Last week we launched an ambitious five-year plan for social enterprise in Plymouth. Why did we do this and why now?

Plymouth Social Enterprise Network (PSEN) believes that developing social enterprises is a fundamental way to help Plymouth become a better city to live and work in. Indeed, we feel confident in saying that Plymouth is already a better city because of the great work of our social enterprises, co-operatives and community businesses.

The social economy is leading the way in showing how businesses can create value for communities, individuals and in the protection of our natural world. Many of the social enterprises doing this in Plymouth are highlighted in the strategy.

But we think we can go further. We face serious social, economic and environmental problems in Plymouth and the wider world. These have been brought into sharp focus by the Covid-19 crisis. We must learn from these challenges and build back better. Simply put we need a greener, fairer economy.

We recognise that the current emergencies we are facing – such as climate crisis, inequality, poor mental health, racism and enduring poverty – are symptoms of the way that we organise our world and, particularly, our economy. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that we need to re-think our economy to ensure we tackle all these issues more effectively. This includes re-imagining the role that businesses play in our economy and society.

We want to see a city where:

  • Businesses are good for people and planet
  • People with good ideas are supported to put them into practice
  • Business ownership and wealth and power is widely shared
  • Social enterprise is central to the way we do business
  • There are a variety of social enterprise models such as co-ops, community businesses, Community Interest Companies and more
  • Social enterprise is understood and people think of it as the model of choice when setting up a business
  • Social enterprises have access to the very best business advice and investment.

Our strategy sets out a wide ranging and bold five-year vision for social enterprise in Plymouth. And for us social enterprise means co-operatives, community businesses, trading charities, community interest companies and more. If, as a city, we deliver on this strategy we think we can go a long way to delivering the vision above.

Our strategy is developed on strong foundations. In 2013 Plymouth became the UK’s first Social Enterprise City. That award – from Social Enterprise UK – recognised the scope, depth and activities of the social enterprise community in the city. The Social Enterprise City ‘badge’ has led to investment and business advice schemes; it has raised awareness of this type of business and has helped social enterprise become better understood and respected in Plymouth. But there is much more to do.

Social enterprises need great business advice, increased access to finance and markets and courageous institutional policies that enable and support. We need to stimulate start-ups, raise awareness with the general public and work in schools to inspire young minds and show that social enterprise is the past, present and future. We need to build a movement for social change through business.

The strategy builds on research we conducted with social enterprises in Plymouth in 2019 and 2020. It has been developed in partnership with a range of partners in the public and private sector and with social enterprises themselves.

Over the previous five years social enterprise has grown in our city. There are more of them. They employ more people. They work in the most disadvantaged areas of Plymouth and bring in more, much needed income to the city’s communities. But going beyond that; the last five years has shown that a better way of doing business is not a work of fiction. It is real; right here and now and it is growing. We need to continue that trajectory for the next five years.

PSEN cannot do this alone. We already work in partnership with the organizations named in the strategy and we need them and others to be bold and ambitious in creating a better world.

So, join us. Help us deliver this work and this vision over the next five years. We believe we can, collectively, create a prosperous economy for all that tackles deep-rooted social and environmental problems.

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