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Social Enterprise is being hailed as a timely model that can harness the power of community spirit witnessed in lockdown to help a Covid-19 recovery.
One of the UK’s leading social investors, Key Fund, said now is the time for the Social Enterprise sector to become ‘mainstream’.
To mark Social Enterprise Day on November 19, stories are being shared from around the globe on how community and social enterprises stepped up to meet local need during Covid-19.
Matt Smith, CEO of Key Fund, said: “While the Covid-19 crisis brought large swathes of the economy to a shuddering halt, it also saw thousands of small-scale community and existing social enterprises step up to meet people’s immediate needs. Social enterprise is a model for these times. In a post-Covid-19 economy, it will not only support job creation but provide vital services. I want to see it become mainstream – an acceptable and significant part of the UK economy. It’s about 5 per cent as a sector; I think it could be much bigger.”
Cottage industries have sprung up providing meals on wheels, hand-sanitiser, face-masks and childcare for key workers, demonstrating grassroots entrepreneurialism at its most altruistic.
Matt said: “Covid-19 has brought huge challenges but it presents opportunities for the social enterprise sector, which has shown its ability to respond, quickly and flexibly, with local solutions. People are now more averse to businesses that put profit before people and the planet. This model offers a more human and less centralised society, in which people are supported and empowered to play an active role in their localities.”
Key Fund which operates across the North and the Midlands, has shared examples of how social and community enterprises that put people and the planet at the heart of their operations have proven a lifeline for the most vulnerable.
Examples of social enterprises that stepped up in the pandemic include Pulp Friction in Nottingham – a social enterprise that runs a café, canteen and allotment to give young adults with learning disabilities a foothold into the world of work. The young people adapted the canteen to deliver food parcels and over 1,000 hot meals to the elderly and those in need.
In Yorkshire, Settle Victoria Hall was a thriving social enterprise as a cinema, theatre and music venue bolstering tourism, as well as the local arts scene. During lockdown, the hall was repurposed as the Settle Community Response, where volunteers delivered 1,500 prescriptions, hosted a foodbank, and set up a helpline for the elderly and isolated.
In Birmingham, a Community Interest Company, Citizen Coaching pivoted its services online to meet increased demand. The enterprise offered free anger management courses online to help those struggling in confined homes during lockdown.
Key Fund was set up in 1999 to revive former mining towns decimated by the collapse of coal and steel and now operates across the North and the Midlands; 80% of its investments are in the top 30% most deprived areas in the UK.
A social enterprise itself, Key Fund shaped the early development of funding models for community-run assets, such as renewable energy schemes and community-owned pubs.
Over the last 20 years, Key Fund has supported over 2,500 social and community enterprises, enabling 1,315 new jobs, safeguarding 2,094 jobs and creating 519 new businesses, all working to tackle deep-rooted challenges, from homelessness and NEETs to mental ill-health and the environmental crisis.
Social entrepreneur Ann Harding, who runs Victoria Hall in Settle and the community-owned Settle Hyrdo, said: “I plan to harness even more the social enterprise spirit of the town to generate jobs and look after the well-being of those in need. One thing this pandemic has taught us is that if you want to succeed individually, you need the strength of the community behind you. None of us can survive, or thrive, alone.”
Before lockdown, social enterprises were estimated to contribute £60bn a year to the UK economy. They have become integral to delivering key services to society, generating over a million jobs in the UK.
Social Enterprise Day is part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.