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LEP launches new network to boost Bristol social enterprises

It is hoped the new organisation will boost those numbers and contribute to the LEP target of 95,000 new jobs in the area over the next 20 years

The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is setting up a special network to help increase jobs in social enterprises.

Some 10,000 people are employed in 600 enterprises generating a turnover of nearly £400million. It is hoped the new organisation will boost those numbers and contribute to the LEP target of 95,000 new jobs in the area over the next 20 years.

LEP Chairman Colin Skellett said employment in social enterprises would play a significant part in the development of the local economy.

“Our task is to create jobs across every sector and to help businesses of all kinds to prosper and so to provide the broadest possible range of employment opportunities,” he said.

The new Social Enterprise Network will be initially led by a group of social entrepreneurs, practitioners and support organisations including the Bristol School for Social Entrepreneurs, Social Enterprise Works, Quartet Community Foundation and UnLtd.

The West of England LEP has provided £15,000 funding to develop the new network and an open invitation is being made to interested people to get involved.

Chair of Quartet Community Foundation and the Social Enterprise Subgroup for the LEP, Stephen Parsons added: “I am delighted that the LEP is actively supporting our drive to promote jobs growth and regeneration. Achievement of our innovative plan to develop a new social enterprise network will help both in the creation of job opportunities and also stimulate Social Value in our local communities.”

According to Government figures from 2010 there were around 62,000 organisations trading in the UK with an annual turnover of at least £24bn. More recent data shows the sector to be growing faster than mainstream SMEs, creating more jobs relative to turnover and have shown greater resilience in a tough economic climate.

Social Enterprises don’t just create growth and jobs they use business to tackle social and environmental challenges – involving communities in the process. These can be as wide ranging as urban regeneration, transport, health-care, housing and renewable energy.

The activities of this new network will be defined by the sector and key stakeholders in the coming months, however there is a current focus on greater access to opportunity, supporting growth, development and collaboration, supporting social purpose and enabling local hubs of activity.

The network plans to avoid any unnecessary duplication and create added value by promoting the work of existing business and VCS service providers and building upon existing training and support available.

Through Social Enterprise Works, WoE SEN are mapping businesses in the region, creating an online map and a build on a directory open to all, helping making the case for more resource, funding or investment to support social purpose businesses.

The Network will be launched by the end of March 2013, following a series of open engagement events.

For more information or to share your views, join the discussion on LinkedIn or follow the updates on Twitter. Or visit www.socialenterpriseworks.org/social-enterprise-mapping

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