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Early Years Social Enterprise

Growing and scaling early years social enterprise

Partnership with Middlesex University (Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research) and London Early Years Foundation (LEYF)

Impact highlights: Exceeded expectation by providing and sharing knowledge regarding social enterprise and developing a range of strategies for LEYF, a dynamic and innovative social enterprise, which have subsequently been developed with considerable interest from social investors. The KTP showed how research can be converted into practical programmes with a considerable impact on the organisation and the communities they serve.


a) To enable LEYF to offer more services to poor children, the partnership will develop and establish strategies for the growth of social enterprise models of childcare.
b) Through developing LEYF's work there is the opportunity to improve childcare provision and provide LEYF with a sustainable source of income.

Results for the Company Partner

London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) provides early years' education, training and research, running 23 nurseries in 5 London Boroughs reaching 1,800 children and their families especially in areas of high deprivation, in order to transform children's long term success as individuals and as members of society.

Benefits are:

  • Provided the base for an operations manual for franchisees and new nurseries
  • Set in place procedures required for all new nurseries linked to LEYF, whether they are merging with LEYF or for future social franchises
  • Supported the social impact measurement exercise to demonstrate the added value of LEYF's involvement with children
  • Coordinated the additional input into the franchise project work provided by RBS trainees
  • Informed management discussions on social franchising
  • Created a network of contacts in the Early Years sector 

New knowledge and capabilities:

  • Identification of scaling up approaches to feed into LEYF's short and long term strategy 
  • Development of social franchise models 
  • Establishment of a market research capability focussed on different types of nurseries and early years' providers who might use LEYF services. 
  • Development of social enterprise training for LEYF staff.

LEYF has been able to refine its growth strategy making social franchising a key element of reaching more children and families in the future, with the franchise launched in April 2012. The development process of the social franchise has also been used to support growth through acquisitions. The operation manual and development of systems allows these new parts of the business to have the high quality standards and a sustainable business model. 

Three nurseries have joined LEYF during the project and the KTP outputs aimed at supporting scaling up have been used to integrate these organisations. LEYF is looking at other nurseries coming from private, voluntary or public sector, and in particular those who have either a charitable or social entrepreneurial ethos who do not wish to sell to a private sector provider. 

LEYF has gained sufficient knowledge, experience and expertise within the Early Years' sector and social enterprise world to be able to advise and mentor many smaller groupings of nurseries into becoming more effective and efficient settings capable of delivering a much better service to the children and families in their localities. 

Although impact of KTP results on Company's present performance has been low, a greater (medium) impact is expected on the Company's future performance, with projected change in the Company's competitive position resulting from KTP as follows: 

  • Change in annual sales turnover expected in three years' time resulting from KTP: £520,000  

Change in annual profit before tax expected in three years' time resulting from KTP: £96,000 (i.e. as a result of new products in existing markets)

Results for the University

  • High impact on development of staff through: experience of close working with a social enterprise; knowledge gained concerning the growth and scaling up of social enterprises; knowledge developed of the challenges and process of social franchising; knowledge of the Early Years sector strengthened. 
  • LEYF example is useful for teaching, providing a detailed case study of a growth oriented social enterprise which can also be used for future papers.
  • Commercial benefits - future contract research being explored: £10,000
  • Other benefits - knowledge of: how Social Enterprises scale up, social franchising; the process of measuring social value; insights into the early years sector; experience of knowledge transfer.
  • Publications and dissemination of results: three conference papers and an invited speech to RSA, hosted by Mathew Taylor 16 November 2011.

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