CMS managed The Hub programme from June 2005 to March 2009Â supplying specialist advice to new and emerging social enterprises in West Cumbria, encouraging them to acquire business skills and supporting them towards a healthy future by providing financial, legal and mentoring help.
While West Cumbria had a great deal of voluntary and community activity and thereÂ were a few successful social enterprises, there had been no support tailored to their needs. Many organisations seeking to become social enterprises remained dependent on grants and failed to attain viability.
A group of partner agencies established the Hub as a single point of contact for social enterprises in the sub-region. Recognising that the expertise did not exist within the agencies themselves, the work was put out to tender and Co-operative and Mutual Solutions Ltd (CMS) won the contract.
â€˜Our work covered it all: until the Hub came along there wasnâ€™t any cohesive support and people werenâ€™t getting the right advice,â€™Â said CMS director Gareth Nash.
A key success factorÂ was that a local project managerÂ was recruited who couldÂ broker advice and support from a wide range of organisations. The aim was to build relationships of trust with client social enterprises, being available over an extended period (2005-2008) and working with them to provide appropriate advice.
The social enterprises that have been helped include community gyms, a group of community centres and a recycling business, as well as an organisation working with young people who have been involved in car crime.
A â€˜venture planningâ€™ scheme supported new enterprises and tested the feasibility of their ideas, and social enterprisesÂ were well represented on the projectâ€™s steering group.
Fledgling social enterprises needed a great deal of support, and itÂ took time to help them towards becoming effective businesses. There was a significant drop-out rate from the first venture planning course. In many cases it had taken up to 12 months for a social enterprise to begin trading.
FromÂ thisÂ network social enterprisesÂ have now started to flourish, and more experienced enterprises are able to mentor thoseÂ who are starting up. This has been a great achievement.
â€˜We have gone out of our way to establish relationships between social enterprisesâ€™ says Gareth Nash.
â€¢ It is important to distinguish between voluntary or community groups and social enterprises: not all charities can or should adopt a business approach. Close relationships with community development workers and the local Council for Voluntary Service are needed to ensure appropriate support is offered.
â€¢ Setting up a social enterprise is a time-consuming process. Specialist advice, including legal advice, is needed and business skills need to be built up.
â€¢ It is effective to begin with a â€˜process facilitatorâ€™ who can offer generic business advice and then direct social enterprises to more specialist help.
The Hub was funded byÂ North West Develpment Agency,Â West Lakes Renaissance,Cumbria County Council and ERDF.Â The partners were Allerdale Borough Council ,Copeland Borough Council , Buisness link, West Cumbria Development Agency, Cumbria County Council, InbizÂ and West Lakes Renaissance.
North West Develpment Agency(Â£450,000),Â Cumbria County Council(Â£250,000) and ERDF(Â£264.819)
The Hub Quotes – What people have said.