Social Enterprise

Social enterprise supports local economic development! In order to create the opportunities for local people to benefit from the investment coming into their neighbourhoods USE-IT! has been working with both existing and new social enterprises and community businesses to develop their capacity to grow and therefore enhance local economic development. We have leveraged significant additional funds (£243k) into the area by supporting local organisations to win contracts or apply for funding and the social enterprise programme has enabled 41 local entrepreneurs to start up their businesses and 39 existing organisations to grow. As a result of USE-IT! new consortiums now exist to bring social enterprises together and build capacity around tendering for larger pieces of work.

As part of our awareness raising activities the Social Enterprise in Schools Project (SEiS) provided teachers and children with inspiration, opportunity and support to set up child-led social businesses to raise funds for, or improve, a social problem that the school children identified and wanted to address. The children involved now have more awareness of the potential for business to benefit society and will be able to consider that in their own future career choices. We have produced a ‘ready to go’ programme from this that could be rolled out to schools across the region.


Recognising the potential and developing the profile of Birmingham as a Social Enterprise City is an important legacy of USE-IT! The SE CITY builds on the work of the first social enterprise place in Birmingham, The Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter (launched December 2013) and over the last three years USE-IT! has supported the development of the Soho Social Enterprise Network. The purpose is to share information, skills and knowledge so that social entrepreneurs can grow their businesses. We’d like to see every neighbourhood putting social enterprise front and centre!

The ability of social enterprises to unlock social value is a key characteristic of the sector: over and above the services they deliver, social enterprises in Birmingham create social value worth around £40m a year through reinvesting in their businesses, spending on their social mission, and involving volunteers, greatly improving the economic, social and environmental well-being of the city.

Funding and networking opportunities

USE-IT! has created or linked local entrepreneurs with funding opportunities, such as the 2018 Social Enterprise Challenge, offering a grant of up to £3000 to support social enterprises to develop a new product or service. Then as part of the Birmingham CITYDRIVE 2019 events, Soho SEN organised an event with local social enterprises pitching for a £500 development grant. This was held at Soho House to be accessible to local people, and demonstrates the dual support and networking offer of USE-IT! The following video features those who took part, including Mothership Projects who won funding to create prototype products to test the market.

Supporting larger community organisations, for knock-on effects in the community

86 people have signed up as members of the Soho network, with around 50% regularly engaging in events and networking meetings. In some cases, the benefits of funding social enterprises have spread outwards to reach other entrepreneurs or the wider community. Here, Rachel West from Legacy West Midlands describes how USE-IT! funding helped them put on their Hands On Handsworth tours.

Communicating and building confidence in community businesses through a 'social enterprise' ethos

The USE-IT! Project has worked hard to communicate the benefits, and potential for social enterprises in the area, for example, running social enterprise activities at local schools. Another initiative, the Warm Earth project, came about through a community gardening project but is now being developed as a marketable composting system through support and funding from USE-IT! This demonstrates how the project has also supported community businesses as well as social enterprises, with partner Co-op Futures helping Warm Earth develop a business plan. In this video, Chris Vaughan and Ernie Holmes tell us about their Warm Earth journey, from community garden through to product stage.

Social Enterprise Image Gallery

Key Partners