Abstracts: July 28th, 2014

Social enterprises and rural development are important in helping Local Enterprise Partnerships to achieve their objectives according to new research.

Research by Defra found LEPs value and positively engage with the rural social enterprise sector. The interviews also revealed the benefits of this, including the ability of social enterprises to support economic growth and create employment opportunities, and help to meet social objectives.

Social enterprises are businesses for social purposes. They come in many forms but what they all have in common is that they trade to tackle social problems, improve communities and people’s life changes or environmental problems. The social enterprise sector is growing faster than the wider economy. And as well as social enterprise being a growth area, it is also an enabler of rural growth, for example by retaining shops, pubs and other services.

The research also revealed that rural social enterprises can offer LEPs many advantages to help them meet their growth objectives that private businesses find challenging to replicate. These advantages can include the creation of more jobs and employment of more people relative to turnover than mainstream small businesses as identified in Social Enterprise UK’s “Fightback Britain” report.

Rural social enterprises have the capacity to create more jobs and employment of more people relative to turnover than mainstream small businesses. They also make an increasing contribution to the UK economy. The median annual turnover of social enterprises has grown from £175,000 in the 2009 survey to £240,000 in this year?s survey.

The Plunkett Foundation?s 2012 report on the “UK’s Community Retail” sector also identified that the total turnover of the community-owned shop sector was £43m, a growth of 34% on the previous year. Like-for-like sales increased by 9.6% also. The percentage of new store openings of community-owned shops outstripped all main supermarket chains apart from Sainsbury?s.

In 2013, there were 6,169 co-operatives in the UK that together turned over £36.7b as identified in the Co-operative UK’s “The Co-operative Economy 2013”.

Rural social enterprises reach the most deprived communities. Social Enterprise’s report also found that 39% of all social enterprises work in the 20% of most deprived communities in the UK compared to 13% of standard businesses. The more deprived the community, the more likely you will find a social enterprise working there. They also provide higher levels of support from the communities in which they are based, addressing social inclusion issues and offering opportunities to disadvantaged groups.