Here, Simon Veasey of iSE discusses how place-based social enterprise development support provides a focal point for local people who wish to explore their aspirations around starting a business.
The lessons we have learned from working in West Birmingham and through our other hubs is you need to be present for people to engage and trust you. In terms of awareness raising doing that in a locality can drive momentum and allow you to look at a range of connected issues with a range of different stakeholders all adding value. In USE-IT! we discussed “food” in Cape Hill, we looked at food poverty, food banks and then discussed solutions - social enterprises were one of the solutions. Recommendation is far more powerful than advertising but the flip side is that if you don’t deliver word gets around fast - being in situation and available is key.
What is the added value that social enterprises get from having a sense of serving their local neighbourhood – as opposed to someone setting up an international business for example?
The majority of social entrepreneurs are connected to their local communities. The issues they want to address are more often than not local issues either through learnt experience or by witnessing hardship or injustice. Creating impact locally can be easier to achieve especially in terms of cost and management for a start up, however it can limit growth if it is a very locally focussed organisation.
In which ways does people’s experience or knowledge of the local area and the people that live there factor into the success of a social enterprise?
They are all different with wildly different skills and experiences I would say that one of the challenges of creating a sustainable social enterprise is getting the social mission balanced with the business activity. Many of the local ones that are battling against a clearly defined local need can concentrate too much on the mission and not enough on the financial stability - it is so easy to creep into a grants culture which is difficult to sustain.
How can local communities expect to benefit from new social enterprises in their area?
Local issues can be directly addressed by local people and the impact can be seen. The social mission of the social enterprises will ensure that the jobs created are created in ethical companies with strong working practices. If we work to develop a good local economy and network of social enterprises then money can circulate and stay in the local area. Local people buying off local businesses whose owners live locally.