iSE CIC started 2020 with a clear vision to extend its reach and partnerships within the Birmingham localities it works in having evolved its mission to orientate this around its Women’s Enterprise Hub based in Sparkbrook, now transformed to become the Women’s Enterprise and Community Hub.
Throughout iSE CICs 20 years, it has worked to empower individuals by engaging with social enterprise as a pathway to increase social mobility, add social value and build social business contract delivery in both local communities and the wider regional economy.
Digbeth was the first locality that became a recognised social enterprise zone through Social Enterprise UK in 2013. In 2018, iSE CIC and key stakeholders drew on expertise, knowledge and ambition to have Birmingham accredited as a Social Enterprise Place. Driving the ‘do more good’ ethos and creating collaboration across Public Sector, private sector, third sector and the social enterprise sector to lever the opportunities to Buy Social has a transformational impact on individuals, communities and neighbourhoods helping to address economic, social and environmental challenges.
Throughout 2019, the senior management team, led by Chief Executive Officer Sarah Crawley, and the iSE CIC Board, led by Steve Harding, recognised that community need was rising, particularly relating to the delivery of women-led enterprise services in the Women’s Enterprise Hub (WEH) in Sparkbrook.
The Women’s Enterprise Hub was developed in partnership between Birmingham City Council and iSE CIC, opening its doors in November 2015. During a 4 year partnership, iSE CIC managed the building on behalf of Birmingham City Council and WEH established its place in the Sparkbrook locality delivering valued women and enterprise-focused services.
iSE CIC was then successful in securing a 15-year lease for the Women’s Enterprise Hub on a Community Asset Transfer in March 2020. A social value audit on the activities delivered at the Women’s Enterprise Hub identified a social value of over £4 million pounds. Having carefully considered the development of services through 2019, iSE CIC is delighted that WEH has evolved to become the Women’s Enterprise and Community Hub (WECH) meaning it has started offering additional support to meet the evidenced needs of the Sparkbrook area, an area that is within the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods in the country.
Sarah Crawley, CEO of iSE CIC, says, ‘Our focus at iSE CIC has always been around community development through the social enterprise model as it has been shown through many evidenced research reports that social businesses have a real-time, positive impact for their community of benefit; people who are vulnerable, suffer deprivation or challenged through personal circumstances such as debt, health, (un)employment, education and/or housing. Social enterprise empowers individuals to gain skills, access employment, improve their environment and develop confidence… often to start their own social enterprise business.’
‘We are excited by the positive feedback we’ve received as the Women’s Enterprise and Community Hub has developed and grown, and how families and women in the Sparkbrook area have told us our presence and expert support has inspired more confidence, cohesion and creativity to think beyond the current Covid climate and look forward with a new level of optimism.’
Critically, Covid-19 fast-tracked localised needs and saw the newly formed Foodbank at WECH support over 50 families with essential groceries and family supplies.
As a result of the extended services at WECH, 2 new jobs at the Hub have already been created in July, thanks to funding from Heart of England Community Foundation, The National Lottery Community Fund, NatWest and others who are supporting WECH work, and their services focused on local people.