It is often said that knowledge is power and similarly there is strength in numbers. In that spirit, the team at Big Society Capital are delighted to announce our sponsorship for this year’s Social Enterprise Advisory Panel (SEAP). We hope by working together with Social Enterprise UK we can unlock this potential.

SEUK’s Social Enterprise Advisory Panel is a monthly survey of social enterprises which captures quick turnaround data on the sector. It is a barometer of the state of the sector – and asks about a wide range of issues affecting social enterprises.

One of the challenges as a wholesaler is staying close to the market to ensure that we can best understand demand and how to co-develop and collaborate to bring new investment products and offers forward. SEAP offers an opportunity to give us and many others across the sector that insight.

For example, the social enterprise barometer that tracks social enterprise respondents’ position in terms of expected turnover and current cashflow position is helpful when thinking about where the stresses and strains will come for trading organisations and how social investment can play a part in offering support.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the prevailing barriers to recovery across the sector are clear. You can read, One Year On – The effects of Covid 19 on the Social Enterprise Sector or our own Mapping the Needs Update Report and What a Difference a Year Makes blog to learn more. Yet, there are opportunities and real moments of hope that have sprung from communities across the country recovering and rebuilding.

SEAP data has shown that social enterprises are more resilient than SME business equivalents, have rallied and have plans for growth again exceeding their mainstream counterparts. We know that the pandemic has forced a digital rethink, with many organisations now making ground on long overdue practices and systems which are set to be retained as we look to our recovery.

Social enterprises are experiencing a dynamic period of change with only 11% running as they were pre-COVID.

Almost 2/3 do not expect to trade in exactly the same way as pre Covid and many are embracing and adopting the use of technology to support their service delivery – SEAP September 2020.

The pandemic has taught us a lot in terms of the use of repayable finance as a mechanism and most importantly has helped the social sector to come together to lobby government on the role that government-backed guarantees can play. This enabled us all to make the case that whenever a government scheme is offered it also needs to be accessible through specialist social lenders as well as mainstream banks to ensure any additional barriers to accessing this type of finance are removed.

Access to appropriate support – Even where social enterprises are formally eligible for support, it has not always been straightforward to access. Sometimes the difficulties are for generic reasons that apply to any applicant (e.g. bureaucratic delays), but on occasion because of factors specific to social enterprise. One example is the difficulty social enterprises have faced opening new bank accounts to be able to access Bounce Bank Loans. Banking services have been in high demand during the crisis, but social enterprises face particular challenges in opening new accounts due to having ‘complex bank mandates’ and ‘out of the ordinary’ legal structures. ‘Traditional’ finance providers don’t understand social enterprises, putting them at a disadvantage when trying to access support resources. Excerpt from : One Year On – The effects of Covid 19 on the Social Enterprise Sector

We are looking forward to working with SEUK and our sister organisation Access the Foundation for Social Investment. Together we will support the production and publication of the State of the Social Enterprise Sector Regional reports and look to take a deeper dive in to understanding the business modes that lay behind successful trading social enterprises. The SEAP will help give an even richer picture and understanding to this work.

SEUK: We are delighted that Big Society Capital are co-sponsoring the Social Enterprise Advisory Panel this year. It means we can run the survey each month, continue our headlines reports, produce additional outputs and expand our analysis of the data. It also shows that there is a keen audience for the information that SEAP provides. As part of their sponsorship package, Big Society Capital will ask questions through the SEAP this year and have access to anonymised data. SEUK will retain control of survey content, question wording and publications by SEUK using SEAP data.

You can find out more about the Social Enterprise Advisory Panel and read all current SEAP reports at socialenterprise.org.uk/social-enterprise-advisory-panel