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MAY 2010



This document is part of the Social Enterprise East of England resource library

What is a Social Enterprise? The content in this briefing was produced as a result of a series of interviews with local councillors in February and March 2010 investigating “Supporting local social enterprise development the role of elected councillors as community leaders”.

They differ from traditional voluntary and community organisations, such as charities, in that they primarily aim to earn their income through trading activities, although they may receive grant income for the specifically social areas of their work.

What is a social enterprise?

Some well- known social enterprises include:

Social enterprises can be big small, local or national and trading in any business sector. The most commonly used definition is that they are ‘businesses with prmarily social objectives, whose surpluses are re-invested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for owners and shareholders’.

There is no specific legal definition of a social enterprise but the common legal structures are: Co-operatives - industrial and provident societies Community Interest Companies

Different social enterprises Companies Limited by Guarentee have different social agendas. These can include: • Creating jobs- especially for people who are at a disadvantage in the labour market • Providing services for people in communities • Generating an income for a specific social or environmental purpose • Enabling people to participate in delivering public services in their communities • Community cohesion

So, what is this thing




The Eden Project - a biodiversity education centre in Cornwall Coin Street Community Builders -

social housing and amenities in London

Greenwich Leisure Limited running leisure services in many London boroughs The Furniture Resource Centrerecycling furniture and supplying people in need in Liverpool Turning Point - providing health and social care to disadvantaged young people Sunlight Development Trust - runs a group of social enterprises creating jobs for adults with learning difficulties and providing local services in Kent.

But there are many social enterprises near you!

What can I do to help? There are many ways that you can help social enterprises to deliver their social goals in your area. These include: • • • • • • • •

Referring people to appropriate council officers Facilitating links between organisations Resolving premises issues - specifically relating to council owned property Promoting local social enterprises to others Identifying ways to transfer assets and services to social enterprises Creating opportunities for social enterprises to trade with the council Offering advice on where to get funding Providing funding

Councillors that we interviewed thought that the things that helped them to be effective as councillors were: • • • •

Knowing what groups and networks exist in the community and actively taking part in them Working as much as possible with other agencies Building good relationships with officers Having a politically appointed researcher to find things out - such as examples of good practise elsewhere • A weekly members’ bulletin - or access to a staff bulletin • Writing articles for the local paper

How do I find out more?

Our conclusions

The role for elected members in supporting social enterprises can include: • Identifying issues and gaps in services that could be resolved by new or existing social enterprises • Identifying communities in which a social entrepreneurial approach is present and could be developed • Supporting and promoting local social enterprises to others and particularly helping to create opportunites for social enterprises to trade with the council • Ensuring that officers are aware of the needs of social enterprises to trade with the council • Ensuring that officers are aware of the needs of social enterprises and are able to support

To find out about social enterprises that are active in your area and the organisations that are supporting them -


Social Enterprise East of England 0845 606 6296

Social Enterprise: A Briefing for Elected Members  

What is social enterprise? How can elected members help?

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