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The latest event from the Social Entrepreneurs Network (on Wednesday 7th March) drew to a close the first and pilot year of Social Enterprise Spotlight. Hopefully you’ve heard about the network and the Spotlight initiative but if not here’s a brief (or not so brief) history and an update about the future of Spotlight:

The set-up

In early 2010 we tentatively put out a notice in the Fellowship newsletter about an event surrounding social enterprise – we got over 300 enquiries back and 150 people interested in coming. Clearly there was interest out there in the Fellowship. The night saw approx 100 people discussing what social enterprise is and led to weekly breakfasts being held in the Gerard Bar. A small group of regulars formed who expressed an interest in starting something to provide tangible help and impact to the network. So Social Enterprise spotlight was born. The premise was that by using a small sample of social entrepreneurs and enterprises as a case study, we could highlight and solve the challenges they are facing, and by proxy solve similar challenges facing the other social enterprises in the network.

The year

Through the monthly breakfasts and quarterly events, challenges were shared and advice sought. We looked at mentoring and advisory boards, how to set up and what is best for what sort of business; funding and what sort of resources are needed for enterprises in the 21st century, and how to ‘survive before you thrive’ - the last quarterly event in 2011 about how to ensure robust growth and expansion and avoid burn out.

The celebration

The recent event on 7th March was titled a Celebration of social enterprise – year in the Spotlight and held at the Hub Westminster, an innovative new working space just the other side of Trafalgar square. On the night the participants in Spotlight (expertly mc-ed by Malcolm Scovil FRSA, the Fellow who helped to kick off the network back in 2010) appeared in the following order: Hermione Taylor spoke about her journey to set up the innovative charity giving site, the DoNation; Dan Snell, co-founder of Arrival Education asked some of the young people he works with to share their moving and inspiring stories of how their prospects and mindset have changed having been on the Success4Life course; and Diana Bird of Wedge Card, Phil Conway of Cool2Care and Alex Johns of GoJaspa took part in a frank, articulate and amusing interview about what they have learnt (ranging from learning not to micromanage, and not to take knock backs too personally, through to making sure you enjoy yourself more). Chris James of Inspired Youth gave a passionate account of how much he’d learnt on the programme. The last story of the night was by Trudy Thompson from Bricks and Bread (I think going for world domination of #socentmischief – check out the hashtag!) who spoke about her transition into life as a social entrepreneur, her ways of doing things, and her trustee board made up of young people.

As this was the last event for this batch of Spotlight participants we were also introduced to the next set of social entrepreneurs taking part in Spotlight. The night was rounded off by an opportunity to network. You can watch our time-lapse video of the event:


What’s next

The evening was a great example of what bringing enterprise and passion together can achieve. The pilot year has been a real success story, with great content, impact and stories. The 7th March event was the last for the current set of Spotlight participants but I am pleased to say that we have a new batch of Spotlighters joining the ranks! They are:

1) Eugenie Teasley at Spark+Mettle

2) Asma Shah at You Make It/Ladies Who L-EARN

3) Maria Ana Neves at Plan Zheroes

4) Becky John at Whomadeyourpants?

5) Richard Raynes at SportInspired

6) Neil Basil at Patient Choice

7) Steve Ralf at Inklusive CIC

8.) Patrick Shine and Simon McNeill Ritchie at Franchising Works

9) Kate Welch at Acumen Trust/Reap & Sow

We will continue to hold quarterly events and monthly breakfasts with these this amazing set of social entrepreneurs and trying to overcome the challenges they and the rest of the sector face – we hope you’ll come along for the ride!

How you can get involved

The Social Entrepreneurs network is only a success because of the people involved and their extraordinary ability to share what they know. If you have a social enterprise or need some advice please join the online group for the network and attend the Friday social breakfasts which take place in the Gerard Bar, the last Friday of each month at 9am. They are a great opportunity to connect to the Fellowship so hope to meet you soon!

Sarah Tucker, Networks Manager




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