Sunderland has been recognised as one of the best cities in the country in which to develop a social enterprise.
After recent research showing that two million people are employed by social enterprises and they make up one in eight of all SMEs, the city has become the largest community yet to win recognition as a Social Enterprise Place (SEP).
The city - represented by Sunderland Council, Sunderland University, Sunderland City College, the Business Innovation Centre and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in the North East - now aims to grow the sector on Wearside to increase employment and provide more opportunities for people to go into business.
Sunderland joins the likes of Alston Moor, Bristol, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, Digbeth, Oxfordshire and Plymouth in having SEP status.
To achieve it, the city had to prove its commitment to support and grow social enterprise; measure social enterprise activity in the area by conducting a SEP census; and share knowledge and best practice with other SEPs.
Social Enterprise UK says registered Social Enterprise Places will be supported to engage with local councils, businesses, charities, consumers and budding social entrepreneurs, bringing them together to grow their social enterprise communities.
Peter Holbrook, chief executive officer of Social Enterprise UK, said: “As a social enterprise place, Sunderland is rightly being recognised for its groundbreaking work, injecting life into communities across the city, creating local wealth, and helping people most in need - such as those who have fallen on hard times, are furthest from the labour market and living with disabilities.”
Sunderland’s successful bid was led by SES, a social enterprise development company with offices in Sunderland and North Shields. The organisation has so far supported the establishment of over 3,500 small business start ups and 245 social enterprises over three decades.
The outfit recently won an RBS Award for its commitment to increasing female led enterprise in the North East via its ‘Woopie’ (Women Out Of Poverty into Enterprise) initiative. The project is working to help 40 disadvantaged women from across Tyne and Wear start their own business.
Mark Heskett Saddington, director at SES, said: “This latest accolade is yet more recognition for the many social enterprises in the city that are thriving, creating jobs and helping to boost the local economy.”
The Government estimates that there are now 180,000 social enterprises in the UK, accounting for 15% of all SMEs, and employing more than 2m people.
Social Economy Alliance, a body made up of hundreds of social enterprises, co-operatives, charities, universities, investors, trusts, associations and think-tanks, recently published its manifesto ahead of the 2015 General Election.
The manifesto calls for, among other things, a Social Value Act, which would make sure the public sector supply chain was focussed on using socially responsible businesses.