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£1.7m of funding for community-led businesses

Published: Monday 29 Jan 2024

A new £1.7 million package of support for community-focussed businesses will help them to improve the lives of more local people in some of the region’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Launched by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) with Commonwealth Games legacy money, the free business support programme is one of the biggest of its kind ever launched.

And it is now open to applications from leaders of social enterprises, community-owned businesses, cooperatives and charity trading arms.

The money will be used to support 160 business leaders to sharpen their key business skills through peer learning and for one-to-one coaching and mentoring to help them grow their organisations, become more sustainable and widen the impact they have in addressing inequalities.

The social economy is the collective term for businesses that use their profits to achieve positive community and environmental impact.

Through the West Midlands Social Economy Business Support programme, the WMCA is delivering one of the key recommendations of the Social Economy Taskforce, which was set up by the Mayor to look at what the WMCA and its regional partners could do to help double the size of this key area of the economy so that even more local people benefit.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said: “Across our region we have around 11,000 social economy businesses and organisations providing valuable jobs, training, housing and other services which are being delivered by local people for the benefit of local people. These are underpinned by a central aim of doing good for their communities.

“Thanks to the Commonwealth Games Legacy Fund, we’re now able to provide support to 160 leaders in this sector to ensure they have the right skills and capacity to develop their businesses - ultimately having a positive impact on the lives of even more people in their communities.

“I look forward to seeing the opportunities this creates to help the social economy continue go from strength to strength in the months and years ahead.”

In the West Midlands, the social economy is already worth £3.5 billion a year and directly impacts the lives of over 250,000 people - as employees, volunteers or as beneficiaries.

The growth programme is being delivered in partnership with Enterprise Nation, Locality, Aston University and the School for Social Entrepreneurs using funding from the £70 million Commonwealth Games Legacy Enhancement Fund, which is being administered by the WMCA on behalf of the UK Government.

The WMCA has already handed £400,000 to eight community-focussed organisations to help them identify specific community facilities, local services, education and training opportunities that can improve their communities, and then act as a springboard to bring in further investment to help deliver them.

Cllr Kerrie Carmichael, the WMCA’s portfolio lead for inclusive communities, and leader of Sandwell Council, said: “Social economy businesses are run by people with first-hand experience of the issues and challenges faced by their communities and are therefore best placed to develop solutions that can address long-standing disadvantage.

“The money the combined authority is putting into developing the services they provide and the people who run them is proof of the belief we have in their ability to be one of the driving forces of our commitment to ensuring people thrive in the places where they live and work.”

Find how to apply to the West Midlands Social Economy Business Support programme at www.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/economy-and-innovation/social-economy/

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