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Liverpool City Region now the latest hotspot for purpose-led business thanks to social enterprise project

The Liverpool City Region has won Social Enterprise Place status from an expert judging panel in recognition of its thriving social economy, with former mayor Joanne Anderson accepting the award yesterday at an event on the value of purpose-led business.

Social enterprises are businesses that trade for a social purpose and reinvest or donate more than half their profits to further their social or environmental mission. The Social Enterprise Places initiative, established by national sector body Social Enterprise UK, formally identifies areas of the country where local stakeholders are dedicated to supporting social enterprise activity.

The Liverpool City Region’s social enterprise landscape has deep roots, evolving into a thriving sector with a focus on trading income. Research shows there are 1,400 social organisations in the region, generating an annual income of £3bn and employing 45,000 people. They range from music and cultural institutions like Birkenhead’s Future Yard and Knowsley’s Shakespeare North Playhouse to bike couriers, maker spaces, urban farms and care organisations.

In 2020, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, established Kindred to grow the social economy sector and its impact, with funding from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Power to Change. It offers 0% interest blended finance and customised peer-to-peer support for STOs with the choice to repay a portion of the investment through social returns. Its development was supported by feedback from 150+ STOs, addressing their specific needs. More than 50 support organisations also helped shape Kindred’s proposition, some of whom remain actively involved with Kindred, including School for Social Entrepreneurs, The Women’s Organisation, Capacity Lab and BlaST, Liverpool’s first Black-led social trading network. The Kindred community now numbers more than 700 organisations across the city region, encouraging collaboration, cooperation, the sharing of ideas and a culture in which mutual benefit is understood and practised.

Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, said: “Social enterprises play a unique and vital role in our local communities and I’m incredibly proud that our area has been recognised as a powerhouse of principled, community-focused business.

“Devolution is all about taking power away from the centre and it was in the same spirit that I launched Kindred: to work with community businesses to help them deliver on their potential.

“Owned and managed by the sector, it’s already making good on our investment by creating good, local jobs and attracting nearly ten times its funding into the area. It has made a really positive difference and I’m sure will only go from strength to strength.”

Lord Victor Adebowale is the Pathfinder’s patron and says “The Liverpool City Region has all the ingredients to be the UK’s Social Investment Pathfinder, leveraging the contribution of social businesses to wider economic and social development. This is something that we should all seek to support.”

Joanne Anderson is driving the Liverpool City Region Social Investment Pathfinder, which aims to grow investment in the sector from £5m to £50m to help social businesses thrive across the region, creating significant place-based impact. She says: “In the Liverpool City Region, the tradition of valuing socially trading organisations (STOs) and their role in enriching local communities continues. Kindred and the Pathfinder is cultivating a sustainable ecosystem that fosters the growth and success of STOs, and this environment empowers them to thrive and make an even greater impact in addressing the needs of our local communities.”

Social Enterprise UK’s CEO Peter Holbrook said: “It’s fantastic that the Liverpool City Region has been recognised a Social Enterprise Place – and particularly pertinent while the city hosts Labour Party Conference, with politicians discussing some of the major challenges where social enterprises can offer real solutions, from levelling up to Net Zero.

“The Liverpool City Region’s social enterprises already play a key role in the local economy, not only providing vital services but supporting the community and improving the environment. We hope the city region’s new Social Enterprise Place status will act as a lightning rod to really supercharge the sector’s growth and deliver the economic transformation needed for communities across the Liverpool City Region to realise their full potential.”