September 28, 2009

Social Economy 101 – UK

Filed under: social economy 101 — benmetz @ 2:11 pm

The following is the abstract from part of a piece of work I’m just completing – mapping the social economies of a number of countries across the world.  It’s by no means comprehensive, certainly not in this abridged form, but I think it’s a nice little vignette of the UK social economy.  Collectively I reckon they’ll make a good series and justify a new category on my blog – social economy 101…

Social Economy 101 – UK

Social enterprise in the UK has a long history, from the cooperative movement and mutual organisations of the nineteenth century to the long-standing trading activities of many charities.  The mid 90’s saw a rebranding of cooperatives as social enterprise take on a life of its own, leading to the building of the current movement and the government embracing the concept.  In 2002, the government launched a Social Enterprise Strategy and set up a Social Enterprise Unit to co-ordinate its implementation. This was established within the Department of Trade and Industry, and in 2006 became part of the newly created Office of the Third Sector, within the Cabinet Office.

There are more than 62,000 social enterprises in the UK, employing over half a million people, with a combined turnover of more than £27bn a year. Social enterprises account for 5 per cent of all businesses with employees and contribute £8.4bn a year to the UK economy. The vast majority of social enterprises in the UK can be considered small with only 19% having turnovers of more than £1million, are predominantly urban based (89%) and have a staff comprising, on average of 40% volunteers.

Support services to the social economy in the UK are well developed but not yet fully mature.  Many support functions are well provided, especially geographic and sector specific support to nascent and early stage social enterprises and social entrepreneurs.  The Social Enterprise Coalition, the national trade association and representative body for social enterprise, lobbies government on behalf of the sector and co-ordinates across support bodies delivering business advice and capacity building in each of the UK regions.

Conversations with a range of leading figures in the UK’s social economy have identified the following areas as key opportunities available to social enterprise in the coming years: Increasing public service delivery by social enterprise; Asset based development; Relocalisation and the provision of missing middle social finance.


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