PSEN attended the Social Enterprise World Forum in Edinburgh last week. What an event! We’ll provide a fuller report of our experience and how the conference applies to Plymouth’s social enterprises at our network meeting on 25th September. A quick summary:
It was a fantastic, energising and stimulating week. Attended by over 1,400 people from nearly 50 different countries the event was a huge celebration of social enterprise alongside lots of politics, debate and discussion on many themes. It was chance to re-connect with old friends and make new ones. There was even some dancing at a Scottish ceilidh (less said about the attempts at this the better!)
We were able to share the work of many of our social enterprises in various events. We went to the launch of Callander as Scotland’s first social enterprise place. We also attended events on building strong networks; tech for good; marketing social enterprises; procurement and supply chain; the UN Sustainable Development Goals and more. Some salient points were:
1. There was an expressed need for more digital social enterprise businesses.
2. We need to create a compelling vision of a better future – one where social enterprise is the ‘norm’.
3. We need to engage with wider audiences (creatives, corporates, small businesses, public sector, schools, general population, etc) – we can’t just talk to ourselves.
4. The importance of political support – Scotland’s ministers seemed to really ‘get’ social enterprise and see it as integral to their economic strategies. This has led to investment and the development of a good ecosystem of support.
5. Getting large businesses to spend more with social enterprises – this will increase impact rather than putting money into CSR initiatives.
6. That social enterprise ‘structure’ and the ability to be held to account were seen as marginally more important than ‘impact’.
The most powerful moment was a brilliant talk by Bruktawit Tigabu of Whiz Kids in Ethiopia. The country struggles with low literacy and Bruktawit said that two thirds of young girls in the country think that domestic violence can be justified. A shocking statistic that illustrates why her work is so desperately needed. Ethiopia will host the 2019 Social Enterprise World Forum.
There was also a great talk by Lord Victor Adebowale, Chair of SEUK. He reminded us that as a sector we need to be more joined up. We need to make alliances in the social economy and with the private sector.
The SEWF reminded us that if we want to create a better future we need to lead or the future will be created for us. Social enterprises employ more women, people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities, young people. Social enterprises work in areas that need economic development. Social enterprises pay more fairly. We should be unashamed of this and we need to BE business. Not charity but business.
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
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.