29/05/19 Social Enterprise Connect event

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Following 12 month research project into the state of the Social Enterprise sector in the South West of England, funded by the Connect Fund, BSWN in partnership with Social Enterprise UK and School for Social Entrepreneur launched the findings at an event held at the University of Bristol. The research launch event was well attended by approximately 30 representatives of SEs and VCS organisations in Bristol and the South West of England.

The event opened with Sado Jirde, Director of BSWN, who offered context surrounding the journey of the project from conception to present day. Dr. Mallu Villela, Vice Chancellor’s Fellow of the University of Bristol and BSWN Researcher then presented the findings of the research, Engaging the BAME Social Enterprise Sector in Social Investment ‘. A key point highlighted in the findings was the importance of understanding the main BAME needs and barriers of social investment. For more information, the executive summary of the research can be found on the project page here.

Our first keynote speaker of the evening, Andrew O’Brien (Social Enterprise UK) held the audience captive as he called the sector to act “not only as entrepreneurs but also as political activists”. In this way, social enterprises could effectively“change the rules of the game”. 

Our second keynote speaker, Liz Hayes (Barrow Cadbury Trust, Connect Fund) introduced her organisation, their work and how they intended and wish to continue working with SEs, such as BSWN, moving forward to advocate for and convene for structural and systemic change by discovering the experiences and needs of those doing groundwork in order to identify barriers and subsequently bridge those gaps. 

Shortly after, a panel discussion was held addressing the question of the evening ‘How can the social enterprise sector be better supported to increase its impact in the City?’.  In attendance were Clive Hirst (Social Enterprise UK), Traci Lewis (SSE), Sandra Meadows (Voscur), Edward Rowberry (BBRC) and Dr. Mallu Villela and the discussion was chaired by Sibusiso Tshabalala (Cognitive Paths). Among the points raised during that discussion were:

  •  The need for demonstration of places of SEs that would serve as evidence to social investors of what they are and how they operate

  • Collaboration rather than duplication of each other’s work is key to abide by

  • A BAME SEs and VSC hub as a means to better facilitate the task of information-sharing on a city-scale is absolutely necessary

  •  SEs should adopt a business-oriented mindset which will create a demand for products and services and less reliance on grant funds etc.

Following the discussion, the audience members were given the opportunity to raise questions to the panel. What was reinforced throughout was the importance of quality and price to influence policy and business decisions, accessing help via existing avenues such as pro bono offers, volunteers (particularly students), and most importantly the creation of a BAME Hub that would serve as a means to specifically target and support SEs.

This event summary was prepared by BSWN Volunteer Catherine Huberson-Abe.