Support for social enterprises

How do I set up or develop a social enterprise in Sandwell?

We’ve rounded up resources, local and national, to help Sandwell social entrepreneurs deliver maximum value for the causes they care about. See also our support for start-ups and growth for small businesses pages, as the programmes listed there may also apply to you.

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What is a social enterprise?

Put simply, a social enterprise is a business with social values. A social enterprise exists in order to tackle social problems, boost communities, or improve the environment.

Social enterprises trade goods and services in the open market, just as economic profit-driven businesses do. However, profits are reinvested to further the social aims of the enterprise, rather than going to shareholders. So as well as applying commercial strategies to maximise business success, social enterprises are committed to maximising the social impact of their activities. When they profit, society also profits.

Social enterprises can be community enterprises, credit unions, trading arms of charities, employee-owned businesses, co-operatives, development trusts, housing associations, social firms, leisure trusts, or something else. The UK government has produced a useful guide to legal structures for social enterprises, outlining what it means to be a limited company, charity, charitable incorporated organisation (CIO), co-operative, community interest company (CIC), sole trader or business partnership.

Current opportunities: funding

Big Society Capital has launched Ideas for Impact, through which a selection of ideas with the greatest potential to transform people’s lives in the UK could each receive up to £30,000 of development funding plus in-kind support and connections.

Every three months the Matthew Good Foundation is awarding £10,000 between five shortlisted projects that have a positive impact on communities, people or the environment in its Grants for Good Fund.

West Midlands support for social enterprises

SCVO (Sandwell Council of Voluntary Organisations) supports and represents voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations in Sandwell.

Sweda (Sandwell Work and Enterprise Development Agency) gives support, guidance, training and mentoring to people looking to get back into the workplace, including support for potential social entrepreneurs.

Birmingham Community Matters is a peer-to-peer learning network which brings people who are setting up or running community organisations (in Birmingham and surrounding areas) together with people who have experience of doing the same thing.

iSE CIC is a social enterprise development organisation providing opportunities for the social and community sector in Birmingham and beyond.

National support for social enterprises

Inspire2Enterprise supports individuals and established businesses to create and develop social enterprises across the UK.

Unltd is a UK charitable organisation working to promote social entrepreneurship within local communities. UnLtd offers cash awards, networking and mentorship opportunities to support new social enterprises to grow. 

The School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) helps people “develop the skills, strengths and networks they need to tackle society’s biggest problems”. SSE’s email newsletter – ‘Have I Got Social Enterprise News For You’ – is a good read, and packed with useful links.

Social Enterprise UK is the national membership body for social enterprise. Among other activities it lobbies on the sector’s behalf, conducts research to help paint a picture of the UK’s social enterprise movement and works with corporate partners to broker business for social enterprise members.

Buying from a social enterprise

If your organisation is keen to engage with social enterprises when buying products and services, try the Buy Social Directory to search for businesses that trade for social and environmental purposes.

This page was last updated in October 2021.