Reconnecting People; Social Enterprises Have a Vital Role to Play as the Recession Bites, Argues Mick Laverty

Article excerpt

Byline: Mick Laverty

Birmingham Is today hosting day two of the annual national gathering of social enterprises and third sector organisations, Voice 09.

I am delighted that the Social Enterprise Coalition Is staging this event In Birmingham and the West Midlands, given the Importance of social enterprise to the economy.

I believe that In these challenging economic times, social enterprise has never been more relevant.

Social enterprises are varied and diverse In their make-up, covering all manner of sectors and coming In all shapes and sizes. They range from smaller enterprises active In specific locations In niche areas to some of our region's larger employers.

At one end of the spectrum we have smaller organisations such as Blzmatch, a rural social enterprise based In Herefordshire which provides disabled and dlsadvantaged people with the opportunity to learn employablllty skills and specific trades such as catering and furniture restoration.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have household names Including Midland Heart In Birmingham, one of the top ten housing and regeneration companies In the UK, which reinvests about pounds 100 million each year Into homes and communities.

What all social enterprises do have In common, however, Is that while they are driven by the need to make profits, these profits are reinvested In the company rather than being paid to shareholders.

The scale of the social enterprise sector In the West Midlands may come as some surprise. Our data shows there are 5,500 social enterprises which between them support over 156,000 jobs.

This means that, on average, for every fifteen people working In our region, one Is working for a social enterprise.

The economic value of social enterprises Is highly significant. The 5,500 social enterprises generate more than pounds 5.7 billion each year In Income from the sale of goods and services.

There are more than 300 social enterprises with turnover In excess of pounds 1 million per annum.

This social enterprise activity Is a significant contributor to the wider West Midlands economy In two key ways.

First, social enterprises help to close the pounds 10 billion output gap that exists In the West Midlands economy.

We know that this pounds 10 billion Is the value we need to add to our region's economy to bring us Into line with the national average. Of this pounds 10 billion, some pounds 2 billion Is attributed to economlc exclusion. Which Is the second way In which social enterprise has a valuable role to play, by helping to address social and economic exclusion, by acting as powerful drivers for employment and enterprise creation In communities often among the most In need of opportunities.

Advantage West Midlands - and our regional partners In delivering economic development - recognise the Importance of social enterprise.

We have spoken to social enterprises In Birmingham and the West Midlands and Identified a series of common barriers for their growth. …