In 2014, the EU produced a suite of reports setting out how member states were addressing social enterprise (SE) and the ecosystem that supports their emergence and growth and the social enterprise support organisation for Greater Manchester (GM), Together Works, closed when regional funding ended. Then in early 2015 New Economy presented a report (unpublished) on the state of social enterprise and the fragmented support available.
This situation stimulated GMCVO to review the strengths and weaknesses of the ecosystem in GM and identify which elements we could contribute to. A combination of project funding and significant investment from our reserves has enabled us to make progress in many areas of the ecosystem:
Governance – Greater Manchester Strategy (GMS) Implementation Plan commits to exploring a GM Social Enterprise Strategy (SES), the GM Mayor endorsed the SES ‘vision’ at the GM SE Summit in November 2018. The Independent Prosperity Review (2019) recommends GM should support SE development and the Local Industrial Strategy recognises it as an important underpinning strategy. GMCVO is the co-owner of the GMS and facilitated active input from VCSE leaders, networks and organisations that helped shape the documents.
Innovation and Knowledge Sharing – papers from GMCVO and the GM VCSE informed the RSA research into ‘inclusive economic growth’. This was developed by the Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit hosted by Manchester University with a Steering Group of GM stakeholders, including GMCVO, and the collaboration has supported the change in GM philosophy towards inclusive growth.
Networks and Peer Support – We host the GM Social Enterprise Network (GMSEN) with a dedicated website that houses an enterprise directory, promotes local and thematic SE networks and sources of support. We also run SE events and investment fairs.
Finance - We are now a social investor and offer up to £50k blended (loan & grant) unsecured funding (though the Access Growth Fund) to help SEs grow their social impact. We are also a GM co-ordinator for Resonance Community Developers: a social impact fund to help communities meet local needs by creating and owning income-generating assets such as community-led housing, sports facilities and renewable energy
Specialist Support – Through our role as a ‘Reach Fund Access Point’ we provide access to specialist support for SEs who are considering repayable finance to ensure they are fully prepared to succeed
Incubators & Workspaces - Our GM AddVentures enterprise (a pilot to host embryonic SEs) has nurtured four ideas into independent enterprises with two more ready to float having tested the market and built £40k+ turnovers
GM has been shortlisted for the Local Access programme, which is a 5-10 year investment ‘that aims to support the development of stronger, more resilient and sustainable social economies in disadvantaged places’ by supporting local organisations to identify and deliver solutions for their communities. GMCVO is co-ordinating the GM proposal for collaboration between local partnerships and GM organisations to align existing resources and fill gaps in the spectrum of specialist support blended with tailored finance products (social investment). The learning will add a practitioner perspective to innovation and knowledge sharing.
In recognition of this work, we were invited by Middlesex University to make a written submission to their update of the EU social enterprises and their ecosystems report. Our response resulted in an invitation to a roundtable discussion with national stakeholders at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (with acknowledgement that social enterprise ought to be in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy).
You can read our submission and the final report here.
You can find out more about our support for Social Enterprises here.