Gaps in the Stats: responses to the SOSE regional reports


The State of Social Enterprise (SOSE) report is the definitive guide to the state of the social enterprise sector in the UK. Published every two years, it is the go-to place for in-depth information on the sector.

Collaborating with Big Society Capital and Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, SEUK has published SOSE findings region by region using 2019 State of Social Enterprise survey data. In June, we launched the reports to sector leaders from across the country with a discussion about the key findings and what they reveal.

The reports paint a picture of the social enterprise community in each region compared to the national average. They look at the sectors social enterprises work in, who they employ, turnover, start-up rates and the key challenges they face. The data also covers social enterprises as employers, analysing issues such as diversity, employee engagement and pay.

How can this regional data be used by the sector and policy makers to level up regions? What else do they tell us? What data is missing? What can we learn for SOSE 2021?

Getting behind the data

Big Society Capital’s aim is to improve the lives of people in the UK through social impact investment, whilst our sister organisation Access, works to makes to charities and social enterprises in England more financially resilient and self-reliant – particularly those organisations often excluded from accessing the finance and support they need.

A key measure of our success is improving the knowledge and understanding around social investment and in partnership with a wide range of sector organisations including SEUK we have created

Beyond this as market development champions, we have a responsibility to understand the needs of charities and social enterprises and by working with SEUK to provide access to regional State of Social Enterprise data, we are improving our knowledge of the differing experiences and challenges for social enterprises in England.

Place-based investment

At the time of supporting regional segmentation of SOSE data – neither Big Society Capital or Access could have predicted that we would have such immediate and significant internal use for the reports.

The reports provide timely regional data for “Local Access” – our blended finance and support programme, aimed at supporting the development of stronger, more resilient and sustainable social economies in disadvantaged places.

The six places chosen to receive a mix of support, grant funding and repayable investment to grow their local charity and social enterprise sector, now have data which we hope will further inform the starting context for each locality – and of course for other areas supporting stronger social economies beyond the Local Access programme.

The Pandemic

With the Covid-19 crisis, it was announced in May that Access will receive £30m of new funds from dormant accounts to support the development of new blended finance models for social investment providers to make available to the charities and social enterprises impacted.

Regional level insight forms one important piece of the wider evidence puzzle to support Big Society Capital, Access and partners in developing and designing new financial products that best support the needs of social purpose organisations in the recovery around the country.

We hope that the segmented SOSE reports and their findings will encourage organisations to bring forward new ideas and solutions so that social investment can better support those places and communities where it can create the most impact.

Reflections from the Regions

South West

“I wouldn’t have known much of the key findings from the South West regional data, so it is new and therefore valuable.”Edward Rowberry, Chief Executive, Bristol & Bath Regional Capital CIC

Yorkshire & Humber

On social investment:

“This report will really help shape our [Bradford Local Access] programme. The report has highlighted that 61% of social enterprises sought £50,000 or less in investment so when we’re thinking about how we design the programme and investment products which are suitable for the market, the finance section for example provides a great level of insight.”

On BAME leadership profile:

“Only 11% of social enterprises in our region have one or more BAME persons on their leadership teams, and yet 35% or more of our population here is BAME.”

On infrastructure:

“If there is a direct correlation between organisations being based in a place and the impact they have in that economy, then I would definitely think about how organisations in this space think about having regional presence to make that impact.”

On economic impact:

Economic impact should be included as it “helps make the case” for including social enterprise in mainstream policy, funding and planning.

-Kamran Rashid, Chair, Bradford Local Access (Yorkshire & Humber region)

North East region

Reflecting on the low response rate:

“I suspect the start-ups didn’t respond which gives a skewed picture.” Kate Welch of Social Enterprise Acumen

The “lack of responses from NE was probably indicative of lack of social enterprise infrastructure bodies in the region.”Carole Botten, CEO, Vonne (North East)

Next steps

Cutting the SOSE data provides granularity – but also exposes gaps and anomalies. For SEUK, producing the regional reports has promoted a conversation about regional and local data on social enterprise which we hope will contribute to richer data and analysis in the 2021 SOSE survey.

Initial reflections point two overall actions for the 2021 SOSE:

  • First the need for a more extensive, inclusive and targeted survey outreach.
  • Second, the value to having expert engagement at a regional level to interpret findings.

2021 SOSE surveying will take place early in the new year. We would welcome close collaboration with SEUK Places partners and others working at a regional and local level with social enterprises to both promote the survey – and to explore findings from it.

We are considering the potential for sub-regional data cuts. And whether there is value to analysis of geography by type – urban, rural, coast distinctions for example.

With both Access and Big Society Capital committed to supporting the accessibility of data in the future so that we can build upon these reports. Your thoughts and suggestions will be very welcome in the coming months as we shape plans.

Get in touch

Emily Darko, Director of Research, SEUK

Sarah Colston, Director of Learning, Access – The Foundation for Social Investment

Melanie Mills, Senior Director Social Sector Engagement, Big Society Capital

Download the Reports

Access the nine regional reports here

On Thursday 18 June to accompany the reports an event was held bringing together sector leaders who discussed findings from the reports in more detail. You can listen to this here: