In this article I describe our social enterprise event at the University of Northampton. Five social enterprises came to meet the students and talk about what they do and furthermore, how they do it.
What’s Social Saturday?
This is a national event ran each year. It’s coordinated by a non-profit membership organisation named Social Enterprise UK who promotes social enterprise. Consequently, Social Saturday has the purpose of raising the profile of social enterprises in the UK.
What’s a social enterprise? There’s a number of definitions for this so I might as well give you mine. I think its:
A commercial business with a social mission.
Northampton’s Social Saturday event
As I’m involved in the University of Northampton as a lecturer, it’s fortunate that I was able to do this event at the university this year.
The five local social enterprises that I invited all agreed to come along and present to the students.
One major upside of involving the students was that they could learn about how social enterprises work in practice. They’d also have the chance to network with the organisations to explore opportunities. For instance they could discuss possibilities around getting some work experience with one of the organisations.
Inviting the students was a success. Of the students that attended, four went ahead and became volunteers. This will be great for their CVs and will help them gain valuable industry knowledge.
So let’s dive straight in and hear a little about each presenter in the order that they appeared.
The Northamptonshire Credit Union
James Richards, general manager of the credit union, talked about how credit unions work. He described how it is like a bank, but a community bank, where the customers are its owners.
He expertly described how valuable the credit union model actually is. This is mainly because of its intense focus on the people in the community that make up its membership.
I also volunteer at the credit union myself (as a non executive board member) and have found it to be a great experience.
The Incredible Bakery
Valeria Mizuno-Turner is co-founder of the Incredible Bakery.
The company’s social purpose is to make available gluten, soya, egg and dairy-free products to the market. The story behind this mission is a very heart-warming tale.
It was set up by Valeria and her husband James after their son Leon, was born with severe egg, dairy and peanut allergies added to gluten and soya intolerance.
After getting the situation under control themselves Valeria and James decided to help others by setting up the bakery.
Robin Burgess of The Hope Centre, a dynamic homelessness charity, came along to describe how the organisation is supported by social enterprises to ensure a stability of income.
The charity’s purpose is beautifully described on its homepage and goes as follows:
We work to relieve poverty and tackle the causes of homelessness in Northampton by giving people a hand up not a hand out.
We all know that charities run mostly on donations from those who believe in the purpose of that charity. When we donate we have no expectation of receiving goods or services in return, we’re simply happy knowing we’ve supported a worthy cause.
Hope Centre Enterprises takes this a step further by setting up satellite social enterprises. These businesses donate their profits to the charity effectively creating new extra donations by way of doing commercial trade.
Mike Britton started Goodwill Solutions in 2008 with the purpose of helping the community. It does this through the creation of various projects and schemes designed to improve social welfare.
Since then they’ve been prospering and they pass that good fortune on. They’ve created programmes to train ex-offenders and armed service personnel,for employment in the logistics sector. Former homeless and long-term unemployed people also join the business.
Mike talked to the students about the considerable success of the company (now turning over more than £8m annually). It shows that a well organised social enterprise can make a considerable impact for good in the community.
Post event progress
Since the event the credit union had a 20th birthday party event at which it announced its re-branding to “Harvest Money”. This move from its original name took place over the last year in consultation with the members.
Myself and Richard, one of the new volunteers took out the new banner for its first roadshow at the university a week after Social Saturday.
All four volunteers attended an orienteering meeting at the credit union on 8th November. They’re scheduled to start their work experience week commencing 14th November – welcome Harvest Money.
Friendships and partnerships rose out of the activities. Elsie’s and Valeria will be coordinating in future regarding her own stocks. I’m also progressing a consultation on a student entrepreneurship student society with two of the students that attended. There’s also a very valuable body of students that helped out on the day that I’m keeping updated with all our latest activities.
Thank you to all five businesses!
Thank you students!