As part of my submission to the RSA Citizen’s Economy challenge ‘Making today’s economy work for tomorrow’ and earlier work funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Ideas and Pioneers Fund, I have found that Radically Inclusive Enterprise Support (RIES) has the potential to transform the UK economy, it can be delivered without additional spending or legislation.
The shape of the problem
Enterprise is a powerful way to empower communities, but UK enterprise support systems only work for some. They can and must work in more inclusive and effective ways.
Self-employment in disadvantaged communities in the UK is half that of the national rate.
If you have no money or assets, are in debt, or live in a poor neighbourhood, you are effectively barred from high value self-employment or start-up activity, regardless of whether you have the motivation and a viable business idea.
Low or no income entrepreneurs have limited access to support networks, and often face a lonely and uphill struggle. They can’t afford to access incubator or start up support facilities that are often located outside of their local area.
Numerous business support initiatives, from advice and mentoring, through to coaching and voucher schemes — in which the UK Government invests millions — are aimed at the right problem, but don’t provide a workable solution for those from less privileged backgrounds.
What’s needed now
There is an urgent need to develop new models of enterprise support that are good for communities and have the potential to ensure that opportunity and economic growth are distributed equitably.
What is Radically Inclusive Enterprise Support (RIES)?
RIES is a community-based economic development framework that delivers a range of social and economic outcomes. It has the potential to discover and stimulate hidden entrepreneurship. It contributes to the reshaping of local economies by increasing participant’s enterprise education, their skills, their chances of earning a living and ultimately their quality of life.
It has some key elements:
· A free collaborative knowledge and resource sharing network — a platform where low or no income entrepreneurs, can network, secure business opportunities, share experiences and even raise finance. This also helps understand the potential for enterprise in a community.
· Learning opportunities, advice and support for those who are ready to launch their business.
· A micro start-up business grant on completion of business support and advice. Grantees undertake to support other grantees and contribute an amount equivalent to the amount they receive in grant, should their business make a profit of £5000.
Why RIES is different to other support
· It is inclusive, free and accessible, avoiding daunting paperwork and a cumbersome application process.
· It starts with the person, helping to build capacity, confidence and explore ideas.
· It provides a sustainable longer-term commitment to nurturing both the person and their ideas.
· It identifies and drives new opportunities.
· It rejects traditional adversarial dragon’s den type challenges, that tend to reward the ‘best’ ideas, projects and companies.
· It recognises the funding needs of early stage, high risk ideas, as opposed to scaling of proven ones.
· It responds to and understands the pressures that would-be entrepreneurs from low social and economic backgrounds face.
· It does not encourage people to take on more debt via business loans.
· It supports both commercial and social business ideas.
How you can make it happen in your community
It is arguable that regional and local public bodies now have greater power, money and control over economic decision-making. Local Economic Partnerships, combined and local authorities, have an opportunity to use their new powers to work with residents (especially those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds) to develop RIES in their localities. Town and Parish Councils can also kick start RIES as can Housing Associations, Charities and Foundations and established businesses who want to give something back to their community.
Our aim should be that every community has access to RIES ensuring there are no social, economic or spatial barriers to talented individuals creating new businesses, services and jobs.
In a post Brexit economy, the UK can ill afford to leave behind communities that have the potential to help themselves.
This article was originally published on Medium.