Ruth Hudson, Project Officer for Growing Confidence, shares what she and the team are learning about social enterprise
The team from Our Bright Future project Growing Confidence wanted to explore how social enterprise could benefit the young people we are working with. However, first of all they needed to understand more about what social enterprise is!
To learn more we visited the headquarters of woodland social enterprise Wild Rumpus. We sat around the ‘Whirligig’ – a colourfully decorated communal seating, eating and sharing space centred around a campfire. It was here we learnt this amazing enterprise sprung from a conversation on a car journey and now Wild Rumpus, amongst many other things, runs the annual Just So family arts festival. The festival showcases the best art, music, literature, comedy and theatre for families in a landscape of woodland clearings, parkland, amphitheatres and lakeside spots.
Its first year wasn’t easy and each ticket sold represented something that could add to the festival – from exciting bookings like a new artist, to the more mundane like port-a- loos! Since the first Just So festival, Wild Rumpus has grown as an enterprise, making use of woodland space to support and nurture artistic talent.
The Growing Confidence team were inspired by this visit and were keen to understand more about how we could all better support young people to get involved with environmental enterprises. We explored this in a follow up workshop led by the Plunkett Foundation, and this is where we ended up:
What is social enterprise?
Good ideas often come from the most unexpected locations; the term social enterprise was coined in a pub in 1997. In reality has been around for some time – churches being a good example… history shows they often had enterprising ventures such as church breweries meaning people could do something together to support the community.
The workshop provided descriptions of three approaches to social enterprise:
Enterprises that exist to generate a profit and give that profit for social purposes eg Belux Water
Social enterprises with products or services are a benefit themselves eg: FairTrade
Social enterprises that engaging with, generates a social purpose eg: Co‑operative pubs
How can we support social enterprise?
With any enterprise, it’s a journey. Importantly, the ambition and drive has got to come from them. Plunkett sees four stages of enterprise growth – Inspire, Explore, Create, Thrive.
Inspire – It is important to give ideas credibility “of course you can do this”. This gives a chance to explore what your great idea might be. It also means reaching out to people who might support and add to the work.
Explore– people need space to explore, especially young people. This can be where people can share experiences frankly and share ideas and learn from other enterprises.
Create– very dynamic stage where legal structure, finance, marketing takes place. Important to have teams that can support at this stage.
Thrive – Once established, it is important to understand how you stay there.
Social enterprise and Growing Confidence
The last part of the workshop involved more of a discussion. With Growing Confidence, the Inspire and Explore sessions are particularly important to factor in straight away, ensuring that young people are brought in to discussions so their ideas can be built in to future sessions and support.
So with an inspiring visit and an exciting workshop still fresh in our minds we are now exploring how to take this forward to be able to support young people in Shropshire in the best way to understand if social enterprise is for them.