At almost 7,0002 kms, Cumbria is the second largest county in England, but with just under a population of 500,000, it is also one of the sparsest populated. It has higher proportion of older residents than younger residents compared to the national average and it is estimated that around 2,000 19-34 year olds leave the County each year. 

Cumbria has a very active social enterprise sector delivering a wide range of services and activities, from large well established businesses to new innovative start-ups.  These are comprised of a diverse range of organisational forms and legal structures such as community businesses, co-operatives, development trusts, credit unions, social firms and charities’ trading arms.

Some of the key characteristics of the county’s social enterprises:

  • many are setup and operate in our rural areas because of poor access to services
  • there is a growing interest and a greater role being encouraged and developed for social enterprises to deliver public sector services, including asset transfers of community buildings such as libraries, leisure facilities and community centres
  • many are involved in delivering frontline health and social care services, often with an innovative and user led approach
  • more are diversifying their income sources in order to reduce their dependency on public sector and grant funding by winning service delivery contracts
  • there is an increase in small new start-up businesses being setup by young people with a aspirations to do business in an ethical and community focused way

The sector is supported through the Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership, which is funded by Cumbria County Council.

Cumbria is home to Alston Moor, the UK’s first Social Enterprise Town 

Key Objectives

  1. Raise awareness of the sector and the contribution it makes to the County, including conducting a mapping survey of the social enterprise activity within the county to determine the contribution and impact the sector has on the county’s economy.
  2. Encourage and support SE start-up businesses and support existing SEs to grow and prosper, through continued delivery of Cumbria County Council’s Social Enterprise Programme.
  3. Support Alston Moor to make the most of its Social Enterprise Town status and encourage and support other Cumbrian ‘places’ to look at becoming a recognised social enterprise zone.

Stakeholder Group

Organisations represented on the Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership Steering Group:

  • Action for Communities in Cumbria
  • Active Cumbria
  • Brampton & Beyond Community Trust
  • Community Energy Cumbria
  • Cumbria County Council
  • Cybermoor Services Ltd
  • Glenmore Trust
  • Impact Housing
  • Northern Fells Group
  • Time to Change
  • Wingspan Consulting

For more information see

West House Cafe

Support and Contact Details

Support is available through the Partnership’s business support programme.  This targeted programme of support is funded by Cumbria County Council and is available to both existing social enterprises to help them grow and also to anyone wanting to start-up a new social enterprises.  The programme funds 2-3 days of specialist support.

For support and information on social enterprise in Cumbria, contact The Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership.  See