The ‘vital role’ of Social Firms UK
Government cuts and more jobs under threat? Social Firms UK has a history of rising to the challenge.
A recent review by the New Economics Foundation (nef) said the work tells “a remarkable story” of how Social Firms UK is able to maintain a strategic view of how it wants to create change in the world whilst constantly striving to meet its members’ needs.
Social Firms UK’s vision is that everyone has the opportunity to be employed and its main purpose is to support meaningful job creation in market-led social enterprises for people that most employers won’t even consider taking on. The review concluded that since many Social Firms are small and do business locally there is a need for an umbrella body like Social Firms UK to bring them together to represent a unified voice that is able to make a ‘noise’ on a national scale.
On its 10th anniversary, Social Firms UK commissioned nef consulting to review the impact of the organisation’s work, looking back over the last decade to investigate the added value their work has generated.
The review demonstrated ‘how vital a role Social Firms UK as an intermediary support organisation plays in the development and manifestation of a sector that has the power to affect the fabric of society’.
Four significant areas of impact were highlighted as completing a virtuous circle:
- Increased awareness of the Social Firm model: demonstrating that severely disadvantaged workers can deliver quality products and services whilst promoting an ethical supply chain - a source of goods and services that ‘give something back’.
- Sector growth: as the Social Firm sector grows it creates more jobs, reducing unemployment, saving money the Treasury and the NHS spend on worklessness and health-related issues and benefitting the economy with a larger potential skilled workforce.
- Increased business for Social Firms: strengthening Social Firms as businesses should mean more secure employment.
- Transforming the lives of individuals: where disadvantaged employees are no longer ‘marginal’ and have an increased sense of identity, self respect, improved health and other benefits of work; creating social change as stigma dissolves.
The report commented that
Social Firms UK’s great strength is therefore in its ability to mobilise people with knowledge, expertise and experience in the sector and thereby demonstrate how to combine economic and social benefits within a sound business model.
Drawing on the principles and practice of social return on investment (SROI), the review explored some of Social Firms UK’s key initiatives in order to quantify the impact that the support organisation has made over the past 10 years. It concluded that the story of why the support, policy and advocacy work of Social Firms UK is valuable is linked closely to the way a Social Firm creates benefits for people and society.
Social Firms UK’s key work has included:
- Its role in the development of the national Social Enterprise Coalition
- Ongoing advice, advocacy and support to individual Social Firms
- Achieving agreement across the sector to a core set of shared values based on Enterprise, Employment and Empowerment and drawing up and promoting the Values-Based Checklist that shows clearly what every Social Firm is all about
- Research into the growing size and make-up of the Social Firm sector
- Showing how the Social Firm model can benefit a wide range of people have a disability or who face other major barriers in the labour market
- Becoming one of the Government’s strategic partners, raising awareness of the sector and lobbying for its needs at the highest level
Social Firms UK Timeline
Click on the balloons for highlights in each year of Social Firms UK' existence and use the arrows to move through time.
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