Insight papers

These insight papers are shorter pieces of research, from snapshots of how social enterprises are performing over a particular period of time to thematic reports on specific issues affecting the sector.


You can also find our Social Enterprise Barometer reports, based on the findings of our Social Enterprise Advisory panel surveys, which collect real-time data on all aspects of sector performance.

Front cover of the Social Enterprise Knowledge Centre Insight Paper

Social Enterprise Barometer – Financial Performance

The May 2024 Insight Paper gives us a snapshot of sector conditions and expectations. The report focused on social enterprises’ ability to increase turnover and generate profit during ongoing economic turmoil.


It also explored property status, trade with local government and the adoption of artificial intelligence technologies in the sector.


The cover of the February 2024 Social Enterprise Barometer

Social Enterprise Barometer – Expectations for 2024

This quarterly review uses survey data from our Social Enterprise Knowledge Centre to give a picture of sector operating circumstances across the country.


The latest results of our Social Enterprise Advisory Panel depict a sector broadly optimistic for the year ahead, persevering in the face of economic uncertainty despite gaps in local and national government support.



front cover of the report . A yellow square with the title Social Enterprise Knowledge Centre Insight January 2024

Community Interest Company Dissolution Rates

Our research with the University of Worcester compares the registration and dissolution of Community Interest Companies (CICs) over the last five years to other businesses, finding interesting differences.


We found that CICs were dissolved, on average, at a lower rate than other forms of registered businesses. CIC registration is growing significantly and proportionately more than other business models, but CICs tend to dissolve at a younger age.


Social Enterprise Barometer – Autumn 2023

The November survey of social enterprises depicts a sector weathering economic storms, resilient in the face of growing pressures but also showing real signs of strain.

The picture painted is a mixed one – social enterprises are succeeding against the odds, but many are seeing incomes decline and reserves depleted. More needs to be done to support them as they continue drive growth for people and planet.

The front cover of the Summer 2023 Social Enterprise Barometer report

Social Enterprise Barometer – Summer 2023

The July 2023 survey of 142 social enterprises found continued resilience and cautious recovery, although many are still uncertain about their futures. While the research suggests that inflation and economic uncertainty aren’t causing acute risk of closure for social enterprises, there are ongoing signs of strain across the sector.

Social Enterprise Barometer – Spring 2023

The April Social Enterprise Barometer report showed that projected growth figures are up on last quarter for social enterprises. Projected turnover and profit figures are also positive, with 40% of social enterprises surveyed anticipating turnover will grow and 77% expecting to break even or make a profit this financial year. The report also showed the importance to social enterprises of supporting staff through the economic downturn.

Acorn Early Years square - february barometer report

Social Enterprise Barometer – Winter 2023

The February Social Enterprise Barometer shows that the next quarter is critical for many social enterprises with more than one in ten social enterprises across the UK expecting reduced turnover or to close due to the tough economic climate. The report shows that social enterprises are facing tight budgets, stretched capacity and concerns about meeting demand. We see an ongoing trend of struggling operating positions for social enterprises.


14% expect to reduce turnover and staff or to close, indicating that as many as 18,000 social enterprises might be at risk of closure if prices increase further, we experience a recession and if there is no additional support to sustain otherwise viable businesses.

Barometer November 2022 front cover

Social Enterprise Barometer – Autumn 2022

The Autumn Social Enterprise Barometer showed that thousands of social enterprises may not survive the winter amid rising energy and operating costs and concerns over accessing contracts and funding, Across all indicators of social enterprise business health, the report shows signs of significant strain over the last quarter. Cashflow and reserves positions have worsened, turnover and growth expectations are down, and staff numbers have declined. Rising costs in general, especially rising energy prices, are of particular concern, combined with uncertainty about energy price caps post April 2023. 22% of social enterprises said they need help with energy bill payments, that’s almost 30,000 businesses UK-wide.

Social Enterprise Barometer - August 2022

Social Enterprise Barometer – Summer 2022

Social enterprise performance looked relatively positive, having recovered from a dip in January and in spite of challenges of creeping operating cost increases and supply chain constraints. However, the anticipated hike in energy costs and the likelihood of recession put this progress in jeopardy. Whereas other businesses might increase prices or cut staff to offset rising prices, the research showed that, just as they did during COVID, social enterprises were picking up the slack in ways which remain commercially viable, at least in the short term. Yet there were also clear signs of strain – financially, but also in terms of leadership and staff capacity and wellbeing.

Barometer Winter 202122

Social Enterprise Barometer – Winter 2021/2022

The Winter 2021/2022 SEAP Barometer focused on the fallout from the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and the easing of COVID restrictions. 55% of social enterprises told us that COVID-related uncertainty was one of their biggest worries for the first half of 2022.


Concerns were not just about restrictions, but also staffing (including ill health), demand, and general inability to plan and to secure income. The research also found that social enterprises were less likely to be making a loss than other businesses and that cashflow positions had remained steady.

SEAP Barometer Autumn 2021

Social Enterprise Barometer – Autumn 2021

The Autumn 2021 Barometer showed that 61% of social enterprises made a profit or broke even in the previous quarter. Staff numbers increased slightly or significantly for 36% of social enterprises and reserves also decreased for 39% of businesses in the last quarter. As of September 2021, 69% of social enterprise had funds to operate for at least the next three months.


The research also showed that 73% of social enterprises expected their staff numbers and turnover to stay the same or grow over the following three to six months. 4% expected to decrease their turnover and/or staff, or to close.