20 years of Social Enterprise UK

26 July 2022

Social Enterprise UK celebrated its 20th anniversary at a special event held at the House of Lords terrace in the Palace of Westminster last Monday, on one of the hottest days of the year. It was a chance to look back and celebrate what SEUK and its members have achieved together over the last two decades and an opportunity to look forward to the future.

Since being formed as the Social Enterprise Coalition, 20 years ago, SEUK has been a strong voice and champion for social enterprise in the UK, raising awareness of social enterprise and lobbying for change. SEUK was instrumental in the passing of the Social Value Act, the establishment of the Community Interest Community as a legal structure; and making social investment more accessible to social enterprises through the creation of Big Society Capital and, more recently, the Access Foundation.

Over the years our ‘Buy Social’ work has grown from a campaign encouraging social enterprises to buy from each other – to one which is helping shape the supply chains of some of the UK’s biggest businesses through the Buy Social Corporate Challenge – an initiative which now has 30 corporate partners, and which has directed millions of pounds worth of spend towards social enterprises. SEUK’s public-facing Buy Social campaigns have raised awareness of social enterprise and spread the word about buying from social enterprises to consumers. 

As well as marking some of SEUK’s achievements over the last 20 years SEUK’s two former chairs, Baroness Glenys Thornton and Claire Dove CBE, shared their reflections of their time at the organisation and how it, and social enterprise, has grown and developed.

Baroness Glenys Thornton Claire Dove CBE David Adair Peter Holbrook

Baroness Glenys Thornton, David Adair – Head of Community Engagement at PwC, Claire Dove CBE and Peter Holbrook

Our current chair, Lord Victor Adebowale CBE set out the critical role social enterprise needs to play in the future of the economy and how SEUK, as the champion for the social enterprise movement, needs to ensure that those who either do not know what a social enterprise is or who do not care understand the that the social enterprise movement is a real catalyst for positive change. Lord Adebowale commented:

“We’ve got to make them understand that if they’re interested in the future of the country, in fact the future of the planet, it’s social enterprise that they need to be interested in. They’re looking for solutions and we’re it”

Lord Victor Adebowale business at its best

Lord Victor Adebowale CBE

The need for social enterprises to be part of the climate change solution was apparent to everyone gathered in the room, as the outside temperature hit just under 40 degrees.

As well as hearing from our Chair, former Chairs and Chief Executive SEUK members present voted on a resolution that enables SEUK to continue to invest in political activity. This resolution was passed unanimously by a quorate number of SEUK members. This will help us continue to champion and push for policy change that benefits social enterprise and position social enterprises as a fundamental part of an inclusive and sustainable economy.

We know that the extreme temperatures made it impossible for many people to attend but we would like to thank everyone who was able to join us in Westminster and celebrate the last 20 years. We’d also like to extend our thanks to all our members, partners and supporters who have been instrumental in supporting our work over the years. Social Enterprise UK is nothing without its members and none of our achievements would have been possible without you.

We look forward to working with you as we move forward and continue to make the case as to why social enterprise represents business at its best.