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Examining the circumstances of successful social enterprises in times of austerity and challenge

XIIIe Rencontres du RIUESS, juin 2013, Angers

Alex Murdock, June 2013

RIUESS 2013 - XIIIe Rencontres du Réseau Inter-Universitaire de l’Economie Sociale et Solidaire - Angers - 5-7 juin 2013

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Summary :

This paper will offer possible lessons which can be drawn from the situation and circumstances of new and successful social enterprises in the current context of challenge and public expenditure retrenchment. Previous recessions and crisis have seen the emergence of new charities and not for profit organisations. The Youth Hostel Association was founded in 1930 at a time of similar economic uncertainty and crisis partially in response to the perceived need for holidays and opportunities for companionship at a time when people were unable to afford conventional holidays.

Many of the organisations considered here are those which are have been formed relatively recently and have shown dramatic growth over a period of time when many existing and in some respects similar organisations have encountered challenge and have had to consolidate and retrench. They work in a range of areas. Food appears as an area of particular interest. Some are focused on young people and on aspects of disability. MAC-UK works with young adults with unmet mental health needs. It was a winner in the Charity Times Awards 2011 and has recently a winner in the Santander Social Enterprise Development Awards. Achievement for All (AFA) also founded relatively recently has rapidly become a national charity which supports schools to improve the aspirations, access and achievement of learners and young people which in two terms has already recruited over 800 schools to its school improvement programme. It has been successful in winning funding and also has been the subject of a major and positive evaluation by Manchester University. A key factor in its growth has been a partnership with Price Waterhouse Coopers and the Department of Education. The other organisations considered include the Magic Breakfast which has grown dramatically following the demise of government funding for breakfasts for disadvantaged schoolchildren and the general Food setting which

is represented by a diversity of organisation the most significant of which is probably the Trussell Trust.

The various organisations and sectors show distinct differences in their nature and development. But a common factor in all is the reduction or demise of government funding and clear evidence of need for their services.

The paper explores the similarities and contrasts in the success of these organisations and will seek to draw lessons which may have wider applicability to other evolving and emergent organisations. The paper draws on earlier work with two of the organisations which suggested that one factor was a positive engagement

with the private sector, a visible media presence and a demonstration of clear outcomes.