If you’re thinking of starting a social enterprise in the UK, here are some websites, programmes and organisations that offer support.
Social Enterprise UK: Start your Social Enterprise
This guide takes you through the essentials of starting a social enterprise, from business plans to bid writing and legal structures to partnerships. It also offers words of wisdom from experienced social entrepreneurs about the advice they wish they’d received when they were starting out.
Setting up a social enterprise (GOV.UK)
Links and information from government on setting up a social enterprise in the UK. This includes information about different business structures and suggestions for further reading. See also Legal forms for social enterprise: a guide, which explains the various business forms that social enterprises can adopt which include limited companies, community interest companies (CICs), industrial and provident societies (ISPs) and limited liability partnerships (LLPs).
The School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE)
SSE helps social entrepreneurs develop sustainable solutions to social problems through a network of franchise schools supporting hundreds of social entrepreneurs a year across the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and India. Their courses and workshops have a strong focus on peer-support and inspirational input from social enterprise experts.
Social Enterprise Academy (SEA) - Scotland
SEA delivers innovative, peer-led social enterprise courses across Scotland that combine work-based practice with accredited qualifications and are adaptable and responsive to different levels of experience and growth. These include one- and two-day intro courses as well as longer programmes to develop a social enterprise or grow an established organisation. SEA also delivers courses in other countries, including in partnership with the British Council.
This consortium offers free business support, development and learning service for social enterprises in Scotland. They provide assistance with starting up a social enterprise, funding, training and procurement.
Wales Co-operative Centre: Social Enterprise Support Programme
This organisation supports the development of social enterprises and co-operatives in Wales and offers training, mentoring, master classes and networking. Social enterprises can receive support from consultants with expertise in areas such as business planning, legal structures and marketing.
Funded by the University of Northampton, this site provides unique support, information and advice to any individual or organisation in the UK looking to start, run or grow a business with a social purpose. Their qualified advisers can help you by phone, email or via webcam, enabling convenient access to a wealth of support.
UnLtd competitive award programmes
UnLtd offers support for social entrepreneurs in the UK through award schemes. They also have a toolkit providing guidance and working models for every stage of social entrepreneurship from initial idea, setup and piloting, on to longer term sustainability, growth and replication. UnLtd also has programmes for students and recent graduates of UK universities and people living in deprived communities.
Social Enterprise Mark: How to set up a social enterprise
This organisation has developed an accreditation mechanism for social enterprises to communicate their verified status to customers through a logo. They have also co-developed a Social Enterprise Resource Pack, which costs £25 + VAT and includes a free consultation.
This organisation offers access to free advice from successful business people for social entrepreneurs through their Human Lending Library.
Cambridge Social Ventures
Based at the University of Cambridge but open to anyone with an idea for a social venture, this organisation offers two programmes: an intense workshop for emerging social entrepreneurs to get started on new business plans and a 12-month incubator programme that supports entrepreneurs to grow their ventures with a dedicated business advisor, ongoing training, office space and support to access finance.
Bethnal Green Ventures (BGV)
BGV offers £20,000 investment, six months of free office space in London and an intensive three-month programme of workshops and 1:1 support to early-stage ‘Tech for Good’ ventures. In return for its investment BGV takes a six per cent share of the new venture.
Emerge Education supports social enterprise start-ups and other ventures aiming to improve educational outcomes in the UK and worldwide.
This social enterprise runs a one-year leadership programme for experienced professionals looking to transition into careers in the social sector. On Purpose provides a mixture of training, mentoring and paid work placements to develop skills and networks. Locations in London, Paris and Berlin.
Impact Hub Network
There are five Impact Hubs in the UK – four in London and one in Birmingham. They form part of a global network of co-working spaces for individuals and ventures interested in social innovation. They host events, provide office space and run programmes to support social enterprises.
EY Foundation – Accelerate Programme
Accelerate is a 12-month programme run by the EY Foundation for social entrepreneurs under 30 and/or social enterprises focused on supporting young people into education, employment or enterprise. Since 2015 they have supported over 270 social entrepreneurs, helping social enterprises scale up their business and increase their impact. The programme is open to enterprises across London, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh.