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Social enterprises and CICs show us a better future

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Plymouth Social Enterprise Network CIC (PSEN) runs a business network supporting social enterprises in Plymouth in the south west of the UK.

When we say ‘social enterprise’ for us that includes:

  • trading charities
  • co-operatives
  • community businesses
  • trading community interest companies
  • and other legal forms.

We have around 80 members. These members range from huge social enterprises like the University of Plymouth and Livewell Southwest – one of the largest health and social care social enterprises in the country – right down to micro-entities of one or two people.

Plymouth Social Enterprise at festival

Collectively these social enterprises bring in around £600 million of income a year to our city and employ around 9,000 people.  Two of the five largest employers in Plymouth are social enterprises. So social enterprise is big (and small) business in Plymouth.

PSEN was a leading force in helping Plymouth become the UK’s first Social Enterprise City in 2013.  Our aims remain simple: we want to support our members work and raise awareness of social enterprise in Plymouth. We are working hard to see a city where social enterprise is central to the way we do business.

Working through the pandemic

Right now work is focussed on how we help our members through the Coronavirus/Covid-19 crisis. I am encouraged by the response to the crisis by our social enterprises and the wider social economy sector including that of our sister organization, POP+.

POP+ focusses more on the voluntary and community sector in Plymouth. We are seeing volunteering, support, collaboration and partnerships developing to help our communities fight off this hideous virus.

Plymouth Social Enterprise Badges

Social enterprises themselves are phoning me daily with concerns – mostly around finance and HR. Unfortunately there hasn't been any government support directed to social enterprises although charitable businesses are hoping to soon see a package of support. Some of the practical things we are doing right now include:

  • Sharing resources we find from government, local government, Social Enterprise UK, The CIC Regulator and others
  • Running various online events and signposting to others
  • Seeking information from members about the impacts on their business to relay to relevant partners like the local Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Standing in solidarity with the social enterprise sector across the region
  • Liaising with members directly on specific issues.

We are members of SEUK and are helping them co-ordinate the national response too.

Coming out of the crisis

It seems like we are deep in the crisis and it is probably going to get worse before things improve. As we then turn from response to recovery, I think social enterprise networks and CICs will have a vital role to play in rebuilding our economy. There will be a lot of people unemployed. This will bring associated effects like poverty and poor health.

SItting listening to a talk

Social enterprises need to be right at the heart of new ideas and transformation that comes out of this crisis. We need a radical shift in the way we think about business and we need to move to a fairer economy. An economy where businesses create decent work and the where the dividends of growth and prosperity are more equally shared. An economy that creates wellbeing and that enhances, not degrades the environment and creates inclusive prosperity.

This different economy is not a work of fiction – it already exists in our cities, high streets and neighbourhoods. We, as CICs, our supporting networks and social economy partners, need to shout louder and longer about the work we will do. Shout and fight for an evolution of business. Our social enterprises and CICs can show us a way forward when we rebuild after Coronavirus/Covid-19.

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  1. Comment by Daphne posted on

    Continuing to stand with you, Gareth (and with Plymouth)! From ESSENCE of Exeter CIC, Exeter's Social Enterprise Network.