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Social economy gets overarching ‘voice’ as enterprises join to form new alliance



Some of the UK’s most influential social enterprises have joined forces to form the Social Economy Alliance in a bid to influence policy ahead of the 2015 general election.

The alliance, which was launched on Tuesday, is made up of 15 organisations. Led by trade body Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), it is backed by the likes of the Young Foundation, Co-operatives UK and the Social Investment Forum, as well as a number of thinktanks, charities and MPs.

The idea is to develop ideas that will help boost the UK’s social economy – which lies in between the public and private sector, and comprises chiefly of co-operatives and not-for-profit businesses.

Peter Holbrook, chief executive of SEUK, said, “The last decade has seen huge progress in the social sector in the UK.

Social enterprises and co-operatives are outperforming just-for-profit businesses; alternative banks have better returns on assets, lower volatility and higher growth, and a growing proportion of start-ups are socially-driven. A shift in the plates of the UK economy is happening.”

Prior to the UK’s G8 presidency last week, David Cameron said that social enterprises, charities and voluntary bodies have “the knowledge, human touch and personal commitment to succeed where governments often fail.”

He added that these organisations “need finance, too”, and unveiled a series of social investment measures, including tax breaks and help for communities in buying local assets, to make it easier for these organisations to attract private funding.

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) minister Jo Swinson, and Labour backbenchers Stella Creasy and Chi Onwurah are among the MPs to voice their support for the newly-formed Social Economy Alliance.

SEUK’s Holbrook said, “We must not allow the narrative about what’s ‘good for the economy’ to be dominated by those who want to stimulate demand for luxury goods with heavy social and environmental costs; or the interests of some very large companies that concentrate wealth in the hands of a few shareholders while paying as little tax as possible; or on pumping money into a handful of banks.

He added, “We need a voice for the social economy. Today we are launching it.”

Further reading:

BBC urged to promote flourishing social business sector in The Apprentice

Cameron: ‘social investment can be a great force for social change on the planet’

David Cameron’s social impact investment speech: full text

Third sector urged to up its game to capitalise on new social investment measures

Entrepreneurs selected for social investment project


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