03 March 2011


I've just returned from a trip to Footsey, a social enterprise trade fair which took place at Doncaster racecourse. I've written briefly about what social enterprises are in a previous post, but I have to admit that abstract definitions and my initial reading on the topic hadn't really prepared me for the variety and breadth of social enterprise activity represented at today's event (and most were just from the Yorkshire and Humberside region). Stalls included social enterprises, funding and investment organisations and networking and support groups. Most of the people I spoke to seemed genuinely interested in my research, with a range of opinions about the significance of libraries in providing information for social enterprise.

I also attended a question and answer session and a couple of workshops (one by Doncaster West Development Trust about social enterprises and public sector contracts and another about a soon to be launched social enterprise emerging from an NHS organisation). Key themes emerging from these sessions included:
  • The challenge of securing investment in the current climate, with the loss of revenue streams affected by public sector cuts - the recent Growing the social investment market document was mentioned, outlining government thinking about opportunities for new forms of social investment;

  • The range of opinions (positive and negative) about the potential impact of government policies - such as the bills currently before Parliament about localism and the reorganisation of the NHS - on social enterprise;

  • The importance of networks - between social enterprises, but also as widely as possible with other organisations, such as local authorities, health and social care organisations and the private sector;

  • The challenge of providing staff learning and development opportunities within social enterprises - for example, in order to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to compete effectively for contracts.

Just like Umbrella, I've managed to come away with far too many leaflets and other bits of ephemera - it may take me a while to read them all...

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