Travel Matters - and has Social Impact. Guest Blogger Jo Josh

jopic.jpgThe last quarter of 2014 saw a rise in the number of people leaving to move into employment, particularly impressive in the current economic climate. In total 45 people trained at Travel Matters, with 30 building their customer service skills through work experience and 19 gaining IT knowledge through the internationally recognised European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) accreditation.

Every customer of Travel Matters contributes to our trainees’ achievements, as every £300 spent on travel covers one half day session per trainee. So think Travel Matters every trip … <Read More>

Are You Leasing Dangerously?

Why Property Matters to Social Firms (and why this link Is Important):

Guest Blogger: Antonia Swinson Director Ethical Property Foundation

Did you know that property is the biggest cost for non-profit organisations after staffing? Property is also fast becoming the biggest headache for the sector. Many local authorities are renegotiating leases, offering asset transfers on varying terms of generosity and with an overheated property market in many of our cities, many charities are being served notice as commercial landlords seek to maximise returns. Frankly, trustees and managers of social firms did not go into social firms to be property managers and yet the quality of your property management can mean the difference between thriving, surviving or failing. >> Read more

Which Online Tools do Social Entrepreneurs Find Most Useful?

That was the question that Social Firms UK took to the Global Social Entrepreneurs Network that Unltd ran in early April.

List of Online Tools Type.jpgWe joined with Michael Lewkowitz of software developer Igniter to run a workshop that could catalogue the tools that delegates found most useful. We also wanted to establish if there were any gaps that specific new tools could fill, along the lines of our own Social Firms InfoMine.

Realising Social Value

Blogger: Social Firms UK Policy & Services Officer, Di Cunliffe

The Social Value Act 2012 was a giant symbolic leap forwards for the social enterprise sector, but it’s still a small step towards the goal of eking out maximum social and economic value from the public sector’s billions of buying power. Introducing the concept of social value to the statute book is great, but we need a lot more to happen if the law is to really improve life for people, their localities and the environment. Read more>>

SFUK Members Discuss Empowerment in Brussels

Charlie Dorman (Connection Crew), Adrian Harris (We Are 336), Michele Rigby (SFUK), Pauline Summers (RagTag) at EU Parliament

Blogger: Social Firms UK CEO Michele Rigby

Last week found Social Firms UK members Connection Crew, Weare336 and Rag Tag in Brussels to hear the Re:Dialogues project report presented at the European Parliament. 

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Social Firms UK Member Pluss makes Time To Talk

Guest Blogger - Jane Mills, Pluss

Today is the first Time to Talk day as part of the mental health campaign Time to Change. The campaign is aiming to stop the stigma and discrimination that people with mental health issues face. At Pluss, alongside thousands of individuals and organisations across the UK, we’ve pledged to have 2,000 conversations about mental health today. As one of my pledged conversations I chatted to one of our customers, Dan and his new boss Richard, about Dan’s mental health issues and how they’ve affected him in work.

Cash Mob Happy

CashmobBig_Spender V2.jpg

Guest Blogger - Chris Lee


When, back in the spring, I learnt that a friend in Bedford had been organising something called a cash mob, I was intrigued. I’d heard of flash mobs and the cash mob idea is equally simple and attention-grabbing.

Using social media and any other networks you can plug into, you gather a group of people of all ages together at an agreed time and place in your town centre. The group chooses a local independent shop, or better still a social firm, and, minutes later, mob members descend on the lucky retailer to each spend £5, preferably in cash. >> Read More

Empowerment - What does it really mean?

Recently I was asked to give a presentation to an audience representing European social economy organisations on the theme of “Empowerment”. Interestingly interpreters struggled to translate the word “empowerment” so the English word was used.

Empowerment is one of the three values that Social Firms UK members decided should be at the core of every Social Firm. Enterprise; employment; empowerment. The three values are of course, interdependent - enterprise is essential to provide employment, which is the basis of empowerment, which in turn can stimulate further enterprise. Read More >>

Just Buy - Can the Church of England make better choices with its money?

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, opened an interesting can of worms with his remarks on the support of the church for credit unions as part of a plan to “compete payday lenders out of existence”.

While the media have delighted in pointing out that the Church of England (CoE) itself indirectly invests in Wonga (and is therefore part of the problem of exploiting the financially vulnerable), the real issue was highlighted in the Archbishop’s interview on Radio 4 this morning. He said a couple of times, in different ways, that that if you want to live in the real world, you have to be involved in dealing with the businesses that exist - even those that might be seen to be less moral or ethical than others.  Read More >>

Giving Evidence at the Select Committee

This week, I found myself in the rather daunting position of giving evidence at the Parliamentary Select Committee on Work and Pensions in the company Martin Davies, CEO of SFUK member The Pluss Organisation, Dave Allan, Managing Director, emqc Ltd, and Jonathan Cheshire, Chief Executive, Wheatsheaf Trust. Read more>>

Travel Matters Social Return on Investment - Guest Blog

Travel Matters Enterprises combines a not-for-profit social enterprise and fully bonded travel agency business with a training centre for people recovering from mental health issues. We have just introduced a new way of showing travel customers the impact their business can have on the community in the form of a regular quarterly report. In just a few days we have received an outstanding response to this, which is why we want to share it with other members of Social Firms UK.

Based in Redhill, Surrey our client base is both national and international. We offer anything from domestic flights and train tickets to global travel, package holidays, cruises and any other necessary arrangements, such as visas, taxi transfers or car hire. Any profits made on the travel business go back into our IT training and work experience programmes. Read More>>

The Merlin Standard

The Department of Work and Pensions are keen to know that Primes running the Work Programme are treating their sub-contractors fairly and well, and the mechanism that they use to assess this is the Merlin Standard. 

Social enterprises that are sub-contractors to a Prime in the Work Programme may know about the Merlin Standard, but for those who have not suceeded in getting a contract to provide services in the Programme, or who have walked away from a potential contract because the terms they were offered were not feasible, may not be as knowledgeable. Yet the DWP are keen to make sure that all potential sub-contractors are aware of the Standard and what it is for. Read More>>


 During Tom’s visit to Prague on the 7/8th June for the ENSIE ( AGM included a one day conference on “Why and How to Support WISE in the Czech Republic”. This was used as a forum by Social Firms in Prague to link up with public procurement in their local authorities. The local authorities were represented by two regional bodies in Prague.

Better v New - how to be game changing - Guest Blog

 Can Social Enterprise learn from Victorian engineers?

55844121.jpgAs part of my commercial activities, I spent a day at a Trade Fair. The NEC was packed with every type of engineering equipment. It was amazing to see a steam traction engine next to a land speed record holding rocket car but my admiration was for the people who built the traction engine without any of the equipment on display. How much trial and error, how much time spent making the tools to make the engine. I am sure no one thought it would ever succeed but they pressed on regardless. Read more >>

Visit to Glasgow

haven16.JPGAt the end of January I went to Glasgow to meet with Pauline Graham of Social Firms Scotland, and to visit Haven Products, an award-winning Glasgow based Social Firm, with a branch in Inverness. Like many of our members, Haven is a busy and thriving business, with a mixture of long-term and newer contracts.The day David Whyte and Ewan Fisher showed me round, part of the workforce was engaged in making and palleting boxes for The Edrington Group. A newer, but established service, is dealing with WEEE (waste electronic and electrical equipment, mostly computers). Read more...


I went to Cardiff for a couple of days, to meet two of our members and to touch base with San Leonard of Social Firms Wales, and John Bennett of the Welsh Social Enterprise Coalition.

The last time I went to Cardiff was a couple of years ago for Voice – it does have a feel of a city that has confidence in the future, with iconic buildings and public spaces, yet manages to be of a very human scale, which is borne out by the very inter-connectedness of the four meetings that I had there. Read more...

The New CEO

 to do list.jpgMy first blog as the new CEO of Social Firms UK is about just that – being a new CEO. For many, the experience of the first few weeks in a new job is a similar one – getting to know the staff team, finding out where everything is, getting up to speed with existing projects, and most of all, the frustration of everything taking much longer than normal, as every small task involves finding information that in a previous job, was at your fingertips. And it is important to get the right balance between review, assimilation, reflection, action, as well as just keeping on top of the small and large daily decisions. Read more...

New member offer - venue booking discount

 optimized Highpoint 129.jpgNew member Highpoint is a social enterprise conference and training centre based in the Midlands.

They have given us an exclusive offer to social enterprises: 

  • 10% off their standard day delegate rate of £25 per person : includes a sandwich lunch, hot and cold drinks and equipment hire (flipchart, projector and screen)

Book now to avoid disappointment on 0116 258 0000 or visit

Discount advertising on uSWAP

uswap-logo.pnguSWAP is an online platform for swapping services and swapping items online. 

uSWAP is offering members of Social Firms UK a 30% discount to advertise their business on their website for 2010 off the usual price of £200 pa.

uSWAP are also looking for beta users to test the website.

For more information get in touch with founder Emma Dawson:; +44 07984840376

Catering2Order New Year Offer

C2O.jpgIn a year of tough economic trading Social Firm Catering2order has bucked the trend by landing more than £5m in new contracts over the past 12 months. Due to this phenomenal success Catering2order has recently moved to new larger offices.

To celebrate and share in their success, they are offering up to 25% on all buffets during the month of January 2012.

To find out more call 03333 44 3747 Quoting SFUK2012.