History of social enterprises in Sheffield

Sheffield is one of the UK’s largest cities and currently ranked the 8th Greenest city in the UK. It plays an important role in the nation’s overall economy and is on the boundary of the Peak District National Park. Originally known as the original ‘Steel City’ Sheffield holds a historical reputation for steel and manufacturing, whilst also more recently developing a reputation for outdoor enthusiasts and the digital and new media industries that are rapidly growing in the city. Sheffield today is a city that is proud of its heritage, that is forward-thinking, and that is eager to embrace new technologies.

From its historical roots of manufacturing and mining within the wider region, Sheffield has a unique ‘village feel’ that often has community at the centre of things. Over the years this has lent itself well to the growth of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector. Supported by both Universities through courses and enterprise hubs and the wider investment into the region for social enterprise support, the city has seen an increase in community-led businesses that have also spanned out into the wider Sheffield City Region.

Description of the current social enterprise landscape in Sheffield

The Social Enterprise landscape in Sheffield is rich and varied and spreads across all business sectors. There are some key infrastructure organisations bringing the sector together, including Sheffield Social Enterprise Network, the Universities and the local voluntary action. Over the more recent years, there has been a drive to bring the sector together, be recognised as valuable to the business economy whilst working in stronger partnership with other parts of the Third Sector and the wider VCSE sector. Such work has been driven by investment into the region to support start-ups and established social enterprises through various programmes and partnership consortiums. Such investments have not only led to an increase of social enterprises in the city and wider region, but it has also meant that wider investment has been able to be made in the infrastructure organisations such as Sheffield Social Enterprise Network, who are becoming the ‘go to’ organisation in the city for social enterprises.

As well as a manufacturing history, Sheffield holds a strong cultural history and has produced some key performers, bands and cultural organisations. Because of this, the city has a strong base of cultural, creative and media-based social enterprises, often demonstrating strong community ownership involved in their governance and delivery.

The majority of the city’s social enterprises are small to medium enterprises, but we do also boast some larger social enterprises, but until more recently such data has been fragmented and not clear enough. Work is currently being done in the city to gain a deeper understanding of how many social enterprises we have, how many people are employed by them and how much they are adding to the local economy and the wider impact that they are having throughout the city and wider region.

Key objectives

Aim 1: Further increase awareness with the public, business & statutory stakeholders of the value of Social Enterprise and the impact created across the Sheffield area.

Aim 2: Build on existing support for social enterprises in the Sheffield area, providing new opportunities for social enterprises to share knowledge and best practise.

Aim 3: Work closely with existing infrastructure & peer support organisations and partners to ensure the sector is sustainable and integrated into the wider local networks and leaderships.

Stakeholder group

Sheffield Social Enterprise Network (Lead Organisation)

Key Fund

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce

University of Sheffield Management School

Business Sheffield

ZEST community

Sheffield Hallam University  

Social Enterprise Exchange

Description of the current social enterprise landscape in Sheffield

The social enterprise landscape in Sheffield is rich and varied, spread as it is across all business sectors, but it is relatively fragmented. Enterprises do not meet or support each other as much as they could do, and there are major gaps in awareness, even between enterprises working in the same sector. Although there are some key icons in the city, there is plenty of room to grow the profile of social enterprise so that any business could provide social benefits, and so that many social organisations could trade as enterprises.

Key objectives

Aim 1: Further increase awareness with the public, business & statutory stakeholders of the value of Social Enterprise and the impact created across the Sheffield area.

Aim 2: Build on existing support for social enterprises in the Sheffield area, providing new opportunities for social enterprise to share knowledge and best practise.

Aim 3: Work closely with existing infrastructure & peer support organisations like the Sheffield Social Enterprise Network to ensure there is a sustainable & integrated membership-based local support network.

Stakeholder group

Darren Chouings – Sheffield Social Enterprise Network
Dave Thornett – The Keyfund
Richard Wright – Sheffield Chamber of Commerce
Andreana Drencheva -University of Sheffield Management School
Yvonne Asquith – Business Sheffield
Matthew Dean – ZEST community
Paul Senior – SOAR Build
Rory Ridley-Duff – Sheffield Hallam University   
Steve Buckley – Social Enterprise Exchange
Laura lH Bennett – Private Sector Member, LEP Board