ESF Works

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ESF and social enterprise

Extracted from ESF Works ezine 27 Jul 12

Hello and welcome to the latest issue of the ESF-Works ezine.

This week, we focus on the theme of social enterprise. Social enterprises are growing in popularity as a way of harnessing business and entrepreneurial thinking to social goals, and ESF is playing an important role in supporting the development of new, autonomous enterprises designed to move people closer to employment at the same time as developing a sustainable business base.

The roots of social enterprise

Social enterprise has solid roots in the philanthropic beliefs of Quaker businesses such as Cadbury, in the co-operative movement, and “ethical” businesses. Social Enterprise UK is a good starting place for information on the social enterprise landscape and links to all sorts of resources. There has never before been more support and incentive for social enterprise development, and this growing sector is increasingly diverse and innovative.

ESF supports social enterprise in England in a number of ways:

NOMs supporting social enterprise

Bike Works, a London-based social enterprise, recycles repairs and refurbishes second-hand bicycles.The organisation secured funding from NOMS ESF to deliver training to Her Majesty's Prison (HMP) The Mount to train inmates in bike reparation work. The bikes are supplied by the Metropolitan Police, and when repaired are either used in the community or sold on.

Investing in the development of social enterprises

Many social enterprises are built on innovative ideas combined with established business principles. The ESF Innovation, Transnationality and Mainstreaming programme has a funding stream devoted to supporting social enterprise. Catalyst Pluss addressed the issue of the under-representation of people with a learning disability in the workplace with a focus on supporting this group to gain work experience and employment through social enterprise.

Working with existing social enterprises

The Fifteen Cornwall organisation, supported by ESF, has gained a high profile for its work offering high end catering opportunities to disadvantaged young people. With some 20 graduates a year gaining industry leading qualifications and experience, the project not only benefits individuals but champions local produce and acts as a tourist destination in its own right.