Could Cambridgeshire's new social enterprise status change our buying habits?
They help tackle homelessness, unemployment, disability, financial exclusion and other challenges.
And now Cambridgeshire’s estimated 175 social enterprises have earned the county special status as a hotbed of activity for businesses that generate profit for good causes.
Cambridgeshire’s new ‘Social enterprise place’ status – awarded to just 19 areas across the UK – was announced last week at the Allia Future Business Centre in Cambridge on Social Enterprise Day.
It is hoped the status could even help change consumer buying habits.
Among those speaking was Rachel Newell, social enterprise manager at Wintercomfort, the Cambridge homeless charity being supported by the Cambridge Independent’s £10,000 winter appeal.
“We are so pleased that Cambridge has gained social enterprise place status,” she said. “It really highlights the importance of social enterprises as a way of doing business and builds a culture of ‘buying social’.
“Social enterprise is no longer on the backbench, but a frontrunner in the local economy.”
Martin Clark, deputy CEO of Allia, a charity that aims to create positive impact for people, planet or place through enterprise, said: “There has never been a better time for anyone in Cambridgeshire wanting to start or grow a social enterprise.
“There is plenty of support already available from organisations including Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge Social Ventures and our own Allia Serious Impact programme, but ‘place’ status means we can be even more ambitious in our region.
“One of our aims will be to produce a directory of social enterprises which describes their products and services and over the next few years all of the organisations involved with this award intend to build a stronger culture in Cambridgeshire of ‘buying social’ and social innovation.”
Nick Temple, deputy CEO of Social Enterprise UK said: “Cambridgeshire joins a number of social enterprises places which are reinjecting life into local communities and local economies across the UK, creating opportunities and wealth, often where they’re needed most.
“The gap between rich and poor is growing, and so the potential of social enterprise to regenerate communities and to build a more inclusive economy is something that needs to be embraced.”
Cambridge City Council leader Cllr Lewis Herbert said the status would provide extra support and recognition for such businesses.
“Social enterprises add unique strengths in Cambridge,” he said. “They deliver community services working with councils, and increase the sustainability of the voluntary sector by running successful businesses and earning extra income, while also ensuring they deliver on their commendable social and environmental objectives too.”
A survey by Social Enterprise East of England found that 55 per cent of such businesses in Cambridgeshire reported growth in the last year. Nationwide in 2015, social enterprises employed around 1 million people.