Thought leadership

Thought leadership

Our Social Value story: Siemens UK

Technology companies make a big difference to millions of people, because the products we develop - from security systems to trains, leveraging data sources at university campuses and even household appliances - directly impact on people’s everyday lives. Doing business in a sustainable way is crucial to us, and by creating more energy-efficient products and services, we can not only save our customers money, but enable them to reduce their carbon footprint, too. At Siemens UK we know that there is much more we can do to work towards our sustainability goals by working closely with partners across our supply chains; this is why we are proud to be supporting the Social Value 2032 programme. Our work on social value is being led by the Supply Chain Management team, and every member of the team is playing a pivotal role. In a company as large and multi-faceted as Siemens, we know that we can have massive impact if we put our efforts in the right places – that’s why in Supply Chain Management, we know we need to act now. As a function, we have the potential to make huge positive impact on society and the world around us, just by changing the way we work. At Siemens, we deployed the DEGREE framework (De-carbonization, Ethics, Governance, Resource efficiency, Equity and Employability) across the whole of the organisation back in 2021 as a way to approach sustainability. This umbrella framework gives the different parts of the business the freedom to apply principles of sustainability and social value in ways that are appropriate to their operations and location, while all working together towards a common framework. By partnering with Social Enterprise UK, Siemens has already introduced around 65 Social Enterprises into our supply chain and had a positive impact on over 2,000 lives in the UK and internationally. Working with such agile organisations has also brought about innovation, commercial savings (over 10%) and helped Siemens win new business, all while still delivering quality and price. It’s also proving highly motivating for our team: Tony Saleh, our Supply Chain Sustainability Lead, has been working in Procurement for 30 years but tells me this is the best job he’s ever had, and most members of the team are actively driving social value in each of their commodities. It has created an appetite to influence our European colleagues to onboard social enterprises. One of our targets is to help improve the lives of at least 14,000 people, the equivalent number to our Siemens UK workforce. We're excited at the world of possibilities available to do more with our purchasing spend, which totals £2billion across our UK businesses, and over 10,000 suppliers,.Engagement with social enterprises has not stopped at the door of Siemens; thanks to our influence, many of our strategic suppliers are now including social enterprises as part of their supply chain, too. After hearing about our engagement with Change Please, the coffee provider, our Tier 1 Facilities Management Provider, EMCOR, have also adopted Change Please to roll out across their client base. So, I think at Siemens UK, we’re providing a good example of what large companies can achieve in social value. We’re working to embed social enterprises across the supply chain and ensure that making decisions with sustainability in mind becomes business as usual. By building on and strengthening our supplier relationships, we are making a big impact on our employees, our company, and the world around us. You can find out more about the Social Value 2032 programme here

04 Aug

by Dietmar Harteveld - Chief Procurement Officer at Siemens UK

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3 min

Thought leadership

A once-in-a-decade opportunity to help social enterprises to grow

After several years of consultation and new legislation meandering its way through Parliament, HM Government has launched a public consultation on proposals to distribute nearly £800m from reclaimed dormant assets in England. The last round of dormant assets helped to create Big Society Capital and lay the platform for the social investment market. We can debate the pros and cons of the approaches taken over the past decade but what is undeniable is that targeting investment at social enterprises was the right thing to do. The consultation lasts until 9th October and Social Enterprise UK will be responding on behalf of the social enterprise sector. Delivering the vision of the Adebowale Commission on Social Investment One of the questions in the consultation is whether social investment should remain as one of the causes eligible for dormant assets. Social Enterprise UK’s view is categorically yes, that social investment should be at the core of the next tranche of dormant assets. However, it must be used to reform and improve the social investment market. Readers may be aware that earlier this year our Chair, Lord Victor Adebowale, concluded a two-year independent commission into the future of social investment. The Commission found that whilst social investment had helped some social enterprises, it had not fulfilled its potential due to a lack of flexible capital which could be deployed to provide “enterprise-centric” finance. It also found geographical and racial inequalities in the distribution of social investment. The Commission made several recommendations to address these challenges including the creation of a £50m black-led social investment fund to tackle inequalities faced by black-led social enterprises, putting more investment into place-led infrastructure and creating a “Frontiers Fund” to provide capital to give flexible finance into social enterprises. If we get things right, the Commission estimated that we could help thousands of social enterprises and generate hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country, particularly in the poorest areas. The report has received widespread support from social enterprises, social investors and experts. A Community Enterprise Growth Plan has been developed by SEUK and other partners which builds on the Adebowale Commission proposals and outlines how dormant assets could be used to make social investment work better. We will be using the consultation to call on the government to invest in that plan and deliver the recommendations of the Adebowale Commission.   Levelling up our communities Alongside backing social enterprises as businesses, we also need to ensure that we revitalise our communities and high streets so that they are vibrant places for social enterprises to grow. One of the proposals in the consultation is the creation of a “Community Wealth Fund”. This fund would distribute locally administered pots of money which would be used to provide patient funding for social infrastructure – the community spaces and organisations that we depend upon and bring us together. This proposal is being championed by the Community Wealth Fund Alliance which includes Social Enterprise UK. Increasingly, this social infrastructure is run by social enterprises. There are great examples across the country from Social Adventures in Salford which runs a community centre, garden centre and other important services to the Onion Collective in Watchet, Somerset which has built a new cultural centre to revitalise the area. Social enterprises are finding ways to maintain and develop local infrastructure through a combination of community engagement and trade. Community Wealth Funds would provide a way to support the development of new and existing community-based social enterprises. Get involved As Matt Leach of Local Trust and Seb Elsworth of Access Foundation have written, the Community Enterprise Growth Plan and Community Wealth Funds are complimentary policies. Both these ideas would help to grow and support social enterprise. Social Enterprise UK will be putting together a template response that members can send to the consultation themselves on these proposals, but if you’d like to find out more, you can email me (andrew.obrien@socialenterprise.org.uk) for more information or to share your views. You can also get in touch with your local MP to give them your views and ask them to support these policies.

02 Aug

by Andrew O'Brien - Director of External Affairs at Social Enterprise UK

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3 min

Thought leadership

The Procurement Bill and the future of social value

Given all the uncertainty in Westminster these days, social enterprises would be forgiven for missing the Procurement Bill which is currently making its way through the House of Lords. The Procurement Bill seeks to create a new legal framework for procurement in the UK following our exit from the European Union. The Bill is long and complex, but at its core is the idea of creating greater flexibility for the UK in how it spends public money. Welcome changes For social enterprises, the Bill has several important changes. Firstly, the procurement system is going to move away from “Most Economically Advantageous Tender” to “Most Advantageous Tender”. At a basic level, this means that procurement decisions can be based on more than just price. This is a positive move in the right direction. Ultimately, the goal of any public sector procurement is to make society and our planet better. Price is a factor, but not the only factor. The shift away from narrow consideration on price towards a broader range of factors is a vindication for the years of campaigning by the social enterprise sector and other organisations which have pointed out the flaws in the previous system. There is also a requirement for public sector organisations to consider breaking out contracts into lots. We hear regularly from smaller social enterprises that they struggle to bid for contracts because they are too big. One of the lessons learnt from the collapse of Carillion was the need to spread risk more evenly throughout the system rather than contracts being dominated by one or two large providers. Cuts to procurement teams mean that this provision may still struggle to be used but encouraging breaking up contracts into smaller chunks should help increase the diversity of suppliers, including social enterprises. The Bill will also make market engagement before a contract is put out to tender easier by clarifying that this engagement is legal and specifying the process. Again, this is a welcome move as most social enterprises want to work in partnership, and we know that the best services are designed in collaboration with experts and service users. Where is social value? The biggest area of concern in this Bill is the absence of any reference to social value. Despite central government creating its own Social Value Model and championing social value across the public sector over the past few years, there are no references to social value in the Bill itself. Ministers have said that the duty to “maximise public benefit” covers social value and the National Procurement Policy Statement (guidance which lays out the government’s approach to procurement) does include references to social value, but this is far from ideal. Public benefit itself is not a term used regularly in procurement, it is something from charity law. Social value, by contrast, is clearly defined in law and is far better understood by public bodies given the ten years that have elapsed since the Social Value Act was passed by Parliament. Importantly, we need to give certainty and clarity to public sector bodies about what it is expected of them. A hokey-cokey where social value is in one minute and then out the next is not conducive to long term planning and engagement. Our Social Value 2032 programme, in partnership with Jacobs, PwC, Siemens, Shaw Trust and Suez recycling and recovery UK has found that there are huge opportunities to maximise the impact of public spending through social value. There is a £56bn “social value gap” that we need to close and this Bill will not help to address this. We have been working with members of the House of Lords from across all parties to table amendments to put social value into the Bill and these have received widespread support. Unfortunately, Minister’s are not budging. We will keep campaigning to set this right and hopefully fresh leadership will provide a renewed focus on how we maximise public money through greater use of social value. Next steps Social value is not the only area that we are working on, and we have worked with peers to put down amendments to encourage “open book accounting”, so that there is greater transparency on profits and surpluses in public sector contracting, as well as putting a duty on public bodies to consider the impact of their decisions on the social enterprise sector and SMEs so that we have a range of suppliers in the future. We will keep pushing for a procurement system which maximises social, economic and environmental impact and enables social enterprises to win contracts given the excellent track record of our sector. The Bill will be coming back to the House of Lords in September after the summer recess for further discussion of amendments and SEUK will keep working with peers to improve the Bill. Once it has passed through the House of Lords it will turn to the House of Commons and we can expect the Bill to be passed into law some time in early 2023. We’ll keep social enterprises updated about the passage of the Bill as it makes it way through Parliament.   If you have any question or would like to find out more about the Bill, feel free to email me at andrew.obrien@socialenterprise.org.uk.

22 Jul

by Andrew O'Brien - Director of External Affairs at Social Enterprise UK

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4 min

Thought leadership

Our Social Value story: SUEZ recycling and recovery UK

We are proud to partner with Social Enterprise UK on the Social Value 2032 programme, which we joined to raise awareness of the benefits social value can create and ultimately to encourage wider adoption of social value in procurement by both central and local government. Social value is an approach that considers the holistic impact of a product or service, looking not only at value for money but also at social and environmental benefits and consequences. We believe that wider adoption of social value can unlock billions of pounds’ worth of value for individuals and communities, and help to support an evolution of our economy that considers both people and planet. In Social Value 2032: Creating a Social Value Economy, we set out, along with fellow partners PwC, Siemens and Shaw Trust, a collective vision for social value over the coming decade. We include a case study about our work with Greater Manchester Combined Authority to develop a reuse hub for the city. The purpose of this was to bring reuse to Greater Manchester on a scale not seen before, through a hub for upcyling, repair and distribution that feeds a network of shops for pre-loved items. Together these provide work opportunities and prevent hundreds of thousands of items from being thrown away, conserving resources and cutting carbon emissions – all the while helping people in Manchester with the cost of living crisis and enabling them to access items that don’t cost the earth. This is the kind of exciting development that can happen through partnership between local authorities and service providers with a shared ambition for social value. Local and national government, as key investors in public services, have an important role to play in unlocking the benefits of social value. In the environmental services sector, we have seen a trend towards social value in procurement, with increased importance placed on outcomes for society and the environment in the competitive tender process by forward-looking authorities. Social and environmental issues typically used to account for around 2% of the weighting for supplier decisions. Now, in a growing number of Invitations To Tender, we see that figure at 10 or 15%. This puts an onus on all of us to respond to our customers’ changing needs to meet the growing public appetite for social value in the services they use. But this is only one way of thinking about social value. Social value is much more than a public sector issue, and should run far deeper within businesses than simply adapting to keep up with demand. At SUEZ, our adoption of a ‘triple bottom line’ approach – where we strive to consider and balance people, planet and profit throughout our business – has driven improvements that go beyond whether we can meet the brief for a given project. Our journey towards social value began about 13 years ago. At the time, the environmental services industry was dominated by landfill, with far less emphasis on reuse and recycling than today. We recognised this and were determined to take a leading role in addressing the wider impacts of the services we provide. Partly this stemmed from the personal convictions of our leadership team, who were committed to looking for ways to improve our business practices. Early forays into social value took a project-based approach, which revealed the potential impact we could have, but flagged to us the need to be more joined up and think about how we could make changes across the business. Our CEO, John Scanlon, took up his post in November 2019 and, having worked across many parts of the business, had seen first-hand how we could optimise the benefits arising from our work delivering essential services to local communities the length and breadth of the country, whilst remaining a profitable enterprise. He led efforts to develop a more strategic approach, putting together a team including leads for environment and sustainable development, and sustainability and social value. The resulting strategy, which is best summarised as our ‘triple bottom line’, is now embedded in all parts of the business and continues to evolve how we operate. The approach, while governed from the top of the organisation, is owned by everyone in the business. We have built social value into all our work. Our bonus structure requires senior colleagues to deliver on social and environmental success measures, and staff are closely involved with implementing the strategy in the most appropriate ways for their part of the business by developing local initiatives. We operate across about 280 sites and each of these has a sustainability champion, who is tasked with thinking about how we can make operational changes at ground level to benefit the environment and our local communities. This is guided by our ten Sustainability Principles, developed using staff feedback on where they see the greatest opportunities to make a difference at a local level.  Examples include one site where our staff repurposed a wind turbine to generate energy for the site, removed single use plastic cups and helped a local school with their biodiversity projects. We’ve found that these small changes add up to a big overall impact – for our environmental and social impact, and our bottom line. Social value is increasingly an area of interest for new recruits joining the business. We are much more frequently asked by candidates about what we are doing in this area. We recognise the importance to employee engagement of helping our people to live up to their personal values through the work they do. Our social value story points to a virtuous cycle. In building our strategy to maximise the social and environmental benefits of our work, we are helping to meet the demands of our employees and customers. This in turn makes us a better partner and strengthens our business. For more information about the Social Value 2032 programme click here. Social Value 2032 partners:

18 Jul

by Sarah Ottaway, Sustainability and Social Value Lead - SUEZ recycling and recovery UK

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4 min

Thought leadership

Tackling affordable housing and isolation issues – Homeshare UK

Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone and since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, these problems have increased drastically. In society we are also faced with the ongoing cost of living rises, and younger people are being priced out of towns and villages when looking for an affordable place to live. In 2021 house prices rose again with the average house price in September 2021 at a record high of £270,000; £28,000 (11.8%) higher than September 2020, making it even harder for young people to save towards purchasing their first home. At Homeshare UK we are working with our network of providers to tackle these two key issues by bringing together people with spare rooms with people who are happy to chat and lend a hand around the house in return for accommodation. Together, householders and homesharers share home life, time, skills and experience. Typically, an older householder with a room to spare will be carefully matched with a younger person who will provide around 10 hours of support in exchange for affordable and sociable accommodation. Daily living tasks are part of this support, such as cooking, cleaning, shopping and providing companionship. “Due to the ongoing housing crisis in many locations across the UK, the majority of our homesharers are now aged between 26-35 (67%), including young professionals, university students as well as public sector workers, all of who need affordable accommodation and a place to call home.” – Deborah Fox, Head of Homeshare UK “Perfect catch, perfect match!” Each and every Homeshare match is very different from the next. For many people, it is their concerns about becoming isolated or lonely that lead them to Homeshare. For others, still socially connected and very much valuing their own space, it is the reassurance of having someone else around that is key to them welcoming someone new into their home. In Valerie’s case it is the latter; she is 84, friendly, sociable and values her independence and time alone. At the same time, she recognises that the presence of someone else in the house, particularly at night, is most reassuring, not just to herself but to her brother Bill, who lives a couple of hours drive away. Tomi, 24, a Film Studies Masters student from Slovenia, has been welcomed into Valerie’s home and is described by her as “the perfect catch!” Valerie says, “Tomi is such a lovely person to have around. I really enjoy our conversations. I actually see Homeshare as a way of keeping in touch with today’s fast-moving modern world too.” Reflecting on his Homeshare experience, Tomi describes Homeshare as being a way to learn as well as teach, to help and be helped; in short, an enriching reciprocity. “To be honest”, he says, “it’s like a dream come true. Living in a lovely home with a lovely person and within my limited budget. Being of help to someone is also a really important part of it for me”. Tomi and Valerie – Photo Courtesy of Homeshare Oxfordshire Bill, Valerie’s brother, continues to visit on a regular basis, but with a Homeshare arrangement in place he knows Tomi is there and is more than happy to help with the small things that inevitably crop up. “I don’t need to worry if I can’t get hold of Valerie on the phone. A quick call to Tomi puts my mind at rest”, Bill says. “Homeshare, to me, is reassurance”.   The expansion of Homeshare UK Homeshare UK is part of Shared Lives Plus – the UK membership charity for more than 6,000 Shared Lives carers, 150 Shared Lives programmes, and a growing network of over 20 Homeshare providers. Our vision is for a kinder, stronger society built around people sharing their lives, skills, and homes. We are currently driving forward an ambitious five-year growth strategy that will bring Homeshare to key towns and cities across the UK. “Gabby has been living with me for over a year and Homesharing is working really well. She is a super cook and great company. I enjoy our chats together over a meal in the evenings and she’s very helpful with things I can’t manage around the house.”– Margaret Householder, Novus Homeshare Your next business could change lives Working with socially-minded individuals, community and voluntary organisations as well as existing social care providers we are aiming to establish 40 new Homeshare franchise opportunities in locations currently not serviced. “To reflect our passion for growth, the cost of our social franchise is among the very lowest in the franchise sector. Our franchisees will be provided with the support, training, and resources to set up and operate a successful Homeshare social business.” – John Wilberforce, Homeshare UK Social Franchise Manager For more information on Homeshare UK and our franchising opportunities, visit  https://homeshareuk.org/

18 Jul

by Jess Jackson – Homeshare UK Communications and Marketing Officer

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4 min

Thought leadership

I started a social impact venture during a pandemic. Here are three things I learned

For so many of us, the pandemic was a chance to revisit our passions, ambitions and dreams for the future.  For me, it was also a chance to try starting my own enterprise – a social impact venture in the education sector.  Here are three things all early-stage social entrepreneurs should know. Uncertainty actually brings opportunity As entrepreneurs (and as humans!), we’re often not a fan of uncertainty.  We want to be sure about things, with our next steps planned out and a set of predictable consequences.  Life, of course, is never this simple – but the last year or so has delivered much more uncertainty than normal.  So, how should we respond?  How can we plan for all the possible eventualities of a pandemic year? The invitation for all entrepreneurs – and especially those starting new ventures during this time – is to see pandemic challenges as bringing new opportunities.  Every major industry has been impacted by the events of 2020-2021, and it’s clear that some are more willing to capitalise on this change than others.  As social impact entrepreneurs, we’re uniquely placed to listen carefully to the market, and respond with a solution that is timely, relevant and important.  We can ask ourselves: what’s the real need that I’m trying to address with my business solution?  How has this need been impacted by the pandemic?  And then, armed with the answer to those questions, we can craft a creative, relevant solution. The next normal awaits It’s clear that the theme of uncertainty will continue to be prominent as we move into the ‘next normal’, but there will also be a lot of other important themes coming into view.  For example, themes of innovation, or disruption, or creative rebuilding.  We’ve been given a unique opportunity to play a part in constructing the post-pandemic world, and it’s up to us – collectively – to decide what comes next. As entrepreneurs, we’re perfectly placed to think creatively about the systems, markets and industries we’re working within.  What will the ‘next normal’ look like for your particular sector?  How will behaviours and preferences change?  How can we shape our actions to create a world we actually want to live in? And on a personal level, as individual entrepreneurs, we’re given a chance to redefine our own working lives.  Many of us will have experienced remote work, and decided not to return to the office.  Perhaps you’re part of the ‘great resignation’ – the movement away from the work you previously did, and towards something different; more exciting.  Either way, we have the option to see ourselves as creators of our own working lives.  How do we want our days to be structured?  When are we most productive, and how can we support this with our schedules?  What do we most enjoy doing, and how can we do more of it?  These are questions about the ‘next normal’ that every entrepreneur has the ability to determine for themselves. It can be a lonely journey, but it doesn’t have to be One of the biggest things that struck me, shortly after leaving my corporate job, was the isolation of being a solo founder.  Without a network of colleagues, supervisors and mentors, entrepreneurs can end up feeling alone.  It can be difficult to explain your exact feelings about your business, or the challenges faced in a start-up, to someone who doesn’t have any knowledge of what you’re talking about. But it doesn’t have to be that way.  The shift to digital work has opened up endless opportunities for networking, connection and interaction.  Joining networks (like Social Enterprise UK) can be a huge support as you begin the process of building something new – use them to your advantage! And finally, as you go about your entrepreneurial journey – noticing the opportunities amongst the uncertainty, finding your feet in the ‘next normal’, and building up those connections around you – remember that you might just be part of a new wave of entrepreneurs who are stepping up during this time, to rebuild the world in a better way. AUTHOR BIO Eloise Skinner is a social impact entrepreneur, author and teacher.  She is the founder of The Purpose Workshop, a social impact consultancy, and One Typical Day, an ed-tech start-up.  Eloise’s book, The Purpose Handbook, was published in 2021.  You can find out more about Eloise on her website, or on LinkedIn. The Purpose Workshop The Purpose Workshop is a social impact consultancy, helping individuals and businesses navigate a sense of purpose, mission and values. We believe that purpose-focused work should be available to everyone, regardless of background or experience. As a business, our social mission is to channel profits into creating educational resources, shared with our network of schools free of charge. thepurposeworkshop.uk

23 Jun

by Eloise Skinner

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4 min

Thought leadership

Changing the conversation on disability – Diversity and Ability

Diversity and Ability is a pioneering social enterprise led by and for disabled people. It supports individuals and organisations to create inclusive cultures where diversity is celebrated and people can thrive. Based in Brighton, 85% of its team identify as neurodiverse and/or disabled. The social enterprise provides one-to-one support to people through the education system, runs training and workshops for workplaces and institutions and also runs an international programme which spreads its message of inclusivity and educates people on the practical means through which they can better understand and welcome disabled people. They work to redefine how society views disability, actively working to break down barriers that limit the opportunities and freedoms of disabled people to flourish through centering the importance of lived experience Reframing the discussion Two core modes of thinking run across the social enterprise’s work which inform all of its programmes – the idea of disablement and that of intersectionality. Far from being academic buzzwords these principles are used to both empower marginalised groups and shift attitudes amongst the wider population. The concept of disablement originates in the social model of disability and the disabling situations in which people are placed. Framing things this way shifts the emphasis away from how an individual can change to fit in, to addressing the social barriers which result in people being excluded. In the words of Chief Executive Atif Choudhury, Diversity and Ability’s model looks at “what is a disabling situation and how do we change it”. The second principle of intersectionality recognises the importance and diversity of lived experience respecting how different people live different lives. An understanding of how race, gender, class, sexuality and other aspects of identity interact with each other and with the social concept of ‘disability’ is core to their work allowing the social enterprise to better tailor support and create system wide change. Using the examples of epilepsy, muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy, Atif highlighted that how individuals experience these conditions is heavily influenced by socio-economic status, their support networks, sense of shame and trauma. Having an intersectional lens allows you to look beyond medical diagnoses to look at how society creates situations of disablement. “Intersectionality is just about basic respect – respecting the idea that people have different experiences to share and that they have been categorised again and again for the convenience of others” What does this look like in practice? Diversity and Ability is underpinned by the desire to “pave the way for a future where everyone is welcomed and included” and all their work, be that with individuals or with organisations is undertaken with this in mind. The social enterprise runs one-to-one support sessions for young people facing disablement providing individualised peer support through further education, higher education and on into the workplace. These are delivered by trainers with shared lived experience of disablement themselves. Individuals are provided with assistive technology training, mental health mentoring, study skills tutoring and also workplace strategy support and coaching. Assistive technology is tech that can help remove a barrier that is presented to an individual, allowing people to fully participate. This can include things like screen readers, screen masks or software to speak into which writes copy. It can also in a wider context refer to items such as glasses or even apps like Google Maps which addresses barriers of access. Diversity and Ability partner with businesses and universities on their Diversity and Inclusion agendas, centering once again the lived experiences of disablement and intersectionality. This work is not just limited to the UK and the business works with grassroots organisations around the world to transform perceptions around disablement and create environments where difference is celebrated. They work to put in place disability needs assessments that are enabling for an individual and which take advantage of free open-source technology. The work with organisations is similar to that with individuals – focused on shifting the language used and how environments can be changed in order to create “an anticipatory welcome for everyone.” Work with students is funded by the Disabled Students Allowance and Access to Work schemes as well as earned income through organisational training programmes and the social enterprise’s international work. “if it’s not intersectional, how can it be relevant” The lens of disablement and intersectionality is applied throughout these three workstreams of individual support, organisational training and international work. Diversity and Ability deliberately challenge the habit of corporate diversity and inclusion work to break off conversations into silos of race, gender, sexuality and disability recognising that dividing lived experience into silos takes away from the full experiences of individuals. As senior communications officer Ellie Thompson puts it “that’s not how disablement is experienced, that’s not how life is experienced”. In this way when a workshop is run on understanding disability and celebrating neurodiversity an understanding is established that these are not universal experiences with each disabled or neurodiverse persons experience being set within their other lived experiences. Shifting the narrative Diversity and Ability is helping reframe the entire discussion on disability, shifting the narrative to one focused on the societal challenges which place people within a situation of disablement. Their commitment to this and to intersectionality has led them to not just work within the education systems and in EDI training but to partner with organisations such as Crisis, St Mungo’s and Homeless Link to tackle homelessness and digital exclusion through building digital literacy skills. Over the pandemic they worked with local and national charities to provide internet access to those in emergency accommodation in the Brighton area, providing 100 tablets and Wi-Fi dongles as well as delivering personalised digital skills training workshops to digitally excluded people throughout the country. Research carried out by UnLtd and the New Economics Foundation has proven the incredible impact the social enterprise is creating showing that for every £1 spent on Diversity and Ability’s services a return of £16.55 of social value is created. When expanded to look across their higher education work this translates to £9.48 million of social cost-benefit a year. Diversity and Ability’s work is helping broaden the conversation on what disablement means and the harm done when society prevents the meaningful participation of so many people. As Atif puts it “D&A isn’t really about assistive technology or disabilities, it’s about participation and what does it take to meet that participation. What are the barriers involved in preventing meaningful participation and what do we lose as a whole civil society when we lose that meaningful participation” With only around 53% of disabled people in work compared to 81% of other people[1],  the work done by Diversity and Ability also raises an important challenge for the social enterprise community – how can we do more to address barriers to participation and inclusion so difference is celebrated and lived experience is at the centre of our work? As businesses committed to social justice and reducing inequalities it is important that we challenge an economy and society which creates disabling situations in order to strive towards the fairer future we are working towards.  Based on an interview with Atif Choudhury and Ellie Thompson at Diversity and Ability diversityandability.com

23 Jun

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5 min

Thought leadership

Demystifying the Just Transition

By Jennifer Clair Robson - Content Director at Climate Action North The shift toward net zero will bring economy-wide transformation on an unprecedented scale. The transition will impact many industries, jobs, and communities. A Just Transition concerns the fair treatment of workers and communities affected by these changes. It involves investment in new skills and infrastructure while protecting and creating high-quality jobs and employment for a green economy. Approximately 6.3 million jobs in the UK, equating to around one in five, are likely to be affected by the transition to a green economy, according to the Just Transition Jobs Tracker. A Just Transition applies not only to large multinational corporations and governments; it is also critical that small and medium businesses, who play a crucial role in creating employment and are often at the heart of communities, are involved. Yet, while the importance of a Just Transition is a priority for the global climate agenda, it has been noted that many people don’t fully understand what it means. Here we demystify the Just Transition and consider: what is the Just Transition, why should I care, and what can my social enterprise do? What is the Just Transition? The Just Transition movement is a rising concern calling for the fair treatment of workers and communities who will be most affected by the shift to clean energy and the phasing out of fossil fuels. Greenpeace is campaigning to ensure that this move doesn’t leave anyone behind; they want to see workers, especially those in the oil and gas sector, retrained to keep green energy powering the world. The COP26 summit saw a 190-strong coalition of countries and organisations commit to phase out coal power and agree to: End investment in new coal power generation domestically and internationallyPhase out coal power in economies in the 2030s for major economiesRapidly scale up the deployment of clean power generationMake a just transition away from coal power in a way that benefits workers and communities The push for clean and renewable energy is important because coal is responsible for nearly half of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. A report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in August 2021 was described as “code red” for humanity; it warned that without immediate deep cuts to carbon, including the phase-out of coal, the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement will be unreachable.  Why should I care about the Just Transition? Without a Just Transition, many workers, particularly those in the oil and gas sector, will lose their livelihoods creating unnecessary hardship for them and their communities. Many will have spent a significant proportion of their life employed in their area of expertise and will not have the abilities to work in evolving professions. New jobs may not be available in the same locations that jobs are lost, and they may not be available at the time when people become unemployed. This is a pattern that has been repeated around the world, closer to home it happened when coal miners across the North of England lost their jobs in the 1980s. Sunderland City Council Deputy Leader Claire Rowntree told Climate Action North: “it’s vital that we do all we can to ensure the communities and jobs most affected by the inevitable switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy receive the levels of support required as we plan for a cleaner, greener future.” Fossil fuels is an obvious example, but the impacts will affect other industries such as automotive production, agriculture, construction and housing, manufacturing, and scientific and technical services. All affected industries will need to upskill their workforce or hire new employees. It is often forgotten that the Just Transition applies not only to large multinational corporations and governments. It is also relevant for small and medium businesses and social enterprises who may struggle to adjust without support, advice, and incentives. Yet the International Organisation of Employees (IOE) has stated that it believes that not enough focus is placed on small businesses in the Just Transition. It is essential social enterprises are engaged. They add a huge amount of value to communities and are connected through employees and their families. Any changes made in a social enterprise will spread out through the community via its workforce. Businesses that fail to act will face mounting pressure from investors, customers, staff and potential recruits, and legislation. In a nutshell, embracing a Just Transition to net zero and a green economy can help ensure the sustainability not only of the planet, but also of your enterprise. What can my social enterprise do? The most important step you can take is to commit to act. Simply making a Just Transition priority by including it in your goals will ensure it gets the attention it needs. Look at your social enterprise and find the smallest, easiest ways you can begin to make a difference. Start with your own impact and what you’re able to do. Get a holistic picture of risks climate change pose to your enterprise and operations with the Climate Action North business toolkit. Scrutinise your resilience against climate risks, identify areas of improvement, and put in place an action plan to reach net zero. It is important that those in the supply chain take account of their social impact when on the net zero journey. As well as working to strengthen local supply chains, you must consider regulations, apply due diligence for your workforce’s best interests, and ensure all environmental impacts are considered. This will make it easier to secure funds and contracts and enjoy the wider local economic and community benefits this brings. A Just Transition may bring challenges, but it will also present opportunities such as the upskilling and professional development of you and your workforce, and the creation of new jobs. These benefits need to be accessible to everyone so engage with your workforce to make sure they’re heard and are actively involved with all issues and opportunities. Climate Action North hosts events that focus on achieving a Just Transition in the North of England. They focus on strategies to create green jobs along with retraining opportunities for small businesses to help them be ‘skills-ready’ for the Just Transition to a cleaner, greener future. Sign up to our newsletter for details on events as they are released. Follow Climate Action North projects and get in touch to support our work and get involved. Our actions now will make a difference to tomorrow.

23 Jun

by Jennifer Clair Robson - Content Director at Climate Action North

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5 min

Thought leadership

Cost of Living Crisis: Social Enterprise Advisory Panel members want structural economic reform, not just one-off handouts

Like most households and businesses, social enterprises are concerned about rising costs and inflation. Their level of concern has increased significantly over the last quarter, with over two-thirds of social enterprises worried about the impact on their businesses. Yet when thinking about solutions, social enterprises are focused on longer-term impact and structural reform – they are not reacting to this pressure by requesting subsidy or seeking to cut costs. When asked what support they needed, less than half of respondents said that fiscal or grant-based support was what they required. As the lack of government measures to address inflation and rising costs impacts the whole economy, we are collecting data through the Social Enterprise Advisory Panel to understand how social enterprises are being affected. In our January Social Enterprise Advisory Panel[1], we saw that 34% of social enterprises expected cost of living to be a significant concern over the following 3-6 months. This was alongside ongoing COVID uncertainty and reduced income/revenue associated with both the pandemic and inflation. In March that figure had risen to 68%. Over a fifth are very concerned, and just 7% think that there will be no negative impact on their business. Don’t anticipate a negative impact on business7%No impact yet/not sure what the impact will be23%Somewhat concerned46%Very concerned – already seeing significant impact22% Level of concern about the impact of the rising cost of living In addition to concern about rising costs, we asked whether operating costs have changed in the last quarter compared to the previous quarter. 55% of social enterprises have seen operating costs increase, with 10% of these saying costs have increased significantly. Don’t know or prefer not to say4%Operating costs have significantly increased10%Significantly decreased3%Slightly decreased8%Slightly increased45%Stayed the same30% Operating costs changes in the last 3 months, compared to the 3 months before When asked about support required to mitigate the impacts of rising costs, we presented the options of tax relief and emergency grants. Just under a half of respondents indicated that these would be useful to them – meaning that over half didn’t see these as key solutions. What was more interesting from results was that social enterprises are thinking about longer-term solutions and wider, more structural reform. Alongside suggestions for temporary government support to address escalating property and energy prices and to reverse the proposed national insurance contribution increase, social enterprises are proposing solutions that are less focused on the immediate needs of individual businesses and address structural reforms needed to deliver strong and growing social enterprise activity over the medium and longer-term. For example, whereas social enterprises said that energy price caps would help them mitigate price rises, there is equal interest to address overall energy efficiency in the medium and longer-term as part of the solution to current high energy costs. “Help to reduce overheads by providing capital expenditure for more energy efficient heating & lighting“ Similarly, social enterprises want measures to address consumer discretionary spend – rather than providing support directly to social enterprises. Because many social enterprises work in and for communities in areas of high deprivation that were already stretched by the financial and wider consequences of the pandemic, cuts in discretionary spending are likely to have a more immediate impact than for many other businesses. But unlike direct financial support to businesses, fiscal support to impoverished people offers the double benefit of relieving those most in need – and, indirectly, ensuring that social enterprises which offer them support can continue to do so. “Government intervention to ensure that discretionary spend is still available for people to buy services like ours.” “Supporting community against the rising cost of living especially food and fuel costs.” Rising costs are not being mirrored by changes to contract fees and the need to address this procurement issue is becoming more acute for many social enterprises. “All our work is with statutory bodies, umbrella bodies and housing associations, these are contracts where fees have remained static for more than 10 years.” Also on a wider level, albeit not directly related to the rising costs, there is growing concern about a gap between the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and past EU funding and the implications this will have on poorer communities in particular, and therefore on social enterprise activity in these areas. What is the ask from social enterprise? Energy price caps in the short term and more support towards energy efficiency in the medium term.Procurement pricing changes to account for significant supplier and input cost increases.More support to mitigate costs for the poorest individuals and households in the short term and wider and deeper fiscal reform in the medium term.

30 May

by Emily Darko - Director of Policy and Research at Social Enterprise UK

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4 min