Field Study: UK

Field Study [n.]: Preliminary research

Since my initial field visits to the UK I have been able to update this post with the most recent study of social enterprise in the UK,  published on 15 September, 2015 by Social Enterprise UK. Supported by Santander, Social Enterprise UK surveyed 1,159 social enterprises via phone and online surveys. To date, this makes it the largest study of social enterprise in the UK. I ask every Social Venturer which countries they consider leaders in the field of supporting social entrepreneurs, and most of them respond with the UK. Let’s see what this is all about.

#SocEnt in the UK are outperforming their mainstream counterparts. Click To Tweet

The survey reports 70,000 social enterprises in the UK making up £25 billion of the UK economy providing nearly one million jobs. The study finds that social enterprise in the UK is thriving outperforming their mainstream counterparts (small and medium sized enterprises) in most business areas such as growth in turnover and workforce, job creation, innovation (how do you measure that? Serious question!), and diversity in leadership. In terms of new business formation, social enterprises score 35% compared to their commercial counterparts at 11%. 52% of social enterprises managed to increase their turnover over the last year while the conventional startup sector stands at 40%. A growing number of social enterprises (14%) have been able to enter into export or licensing, and if you are not convinced yet that social enterprise rules in the UK, let  this sink in: “With 31% of social enterprises working in the most deprived communities in the UK, the more deprived the area, the more likely you will be to find a social enterprise working there.” Doesn’t that just sound like the textbook idea of social entrepreneurship?

State of Social Enterprise Report 2015, p. 10 (link above)

State of Social Enterprise Report 2015, p. 10 (link above)

These are just some highlights from the report. An updated version of the report is published every six months so if you are interested in learning more about social enterprise trends in the UK, I highly recommend a thorough read!

In terms of actors in the social venture support landscape, it is worth mentioning Nesta and Unltd as well as the Global Social Entrepreneurship Network based within Unltd. I had an informal meeting with Nesta and had the chance to talk to Jessica Stacey who ran Nesta’s research on impact accelerators before joining Bethnal Green Ventures in 2015. Nesta has done some fantastic work in the field of startup acceleration; some of their research even focuses on impact accelerators. If you want to learn more, check out their report on Good Incubation and read up on their launch event with contributions from Banks Benitez at Unreasonable Institute and Victoria Fram at Village Capital (who you will learn more about here in the not-so-distant future). Unltd supports social entrepreneurs from idea- to growth-stage through various competitive awards programs. Initiated by Untld, the Global Social Entrepreneurship Network is a membership network for social venture support organizations from around the world. While the majority of their work takes place behind closed doors, I recommend their recently published report From Seed to Impact – Building the Foundations for a High-Impact Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem.   

Insights from GSEN's first member report, p. 21 (link above)

Insights from GSEN’s first member report, p. 21 (link above)

I went to London for a freelance gig that had me interview and film conscious business leaders at an event at the Royal Bank of Scotland. I spent two days preparing and running the interviews and had only two days to meet with Social Venturers. By no means is this going to be a complete account of social venture support organizations in the UK; it is a start at best. With that said, I was thrilled to be line up meetings with some really inspiring Social Venturers in London. I even managed a trip up North to learn more about social entrepreneurship in Scotland. I am painfully aware of how many organizations I have not been able to visit yet, and I keep a keen eye on my travel itinerary to plan my next UK visit!

For now, enjoy some first highlights of the Social Venturers and support programs I have met and grilled with questions about social entrepreneurship!


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