that social enterprises are trading, growing, diversifying and starting up fast in the UK’s most deprived communities. This is the stuff of economic fightback, and we hope politicians, commissioners and consumers pay heed and choose social enterprise in the future.
You’ll know only too well that social enterprises are by no means finding it an easy climate. I’m only too aware that some of our members, doing some of the most incredible work, with some of the most vulnerable communities, are fighting for survival. So much uncertainty remains that forward planning is for many, limited to no more than a 3-month view.
But alongside those businesses that are desperately looking to adjust, adapt and survive are social enterprises that are growing, thriving and seizing opportunities. PM training is one such company that has added to its growing family of businesses by buying two further businesses and converting them to social enterprises – delivering impact and profit – profit that may well eventually be made available to fuel growth for other businesses in our sector. Jan Golding at Roots HR, another SE UK member, tells me she has never been busier. HCT Group have added another £8m to their business portfolio over the last 7-8 months, growing their overall turnover by more than 25% and Cool to Care is achieving growth, attracting investment and transforming the quality of care right across the country. London Early Years Foundation continues to grow its portfolio of nurseries and shrink its reliance on public sector funding.
The experience in Scotland continues to make the country an attractive prospect and a safer bet for both existing social enterprises and start-ups. On a recent trip to Scotland I had the privilege of meeting the CEO of 10,000 hours CIC – an organisation that I believe has the ambition, drive and creativity to develop it into a multi-million pound business within only a few years. It’s not just their plans for growth that are astonishing – it’s the way they’re co-operating with a range of community groups, charities, other social enterprises and neighbourhoods to really turn the football club (St. Mirren) into a true community asset. The Scottish Government are also investing significant resource in bespoke business support for social enterprises across Scotland, something that’s still sadly lacking in England.
The report we publish today shows that the trend across the UK is that many social enterprises that continue to achieve growth are doing so by evolving their products and services into business-to-business markets and by trading directly with consumers. We all know that times are tough but social enterprises are incredibly innovative. Most are not accepting the current situation, many are adapting to these uncertain times with energy and vigour and doing all they can to ensure that the impact they generate will be safeguarded by being more entrepreneurial than ever.
Thank you for your ongoing support of what we at Social Enterprise UK are trying to do on your behalf, I can assure you that those of us working in infrastructure organisations right across the third sector face the same challenges as many of you are experiencing right now. We’re trying to be as enterprising as we can be to ensure our own impact continues to develop and grow. As always we need your stories of what is happening within your businesses so we can influence thinking as we did with the development of Chris White’s Social Enterprise Bill, and with realisation of the Big Society Bank now called Big Society Trust and Big Society Capital. We hope you like the report and our new bolder approach to our communications with the new brand of Social Enterprise UK. But the best is yet to come – you’ll have a new web platform from us in 6 or 7 weeks that promises a new approach to the way our ever-growing membership interacts with us and should deliver new ways of finding the support you’ve told us you need and find useful.
I look forward to seeing many of you as we embark on the ever-busy party conference circuit next month. We’ll be pushing for sector-specific business support to be made available; for a new bespoke regulatory framework for social investors; for the government to make good on its commitment to see that at least 25% of all public sector budgets are spent with SME’s by revolutionizing the way commissioning and procurement decisions are made. And we’ll be pushing to ensure that all politicians recognise that social enterprise is not just good for social value but that it is also about creating the sustainable economic renaissance our country and communities so desperately need.