Why our communities need social entrepreneurs

Watling Spaces
David Barnes and BIC social enterprise adviser Judith Falla

Social entrepreneurs view doing business from a different perspective to more traditional business owners.

Yes, like any business, generating revenue and profit remains essential for any social entrepreneur, but it is not their ‘raison d’etre’.

While traditional entrepreneurs tend to live or die by their balance sheets, social entrepreneurs focus just as much on the impact they’re having on people and the planet as they do their profit margins.

Tackling child poverty, supporting veterans, increasing community cohesion and joining the fight against climate change are just a few of the common motivations that drive social entrepreneurs.

So too are helping the homeless, protecting our waterways and helping more people get into the arts… the list goes on.

One of the most popular forms of social entrepreneurship, however, comes in the form of enhancing the communities in which they operate, and this is something we’ve witnessed first-hand.

Through Social Enterprise Boost Durham, we’ve helped scores of people from County Durham set up and grow social enterprises, the vast majority of which have been built around community cohesion.

But how exactly do they work? And who is behind them? Here are just a few inspiring examples…

Watling Spaces

David Barnes, Watling Spaces

What do you do?

Watling Spaces CIC provides a fully inclusive and accessible creative hub for the local community. We have regenerated an abandoned Art Deco cinema into a community arts centre.

Since opening in September, the variety of classes and events we offer cater to people of all ages and interests, ensuring there is something for everyone to enjoy. Zumba, Pilates, Street Dance, Little Movers, Consett Theatre Works. We have musical theatre workshops, Christmas markets, craft events, concerts, community sing along’s, stand-up comedy, networking events, the list goes on.

What inspired you to set up?
The absence of arts facilities in the North East has long been an issue and when the opportunity to regenerate The Roxy presented itself, the vision to create a space where the arts could flourish and where people from all walks of life could come together to share and celebrate their creativity was born.

We believe that the arts are not just about performance or visual appeal; they are a vital component of personal and community development. Through the arts, individuals acquire transferable skills that are invaluable in everyday life, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and effective communication. Moreover, engaging in artistic endeavours fosters confidence, which can be especially transformative for young people and those who have felt marginalised.

What would you say to others thinking of becoming a social entrepreneur?
To anyone considering becoming a social entrepreneur, I would say: follow your passion and let it guide you towards your goal. Understand that the journey will be challenging, but the rewards are immeasurable. Start by researching the issue you want to address and listening to the communities affected by it. Build a strong network of supporters and remember, perseverance and adaptability are key. The impact you can make is profound, and even small steps can lead to significant change.

Nicola Evans, Inside Out CIC

What do you do?
I run an alternative education provision for girls excluded from mainstream school, predominantly working with girls who have experienced abuse or trauma. We also work in the community, bringing skills from the girls who attend to local women. The provision delivers hair and beauty learning with a therapeutic and trauma informed approach.

What inspired you to set up?
I have worked with young people who have experienced disadvantage for over 15 years, and felt that there was a need for an education provision with experience in trauma in the County Durham area, that could provide therapeutic interventions to girls. I left my job in the education sector to focus on providing this. 

What would you say to others thinking of becoming a social entrepreneur?
Absolutely go for it! For me I thought it was now or never and although there have been many challenges it is the best decision I have made and the rewards are worth it. We are now supporting over 20 girls to access education when they otherwise wouldn’t have attended anyway and their confidence grows week by week. 

Interested in finding out how you could set up your own social enterprise and help others or improve the planet?

Both David and Nicola have been supported by business advisers at the North East BIC, through the Social Enterprise Boost Durham programme funded by the UK Government.

Start your social enterprise journey today!

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