Last week, I was talking to Ann, representative of one of our Silver Social Firm members, in our routine monthly phone call when she asked the very good question why different support and membership bodies for the social enterprise sector don’t work together.
A good question, with a great answer.
The reality is that the bodies do work together in quite sensible ways. It is important to all of us that we work in a respectful partnership that ensures the least amount of duplication, but maintains the specific specialisms and expertise for different kinds of social enterprise or local area.
Working Together – The State of Social Enterprise Survey 2015
One recent example is Social Enterprise UK’s State of Social Enterprise Survey 2015 which has been taking place over the past few months.
We worked with SEUK both to review the questions to ensure that the results would be useful to the social firm sector, and to promote the survey to ensure that as many employment and employability social firms as possible responded.
We chose to support this survey, rather than carry out separate mapping exercises as we have done in the past, in order to relate the anonymised data about social firms back to the national picture about social enterprise in general.
This will establish a bedrock of social firm data that we can use to build further – if there is a need & value – rather than duplicating questions to busy social firms.
The full information won’t be available until later in the year, and so we can’t provide specific social firm data until then.
However, headline figures for the wider social enterprise sector have been worked through for release just ahead of the general election – and they show that social enterprises form a diverse sector exceeding expectations in both growth and impact.
What Does the Survey Tell Us?
Over half of social enterprises have seen an increase in their turnover in the last year. This is being partly driven by innovation, with 59% of organisations having developed new products and services in 2014. More than 50% of businesses in the sector are less than five years old.
On diversity, the sector vastly outperforms regular businesses, with 40% of social enterprises now led by a woman and 11% of leaders from a minority ethnic background. This compares to only 18% and 7% amongst regular small businesses.
The last year saw a slight fall in trading with the general public, but a greater number of social enterprises are trading with both the public and private sectors. More surprisingly for a sector full of small local businesses, 14% of them are exporting their product overseas.
The State of Social Enterprise Survey 2015 received 1159 social enterprise response across the UK and was compared to data on gender and ethnicity in small businesses taken from BIS’s Small Business Survey 2014.
The full State of Social Enterprise Survey 2015 will be published later this year.
What is the State of Social Enterprise Survey?
The State of Social Enterprise Survey is the largest source of knowledge about social enterprises in the UK. It has been run every two years since 2009 and is used by government, academics, sector bodies, and social enterprises themselves to better understand the sector: its size, its characteristics and its barriers to growth. Social Enterprise UK manages the research and has worked with other sector bodies including Social Firms UK, National Housing Federation, and UnLtd to ensure the whole sector is represented.