People are now switching on to the potential of ‘social enterprise’; it’s been rising up the policy agenda for years and awareness is now reaching consumers everywhere. But what is it? How many social enterprises are out there? What contribution do they make? These are all very sensible questions, but ones that have proven difficult to answer so far. Past attempts to ‘map’ the social enterprise ‘sector’ have been patchy or poor. But we like a challenge; that’s why we worked with Glasgow Social Enterprise Network (GSEN) to test an ambitious new method of finally establishing the scale, characteristics and contribution of social enterprise.
So how did we pull off this ambitious project? It required some innovation and a lot of legwork. The main aspects were –
- The database. We sourced all of the main company/charity data and cross-matched this using a new method. We then screened and verified likely social enterprises in the city against a detailed working definition to produce an accurate database of 509 social enterprises.
- The financial analysis. We carried out a full and objective analysis based on audited accounts where available. This involved extracting, aggregating, analysing, and benchmarking financial data for more than 413 social enterprises (based on various financial ratios).
- The survey. We carried out a large scale-survey of the entire ‘population’ of social enterprises (online and telephone). This gathered further data from more than one-quarter of all social enterprises in the city, and helped to fill gaps in our understanding of the characteristics, barriers and prospects.
- The report. We collated, analysed and triangulated data from the various sources and produced our report. This was designed to tell the story in a clear and compelling way using narrative, numbers, and infographics.
So what’s been achieved? Well, we’ve been told that this is a ground-breaking piece of work – possibly the most comprehensive analysis yet of social enterprise in any locality. Most importantly, it provides the type of evidence that’s needed by GSEN to make its case and influence public policy. There’s a database in place that can drive membership development and help to build a vibrant community of social enterprises. The numbers are in themselves important and have already opened many people’s eyes about the true scale and significance of the sector (collective turnover of £767m, 10,400 jobs, etc.). Importantly for us, it has helped to open up debate on how best to help this fledgling sector to further develop and flourish.
“Our goal was always ambitious, our brief set to provide a clear picture of the scale and role social enterprise plays in Glasgow and working with Social Value Lab has made our ambition a reality. The team completely understood the significance of this research, their knowledge of the sector is outstanding and the whole process was conducted in a manner which provided us with extreme confidence throughout. Our thanks go to the team at Social Value Lab as this research enables us to set in stone the importance of social enterprise in the city.”
Download a copy of the full report here.