The report of the GM Independent Inequalities Commission, published in March 2021 identified several need areas that communities themselves, with the right support, could address;
- Business support services that provide wraparound advice and support to social economy organisations.
- Support for co-operative, mutual and social enterprise models in key ‘foundational economy’ sectors – prioritising childcare and social care sectors.
- Support (technical and financial) for the conversion of existing businesses to new models including employee ownership.
- Support to develop “platform cooperatives” – umbrella organisations to enable small organisations to compete in public sector and commercial markets.
- Targeted programmes to help diversify the sector and address business ownership gaps, e.g, support for social entrepreneurship among people experiencing racial inequality (in 2019 just 5% of UK SMEs were ethnic minority-led).
- Support for communities to take over empty shops or buildings
The impact of these current gaps is that there is currently a valuable but disparate network of different organisations and groups offering different forms of support in GM.
There is existing mainstream business support that is not always recognised as being relevant to social enterprises or other forms of generative business. A pattern of parallel silos of support based on specific (and often fiercely protected) governance models has evolved which serves to both confuse and deter potential business owners.
For any business leader, it is much more simple to register a new limited company than it is to establish a co-op or a social enterprise or a charity. But these business types may much better suit the planned business, providing wider community benefit and keeping social value at the heart of how they operate, whilst generating the ‘social impact’ and wider benefit for Greater Manchester.
A solution – the Innovation Cooperative
The Innovation Cooperative provides a platform for collaboration that brings together all parts of the economic landscape to deliver real outcomes for the communities of Greater Manchester.
It provides a platform for business of different to collaborate on projects, but also a support network to incubate new businesses and forge new partnerships.