Social enterprise has recently attracted considerable worldwide policy interest. However, there is a need for data about what the businesses do and how they do it.
In response to this demand for evidence, CEEDR has led ground-breaking research examining the social enterprise phenomenon, with over £2 million of research projects and 15 peer-reviewed journal articles.
Our work has had an impact on both policy and practice. Most recently, we have led the Social Enterprise stream of the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) and directed the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Social Enterprise Research Capacity Building Cluster (a £1.2m programme).
Our research has had an influence across government and around the UK. We have carried out projects for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Previously DTI), HM Treasury, DEFRA, Countryside Agency, Cabinet Office and Department of Health.
Our work resulted in a joint evaluation of the Department of Health's Social Enterprise Investment Fund (a £100m programme), and further advisory meetings with the Cabinet Office, Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and Big Society Capital (a £600m loan fund).
Robert Rutherfoord, Decentralisation and Big Society Research and Analysis Department, DCLG, praised the work: "Analysts in DCLG have found the advice of partners in TSRC very helpful and timely on a number of very policy relevant issues associated with decentralisation and big society, including: social finance; the VCS and community engagement; and public service reform. This enhances the impact of research on the policy making process."
CEEDR's work on social impact measurement for social enterprises has influenced a range of government policies. It has been quoted on key documents such as the Cabinet Office strategy Growing the Social Investment Market: A vision and strategy (2011).
1. Social enterprise growth and scaling up
The take up of CEEDR-led research by social enterprises and other practitioners has led to changes in strategy and the associated scaling up and growth of organisations.
For example, our research into social enterprise models for Early Years education provision has led London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) to a significant increase in the scale of their operations and changes to their future growth strategies. They attribute the research to their growth of 30 per cent (increasing to 24 nurseries) and the raising of over £100,000 investment.
Following our suggestions, LEYF Finance Director said: "Since your work we have been growing by between 10% and 14% per year, scaling up through acquiring. The work on franchising got us noticed and got our foot in the door; we now have four more nurseries and more children."
2. Social value and impact measurement
Research conducted on social value and impact measurement has led to changes in the practices of social enterprises and charities such as Citizen's Advice, through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) led by Middlesex University.
A social impact measurement guide produced as a result of another KTP led by our team has been ordered by more than 700 organisations. It was used on 14 training courses (attended by 200 third sector organisations) and is included in a website for selecting impact measurement tools for small social enterprise food-related projects.
Further impact on practice came through nine events for over 450 social enterprises and third sector organisations, drawing on our research about the growth of social enterprise activity. These include the events organised by ESRC (Festival of Social Science Seminar in Edinburgh, 2010 and in Glasgow, 2012); Westminster Briefing (2009, 2010,2011); British Library (2010 and 2013); and Cumberland Lodge (2011)