Resources for aspiring social entrepreneurs

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.   

Just Enterprise
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. 

Social Firms Scotland
A social firm is a type of social enterprise that creates employment, work experience, training and volunteering opportunities for people who face significant barriers to employment. Social Firms Scotland offers its members business development support to help them set-up and build viable commercially focused social firms that can offer jobs, training and meaningful work-based experiences. 

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. 

Inspire2Enterprise 
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. 

Young Foundation: The Accelerator
The Young Foundation provides support to small but promising social ventures through a four-month programme combining expert tutoring, business support and social investment. 

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
Emerge Education supports social enterprise start-ups and other ventures aiming to improve educational outcomes in the UK and worldwide.

On Purpose
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

University incubators

In December 2013, the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE) launched a £2 million programme to strengthen and broaden support for social entrepreneurship and social enterprise in universities and higher education colleges across England. 

The programme, part of the UnLtd Social Entrepreneurship in Education (SEE) Change initiative, is delivered by UnLtd, and encourages higher education institutions to act as ‘hubs’ to support social entrepreneurs in their communities. Fifty-six universities are currently signed up to the programme and many are already making significant changes to embed social enterprise at the heart of what they do. 

You can find all 56 universities listed here

Also note that the University of Northampton became the first university in the UK to be awarded Change Maker Campus status by Ashoka U. 

More information about social enterprise in the UK

Social Enterprise in the UK (British Council)
Our 60-page guide provides a comprehensive overview of the UK’s social enterprise and social investment sector. Packed with illuminating examples and useful links, this resource covers everything from ownership structures to impact measurement and from funding mechanisms to government support. 

Social Enterprise UK (SEUK)
SEUK is the UK’s national body for social enterprise. Together with their 1,000 direct members and 15,000 members of partner networks, they act as the voice for the social enterprise sector in the UK. SEUK help to build the social enterprise sector through a number of activities. They conduct research, provide information and tools for social enterprises, share knowledge, build networks, raise awareness, and campaign to create a business environment where social enterprises can thrive. They offer a range of practical advice and guides. Download their 2015 UK social enterprise sector survey

Social Enterprise in Scotland: Census 2015
This comprehensive survey provides a wealth of evidence about the scale, characteristics, contribution and aspirations of Scotland’s thriving social enterprise community.

Social Enterprise Scotland
This is an independent, Scottish, membership-led organisation, built and controlled by social enterprises. 

Social Enterprise NI
Run by a consortium of social enterprises and social entrepreneurs, it provides forum where Northern Ireland's social enterprise sector can collaborate, share knowledge, information and best practice to create real social change.