USE IT | Catalysing Social Change in Birmingham

What’s it all about

For the past 12 months iSE has been working on an innovative new project, USE IT! (Unlocking Social and Economic Innovation Together). ISE’s role in this 3 year project, funded by ERDF part of the UIA programme is to work in Ladywood, Handsworth and Smethwick to grow the social enterprise sector, linking local organisations to new markets, linking them to new building initiatives, tourism opportunities and the chance to supply local residents [food, health, creative etc].  Our work is delivered through a range of activities and support such as one-to-one support, events, markets, workshops, mentoring and our enterprise skills development programmes.

How we are helping

Our focus has been to work at a very grassroots level, with local individuals and groups, who are looking to change the communities in which they live. The partners that we are working with have been great at supporting and introducing people to the new Soho Social Enterprise Network (started April 2017) which runs bi-monthly with an expert speaker at each event. Everyone with an interest in social enterprise is welcome!

To help them develop their enterprise idea into a sustainable business, we are running our ‘FUSE’ SE start-up  programme that introduces all the difference aspects of running a business such as business planning, finance, marketing, product and service development, Board recruitment.

Highlights for the first 12 months of delivery through 2017 include:

- 8 new SE start-ups.

- 3 grants to local social enterprises through our Enterprise Challenge Fund.

- 3 local markets selling social enterprise products and services.

- A programme of workshops and support around social value and how to describe the work of social enterprises.

- A crowd funding workshop.

- A new consortia development to support access to new business opportunities.

A range of resources and toolkits are available, with more being developed, and can be found on the new Soho social enterprise network website http://sohosen.org.uk/

Does it really make a difference

Feed My Creative Dec 2017Janet Gray, Founder of Feed My Creative, says of the USE IT project, ‘Since being invited to my first network meeting, I have found the support from the USE IT programme to be amazing. I have been able to network with other members in addition to support from the team as well as other members. 

I had the opportunity to display and sell some of my repurposed textiles products at the Christmas market, which again was a great opportunity to network with so many people. 

I have also been supported on a regular basis with my CIC registration application. I found the whole application process confusing but the support through email, face to face and via the telephone has been brilliant which has enabled me to rectify errors as well as suggestions on where I could improve some areas.  

I would definitely recommend the USE IT programme to other social enterprises to gain invaluable support and look forward to working with them again.’

Source: Janet Gray, Feed My Creative | http://www.feedmycreative.com/  | @feedmycreative
Image: SOCIAL ENTERPRISE MARKETPLACE (December 2017, Soho House B18 5LB)

Plans for 2018

As we begin a new year, we are excited to see our new social entrepreneurs progress with their enterprises and will be continuing to catalyse their creativity, innovation and knowledge.

Plans for further consortia development, more knowledge-based workshops, a schools’ engagement programme for work experience, volunteering matching and work experience placement…. it’s going to be a busy 2018 and we’re excited to get started!