New national support service for social enterprise sector unveiled by University of Northampton

‘Inspire2Enterprise’ has been piloted in nine counties for the past six months, benefitting more than 1000 social enterprises in the process, and is now being rolled out nationwide.

It offers those engaged in social enterprise and third sector trading a range of free services include guidance on starting up a social enterprise, advice on managing and operating a social enterprise, support with operational and financial planning, and also with strategy, organisational and market development.

Initial support services are delivered remotely via telephone, email and online by specialist advisors. These free services are supplemented by optional, paid for, face-to-face advice, coaching, mentoring and training, provided by a network of regional delivery partners.

The scheme is geared towards those thinking of setting up a social enterprise, entrepreneurs in the early stages of starting up a social enterprise, established enterprises looking to grow their organisation, third sector organisations looking to trade through social enterprise, and private organisations seeking to create social value through corporate social responsibility.

Professor Simon Denny, the University’s Social Enterprise Development Director, said: “Figures show that there are over 60,000 social enterprises in the UK, employing around 800,000 people nationwide, and contributing at least £24 billion to the economy. In the coming years the sector stands to benefit as central government, local authorities and the wider public sector look to social enterprises for new ways to address social challenges and achieve greater social and economic value.”

“Increasingly the private sector also recognises the benefits associated with social enterprise, with many organisations now beginning to invest in social enterprises as a means of contributing or ‘giving back’ to society, thereby deriving a demonstrable social, as well as a financial return on corporate investment.”

“Historically social enterprises have struggled with accessing affordable, qualified, practical support particularly during the key phases of enterprise start-up and growth. There has not been, until now, a dedicated service for the sector providing an accessible range of specialist advice, intelligence, research and training.”

Malcolm Williamson, Head of Enterprise Support Services at Exemplas, said: “During these challenging economic times, supporting social enterprise is essential for both regional and national prosperity and, critically, for ensuring the significant social impact and related benefits associated with the work undertaken by social enterprises continues. The Inspire2Enterprise team has an intimate knowledge and understanding of the specific needs of the sector and the support that is required to help individuals to start-up, and established enterprises survive and grow. The universally positive feedback we’ve received from clients demonstrates the extent of the market need, and is testament to the quality, appropriateness and effectiveness of the service we provide.”

The University of Northampton’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Petford, added: “In addition to directly supporting our students and staff to learn about, set up and run social enterprises, we are investing in selected social enterprises directly, and supporting the entire sector. Inspire2Enterprise has been a huge investment for us, but it is an investment we are proud to make, as we know that with the right support, social enterprises can do even better. Inspire2Enterprise will enable them to deliver sustainable social impact and change. We looked at potential partners for Inspire2Enterprise very carefully and Exemplas stood out as the obvious choice for us to work with. Their commitment to customers and the quality of what they do mirrors our values. The Northampton-Exemplas team is a very powerful new alliance for the social enterprise sector.”

The launch of Inspire2Enterprise takes place at a reception at One Great George Street, Westminster, starting at 6pm on Tuesday 12 June. The event will also see Professor Petford unveil his “£1 billion University Challenge”, encouraging UK universities to spend at least £1 billion of the £7 billion per annum they currently spend on procuring goods and services from external suppliers, with social enterprises.