We held a roundtable discussion in the Social Enterprise City of Salford where we invited successful social entrepreneurs, new social enterprises, business support providers, social enterprise networks and VCSE support organisations to discuss how we might support each other, work together, change and improve our own work. This is an attempt to summarise the discussion – if you were there, or even if you weren’t, feel free to add to this in the comments below.
We talked about examples of good business support programmes, good examples of partnership working and where there are gaps in current provision.
It was broadly agreed that some of the best examples of business support schemes are those that invest in the individual. Individuals within business support providers were also highlighted as important to the growth of many of the social enterprises within the room and often, (perhaps unsurprisingly) it was the relationship with the individual, rather than with the organisation, that was deemed as central to the success of that work.
Incubation for social enterprise is critical, often overlooked by traditional funding and this could be key in how the sector can support itself i.e. to support start-up and growth of more social enterprises. Likewise, buying from and providing back office support to SEs was identified as key activities that support organisations should be doing.
Incubation; support for scale-up; access to networks and mentors were all identified as being essential. Likewise, tailored support dependent upon what stage the business is at. Scale-up support can often be about operational support and there are significant gaps in support for scaling businesses between micro, small and medium.
Finding funding to provide these support programmes is becoming increasingly difficult, being a smaller infrastructure support organisation means you can build relevant P2P networks rapidly but means it is difficult to find significant amounts of funding.
There was discussion of what learning we might take from other industries, particularly about encouraging risk and failure and how we might encourage support providers to be more open and work towards breaking down arbitrary competitive environments.
There was, again perhaps unsurprisingly, discussion about access to finance and how we might help investors understand social enterprise business models and encourage SE owners to be less rigid in how they access funding. It’s important for us all to engage with universities and colleges.
Good governance is important and there can be a lack of support around this. We should focus on an organisation’s social aims and its enterprise journey, rather that its legal form.
Sharing learning from partnerships is also important and mentoring and supporting each other as we would do with social enterprises. We should create partnerships for the sake of it and not coalesce around available funding streams. We should also ensure that we leverage the expertise of the larger partner to support the smaller partners where appropriate. Allowing individuals to be themselves within the partnership is important, as is maintaining relationships with other organisations even when there is no funding available for specific projects.
There is a gap in workforce development support and support for support organisations. There are great examples of where the public sector is doing good work to support SEs and some really good local examples of that are Wigan and Salford.
Some of the key areas of focus were place-based working, supply chains, risk capital, work with local government and partnerships.
Below is a list of all the support schemes/partnerships discussed on the day with links where possible. If you’d like further details of attendees or discussions please do contact us. We are planning future events like this in other parts of the North West so if you’d like to join us let us know.
Another huge thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to the event.
Crowdfund UK https://crowdfunduk.org
SCC business support https://www.salford.gov.uk/business/support-for-your-business
Building Better Opportunities http://selnet-uk.com/bbo
The Fylde Coast Responsible Businesses Network
Salford Social Enterprise City http://salford.eu
Bolton Social Business Collective https://twitter.com/sbcbolton
Social Enterprise Solutions http://www.socialenterprisesolutions.co.uk
Abram Ward Cooperative http://www.abramwardcooperative.org
Manchester Social Entrepreneurs
The Business Group https://www.thebusinessgroup.org
Salford CVS https://www.salfordcvs.co.uk
Flourish CIC https://www.flourishtogether.org.uk