Social Enterprise Strategy – Evidence Review Summary

Social Enterprise Strategy – Evidence Review Summary
Chris Dabbs, Unlimited Potential
December 2014



This evidence review was run on behalf of New Economy to ask for evidence of what has worked in supporting social enterprise in urban areas and what lessons might be learned for Greater Manchester. It was hoped that that any such examples will provide substantive support for the case in Greater Manchester.


Specifically, respondents were asked for good evidence of any social enterprise strategies within the UK, Europe or beyond having significant impact, including in terms of social enterprise growth, economic impact, public service reform, etc.


Evidence and views were gathered from 12 national social enterprise organisations covering Northern Ireland, Scotland, South Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Wales.


Key learning
·      There is little hard evidence for the effectiveness of social enterprise strategies. It is difficult to demonstrate a strong link between written strategies and what actually happens on the ground.
·      What evidence exists is not coherently brought together. The outstanding example most cited is Social Enterprise in Glasgow. Scale as well as substance (Social Value Lab for Glasgow Social Enterprise Network, 2013).
·      Strategies require better data from which to plan, and better tools for impact assessment.
·      Broader strategies that are not specific to social enterprise – economic, social, environmental, innovation, etc. – should explicitly incorporate social enterprise and have it embedded within implementation plans. This requires support at the most senior levels.
·      Within the United Kingdom, the best social enterprise strategies were generally seen as being within Scotland.
·      Strategies should be clear on what they seek to achieve and define carefully what kind of social enterprise is being encouraged.
·      Distinct consideration should be given to support for social entrepreneurs, start-up social enterprises, and scaling up.
·      Where things are working best, there is a mix of (business) support, (appropriate) finance and (informed) markets. The latter can be general public, public sector commissioners, the social sector itself or the private sector.
·      Any strategy should think not only about business and peer support, and about local financing mechanisms, but also crucially about the local markets (perhaps through ‘deep’ place-based approaches).
·      Tangible deliverables are essential within any implementation plan.
·      There is a risk of ‘representative’ social enterprise organisations getting too close to and forming cosy relationships with government at all levels.


Chris Dabbs
Director of Innovation