Plymouth Social Enterprise Network believes that social enterprise is a fundamental way to help Plymouth become a better city to live and work in. This means a Plymouth where:
- Wealth is generated sustainably and stays here to improve the quality of life for all
- Everyone has access to meaningful work – work that they can see makes a difference to their community, the environment and the world
- Good ideas are generated and entrepreneurialism encouraged
We want to see our economy grow in a way that creates these conditions, not hinders them. Developing business that has ethics at its core and exists to improve our social and natural environment (social enterprise) – rather than personal profit – is needed to make this happen.
If you also share these ambitions for Plymouth, please join us. We can only achieve this by working together.
Not sure? Let us tell you more.
Plymouth’s historic dependency on the defence, manufacturing and construction industries has created challenges for the city. Plymouth was heavily impacted by the recession – losing, for example, 6,400 jobs between 2008 and 2010 (The Plymouth Fairness Commission Final Report March 2014) – and despite many positive developments, Plymouth has been struggling to sustainably generate wealth; GVA has been around 84% of the UK average for many years. (The Plymouth Fairness Commission Final Report March 2014) Where wealth is created, it is distributed unevenly across people and areas. For example, in Peverell, Widewell or Compton only 5 – 10% of families are on low incomes; in Devonport, St Peters and the Waterfront or Ham this is 43%. (The Plymouth Fairness Commission Final Report March 2014)
Unlike traditional businesses – social enterprises by nature generate wealth that is used to improve conditions in the city. Moments Cafe, for example, uses its profits to support people living with dementia. Bikespace uses income from bike repairs and other services to train young people struggling with mainstream education as bicycle mechanics. Plymouth Credit Union offers financial services including savings, affordable loans and budget accounts including for people who have been excluded from traditional services.
Social enterprises in Plymouth are growing in size and their contribution to wealth generation: they currently bring in an income of £500 – £600 million.(Plymouth Social Enterprise Network Survey) We want to see this continue to rise so that wealth can stay in Plymouth and benefit all.
A strong and content society goes far beyond income. We see wellbeing as critical to a better city, and meaningful work can contribute significantly to our wellbeing. “When the work is perceived as meaningful, people have a sense of fulfilment and purpose that provides a psychological sense of well-being. The experience of meaningful work and well-being then spills over into the other life arenas and contributes to the overall sense of an individual’s life purpose.”(Meaningful Work and Wellbeing by J. Lee Whittington) We want to see work for Plymouth citizens that is meaningful for them and wider society.
Social enterprises are businesses that exist to make a positive impact on others; they provide work that has meaning and purpose to employees. Social enterprises are also more likely to offer fair pay, involve their staff in decision-making and employ people from specific vulnerable groups. (The Future of Business: State of Social Enterprise Survey 2017 by Social Enterprise UK)
According to their employees, PSEN member social enterprise Real Ideas Organisation provides a “strong sense of ownership and democracy” to its team because “everybody gets a say”; team members say that working for RIO is “incredibly purposeful”. (Real Ideas Organisation website)
Social enterprises currently employ over 7,000 people in Plymouth and we want to see this grow.
“Due to the domination of Plymouth’s historically large employers, both the culture and infrastructure for entrepreneurs lags behind many other cities”. Plymouth has historically had a low business start-up rate (e.g. 60% of the England average in 2011), but entrepreneurialism is on the rise. (The Plymouth Fairness Commission Final Report March 2014)
When it comes to community and social enterprise, visitors to Plymouth note the buzz in the city. Social Enterprise UK’s State of Social Enterprise Survey 2017 states that “Plymouth is now garnering global acclaim…as a leading place for social enterprise”.(The Future of Business: State of Social Enterprise Survey 2017 by Social Enterprise UK) PSEN’s successful bid to make Plymouth
the UK’s first Social Enterprise City in 2013 had a key role in this, attracting investment (such as Plymouth Council’s £2.5 million Plymouth Social Enterprise Investment Fund) and interest into Plymouth, where good ideas are abundant and social entrepreneurialism continues to grow.
For example, in early 2018 PSEN member Street Factory CIC crowdfunded nearly £50K to bring the UK’s first Hip Hop Theatre to Plymouth. The Entrepreneur Inside programme supported its first cohort of prisoners to build their own entrepreneurial business plans for their release. Nudge Community Builders has bought a disused pub in Stonehouse and is renovating the building to create two homes to meet local need and a mini market area on the ground floor.
We believe that if every business in Plymouth were a social enterprise it would transform the health and happiness of residents and workers in the city.
If you’d like to start a social enterprise, find out about support available here.
I attended the Plymouth Growth Board on Monday. The highlight for me was a presentation by the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) about the Productivity Plan for Devon and Somerset. As you know we submitted a response on behalf of Plymouth’s social enterprises. The LEP welcomed our submission and also suggested that whilst there is a need to boost productivity it cannot be at any cost. They seemed receptive to the idea we submitted about ‘good growth’. Positive news there but we need to keep bringing this up wherever, whenever we can. We need an alliance of social enterprises, Transition movements, ecological economists, Coops, Fair Trade organizations and more to keep making the case for the economy and society we want. Plymouth City Council’s response also referenced Social Enterprise City and inclusive growth.
The main focus of the meeting was on skills. How do we ensure we get the best, most skilled workforces to help us develop and grow our businesses and improve the economy of Plymouth? There was a focus on Plymouth’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) strategy. The Plymouth Skills Analysis is being refreshed – make sure you contribute to this when the opportunity arrives. Tell us what skills and what workforce you need to succeed as a social enterprise. Also, it was apparent that continuing to develop pathways for people into work they want is crucial to increase social mobility and opportunity.
Professor Jerry Richards gave a good overview of the economic impact of Plymouth University – one of PSEN’s members and the first social enterprise university in the world. £300 million is spent by students in Plymouth each year and the university’s annual wage bill is £150 million. Thousands of jobs in the city are directly and indirectly reliant on the university. How the university stays competitive in the context of Brexit was also discussed. The danger is that Plymouth becomes a less attractive place to study and loses EU research cash. The need for cleverness, ingenuity and partnerships in response to this is obvious. The national government’s industrial strategy promises £4.7 billion for science, research and innovation. A great opportunity and we need to make sure Plymouth is in the mix for this.
You can contribute to the government’s industrial plan by clicking here. Social Enterprise UK is leading a national response which PSEN will contribute to on behalf of our members. Tell us what you think should be the priorities. Book onto the national events in early April run by SEUK on skills (Stoke) and on procurement (London).
Finally, I found out that Plymouth is one of the ‘Top 20 Coolest Places to Live’ according to the Times newspaper. Cool – but we already knew that right?
Gareth Hart is Chair of Plymouth Social Enterprise Networkand a Director of Iridescent Ideas CIC
It’s no secret that there are plenty of things wrong with the economy. Inequality of wealth and income and dependence on fossil fuels to create economic growth are my top two concerns, but there are many others, held by people much more mainstream and well-informed than me.
The OECD defines Inclusive Growth as growth that creates opportunity for all segments of the population and distributes the dividends of increased prosperity fairly across society. “Inclusive Growth” has become the thing to call for with statements from the World Economic Forum and the 2016 G20 meeting in Hangzhou. But, for many of us, these look like suspiciously like add-ons to a business-as-usual narrative.
As a director of PSEN, I believe that social enterprises create a better economy. Social enterprises are businesses which trade for a social or environmental purpose. Their profits are reinvested for that purpose. Like all businesses, social enterprises find opportunities to create value, they develop and sell products and services, employ people, make a profit, pay tax. But they differ from private businesses in two important ways. Firstly, the value they seek to create is more broadly defined than private businesses and includes social and environmental value alongside economic value. Secondly, and this is the real difference between private and social enterprise, is that private enterprise creates value in order to capture it for owners and shareholders. For example, of the £2bn allocated to social care in the March 2017 budget, £115M will go to private investors. Social enterprise creates social, environmental and economic value for the benefit of the community as a whole. It is for this reason that we think social enterprise is a radical alternative to traditional business and an important ingredient of a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
There are also hundreds of people, organisations and initiatives who are not involved with social enterprise, or who wouldn’t use that label, but who are also working toward a more sustainable and inclusive economy. These include local currencies, time banks, local food networks, community renewable projects, transition towns, worker co-ops, community businesses, socially engaged artists, digital inclusion and open data initiatives, social justice, fair trade and environmental campaigners, proponents of participatory democracy, you can probably think of plenty more.
These grassroots initiatives are supported by research from heavyweights such as the New Economics Foundation which has been developing policy recommendations since 1986, and the RSA whose work on the economy, enterprise and manufacturing includes the Inclusive Growth Commission and the Citizens Economic Council. The Transition Town movement which champions a community-led transition to a low carbon economy celebrated its 10th birthday this year and, more locally, the annual convergence of the Devon New Economy Forum has become a regular event. Good ideas have gained traction: wellbeing indicators are now part of the Annual Population Survey in the UK, providing a baseline against which initiatives can be evaluated. Universal Basic Income pilots in Scotland and Finland build on others around the world. The first local bank in the UK, the Greater London Mutual is due to open soon with a South West bank to follow. Cornwall LEP has put “inclusive growth” at the heart of its economic strategy. In Plymouth, academics, city and regional economic leaders are taking an interest in purpose-driven business. PSEN representatives chair the Plymouth City Council Inclusive Growth flagship and we have submitted our Good Growth plan to the Local Enterprise Partnership and the national government’s industrial strategy.
Over the next twelve months PSEN, will be holding a series of events to highlight some of the important themes around creating a more sustainable and inclusive economy. This will help explain the role that social enterprises can play and develop relationships with others who are working toward the same thing. The aim is to join forces to work more effectively together and see where the gaps are.
The events planned will focus on demystifying and democratising economics, rethinking the relationship between work and money, moving towards a more ecologically sustainable economy and exploring some of the ways in which open data can facilitate the transition.
In addition to the events I’d like to facilitate a conversation on social media and in pubs and cafes about what a more sustainable and inclusive economy will look like. If you would like to be involved, get in touch.
The first two events are now live…
Rethinking Work and Income, held in collaboration with RSA, will be on 20th June. For more information and bookings, please follow the link below:
Link to event: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/rsa-sw-rethinking-work-and-income-tickets-34825500008?ref=ebtn
An Economy that Works for Everyone? is on 6th July, again in collaboration with the RSA. Information and bookings at: https://aneconomythatworksforeveryone.eventbrite.co.uk
The Social Enterprise for an Inclusive and Sustainable Economy project has been supported by a Big Lottery Fund Awards for All grant.
We welcomed a full house of local members to our AGM on Monday as well as speakers from across the UK, Europe and from as far away as Brazil. There was an unanimous re-election of the Executive board and Ian Smith from Food Plymouth joined as a director. Our keynote presentation from Manda Brookman of Coast:One Planet Tourism was inspiring and informative, you can download a copy of the presentation here. We also heard from Salford University, City College Plymouth, Power to Change and Exeter University. You can read the minutes and notes here.