As part of GEW, Leeds Beckett is taking part in the #WhoKnew digital campaign to show off the breadth and depth of the social enterprise sector around the world and to highlight some of the research being done on the unique needs of social enterprises as businesses. The end goal of the project is to start building better structures for collaboration between social enterprises and local government, the private sector, and local key institutions such as universities.

Over the summer of 2019, Leeds Business School worked with Social Enterprise Yorkshire & Humber, the School for Social Enterprise and a number of local government partners across the Leeds City Region (LCR; a large administrative area covering all of West Yorkshire and some of North Yorkshire) to survey more than 100 organisations involved in social enterprise activity – traditional charities, social enterprise start-ups, and more – about their experiences and support needs. The study used the broad definition of social enterprise preferred by the UK Government: “a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.”

The survey showed the social enterprise sector in the LCR to be widespread, with responses received from all ten of the local authority areas surveyed, and highly diverse in terms of the sectors organisations operated in, the populations they primarily worked with, and the size and income of the enterprises themselves.

While the data analysis is still in its preliminary stages, key themes already emerging are that the number and reach of social enterprises is on the increase, with just over a quarter of the organisations surveyed being founded in the past three years, including 9.2% within the last year. This tracks with rising demand for the services such social enterprises provide: 81.6% of respondents said that need/demand for their services had increased in the past three years, with 53.2% saying need had increased “a lot”. 78.9% of respondents anticipated need for their services continuing to increase in the next three years, with 48.6% saying they expected the increase to be large.

“[We want] to inspire others to be the next generation of social impact providers”

- Calderdale respondent

The second stage of the research will take place in early 2020 (exact dates to be confirmed), with representatives from participating organisations invited to take part in discussion groups to consider and respond to the initial findings and to share their insight with the research team, representatives from social enterprise support networks such as the School for Social Entrepreneurs and Social Enterprise Yorkshire & Humber, and local policymakers. If you are part of a social enterprise in West Yorkshire or in Craven, Harrogate, Selby or York, and did not respond to the initial survey, we’re still interested to hear from you – find out more and register your interest here.

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