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Social Economy Drive 2023 – growing the West Midlands Social Economy

For a decade now, the much-anticipated annual event showcasing the social enterprise sector has been Birmingham focused. This year sees it evolve to being the West Midlands Social Economy Drive - a celebration of all things social economy across the seven West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) localities with support from both Power to Change and WMCA. Starting Monday 13th November 2023, Social Economy Drive is a week-long programme of Meet the Buyer, workshops, networking, conferences, roundtables and expert knowledge-exchange collaborations. It brings together key stakeholders, Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise organisations (VCSE), commissioners, public and private sector, and entrepreneurs who are passionate about ‘growing the regional social economy’. Strategic Lead for Social Economy Growth at West Midlands Combined Authority, Charles Rapson, says: “Community-owned, social and environmental purpose-led businesses, charities, cooperatives, social enterprises and other not-for-profit organisations are important players in ensuring growth is beyond economic and thereby includes all members of our communities. These organisations support disadvantaged people and the West Midlands Combined Authority is committed to inclusive growth.” Chief Executive of infrastructure organisation, iSE CIC, Zel Mason, says: " Through the diverse and vibrant programme for Social Economy Drive 2023, businesses and the community will be able to connect with like-minded individuals, explore the latest trends in social impact, and spark new ideas for a better, more sustainable future." iSE CIC has brought together Regional Partners from all seven WMCA localities to extend the reach and social economy impact of Social Economy Drive 2023. These include Coventry & Warwickshire CDA, Provision House (Dudley), Sandwell Council of Voluntary Organisations, Warwickshire & Solihull Community and Voluntary Action, One Walsall and Access 2 Business (Wolverhampton). A flagship event will be hosted on Thursday 16th November 2023, international Social Enterprise Day, by the Department for Transport, and organised by BSSEC CIC. This will be in the form of a VCSE ‘Meet The Buyer’ procurement event to strengthen local supply chains, increase localised social impact and support the growth of the regional social economy by engaging with a greater number of trading community and social businesses. The Department of Transport alone spends £24 billion a year in their supply chain, and will be joined by HS2 Ltd, Network Rail, National Highways and includes influential speakers: Claire Dove CBE, VCSE Crown Representative, says: "I'm delighted to attend the Department of Transport's first Meet the Buyer event. Engaging with and promoting supply chain opportunities to charities and social enterprises is a key to achieving the ambitions I've set out in my role of Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Crown Representative, to ensure there is increased recognition of the great work they do whilst tapping into the additional social benefits that can be achieved by engaging them in government supply chains." Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Our region’s social economy is a relatively unknown but thriving sector made up of a diverse range of enterprises that collectively make a remarkable contribution to society. We’re home to around 11,000 social economy organisations directly impacting on over a quarter of a million people - as employees, volunteers or as beneficiaries. They contribute £3.5 billion a year to our region’s economy. “The Social Economy Drive is just one of several actions that the WMCA is happy to work with Power to Change to support - raising awareness of this important part of the economy. “Chiming with the themes of National Social Enterprise Day, we should see opportunities emerge for social enterprise to contribute to the supply chain - one of the best ways to support the social economy. I look forward to seeing the social economy continue to go from strength to strength in the months and years ahead.” Natalie White, Portfolio Manager at Power to Change as the key supporter for Social Economy Drive 2023, says: “From saving local shops and creating leisure facilities to providing training opportunities for local people and helping to build affordable housing, across the West Midlands community businesses are making places better. This year Power to Change are thrilled to be supporting the Social Economy Drive, a brilliant opportunity to connect with community businesses, celebrate their work, and envision how growing this sector can unlock positive change in communities across the region.” CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL PROGRAMME AND SIGN UP TO EVENTS

25 Oct

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3 min

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Allia joins partnership to launch new Hackney impact project helping local businesses

Project provides free business support to Hackney business owners with coaching, events & cost saving advice Allia is leading a new 18-month project, Hackney Impact, a dynamic partnership committed to fostering growth and prosperity within Hackney’s vibrant business community. Working with Hackney Co-operative Developments, East End Trades Guild, Social Founders and Better Futures, the programme is funded by the UK Government through the Shared Prosperity Fund, Hackney Council and Hackney Business Network. The group of organisations and experts are uniting to provide a range of free business support to entrepreneurs in the Hackney borough, from early-stage start-ups to more established local businesses and charities. In addition to business support, the project aims to engage and embed collaboration and build community within the Hackney borough. The project kicked off today on Monday 23 October at a business breakfast networking event in Hackney for people to learn more about the project, meet the partner organisations and find out what support is on offer. A diverse group of founders, entrepreneurs and business owners from across a wide range of industries – such as café owners, artists, architects and massage therapists – gathered to learn about the project and how it aims to help the local business community.  Paul Wight, Allia’s Programme Manager for Hackney Impact said: “It was poignant to hear that many business owners are still feeling the impact of the Covid pandemic and were open about other challenges, such as the cost crisis and energy bills, that they are facing. The morning highlighted that there is a huge appetite for this type of support, and we are keen to provide that helping hand to help them on their journey.”Over the duration of the Hackney Impact project, over 220 businesses will receive: 1-1 coaching from Allia’s expert business coaches who provide personalised guidance, helping the business owners navigate challenges, set goals, and achieve their aims. Tailored business support courses that teach essential business knowledge and skills to succeed in today's competitive markets. Affordable workspace and local events where founders can come together to network, learn and collaborate. Free Energy Audit assessments and Net Zero business advice to help a business reduce their costs and lower their carbon footprint. Net Zero Grant Opportunity to make a business premises more energy efficient (applicants must meet eligibility criteria). Mentorship opportunities where experts will give bespoke insights and industry know-how to steer a business towards success. Allia has been active in the business community in Hackney for over six years, providing a range of support to help entrepreneurs and small local businesses get their ideas off the ground, and help them thrive and grow. It ran online Business Resilience programmes over the Covid pandemic to help those local businesses that had lost their customer bases and revenue streams by supporting them to pivot and diversify, so that they could survive. More recently it has been working with Hackney Council on its Green Business Programme to help local businesses adapt their ways of working to a more environmentally focused operation. Andrew Brisbin, Director of Ventures at Allia, said: “We’re excited to be part of an incredible group of partners who are building solutions for local entrepreneurs across every stage of their business journey. It’s amazing to bring together such a diverse set of skills, backgrounds, and passions to help strengthen the community we love." Cllr Guy Nicholson, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Delivery, Inclusive Economy and Regeneration said: “The Council has proven that when it is provided with funding and is empowered to design and deliver local business support programmes, it delivers positive social, environmental and financial outcomes for the businesses themselves and the wider community. The focus for this 18-month programme, which is expected to run to 31st March 2025, is on helping businesses transition to Net Zero, enhancing their social impact, and strengthening Hackney’s local ecosystem of business support.” Douglas Racionzer from Hackney Co-operative Developments said: “Hackney Cooperative Developments is delighted to collaborate in bringing to maturity our inclusive local economy.  This ecosystem has the potential to catalyse our common thoughts. Join us and let's flourish together.” Henrietta Cyrille from East End Trades Guild added: "I am no longer alone. The East End Trades Guild unites small businesses like mine, fostering a thriving ecosystem of self-starters who inspire and uplift each other towards prosperity. It is a place where generosity fuels knowledge and growth, where we connect, find support, and celebrate the essence and spirit of our endeavours. Hackney Impact steps up this support to a grander scale with its innovative ecosystem bringing real transformation for Hackney's micro-enterprise community." Caroline Diehl MBE at Social Founders said: “We are excited to support Hackney-based founders to grow both their impact and their financial sustainability - that challenging ‘double bottom line’, and to connect them with the wider ecosystem across this dynamic, innovative and vibrant borough. We want to support founders at all stages of their founder journey, and celebrate their achievements, stories and courage.” Jane Mossman at Better Futures said: “Better Futures is really excited to be working with Hackney's local businesses to identify ways to reduce their energy bills, reduce their carbon footprints and build resilience so they can thrive and be a force for good." 

25 Oct

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4 min

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Join the Plymouth Social Enterprise Network for a very special Places themed festival!

Plymouth’s socially beneficial businesses are gearing up for an inspiring 14th Annual Social Enterprise Festival, organised by Plymouth Social Enterprise Network (PSEN). This year's festival carries special significance as it marks a decade since Plymouth was designated as an official Social Enterprise Place by Social Enterprise UK. The festival, scheduled to take place from the 8th to the 17th of November 2023, promises an exciting lineup of events that celebrate the incredible contributions of social enterprises in driving positive change within Plymouth . Our festival opening event will be held on Wednesday 8th November, from 3pm to 9.30pm on University of Plymouth campus. Between our festival exhibition and opening party the conference section of the event will feature inspiring guest speakers from across the UK’s Places movement. We are thrilled to be bringing Clive Hirst to the city. He is the visionary founder of the Social Enterprise Places movement and will speak alongside SEUK representatives Peter Holbrook CBE CEO & Sarah Crawley-Beaumont OBE Places Champion, and thought leader Joyte Brown from Black Voices Cornwall. The local picture will come from PSEN’s newest Board member Cllr Pat Patel, founder of The Tamar View Community Centre which has been a key part of the social enterprise story in Plymouth over the past decade; as well as all of our exhibiting members and attendees. This will be followed by two days of Social Enterprise Safaris in and around Plymouth. Our themes are Thursday 9th - Empowering Communities and Friday 10th - Community Collaborators. This offers you an opportunity to meet the people who made it happen and see the projects they have created, in action. Lunch and accessible transport are provided. To book your place at the launch event, please follow THIS LINK to our Eventbrite page. To book your place on the Safaris, please contact our Network Coordinator & Activator Amerie Rose - amerie@plymsocent.org.uk

25 Sep

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2 min

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Pioneering programme receives extra funding after over 23,000 families supported in first year

Fair for You is pleased to announce that it will receive investment of up to £2m from Fair4All Finance, to enable further growth for the Iceland Food Club, our pioneering partnership with Iceland Foods. The ethical microcredit scheme gives financially-excluded households access to loans of £25-£100 to spend at Iceland, helping them to spread the cost of food and essential items during the school holidays. Iceland Food Club launched nationally in August 2022, following an extensive regional pilot which demonstrated significant social impact for the scheme. Since the national launch, more than 23,000 families and an estimated 44,000-plus children have benefitted from the scheme. This is on top of thousands of customers joining during the scheme's extensive regional pilot. The additional investment will support further growth, and recognises the scheme's significant positive social impact to date. Richard Walker OBE, Executive Chairman of Iceland Foods, said: "We have seen the remarkable impact that the Iceland Food Club has had in supporting struggling customers through the cost-of-living crisis. Setting up the Food Club alongside Fair for You has been one of the most transformational decisions we have made as a business, and we know it has been a lifeline for so many families who now have a workable solution for affording essential goods." Simon Dukes, CEO, Fair For You, said: "Around a quarter of households in the UK have less than £100 in savings which makes holiday periods very stressful. Fair for You is delighted to make life easier for tens of thousands of Iceland customers who can’t always afford a big grocery shop but who can afford a small interest-free loan, which is paid back within weeks, to help them and their children through the holidays. The additional investment from Fair4All Finance will enable us to reach even more people who will truly benefit from the Food Club." Sacha Romanovitch OBE, CEO of Fair4All Finance, said:  "We've been impressed with the strong social impact and positive customer outcomes of Iceland's Food Club, and the vital support that access to low value, zero percent interest credit provides to customers in the most financially vulnerable circumstances. "We're pleased to be investing up to a further £2m in Fair for You to help grow this scheme and help more people manage through the school holidays and navigate the cost of living crisis." The scheme has been a winner at the prestigious Global Good Awards for two consecutive years. In March this year it was cited as an important option for families at risk of needing to use food banks, in a report by a group of MPs, supported by The Trussell Trust.

11 Sep

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2 min

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Interestingly Different recognised as one of the UK’s most impressive organisations

Interestingly Different in Carshalton has been selected as one of the nation’s 100 most impressive small businesses by the Small Business Saturday UK campaign, as it kicks off its second decade in the UK.  Interestingly Different, the innovative and unique retailer selling stunning products made by or supporting adults with learning disabilities or facing other life challenges, launched in January 2023. The shop and online outlet sell a wide range of stunning products, and provide employment opportunities for adults with disabilities as a way of tackling the statistic that only 5% of adults with learning disabilities in the UK are currently in paid employment.  Following a nationwide search it has been chosen as part of this year’s SmallBiz100 line-up, which showcases a line-up of 100 of the most inspiring independent businesses from across the nation.  Karen Stewart, Communications Assistant for Interestingly Different talks about how the team felt about having been selected as one of the Small Biz 100: “Having only launched in January this year, we are absolutely delighted to have already been selected as one of the top small businesses in the country. Naturally we are extremely proud that the quality of our business and products has been appreciated; but to be recognised in this way, as a social enterprise trying to smash stereotypes and create change for adults with learning disabilities, is what brings us the greatest pride of all.” Small Business Saturday will return on 2 December 2023, with a mission to support and celebrate the UK’s 5.5 million small businesses. With small firms facing huge challenges due to the cost-of-living crisis, the campaign is more vital than ever as it moves into its second decade in the UK. Interestingly Different was profiled by the campaign on September 5th as part of the 100-day countdown to Small Business Saturday UK. “It’s fantastic to celebrate Interestingly Different as part of this year’s campaign” said Michelle Ovens CBE, Director of Small Business Saturday UK. “The impressive small businesses featured in this year’s SmallBiz100 sum up the phenomenal contribution that small firms make to our economy and local communities.” Small Business Saturday is a grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which celebrates small business success and encourages consumers to 'shop local' and to support businesses in their communities. Interestingly Different really does provide a fantastic opportunity for residents of Carshalton and Greater London to shop locally, whilst also selling all of their products online. Interestingly Different also offer a gift hamper service for individual and corporate clients, which creates a fantastic option for big companies to support small businesses whilst ensuring their gifting is socially and ethically responsible. The campaign was originally founded by American Express in the U.S. in 2010, and the brand remains the principal supporter of the campaign in the UK.  On Small Business Saturday customers across the UK go out and support all types of small businesses, from independent boutiques and eateries to small service and b2b based businesses like wholesalers and digital marketers. Many small businesses take an active role in promoting the day by hosting events and offering promotions. Interestingly Different will be hosting a Christmas Shopping event on Small Business Saturday as part of their celebration of this incredible achievement. Make sure to follow them on Instagram for more details closer to the day. Over the time the campaign has run in the UK it has engaged millions of people each year and seen over billions of pounds spent with small businesses across the UK on Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday attracts huge attention on the day itself, with an impact that lasts all year. Last year the campaign trended at number one in the UK on social media platform X (formally Twitter), with the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London among those publicly supporting the campaign. Over 90% of local councils also supported the campaign. To get involved in Small Business Saturday UK visit smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com. To learn more about Interestingly Different and to do some impactful shopping visit interestinglydifferent.co.uk . Be sure to sign up to their newsletter for a 10% discount code for your first order.

11 Sep

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3 min

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Charity Bank to host series of free events on navigating change and the role of sustainable finance

Charity Bank, the loans and savings bank for social good, is inviting trustees, directors, CEOs and managers of charities, social enterprises and community organisations to attend a series of free regional events in September and October. Held in collaboration with local and national sector partners, the events will explore the critical role of sustainable finance in driving positive change and fostering thriving communities. The half-day events will be taking place in Liverpool, London, Wolverhampton, and Southampton, with an additional virtual event to ensure that content is accessible to all. Speakers will include national and regional experts including Locality, Community First, Crowe Accountants, Brabners Solicitors, SIB Network, Charity Intelligence, and others. Together they will discuss how sustainable finance can enable charities and social enterprises to unlock their potential, the state of the sector, local challenges, and explore innovative solutions. The events will also offer an opportunity for charities, social enterprises, and community organisations to connect with like-minded individuals, finance experts, and expand their networks. Each event will be hosted from 9:30am – 12:30pm at the following locations: Liverpool (The Bluecoat, L1 3BX): Thursday 28th September London (Museum of Brands, W11 1QT): Tuesday 3rd October Southampton (Ordnance Survey, SO16 OAS): Thursday 5th October Wolverhampton (ASAN, WV2 1EL): Tuesday 10th October Virtual event (Via Zoom): Tuesday 17th October To find out more and register visit charitybank.org/NavigatingChange About Charity Bank Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank for charities, social enterprises and people who want to make the world a better place. It uses its savers’ money to provide much needed loans to UK organisations working to drive positive social change – bringing benefits for people, communities and the environment. Since 2002, Charity Bank has made more than 1,200 loans totalling over £450m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations. Charity Bank is owned by social purpose organisations and aims to use its expertise, commitment and flexible approach to lending, to help charities and social enterprises get the support and funding they need. charitybank.org

10 Aug

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2 min

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auticon and Unicus join Forces, advancing ESG mission of neurodiversity

The transaction is an offensive to unite two innovative social enterprises and global players in the IT industry; the deal unifies more than 465 autistic employees to become the largest autistic-majority company in the world. auticon and Unicus have entered into an agreement under which the two companies will unite. The deal was brokered by Ferd, an Oslo-based family-owned investment company and shareholder in both companies. The historic deal establishes a global model for an autistic-majority social enterprise and ESG company, addressing the inequalities in employment for neurodivergent adults.   By joining forces, auticon and Unicus increase potential for creating value for customers, employees, and society – in existing and new markets. The combination marks an important next step for our business and social mission. Our customers will get access to a broader range of IT, software and management services and a larger team with a global footprint, while our employees can continue to grow in the same supported work environment.   Under the terms of the deal:  The two combined companies will become the “largest autistic-majority company in the world,” with 81% (465) of its 575 employees on the autism spectrum.  Ferd, an investor in both companies, will become the lead impact investor in the combined company.  The two businesses come together under the umbrella of auticon GmbH as future joint holding company of the auticon and the Unicus shareholders. Lars Johansson-Kjellerød, CEO of the Unicus group will be joining auticon CFO Markus Weber and Group CEO Kurt Schöffer in the management board of auticon GmbH.  The unified company will operate in 14 countries, including Norway, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Poland, Germany, the United Kingdom, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Switzerland, and France.  The company expects to achieve 50M EUR revenue and 600+ employees by the end of 2023. Investors include Ferd, Autism Impact Fund, Ananda Impact Ventures, KOIS, Felix Porsche, Sir Richard Branson, Ferst Capital Partners, and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.  A crisis of unemployment among autistic adults  It is estimated that less than 29% of autistic adults are in any form of meaningful employment (Office for National Statistics, UK, 2022). Many autistic adults possess cognitive strengths that make them particularly well-suited for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Despite this, they are faced with barriers such as an exclusionary recruitment process, poor autism awareness, and employers feeling unprepared to offer support.  With 15 years of experience and a solid track record, a global footprint of 14 countries, proprietary data, and technology platforms, the combined company will provide high-value IT services to clients, including data science, software development, cybersecurity, AI, and quality assurance and testing. Additionally, actionable neurodiversity training and advisory services will become available in Nordic markets.  On a mission to improve the lives of autistic adults  auticon and Unicus are improving the lives of autistic adults through employment. According to internal polling, both companies report significant quality of life improvements for employees, including increased self-esteem, quality of life, income, confidence, and improved well-being. To learn more, view the latest impact reports for Unicus and auticon.   auticon Group CEO Kurt Schöffer commented: “Imagine a company where the majority are autistic. Most could never conceive of such a thing, yet we come to work every day. This merger unites two high-profile IT consulting companies behind a unifying purpose – neurodiversity.”  auticon CFO Markus Weber commented: “This deal makes auticon even more interesting for the financial market. Under the guidance of Ferd, now our largest shareholder, auticon has unlimited possibilities and guidance for further growth.”  Unicus Founder and CEO Lars Johansson-Kjellerød commented: "By our marriage, we create the world's largest autistic-majority corporation. With the focus on neurodiversity, we will continue to create unique results for our customers and an increased quality of life for our employees. The joint companies have the same DNA and vision to create a more inclusive world, and when we combine Unicus and auticon's long experience, that is, in my opinion, the best prerequisites to successfully foster change and innovation and to create the leading Social company focusing on neurodiversity. I am looking forward to the journey ahead!" Ferd owner and Chair, Johan H. Andresen commented: "The combination of auticon and Unicus represents a major milestone for social impact investing. When Ferd started investing in social entrepreneurs in 2007 we had a vision that it would be possible to build and scale these organizations with their innovative solutions and that they could deliver both great social impact and strong financial performance.    Our journey with Unicus started in 2009, with a small grant to fund a pilot project, followed by an investment in auticon in 2018. Now we are witnessing the emergence of a multinational social entrepreneur, one of the very first of its kind. We are very excited and proud to support the new group in its ambitious plans going forward."  About auticon  auticon is an award-winning social innovation company. As an autistic-majority company, we're a resource for talent. We integrate our technology consultants into client organizations, performing as software developers, data analysts, QA engineers, and more. Clients experience our outstanding autistic professionals first-hand, opening minds and achieving diversity goals.  Our model improves the economic and social conditions of the autistic community with quality careers, unlocking opportunity, and empowering client organisations through actionable neurodiversity training and advisory services. Here, our employees build lifelong careers in technology, discovering personal autonomy and improved self-esteem.  Investors include Ferd, Autism Impact Fund, Ananda Impact Ventures, KOIS, Felix Porsche, Sir Richard Branson, Ferst Capital Partners and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. For more information, visit www.auticon.com. About Unicus  Unicus was founded in 2008 by Lars Johansson-Kjellerød, with the vision of a better and more inclusive world for people with autism built on the individual`s strengths. Unicus is an IT company specialized in services within Datascience, Software development, RPA and Software testing and today operates in Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and newly started in Poland, with many of the largest Nordic companies on their customer list. For more information, see www.unicus.com  About Ferd  Ferd is a Norwegian family-owned investment company owned by the fifth and sixth generations of the Andresen family. The investment company is called Ferd (‘journey’) because, in the true sense of the word, it represents ‘travel without an end’. The Ferd vision – to create enduring value and leave clear footprints – articulates a firm commitment to creating value that is not just financial. Ferd is an active, long-term investor in social innovative enterprises that generate measurable social impact using a sustainable business model. Ferd is the majority shareholder in Unicus, and has been a supporter of the company since inception in 2009. For more information, see www.ferd.no/en/ 

24 Jul

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5 min

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