Mapping social enterprises and their impact is something we’ve been working on with various partners for a while, specifically finding all of the social enterprises in Salford and Manchester and how we might go about doing that.

We got some funding together with SEUK and Power to Change to attempt to map every social enterprise (SE) in Greater Manchester (GM) and estimate the number of unincorporated SEs along with some other bits of more important info about what help and support they need.

Should be easy, right? So we’ve also commissioned the GM Social Enterprise Data Trust…

We’ll be using this page to update on what we’ve done so far; our research, results, findings and methods of work and to encourage you to get involved where you can. 2021 update: we’re not so quick at updating this page but you can mail if you’d like to check on our progress.

We’re still redefining our methodology but there are a few things we can be certain of. We have started with the basic government definition of a social enterprise; “a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners” and have deliberately allowed those who complete the survey to self-define as a social enterprise.

There are other criteria such as how much income is generated through trading, how much profit is reinvested, social mission and board members (if you’ve carried on reading this far, we’re pretty sure that you’ll have had many a discussion about ‘definitions of a social enterprise’) but as the saying goes we’re less interested in legal structure and more interested in social mission and impact so we’ll continue to be as loose as we can be with definitions and simply split the data to satisfy funders and others.

For ‘Greater Manchester’ we mean the combined authority area made up of the metropolitan boroughs of Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and the cities of Salford and Manchester. We’re currently using postcode to define this. You can view a list of postcodes here and we’ve mapped the postcode data we have against local authorities to make sure we have the split per locality right.

As far as legal form goes we are currently agreed that a social enterprise can have one of the following legal structures:

Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG)

Company Limited by Shares (CLS)

Community Benefit Society – BenCom (IPS)

Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) – Bona Fide/ Bona Fide Co-operative Society

Community Interest Company (CIC)

Sole proprietorship

Limited Liability Partnership

Unincorporated association

If you think there’s something missing (or something included that shouldn’t be) let us know in the comments or by using #GMSocEnt on Twitter – we love conversations about governance and legal structure!

Up until the end of March 2020 there were 3,495 incorporated social enterprises in Greater Manchester and we can confidently say, in line with other research and our own findings, that there will be an additional 8% of SEs that are unincorporated.

Over the past 12 months there have been more than 500 newly incorporated SEs – since the beginning of May there have been 150 new CICs in Greater Manchester.

You can find out more here.

Between now and January we will be working with partners on how we best utilise the 4000 records that we have on social enterprises in Greater Manchester. It looks likely that will take the form of a data coop but we will test the model over the next few months.

If you’re interested in finding out more or getting involved you can mail

This research is funded by Power to Change, Social Enterprise UK and The Business Group and is supported by Abram Ward Cooperative, Flourish CIC, Manchester Social Entrepreneurs and Salford Social Enterprise City.

Notes for any editors:

Social enterprises are quietly revolutionising our economy and offering a new way to do business by being true to their values, innovating and producing a diverse range of business leaders helping to create an economy that allows future generations to realise their full potential.

We are attempting to identify all incorporated social enterprises within the Greater Manchester region, with a focus on four areas of GM for more detailed information –Manchester, Salford, Stockport and Wigan.

We believe that these areas will provide the best ‘snapshot’ of social enterprise across the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester. We will gather more detailed information from 10% of social enterprises in these localities and an estimate of the number of unincorporated social enterprises.

This research is funded by Power to Change, Social Enterprise UK and The Business Group and is supported by Abram Ward Cooperative, Flourish CIC, Manchester Social Entrepreneurs and Salford Social Enterprise City.

The Greater Manchester State of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector 2017 (Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University) found that there were 15,890 VCSE organisations across Greater Manchester, in Salford there are 1,513 VCSE organisations and 14% of these self-define as a social enterprise (the highest number in GM).

Social Enterprise UK estimate that there are now over 2,400 social enterprises in Greater Manchester investing between £45-90m back into the region every year. There is a widespread view that the social enterprise sector is developing faster in the Greater Manchester region than the rest of the country and as GM’s Local Industrial Strategy states that Greater Manchester (GM) will also create the optimum conditions for social enterprises and cooperatives to thrive there is a real opportunity to better understand the sector, to strengthen local networks and to support policy development.