In 2008, following conversations at Pool Innovation Centre and later after meetings in Truro, resonating in my mind was that social enterprise held solutions to a wide range of inequities. En-route to co-establishing Fotonow as a CIC in 2009, the ideas of Bob Northey, a social enterprise development worker in Cornwall, chimed well with my perceived values and social enterprise felt a good shape to grow through.
Now, 15 years later, and with an unbroken exploration of social enterprise through many experiences, as a Director for Plymouth Social Enterprise Network and Jabulani CIC, that conviction for the potential of social enterprise to be an agent of profound social transformation remains. In 2009, Plymouth felt like a wild west of social enterprise, but I’ve watched how its culture has steadily permeated and defines our City.
In 2024, PSEN’s Anti-Racism Plan, seeks to define these values in the potential of transformative action: placing equity, and intentional anti-racist behaviour into the core structure of the enterprise, in support of evolving the values that underpin the network in the membership. To be a fit for purpose Social Enterprise City for the next ten years and beyond, this strategy is a vital foundation for the direction we travel.
Through social enterprise we nurture a culture for our children, and as a father to multiracial English girls, I hope they’ll see an improving Plymouth in which they say to themselves that this is a city I want to grow my business in; a city in which I clearly see myself; a city where young multi-ethnic people are confidently doing enterprise on their terms; a city that supports and vibrates with the multi-ethnic children of rural and urban England.
Social Enterprise in Plymouth must be a conscious part of the solution to the inequity experienced by people of colour. This anti-racism plan provides a compass to clearly consider anti-racist activity within our network. It presents a method to sustain us in being true to our values through making deliberate actions to be an ally against racism. Saying we’re not racist is not enough. Our actions are louder than our words.
As we approach the end of the Barrow Cadbury funded Building Bridges & Pathways project, I would like to express huge thanks to Curtis from Disability Enabling Network; Nadine from Makers Mews; Stu and Anne from NeuDICE; Alan and Mark from Pride in Plymouth; and Chi, Slain and Rachel from WonderZoo. They are the leaders of small scale, big ambition, locally based organisations who stepped up to be our project partners on this learning journey. They have been sharing their lived experiences of being social entrepreneurs from groups who are under-represented in the social investment landscape – people who identify as BAME, Female, LGBTQ+, Physically Disabled and/or Neurodivergent.
At the end of last year, we worked with Chloe Tingle from Lend a Helping Hand to create a Theory of Change. In this session, our partners told us that one of the biggest barriers to applying for finance is that the opportunities, structures and processes have been created by and are aimed at dominant cultures. This can lead to an ‘Us & Them’ culture where it is easy to make assumptions and cast judgements – both ways.
When we asked what needed to change, they said they wanted a better human experience of social investment. They asked for more inclusive spaces, where investors and investees are considered equal partners working towards the common goal of a greener, fairer, better Plymouth for everyone. They asked for safe spaces, where it is ok to have an open, honest and frank conversation about what we have to offer each other and what will enable us to take the next steps towards growing our social impact.
Our Theory of Change is a living document which will guide PSEN to create events and curate experiences which answer this call to action. It maps out what a better human experience of social investment would look like and what PSEN can advocate for to the wider social investment sector. And it has informed the design of our finale event – Plymouth! Are You Ready For Us?! Will be a face to face opportunity to meet the people behind the application portals
There are two final actions in this phase of the Building Bridges & Pathways project and you are invited to engage with us:
1) Our Social Investment Event. Delivered in partnership with SIB, this is the grand finale of our Barrow Cadbury funded series of events.
The morning session is open to all. It will introduce the funders and explain what Social Investment is and why people choose that route to growth. For more information and to book your place, please see our Eventbrite listing.
The afternoon session is by invitation only and is for organisations which are likely to be ready to take on investment in the next 6-12 months. If you think you are ready for this conversation, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) We are thrilled to have a University of Plymouth Intern from the School for Society and Culture join us for six weeks.
Ishita is researching how diverse the PSEN membership is, when compared to our local Plymouth population and national social enterprise sector. Her research aligns to PSEN’s core value of working in a collaborative, fair and inclusive way. It will inform the team on how to best to ensure that match our ambitions with our actions.
Please get involved and support the PSEN team on their learning journey by engaging in any requests to take part in a diversity survey or focus group.
And… this is just the beginning!
The past year has shown us that there is so much scope and need for Building Bridges & Pathways across our city and beyond. So watch this space for Phase Two, coming soon!
As we step into 2024, the landscape ahead seems both familiar and challenging. The echoes of 2023 linger, with new geopolitical tensions and General Elections looming in the UK and the USA. Amidst this global backdrop, Plymouth – the Social Enterprise City, stands as a beacon of success, riding high on a triumphant Ten-Year Anniversary.
Our accomplishments resonate nationally, impressing Social Enterprise UK and capturing the interest of SIB Group. Hanna Latif, SIB’s Partnership Manager, witnessed our festival launch event, paving the way for their funding and investment partners to experience the vibrant social enterprise scene in Plymouth this coming February. The heart of PSEN lies in its engaged members, ready to build on this momentum.
At the festival, the message was clear: “We are PSEN, but YOU are Plymouth’s Social Enterprise Network.” Unpacking this, PSEN is more than an entity; it’s a community driven by individual members, the lifeblood of the network. Our members are networked into groups and communities that connect up our city and reach far beyond it. Amerie, Matt, Gareth, and the Board constitute the machine, with PSEN’s existence dependent on the synergy between the machine and its members.
However, a health check of the machine reveals financial challenges. While reserves exist, key team members face contract deadlines. Monthly running costs outpace income from membership fees, prompting a critical review. The team is diligently working on two solutions.
Firstly, the exploration of a revamped membership model and fee structure aims to ensure sustainability. The unchanged fee and offer for seven years prompt a need for innovation. Could deeper partnerships and sponsorship from organisations in Plymouth and beyond be the answer? These questions highlight the intricate balance between power, association, and equity, requiring careful consideration.
Secondly, developing financially rewarding links to funders and financers. The SIB opportunity adds an exciting dimension. If members succeed in securing finance through SIB, PSEN benefits. Proactive support and mentoring increase success rates, prompting PSEN to consider applying to SIB itself.
The transparency in sharing the financial snapshot emphasises that PSEN is the community’s network. The challenges we face are not hidden; they’re part of our collective journey. This year, as we navigate a challenging landscape, collaboration becomes paramount. The call is not just to members but to collaborators and partners.
To this end, the final calls to action are powerful:
Work together. Whether it is prioritising your procurement from a fellow member of this network, forming a partnership to win a contract, remember that you are not alone, and that we are stronger together.
Strengthen our collective social media voice – when we or you post, we can all post and amplify our collective message. The power of our network lies in its unity.
Remember to send PSEN your news – from social impact success to events. Share your stories, and the whole network shares in your achievements.
Looking ahead, start thinking about the Social Enterprise City Festival 2024 NOW. ‘What is already in your calendar? What can you start planning for now? This is our festival so let’s use it to showcase your work while enjoying the benefit of the PSEN machine’s amplification.
This is a valuable chance for members to ponder their organisation’s priorities and challenges, envision ways PSEN the network and PSEN the machine can help, and identify contributions to potential collaborations or partnerships. Together, as collaborators and partners, we can navigate the challenges that lie ahead.
You are on your way!
Please fill in the information in the fields on the left, select your payment method and then click “Sign Up”. Follow any additional instructions and if you have any problems, use the Contact Us link to let us know. Thanks for joining the Plymouth Social Enterprise Network as a member, your support and activity in this thriving community keeps us all working towards a better and fairer tomorrow.