Public sector spending cuts are leaving some of the most disadvantaged groups in our communities without the support they need. Not only are public services being withdrawn, but many charities, voluntary and community groups that have been delivering vital services to vulnerable individuals are struggling to keep going without grant aid. They are being encouraged to trade to generate the income they need; to become social enterprises.
Public sector workers are being encouraged to consider setting up social enterprises to deliver services that have previously fallen under the remit of Local Authorities or the NHS.
In addition to that there are entrepreneurs, young and old, setting up social enterprises to fill gaps they see in the market related to a whole range of environmental, health and well-being services.
By buying the goods and services you need from these social enterprises you will be helping them to survive and achieve their social or environmental objectives, which means you will be helping to save the planet and enabling some of the most disengaged groups of people feel they have a stake in society.
The Story Behind Shop for Change
iSE launched Shop for Change in July 2010 after an extensive survey of how third sector organisations were behaving in the marketplace revealed some quite shocking statistics.
The survey, which was part of iSE’s MarketMakers initiative supported by Be Birmingham, was carried out between January and April 2010 and showed:
- 35% of social enterprises did not buy any goods or services at all from within the third sector;
- Almost half spent less than 10% of their supplier-spend in the sector;
- Only 13% spent 10% – 30% of their supplier-spend in the sector;
- Less than 2% spent 50% or more of their supplier-spend in the sector.
The survey also revealed that the public sector was the dominant customer for social enterprises’ services, with 83% of the sample saying they derived 20% – 100% of their income from public sector customers. This meant that the public sector spending cuts would hit the sector hard.
As a support organisation, which had worked for over 10 years to grow the capacity of the social enterprise sector, iSE wanted to do something about this. Surely it made sense for the sector to do more to support itself!
The idea for Shop for Change was born.
The Shop for Change campaign was launched initially to raise awareness of the issue and encourage social enterprises, and other trading third sector organisations in and around Birmingham to find out about and support each other through their purchasing policies. But it soon became a national phenomenon.
In Autumn 2011, its role broadened again with a campaign aimed at commercial businesses to encourage them to buy from social enterprises as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes.
In Spring 2012 iSE Shop for Change extended its reach again with a campaign aimed at encouraging everyone to turn to social enterprises for unique gifts and treats – for themselves, their colleagues, their families and friends.
Helping to Strengthen the Marketplace
Shop for Change is not just about raising awareness of social enterprises and encouraging people to buy from them, it’s about supporting and building the social enterprise sector – helping social enterprises to trade efficiently and professionally and encouraging more entrepreneurs to start trading using the social enterprise business model.
iSE’s initial survey into the trading habits of the sector, part of its MarketMakers initiative supported by Be Birmingham in 2010, indicated that the key reasons why social enterprises and other third sector organisations were not trading more with each other were that:
- Social enterprise providers of the goods and services required did not exist – there were significant gaps in the market;
- Social enterprises, where they did exist, could be more expensive than their private sector competitors;
- Social enterprises, where they did exist, could be less convenient to use than their private sector competitors and could offer inferior quality goods and services.
iSE is still keen to address these issues, so if you encounter any of them please do give either the organisations you tried to buy from, or iSE the kind of constructive feedback that can make a difference.
iSE can work with organisations on business matters such as customer service, pricing policies and sales strategies, as well as encourage the development of new products and organisations to fill any market gaps.
Shop for Change is just one of the many ways in which iSE is supporting the growth and development of the social enterprise sector and raising awareness of its role in changing lives and communities.
To find out more visit www.i-se.co.uk.
Just Buy Campaign
Put Your Money Where It Counts
The campaign advises that if we all took the time to choose the type of businesses we buy from – without having to compromise on quality or service – more small businesses would become sustainable; creating more jobs and strengthening communities without sacrificing both vulnerable people and the planet.
For more details, or to pledge your support to Just Buy, email here.