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Angela Brown, Peter Smith and Judith Kuit 'Using a Social Enterprise model to develop skills and raise aspirations'
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9 January 2012
To be presented at the Widening Participation Conference 2012 'Discourses of Inclusion in Higher Education', 24-25 April 2012
Using a Social Enterprise model to develop skills and raise aspirations
Angela Brown, Professor Peter Smith and Dr Judith Kuit
This paper will explore and evaluate the use of the social enterprise concept to develop skills, and widen participation in further and higher education. The paper is based upon the primary author’s own experiences of delivering vocational training within a childcare setting, while developing new adult learners to run their own business through a social enterprise. This model has proved to be successful in terms of its impact upon the individual, their clients, and their community, and the business model used has received national interest. This paper will explore the factors which have led to this success, and draw lessons for others working in community learning and skills development. The methodological approach is a qualitative, using personal narratives and focus group discussions with stakeholders. The findings are evaluated with reference to the current literature on social enterprise models.
Interview with authors
I’m interested to learn why you chose to pursue this piece of research: Why these issues in particular?
Angela: I own and run a private sector training company and I chose to pursue this piece of research, because I had established a social enterprise company from ex-students who came from largely deprived communities and had no previous qualifications. In an attempt to make them "business owners" by truly participating in the decisions of the running of the social enterprise company I began to understand some of the tensions between businesses with different organisational purpose and structure.
The issues around deprived communities having the ability to respond to problems in the way government has expressed particularly through social enterprise has some distinct challenges.
Peter: This research is part of a doctoral study being undertaken by the lead author. She decided to do a doctorate in order to explore her own practice, and to set the model which she had developed with her colleagues in the context of the literature. The broad aim of the research is to evidence a model of partnership between the private sector, a social enterprise and the public sector. This model has been used to develop individual's learning and training within a social care context.
What are the key findings of your research? Were there any findings your found particularly surprising?
Angela: The key findings are around the individual's personal journey's with people describing benefits of education which go way beyond achieving vocational qualifications. People discussed not only the benefits for self esteem but the benefits for children in the family from role modelling and watching parents go into employment where there have been several generations of unemployment.These findings are linked to a journey of business ownership from educational achievement, and it has proved more difficult to engage people in this way.
I think this model of private sector training into employment through a social enterprise is working, but it will need further cycles of research to understand and embed this within the organisation if they are to become "participant business owners". If we can harness a quality training experience directly into employment which also engages people as participants we have a useful approach in responding to some community problems.
I also think there needs to be some work done around the proliferation of social enterprise structures which appear to be more in response to procurement and commissioning advantages for participants than identified social purpose but this is a "bug bear" not an area for future research!
Peter: The main findings were in relation to the ability to articulate a model to organisations with different purposes, structures and agendas, and how this impacted upon the learners within the organisation. The project explored the motivations of the learners and their views on the organisation and its structure. The research influenced the model, and highlighted the need to incorporate different value sets including those of business, the third sector and the public sector and the tensions which this creates.
Where do you see this research and yourself heading in the future? Are there particular themes or strands of the work that you particularly want to follow up on?
Angela: I think the future research will encompass changes to the private sector company and the relationship this has with the social enterprise. I envisage a new model which responds to the problems facing delivery of services in local authorities with a social enterprise /private sector partnership.
Peter: The doctoral research is only the beginning of a journey for the lead author, her organisation and the leaners within it. The project has already impacted upon the way in which the organisation operates. The project has involved all of the learners as participants, and has transformed the organisation into a learning organisation, with staff and learners becoming researchers themselves. This way of working will continue in the future.
09:30 on 14 March 2012