Lead the Change

GMCVO delivered Lead the Change in partnership with UnLtd, which funded the programme through the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. The programme offered support and seed funding for social entrepreneurs wanting to try out an idea, start a new enterprise or develop a tried and tested idea further.

The opportunity was promoted in November 2015 via community hubs and the GMBME Network. We worked in partnership with the GM BME Network and City West Housing Trust to award grants totalling £25,000 to 21 social entrepreneurs, who received advice and support in a panel session to enable them to generate new ideas for their enterprise. The panel shared their experience with the applicants, which was followed by ongoing support through workshops, training and peer networking. This enabled award winners to grow their idea further and ensure they had the best possible chance for success.

Why did we do it?

We know that it is hard for social entrepreneurs to get support at the early stages to be able to try out their idea for a way to solve a social problem or to grow an idea they’ve started developing. This funding enabled us to provide social entrepreneurs with small grants to help them do just that and to test our belief that early stage support is a valuable element to the social enterprise eco-system.

The idea of the ‘ecosystem’ essential for social enterprises to flourish is a concept that we originally came across in an EU report and forms the basis of our approach to social enterprise. Our social enterprise work in recent years has been focusing on strengthening the different elements of this eco-system.

Other elements of the ecosystem that we were developing at the time of the Lead the Change project included consulting with and organising events for social enterprises, linking up social enterprise networks and creating the Greater Manchester Social Enterprise Network (GMSEN), with a website that includes a directory of local social enterprise support organisations, a Greater Manchester social enterprise directory and a range of resources and news. We also began hosting start-up enterprise through our Greater Manchester AddVentures project.

We know that it is hard for social entrepreneurs to get support at the early stages to be able to try out their idea for a way to solve a social problem or to grow an idea they’ve started developing. This funding enabled us to provide social entrepreneurs with small grants to help them do just that and to test our belief that early stage support is a valuable element to the social enterprise eco-system.

What did we learn?

The appetite of social entrepreneurs to offer peer support and encouragement to potential social entrepreneurs was uplifting and showed how a little investment went a long way. It also showed there is a compassionate alternative to the ‘Dragon’s Den’ style winners and losers through offering a more supportive and informal application and assessment process.

All the participants appreciated the support and network connections offered, with a grant being a bonus. The grants enabled people to test out interest in their enterprise ideas, raised awareness of basic unmet need in communities and the potential social impact that could be achieved through trading.

What happened as a result?

For some award winners this programme gave them the vital opportunity to test out and shape an enterprise idea and decide on where to take it next. Others were able to take a further step and turn an idea or a recently developed project into a social enterprise, honing the venture into something with real impact and longevity.

This project was a significant step in our journey to becoming a social investor, which has seen us launch the GM Social Investment fund in 2017, offering investments of between £10,000 and £50,000 which are made up of a repayable loan and a small grant element. We took this step as we wanted to make finance and specialist enterprise support more accessible and relevant. We recognised that most social enterprises in Greater Manchester are ‘micro’ in size, so enabling these organisations to grow to a ‘small’ size would create a lot of jobs and social impact.

How can you get involved?

This project has now ended. To find out about our current work supporting social enterprises please CLICK HERE

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