Birmingham social enterprise development organisation, iSE CIC, announces an exciting and innovative programme to create a new community of social entrepreneurs to tackle poverty and social isolation in their local neighbourhoods across west Birmingham and Sandwell. The aim is to replicate the successful work already delivered by iSE in the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter.

The USE IT! programme (Unlocking Social and Economic Innovation Together), will generate a ‘place-based’ community of social entrepreneurs and like-minded individuals who will work to solve deeply entrenched local social and environmental issues through the creation of social enterprises trading in areas such as health, food, technology, education and tourism.

Funding of £3 million has been allocated for the 3 year project through a new Initiative of the European Commission, ‘Urban Innovative Actions’ (UIA), that provides urban areas throughout Europe with resources to test new and unproven solutions to address urban challenges.

Approximately 359 million people – 72% of the total EU population – live in cities, towns and suburbs. Urban areas face multiple and interconnected challenges related to employment, migration, demography, water and soil pollution. However, they are also engines of new ideas and solutions, dynamic places where changes happen on a larger scale and at a fast pace.

Facilitated by Birmingham City Council, USE IT! delivery in the Birmingham area is specifically aimed at developing and opening up new markets for social enterprises, whether through capacity-building scale and growth in the social enterprise sector, broking partnerships with private sector organisations or supporting contract readiness for public sector opportunities.

iSE will also be supporting social enterprises through a new USE IT! Challenge and small start-up grants being awarded as part of the USE IT! programme that will empower and enable social enterprises to be robust, sustainable and confident in approaching new market opportunities.

The Chief Executive of iSE, Sarah Crawley says,

“West Birmingham and Sandwell have areas of multiple deprivation that have deeply entrenched social challenges that are not being resolved as local people often feel a lack of empowerment to change things, either at a personal level or a local level. USE IT! is different because we are working with those individuals who have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to catalyse positive change in their own local communities.

Through the range of partners, we will provide access to mentors, support, events and resources to engage and develop the knowledge and skills to establish a thriving network of social enterprises providing solutions to local social and economic issues through generating employment opportunities, improving health outcomes, enabling skills development and opening up new markets for ethically-based goods and services.”

Cllr Carl Rice, Lord Mayor of Birmingham, explained,

“Birmingham needs innovative, bold and creative ideas to tackle urban challenges and the USE-IT! project is a rare opportunity for the City and its partners to take a risk and experiment, to test how new and unproven solutions work in practice and how they respond to the complexity of real life.”

USE IT! sees a collaboration of partners including iSE, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, University of Birmingham, Health Exchange CIC, Co-op Futures, Localise WM, Citizen Coaching CIC and Smethwick Can coming together to support delivery of the programme across the Birmingham area.

iSE is keen to work with wider organisations based in Birmingham and the West Midlands who are interested in being involved with USE IT! and is already talking to a number of private and public sector organisations along with third sector charities who support the transformation and regeneration of Birmingham communities.

For more information, click here to visit the iSE website.



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