PSEN Director Annette Dhami attended the POP+ Conference earlier in the year and talked about how PSEN founders came together to launch the network, and what this action has gone on to create.
It went back 8 years.
Michelle Virgo from Dartington School for Social Entrepreneurs, Dave Kilroy from Social Enterprise Outcomes, Ed Whitelaw from Real Ideas Organisation and Gareth Hart from Iridescent Ideas CIC sat around a kitchen table on a windy autumn afternoon over coffee. One year before, a research study had been done to see whether Plymouth’s growing social enterprise sector would benefit from a network that could support it. The study found that it could. In 2010 an event was run to discuss getting one started, but representation from the social enterprise community itself was low, and the ball didn’t start rolling. Without Plymouth social enterprises taking the lead, another organization from Exeter was awarded a pot of funding to try to get it going, but – not being based in Plymouth – traction didn’t take, and when their contract ended so did the activities.
Over coffee, Michelle, Gareth, Dave and Ed had a question to discuss: did they, representing their various social enterprises, feel that they could get a Social Enterprise Network for Plymouth going? And where on earth would they start?
They knew that there were things on their side: they were all passionate about social enterprise and the type of inclusive and sustainable economy that it could help to build in Plymouth. They were all committed and willing to chip in. They represented social enterprises in Plymouth, so who better to do it? They decided to try.
Plymouth Social Enterprise Network was formally constituted in May 2011 and began its work by arranging regular meetings of 10-20 people. Learning quickly, a Board of Directors was soon set up to change the focus of these meeting from ‘how do we run a network’ (now done by the smaller voluntary board) to ‘these are the great things are happening in Plymouth and let’s celebrate them’ (with growing participants to do so). Before long, they secured funding to run a large conference – now run as the annual Social Enterprise Festival – and launched the first directory of social enterprises in Plymouth. They conducted research into the state of social enterprise in Plymouth, and started to reveal information about how important the sector was becoming. As this was being published, Plymouth University announced itself as a social enterprise, adding even more weight to the sector. £500 million income and 6,000 jobs were identified from the sector in Plymouth, securing coverage from national press.
They ran an event asking: ‘Social Enterprise City: What, Why and How?’, wondering what it would mean to be a city that champions social enterprise approaches. National speakers became to attend events, recognising the buzz in Plymouth. They began to organise bigger conferences, including the next social enterprise festival, this time a week long.
In 2013 Social Enterprise UK launched their Social Enterprise Places badge, looking for hotspots of activity in the country where social enterprise was thriving. With all the work done in previous years, PSEN was able to quickly evidence the case for Plymouth and over a few days worked to pull together a bid. It was successful, and in September 2013 Plymouth was announced – along with Bristol – as the first Social Enterprise City in the UK. Plymouth was put on the national map as a go-to place for social enterprise, and international universities, major funders and large organisations started to travel to Plymouth to find out more.
In the last five years PSEN has leveraged this opportunity to develop the support for Plymouth’s social enterprises further. It launched a paid membership model, to ensure that trading income was at the heart of its work and that the network would be financially accountable to social enterprises in the city. PSEN Board members began to be invited to influence governmental policy, sitting on the Plymouth Growth Board and the Plymouth Inclusive Growth Flagship; at the Local Enterprise Partnership level; and working with Social Enterprise UK, national government and other powerful players to champion social enterprise as a way to create a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
Between 2013-2015 PSEN ran even bigger social enterprise festivals, with – for example – over 2,000 people attending over the course of two weeks.
By lobbying for support and raising awareness increasing funding was secured to support social enterprises in Plymouth. Power to Change, the Seedbed Incubator Programme, Esmee Fairbairn, The Rank Foundation and Plymouth City Council are among the supporters that have funnelled over £6 million of finance and support into social enterprise support as a result.
With support for social enterprise growing, social enterprise is increasing its contribution and influence in the Plymouth economy. Progress has been notable, but there is more work to do. We want to see an economy with social businesses not at its periphery but at its core. Whilst we continue to be run by passionate and committed people representing a range of social enterprises in Plymouth, we will continue to try.
Come join us for the 2018 Social Enterprise Festival to learn more about the exciting things happening in social enterprise in Plymouth and ways to be involve.
Plymouth is the national flagship city for compassion but what does this mean for our social enterprises. Tam Fowles, Director of Hope in the Heart CIC explains about how compassion can help your business thrive and more…
We need to talk about compassion. This is a conversation that needs to take place in many contexts. We also need to talk about why people in business don’t talk more about compassion. Too often I have heard “there’s no place for compassion in business”, and this belief is reflected in the practices and policies of many corporations. But social enterprises are often born of compassion and there is much to be learned from this source of inspiration that could positively affect all businesses, and significantly increase their productivity.
What is compassion? Neuroscientist Dr James Doty, of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), describes it as “the recognition of the suffering of another with a motivational desire to alleviate that suffering”. Global character education programme, the Virtues Project, says “Compassion is deep empathy for another who is suffering or living with misfortune…and a strong desire to ease their distress.” Many social enterprises are founded with the express purpose of alleviating suffering and easing distress. An article from the Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Marketing states that “a commitment to helping others … encourages individual entrepreneurs to devote more time and energy to creative and flexible thinking than if they were making decisions to benefit only themselves” and that “compassion…acts as a prosocial motivator of cognitive and emotional processes that are preconditions for undertaking social entrepreneurship”
There is a link between the business world and the research world, suggests Emma Sappala, Associate Director at CCARE, as “research on compassion is setting a new tone for the workplace and management culture.”
Having worked with numerous groups on the subject of compassion, I have seen first-hand the change that can take place when individuals are encouraged to focus on compassion. Noticing incidents of compassionate action taking place in their various environments, and looking for opportunities to make the compassionate choice in every situation can change a person’s perspective on the world, replacing the cynicism born of negative media bombardment and general daily stress with a sense of hope, potential and achievement. When this happens throughout an organisation, the positive change is magnified and the culture can be transformed.
When compassion is a conscious aim, with appropriate boundaries and policies in place, leaders, employees and service-users find a shared focus which can provide a sense of unity, purpose and belonging. Respect and mutual consideration are high, and a general feeling of wellbeing is likely to permeate the business. Modelling compassion within the local community can create a ripple-effect, as others are attracted by the positive feelings and outcomes generated by the compassionate business. Employee health is increased and staff are likely to stay in their role longer. Customer service is improved with a corresponding positive effect on production.
Since its inception in 2008, Charter for Compassion International has engaged hundreds of businesses on many continents, in its business sector and across 11 other sectors.
There are opportunities for businesses in Plymouth to join the global compassion movement, increasing their focus on compassionate action and reaping the considerable benefits while helping to build a critical mass of compassionate businesses intent on changing the culture of business in their communities. Plymouth was registered as a Compassionate City with Charter for Compassion International in January 2017, and has become the flagship city for compassion in the UK, with several projects being piloted that will contribute towards a “Plymouth Compassionate City Model” for other UK communities to follow. Hope in the Heart CIC is currently leading the Compassionate Plymouth City Initiative, whose steering group includes representatives from The Zebra Collective, Lifeplay Learning and St Luke’s Hospice (the latter has also introduced a separate end-of-life focused Compassionate City Charter to Plymouth).
Any business, organisation, school, group or institution can become a partner of CCI and Compassionate Plymouth, at no cost and with many benefits. These include visibility on the CCI website and the opportunity to network and share resources with other compassionate businesses in many locations, as well as a chance to play an active role in the development of Compassionate Plymouth as a model community for the UK. Several local social enterprises and others have already registered. Hope in the Heart has funding from the Esme Fairbairn Foundation, via POP+, to deliver a number of half-day workshops introducing CCI and CP to representatives of organisations interested in knowing more or becoming partners, with free or subsidised consultation also available if required. Please contact email@example.com if you would like to know more, or attend or host a workshop
We need to talk about how compassion in Plymouth businesses can contribute to radical social change and model a more proactive way of working for the benefit of all. If you would like to be part of that conversation, please get in touch!
Tam Martin Fowles
Founding Director Hope in the Heart CIC
UK Ambassador Charter for Compassion International
Last week we were please to be invited to join The ‘Social and Creative City Economy of the Future Roundtable’ discussion facilitated by Social Enterprise UK and the British Council.
As the first Social Enterprise City in the UK we understandably have a lot of thoughts and expectations around the future of a city and what it should look like. Developing ideas around those concepts is core to our decision making and the development of the network. We know that Plymouth is making huge leaps and doing incredible work, we spend a lot of time travelling around events and discussions just like this talking about Plymouth’s example. We go armed with statistics, data, and plenty of passion, ready to explain what we do to anyone who will listen. So when we introduce ourselves and find that we are instantly greeted by national representatives and vision makers from industry with not only recognition, but praise and excitement… we know that we are in the right room.
The event was hosted and facilitated by The British Council and Social Enterprise UK. The primary task being to explore a collective vision for the UK’s urban social and creative economies in 20 years time. Passionate advocates of social change and participants from numerous socially enterprising organisations from across the country filled the tables and workshop spaces. It was an inspiring place to be.
This was all set in the context of the fact that cities generate 80% of Global GDP, but are facing huge challenges around meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If you’re not familiar with the SDG’s, They are the blueprint laid out by the United Nations to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. They are a powerful and creative vision of how society should function by 2030. You can read more about them here. The outputs of this round table event will help to inform the Global Parliament of Mayors Annual Summit which is taking part in Bristol in October.
One of the points that came from discussions and stuck with us was The issue of the creative industries being easier to conceptualise and communicate than social enterprise and the social economy. There was a recognition of the challenges this can present when trying to persuade Local Authorities to procure more goods and services from social enterprises. This lack of comprehension of social enterprise is something that we’ll be addressing at events in the Social Enterprise City Festival in November, if you have thoughts or want to hold an event to look at that in your sector then get in touch.
We note with interest the demise of payday lender, Wonga which has gone into administration. It would seem that the fines imposed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for unfair debt collection practices, orders to repay over £35M to customers as a result of “unfair practices”, introduction of caps on administration charges and criticism over sky-high interest rates in excess of 4,000 per cent have finally taken their toll. They even suffered a data breach in 2017 and warned that personal data of up to 245,000 customers could have been compromised, incurring the wrath of the information Commissioners Office (ICO).
So what are the alternatives? Certainly people looking for loans should look carefully at the terms of the loan to make sure that the administration charges and interest rates are not exorbitant as is the case with many payday lenders. They should also consider whether these short-term loans are the answer to their financial problems. Taking out a loan for, say, £500 for a sudden unexpected expense like a car repair to be repaid when the next salary or benefit payment at the end of the month comes in means that there is £500 less to spend next month. And the temptation is to take out another loan for £500 plus the administration charges and interest that were incurred with the previous loan. This leads to an ever increasing debt spiral which is very difficult to get out of.
So what is our advice? Take out a longer term loan. Spread the repayments over several months, that way you don’t have to pay back all the money borrowed with your next salary or benefit payment. Look at ethical borrowers like Credit Unions – they are restricted by law to an absolute maximum interest rate on loans of 3% per month, just over 42% APR – the chances are that the interest rate charges will be even lower. There are no administration charges and loans can be paid back earlier with no penalty. For the full picture, why not visit our web site at www.cpcu.co.uk.
City of Plymouth Credit Union