The Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, and a wide range of partners, welcomed plans to invest in the region’s social economy, putting human and environmental wellbeing at the heart of its activity at a recent roundtable.
These plans were developed in response to recommendations made by the Social Economy Taskforce, which asked West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to develop a plan for doubling the size of this sector in ten years.
The West Midlands has been hit hard by the Covid pandemic, and many of its community-focused organisations and businesses have been similarly impacted, facing lower turnover and a furloughed workforce whilst still supporting our communities.
These organisations and businesses – referred to collectively as the ‘social economy’ - use their profits to achieve positive community and environmental impact. Recognising that these organisations offer some of the best routes to the region’s recovery from Covid, the WMCA has worked with the sector to develop a four-point plan to build the social economy back stronger than before, enabling it to drive growth for the benefit of all.
Launching now ensures that the actions pledged to the Social Economy Taskforce are relevant to the needs and challenges of today.
‘Growing the social economy in the West Midlands’ sets out four key areas for action, which the Combined Authority was keen to test with local partners and build into a plan for delivery. Through this collaborative approach, additional external funding and goodwill support is anticipated which will support the key aims of the strategy:
- Working with new and existing funders to support growth in social enterprises and community businesses.
- Business support and advice through an accelerator programme to encourage rapid growth of social enterprises, from start-up companies through to more established organisations.
- Establishing social economy clusters across the region – clustering of sector-specific businesses has been proven to help build economic growth and resilience.
- Directing WMCA investment plans towards supporting schemes that can help increase growth among social economy businesses.
Commenting on the roundtable, the Mayor said:
“The social economy may not be one that many people are familiar with, but it is a vital part of our region’s overall economic success. These are businesses and organisations that apply all the expertise and skills that one might expect from traditional commercial companies, but in a way that prioritises social impact. The Covid pandemic has tested us all, and this sector is no exception. Yet we know these companies and organisations are part of our recovery, and work closely with our communities. Which is why I’m so pleased with all the hard work and goodwill that has been put into preparing this strategy – and the roundtable today has illustrated the breadth of the buy-in that we have to make these growth plans become a reality.”
Sarah Crawley, who as Chief Executive of the Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs at the time, led the consortium developing the strategy, added:
"This strategy is unique in that it has been written by a consortium of the social economy sector in the West Midlands with the aim of stimulating the growth of the social economy sector, bringing together best practice and learning, to create a framework for action. Following the roundtable today we are delighted that the Mayor and WMCA are supporting this work which will enable social businesses to increase their economic, social and environmental impact and contribute to the region's recovery from COVID through inclusive growth."
Going forwards, the WMCA and its partners at the roundtable will continue to collaborate to deliver the four programmes recommended by the strategy – coordinating resources and input from other partners across the region to ensure the successful growth of social economy businesses and organisations.
Image caption: The Social Economy taskforce meets with Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, to launch a new strategy to benefit everyone across the West Midlands