Welcome back to the FuseBox! It's been an odd 2020 for many of us and the event's industry and social enterprise sector have been no exception. But with challenges like a global pandemic it's been hugely rewarding to see how the SocEnt sector has responded, and to celebrate that we're proud to be speaking to Andy Daly from Social Enterprise UK for our second issue of the FuseBox. If you missed our first blog do check it out.
As 2020 draws to a close we thought it would be great to speak to an organisation we hold dear to our hearts and let Andy tell us a little more about what he and the team have been up to. This blog also coincides with the launch of SEUK's Choose Communities: #BuySocial campaign which is well worth checking out, now more than ever we need to ask consumers, businesses and the public sector to show how they Choose Communities and #BuySocial
So let's kick things off.... again... and hear from Andy. You can find out more about the SEUK here
Who are you and why are you here?
I’m Andy and I work in the corporate partnerships team at Social Enterprise UK (SEUK). Why am I here? I’m here to help the wider business community use their scale for good and engage with the social enterprise movement. An example is our supply chain work. The scale of the opportunity is clear. If you look at the average FTSE100 company their annual procurement spend usually runs into the billions of pounds, and our team helps these businesses to turn as much of this procurement spend as possible into ‘social procurement’ – sourcing from social enterprise suppliers. Becoming and remaining a supplier to large businesses like this is rarely a straightforward or quick process, but happy to report that we’re seeing more and success stories. From catering to coding, from venue hire to video production, from websites to workwear, by engaging with social enterprise suppliers these companies can make sure society benefits from their day-to-day business spend.
COVID has had a huge impact across the whole economy. How is the social enterprise sector holding up?
There’s no getting away from the fact that cashflow has been a major issue in lots of cases. Activity has increased in some sectors (such as health and social care) but more often activity has fallen, and in some cases it has fallen significantly.
But we are also seeing great resilience and innovation. Our latest research shows that most social enterprises have altered their business model in some way, either temporarily or permanently. New products and services are being brought to market. Nearly a third of social enterprises have provided targeted support to those most in need because of COVID.
It’s interesting to look at what social enterprises are expecting to see over the next 6 months. More than half of them expect to maintain a similar position or to grow. But ‘Uncertain’ was the most common response – a clear reflection of the times we are going through.
You mentioned innovations. Any examples you can share…
I’ll give just one, and it’s an organisation that you guys at Fuse know very well. Connection Crew CIC are well-known for their logistics and crewing in the events industry. Their training programme supports people who have experienced homelessness into employment. They spotted that lots of businesses need to close or reconfigure their offices to reflect new ways of working, and their teams can provide the manpower. They also happen to be developing a virtual event platform to replace a physical exhibition stand or conference. It uses VR technology and gives online attendees the ability to interact with content such as live video streams. We won’t be back in offices or at corporate conferences in large numbers anytime soon, so I’m sure lots of businesses will see the value in what Connection Crew are offering here.
Apart from Fuse, do you have any favourite social enterprises?
I sometimes get into trouble for naming my favourite social enterprises so I’m going to avoid UK social enterprises and go for Mondragon, a corporation and federation of worker cooperatives based in the Basque region of Spain. The firm has global sales of 12 billion euros and a workforce of about 75,000. It’s a very democratic set-up in terms of decision-making and I love the flexibility in the model in the way it protects jobs. If one of the co-ops within the group has an excess of members, then people are relocated to other co-ops within the group. I think it’s a great example of how business can be done differently and at an impressive scale too.
It’s a classic interview question, but where would you like to see SEUK and the Social Enterprise Sector in five years?
There has been much talk in recent years of the need to move towards a Social Economy, and right now it feels like this may be quite close. What it looks like exactly is impossible to predict, but social enterprises will surely be at the heart of it. We currently have approximately 100,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing £60 billion to GDP and accounting for 5% of total employment. Five years down the line, could we be looking at 150,000 social enterprises? I don’t see why not.
What are you and your team most proud of?
It might seem a boring answer, but membership underpins everything we do at SEUK and we’re delighted to see more and more members coming onboard. Membership has almost doubled since I joined SEUK nearly two years ago, and it has even continued to grow throughout the recent lockdown. We’re proud to represent the views of thousands of social enterprises up and down the country, and the Choose Communities: Buy Social campaign which kicks off today is another chance for our members to show that social enterprise is the future of business. #BuySocial is the hashtag to use to get involved.
Who was your childhood hero?
Most of my childhood heroes were Manchester United footballers. I’m from Manchester before you ask. There are a couple of people I met in my 30s who I’d describe as heroes as they led me to switch to a different kind of career. I loved the way they choose their next job or project based on three factors – (a) is it a development opportunity? (b) is it going to have a positive impact on the world? and (c) is it fun? Seems pretty obvious now but back then it was an eye-opener.
Do you think they would be proud of the work you do?
I think so. But they’d also continue to ask probing questions based on those three factors!
The best piece of work or life advice you ever received is....
Things are not always black or white. Get used to the grey!
We'd like to thank Andy and the team at SEUK for taking the time to contribute to our blog, if you'd like to take part in the FuseBox blog then please follow us on Twitter @FuseEvents_UK and drop us a message, or alternatively please drop the team a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
We're passionate about supporting and promoting the Social Enterprise sector, so if you have a story to tell or something inspiring to share then please get in touch.