iSE | Exploring the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter

Hear from iSE’s new CEO Cathy Brown on her first month in post…

Getting under the skin of the social economy in Birmingham is both a priority and a pleasure for my first few weeks as CEO, iSE.

The team and I did an exercise to identify the key relationships, stakeholders, organisations and groups and I’ve been working through them; making connections, having conversations, drinking cups of tea, and last week, walking through a lot of Digbeth.

We visited Alicja and the team at Centrala – an art gallery specialising in experimental sound and supporting migrant and refugee artists, beautifully situated by the canal.

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We spent some time with Sue at Better Pathways, understanding the work of the oldest surviving British Industrial Therapy Association (and I got to show off my ability to distinguish between EU and UK pallets).

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Finally we ended our tour at Friction Arts, talking with Sandra about how they had supported children and artists through lockdown, as well as taking in the very impressive city vistas from their rooftop.

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Along the way we visited several Digbeth businesses that whilst not necessarily social enterprises are definitely within the ecostream of social, responsible, connected businesses – Red Brick Market (we had to come away, I need to take a day off to enjoy it properly!), Sprocket Cycles (for scooter helmet purchasing) and Alleways Confectionary (ah, those salty liquorish skulls!).

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All of these businesses had to change their operating models to survive, many were already dealing with challenges, they all had to ask for help, work with their people, customers and clients, they all had to change. That’s never an easy thing. They all did it.

Without exception, they all expressed a need to connect with other social businesses. So iSE will be doing what we do best, supporting and growing the social economy, by getting people together – look out for our first DSEQ breakfast get together soon.

Resilience in action, Digbeth waking up again.

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