News Archive

Together - An International Social Enterprise Development Programme...

From late October 2013     Paris residential 25-27 November 2013

Social Enterprise Europe have been working with the Education & Solidarity Network and the French education mutual MGEN (Mutuelle Générale de l'Education Nationale) to create an opportunity for community leaders to gain a profound understanding of how to develop successful social enterprise to animate their local communities and address the key problems they face.

Together FlyerTogether Flyer

We are bringing together a group of 20 people from at least 10 countries, around the world.  The only qualifications are an ability to work in English and a passion to help your community shape its own future through its own enterprise.

The programme consists of 3 elements:

  1. A preparatory phase from late October 2013 during which you will use online tools to gain an overview of how communities throughout the world are using business models to solve social and environmental problems.  During this online phase you will also introduce yourself and your proposed project to the other programme participants, and learn about them and their project.
  2. A 3-day training conference in Paris, 25th-27th November 2013.  You will never again learn so much in 3 days.  The first 2 days will be a residential training conference on practical social enterprise development skills and techniques; the third an open day in the centre of Paris, where you will meet and present your project to other social entrepreneurs and potential supporters.
  3. From then on you will be part of the online community of developers that will help you implement your project.  This will include mutual support from other participants, online one-to-one mentoring from the programme leaders, and access to further training and development resources, including funding and other useful contacts, as required.

We intend to run this programme at least once every year, so the online community of developers will continue to grow.  Applicants unsuccessful this year may be offered a place in 2014.  The cost is 2,000€, but the first 10 places available for 900€.  The price includes:

  • membership of the community of developers
  • online training programme
  • online mentoring
  • participation, accommodation (4 nights), meals and transfers for the Paris training days

You will need to meet your own costs of travel to Paris (though we may be able to help with this).

For more information contact Geof Cox

All-Party Parliamentary Group for Entrepreneurship International Symposium...

I promised at this event to post here the sources of the statisitcs I used in my speech:

  • the total number of social enterprises is 688,000
  • the sector employs more than 2 million people, including half a million sole traders
  • social enterprises are estimated to have total annual incomes of £163 billion a year

 - all of these figures are from the May 2013 Cabinet Office paper Social Enterprise: Market Trends

  • 1 in 3 of of all businesses in development want to be social enterprises

 - from Dr Rebecca Harding's research for Delta Economics Social Entrepreneurship in the UK 2008 - also the conclusion of research for UnLtd the same year

  • 1 in 3 entrepreneurs have primarily social motives

 - Global Entrepreneurship Monitor United Kingdom 2004, also by Dr Harding

  • the figure that 1 in 3 MBA students do not put profit at the top of their priorities is taken from the work of Dr Rory Ridley-Duff - who is currently looking for the original research source for me
  • over half of the income of NGOs is earned income (over ¾ in some regions)

 - The Economic Contribution of Voluntary Organisations, NCVO, November 2012

  • 45% of registered charities currently identify themselves as social enterprises and 92% want to increase earned income

 - 2013 paper by Social Enterprise UK

  • the growth rate in the numbers of Community Interest Companies is exponential

 - Regulator of Community Interest Companies Annual Report 2011/2012.

miEnterprise in Scottish Government's new learning disability strategy...

Thomas is a man of many skills - baker, gardener, photographer, but he has never had a job.  Because Thomas has learning disabilities he has spent much of his life in institutions.  Now he has his own flat, an allotment, and is about to launch his own micro-business - Thomas's Cakes.  He will be supported in this partly by his ELCAP support staff but mainly by miEnterprise Lothian, a Community Interest Company set up, with support from ELCAP, in August 2012, based on a model developed in Hereford.

In December 2012 miEnterprise Lothian did some test trading in the form of a Christmas Fair. Thomas made a selection of Christmas cakes, which sold out, as did his hyacinth and cyclamen planters.  He is almost ready to exploit his skills commercially because miEnterprise Lothian has helped him develop a business plan, identify a route to market for his products and helped him to work out how to price his wares.  It has also organised insurance, banking and tax arrangements, and will provide ongoing support with budgeting, book-keeping and accounts.

Thomas belongs to the miEnterprise Lothian Business Club.  Other members of the club are preparing to follow him down the pathway to trading.  Nicola has just negotiated the use of space at a local community centre to prepare and package soaps and other toiletries for sale.  These also sold well at the Christmas Fair.  Nicola plans to trade as Soap Queen and has a business plan nearly ready.

The keys to life - Improving Quality of Life for People with Learning Disabilities

CIC caps included in consultation on social investment tax relief...

The government have included the CIC caps in the consultation on social investment tax relief.

Durham Creatives

Arts & Social Enterprise...

4 June 2013 / 10:00 am - 4:00 pm / Town Hall, Durham

Geof Cox was one of the speakers at this event for creative practitioners to explore how social enterprise can support and broaden their practice and create real social value, and was on hand to advise half a dozen creative practitioners on setting up the optimal organisational structure for their work.  

More information here

Seminar - Organisational Structure Development for Social Enterprise...

5th June 2013   Buffet Lunch: 12.00   Seminar: 12.30pm - 4.30pm   Newcastle upon Tyne

This seminar explored how to embed organisational structure development expertise in the social enterprise support infrastructure in North East England.  It was designed for development workers involved in delivering support to start-up or restructuring social enterprise.

For more information contact Geof Cox

April 2013 - the launch of Balance...

Balance, formerly the Kingston Council Workstart & Asperger Syndrome Service, is a unique joint venture between the local staff and Pure Innovations - which itself came out of Stockport Council several years ago.

Geof Cox Associates are particularly proud of this service transformation because it provides an important model for small teams that want to take control of their own destiny, but might struggle to meet ongoing public sector pension costs without the support of a larger partner organisation.

FairShares Association Founders & Supporters Meeting...

Friday 10 May 2013 5-7pm, Sheffield Business School, Stoddart Building, Arundel Gate, Sheffield S1 1WB - further details here.

Great new video from miEnterprise Lothian...

View it here!

miEnterprise is going down a storm in Scotland, thanks largely to our partnership with Elcap.

miEnterprise Lothian has been working quietly with 'earning disabled' people for some months, and at the same time we've been talking to the Scottish Government about developing an infrastructure body to support replication across Scotland - so at the official launch of miEnterprise Lothian we were also able to announce 3-year Government Funding for roll-out across Scotland.

FairShares LogoFairShares Logo

Fairshares Association Launch...

Yesterday’s Co-operatives Yorkshire & Humber AGM & Conference saw the public launch of 'a new brand and model of social enterprise': FairShares.

This new model had a long incubation in the minds of some of the most experienced social-enterprisers around, and is designed specifically to resolve some of the shortcomings of other legal structures where both multi-stakeholder financial participation needs to be combined with open and participatory management, and a balance also needs to be struck between preserving the mission of a social enterprise, and the assets built up by past participants, but also giving current participants the freedom to develop the mission and use the assets in response to new challanges.  A tall order! - and it is hoped that lots of contributors will get on board and help to improve the solutions the founders have developed so far.

The approaches employed in the model can be adapted to Company, Society, Community Interest Company, Partnership and other legal frameworks - indeed we are already working internationally with other legal incorporation arrangments.

The FairShares Association was formed by Rory Ridley-Duff (Sheffield Business School), Cliff Southcombe (Social Enterprise Europe), Geof Cox (Geof Cox Associates), Nicci Dickins (MIH Consultancy), Emma Green (Co-operative & Social Enterprise Support) and Morgan Killick (ESP Projects).  You can find out how to get involved there, or there's a FairShares Wiki for those who want to get stuck in to development work.

There's also a Facebook Page, a Linked-In Group and Twitter too!

Guardian Live Discussion: Britain's USP in social enterprise...

Geof Cox was one of the expert panelists in the Guardian Live Discussion on what the UK social enterprise movement can offer the rest of the world - Friday 25th January.  This was be Geof's first media outing as an associate of Social Enterprise Europe, who he is working with to establish an office in France.

North East Social Enterprise Partnership Conference...

Cheshire Cat

The North East Social Enterprise Partnership Conference was held on Friday 11th January 2013 at The Customs House in South Shields, Tyne & Wear.  The theme this year was 'in business for good'.  Read my blog piece on the Conference here.

Geof Cox spoke on public and voluntary sector service transformation:

'On one level social enterprise – using business models and methods to achieve a philanthropic purpose – is a deceptively simple idea.  But what devils might lie in the detail of implementing a social enterprise business model? - and how can public or voluntary sector bodies, with their specific histories and organisational cultures, actually become more entrepreneurial?

'Geof Cox Associates have worked for many years on the transformation of a wide variety of private, public and voluntary sector bodies for social enterprise, and in this session will share key insights and practical approaches to successfully implementing structural and cultural change.'

Consultative Workshop: Approaches to training in social enterprise...

Geof Cox recently contributed to the Open University consultative workshop on approaches to training in social enterprise (Thursday 18th October at Birkbeck College, London).  The aim of the workshop was to explore training and learning approaches and experiences for managers in social enterprises, by consulting an experienced group of managers, trainers, educators and students of social enterprise on their views and experiences.

Also speaking was Roger Spear, professor of social entrepreneurship at the Open University and founder member and vice-president of the EMES research network on social enterprise, and Tim Curtis, senior lecturer in the School of Health at Northampton University, where he initiated the 'Social Enterprise Campus'.

If you would like to find out more about this group do contact me.



Geof Cox spoke on The Right to Provide at the Social Enterprise Yorkshire & Humber Public Sector Spinouts Conference (Wednesday, October 3, 2012, Hebden Bridge).

Geof presented the 'Framework for Service Transformation' approach, based on the idea that in order to respond effectively to spin-out proposals, whether they are from management, staff or the local community, public bodies ought to be developing a Framework that addresses all the key issues across departments (such as policy on staff and asset transfers, business case content, organisational structure, pensions, etc) - rather than reinventing the wheel for every new enquiry.

He also challenged the Local Authority Trading Company model - which is increasingly popular because it is the short term easy answer for councils - but is probably not the best vehicle for social enterprise, or the best route to viability.

Geof Cox now in France...

Although Geof Cox Associates will continue to be based in the UK, Geof Cox himself has moved to France.

Lac de Guerledan - on the Velodyssey near Les HirondellesLac de Guerledan - on the Velodyssey near Les Hirondelles

Geof says:

"It's nothing to do with France's socialist government!  My partner Pauline will be running the 'Hirondelles' Gites of Brittany business - eventually as a social  enterprise - it's on the new Velodyssey Atlantic Cycling Route which runs for over a thousand kilometres from the UK to Spain - more of that later!

Although based in France I will continue to work in the UK and internationally on social enterprise development, much as before, and Geof Cox Associates' office will remain in England.  From the UK you can still phone me on 0208 123 1280 at normal UK rates.  My email and skype contact details also remain the same (email me direct if you want to book a gite by the way! - see the most recent review on Facebook)"

Social Firms UK Conference...

The 2012 Social Firms UK Conference was held in Leicester on 11th-12th July.

Geof Cox spoke on

Health and social care service transformations and the role of social enterprise

What’s driving social care service transformations?  How to choose between service options, what works and what doesn’t.

Find out if there is a WISE or Social Firm business model for your service, or is social enterprise just privatisation by the back door?

Also contributing on this topic was Neil Cartwright of Care Plus.

Also of interest to readers of these pages will be the workshop on Personalisation, which dfeature a presentation on miEnterprise by Geof Cox's miE co-founder Jon Pitts.

Responding to Change Conference...

Geof Cox was one of the speakers at the Birmingham Social Enterprise Conference 'Responding to Change' on 27th June.

This conference had a unique aim: to bring together key experts to create a ‘virtual toolkit’ for organisational change in the current climate.  The toolkit will be available electronically to participants following the conference.  Geof Cox's contribution was on

Structuring Change
"Change presents challenges to large and small organisations. Geof Cox has worked for many years on the transformation of a wide variety of private, public and voluntary sector bodies for social enterprise, and in this masterclass, will share his key insights and practical approaches to successfully implementing structural and cultural change."

You can find out more about the Conference here.


Evaluation of miEnterprise published...

The 'Work In Progress' inclusive research team (pictured here) have published an evaluation of miEnterprise and other supported employment projects.

"People we have spoken to in other parts of the country have thought about self employment but are too worried about it.

We think more people should have the chance to join schemes like miEnterprise."


Read the full report on miEnterprise here...

Senscot Conference/AGM

Geof Cox spoke at the recent Senscot Conference/AGM on Is social enterprise really changing the world – or being changed by it? - you can read his further reflections on the event here.

Senscot is a network of Scottish social entrepreneurs working for 'a socially just Scotland' - by trying to make social enterprise 'a valued part of everyday life'.

(There is unfortunately no equivalent of Senscot in the UK as a whole.  I've had some great feedback from my guest blogs in The Guardian Online, but it wasn't until one of them was picked up and reposted by the Senscot Bulletin that the reaction became truly global.  I received an email from my old friend Gonzalo San Martin who now manages NESsT's Latin American operations.  Gonzalo lives in Santiago in Chile - I worked with him in Ulaan Baatar in Outer Mongolia - and he picked up the Senscot Bulletin in Oslo, Norway.  You too can go global and subscribe to the Senscot Bulletin here.)


The Future of EverythingThe Future of Everything


The future of everything...

Geof Cox was the final speaker at this year's Future of Everything Conference, 12th-13th May at Four Piccadilly Place in the heart of Manchester.

The Conference is the 'ideas' aspect of the 5 day Festival of Art, Music & Culture 11th-14th May.

Geof Cox spoke on Social Enterprise & Open Source Culture and initiated exploration of the way emergent online ‘peer production’ and ‘collaborative consumption’ business models – and especially those arising out of open source approaches to intellectual property – relate to the burgeoning social enterprise movement.


miEnterprise in the news again...

The miEnterprise project is featured in the latest Department for Business Innovation & Skills Strategy Document.  Here's what they say about us:

miEnterprise is a ground-breaking social enterprise working directly with socially disadvantaged unemployed people, particularly those with learning disabilities, to help them establish and develop micro businesses.  Developed as a joint-venture marketing co-operative in close partnership with Herefordshire Council, Jobcentre Plus and HMRC, miEnterprise offers a membership scheme, which provides comprehensive business support tailored to overcome disadvantages faced in gaining employment.  Individuals use personal budgets to purchase scheme membership.  This provides personalised support geared to developing a range of entrepreneurial skills and competencies in a real-life work environment, mostly in their own community.  There is evidence that miEnterprise members learn best when learning is individualised, applied and directly related to their business venture.  This kind of supported self-employment offers a real option for many disadvantaged people to work towards becoming less dependent on traditional and often costly social care services.

You can download the document, Skills for Sustainable Growth, here.


miEnterprise wins National Market Towns Award...

We were all amazed recently that the government changed the law specifically to enable the miEnterprise project to be a provider of Supported Permitted Work.  Now miEnterprise has won the prestigious National Market Town Awards. The Action for Market Towns Press Release lauded miEnterprise as "the first social enterprise of its type nationally to help people plan, set-up, run and develop micro-businesses as a flexible route into employment - now, with support from Vince Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, miEnterprise is helping to set up similar organisations in towns and cities throughout the country. Jon Pitts of miEnterprise, receives the award from Lorraine Connolly, head of the Community Newswire at the Press Association, and Catherine Hammant, Chairman of Action for Market Towns

The Press Release goes on to explain:

The National Market Town Awards celebrate innovative projects in small towns throughout England... Projects first competed to be named winner of their region and the eight regional winners then went head-to-head in the contest to win the National Market Town Award. The awards are organized by Action for Market Towns, the national charity which supports the renewal and vitality of small towns.

People disadvantaged in the labour market, often through disability or for health reasons, find it difficult to raise finance to start their own businesses. miEnterprise offers  supported employment  in a way which gives its members effective business support without affecting their self-employed status. It has set up workplaces, including a fully-equipped catering kitchen, which are available to members to hire, supporting  the development of high-quality micro-businesses.

Jon Pitts said:

This is hugely important for us and our members, particularly because it is not a social care award, but an award for regeneration and supporting the local economy.  miEnterprise provides a lot of opportunities for people to start their own businesses and it is important that people with disability or disadvantage can contribute to their local economy.  We are now looking to roll out the project to 10 other towns, starting with North Tyneside and Leicester City.


miEnterprise changes the law...

The miEnterprise project is going from strength to strength. This new model for supported self-employment was developed by Jon Pitts and Geof Cox, and has been piloted by Jon with Herefordshire Social Services over the last 2 years, proving that micro-enterprise can offer a better way forward than conventional employment for many people with learning disabilities.

The government is now directly funding 'beta-testing' of the model in further Getting a Life sites throughout the UK. Not only that - they have actually changed the law so that miEnterprise - and other Community Interest Companies - can now be providers of Supported Permitted Work.

Supported Permitted Work enables disabled people to undertake paid work (earning up to £92 per week) while still receiving welfare benefits such as Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance, as long as their work is supported and supervised by an appropriate Supported Permitted Work provider. Unfortunately the regulations were drafted before Community Interest Companies were developed, and currently specify that providers must be public or voluntary sector bodies. miEnterprise, for many reasons, felt that the Community Interest Company form provided the best organisational structure, and has worked closely with Job Centre Plus to extend the definition of Supported Permitted Work providers to include Community Interest Companies. The law was changed by Statutory Instrument No. 840 (The Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 3) Regulations 2010), which will come into force on 28th June 2010.

STOP PRESS... We're now working through The Common Cause Foundation with Lippy People on a further replication of the miEnterprise model - to people in the criminal justice system who can't find employment, but can set up their own social enterprises...




New CIC dividend and interest caps...

Following the recent consultation on the Community Interest Company dividend and interest caps the Regulator has announced her intention to relax and simplify the regulatory framework from April 2010. The essential points are:

  • new rules will apply to shares or debt issued after 6th April this year (but will not affect shares or loans taken out before this date, to which the old rules will apply)
  • the maximum aggregated cap on share dividends (the maximum percentage of all profits that can be paid out other than to asset locked bodies or for community benefit) will remain unchanged at 35% - this is still seen as essential to preserve the focus on social over financial returns
  • both the per share and the interest caps will be decoupled from Base Lending Rate, both to simplify their operation and in recognition of the fact that Base Rate itself no longer really reflects the actual cost of investment
  • the share dividend cap from April will be 20 percent of the paid up value of a share
  • the interest cap will be 10 percent (calculated on the average amount of a community interest company’s debt, or sum outstanding under a debenture issued by it, during the 12 month period immediately preceding the date on which the interest on that debt or debenture becomes due)
  • the Regulator has emphasised that these are maximum limits subject to further review in 2-3 years time: it is important that unlike the old caps they do not come to be seen as normative, and that in general returns are kept well below these maximum levels.

For the full announcement go here; for the CIC Association's dialogue go here.



Who are Geof Cox Associates working with NOW...

Funky BinCan this waste paper bin really be made from old plastic bags by some of the world's poorest people? You betcha!Wonderful new social enterprise Funky Junk Recycled have just asked us for advice on issuing CIC Shares.

Funky Junk was started by ethical tourism company Carpe Diem Travel. Coincidentally People & Places – Ethical Volunteering - the latest initiative of Ethical & Responsible Tourism Guru Harold Goodwin – is also looking at the CIC Share form.

Sometimes the recent explosive growth of social enterprise in areas like fair trade, the environment, health and social care seems to overshadow the long history, importance and impact of organisations that trade for cultural and educational purposes. Among other work with cultural and educational bodies, we are currently helping Tyne & Wear Museums reach more diverse and disadvantaged people, and revisioning the exemplary Discovery Museum in Newcastle.

We're partnering the new Institute for Voluntary Action Research and others in the latest Joseph Rowntree Foundation research project on asset based community development.

We're helping staff at Chester-le-Street CVS do their own social enterprise company formations - and we're working with FINE to provide mentoring to CVSs and other voluntary sector umbrella bodies in the North East of England on how to support social enterprise development more generally.

We're helping Amazonails - the leading strawbale builder in the UK – improve their governance.

Current organisational structures and restructuring work includes:

The Childcare People have won the South Tyneside most promising new business award – that's not just 'most promising social enterprise' – but most promising of ANY business!

We're also working with the West Mercia Probabtion Service, Dave Tomalin, and a number of other partners on social enterprise for prisoners and ex-offenders, and of course with a number of NHS externalisations and other social enterprise initiatives in health and social care.

Oh - and advising Oxfam in Russia on social enterprise development of course!


Egidijus BiknevičiusEgidijus Biknevičius of Etalink - also a former president of the Lithuanian union of blind innovatorsSTOP PRESS... We've just heard that one of the participants in our Lithuania training programme, Egidijus Biknevičius, won the Lithuanian national 2008 Young Entrepreneur Medal of Merit for Business for his work establishing the ICT social enterpise Etalink (for a passable translation google 'Etalink' and select 'translate this page' for the top result).



New publications from Geof Cox...

Geof Cox has written a 'warts and all' study of the Social Firm model for Research in Practice for Adults. RIPFA works to promote evidence-based commissioning in adult social care, and is part of the Dartington group - an international centre for the generation and application of new ideas - many of which are central to social enterprise. The new Social Firms study is part of the Key Issues series, which addresses topics where the evidence-base is currently under-developed, but where practitioners and managers still need to access objective information to help inform their practice. The series also includes guides to outcome based commissioning, support brokerage, and joint strategic needs assessment. All of these can be downloaded free here.


Geof Cox has also writen the social enterprise sections of the latest FINE induction pack First Steps for a New Funding Advice Worker - more details here.



Royal Society of Arts...

Over 2008 a number of key social enterprise people - including Sally Reynolds, Rob Greenland and Geof Cox - were elected Fellows of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). The RSA is one of the old London Learned Societies. It was founded in 1754, helped establish both the Royal Academy of Arts and the Royal College of Music, and has numbered among its Fellows leading social thinkers - including both Adam Smith and Karl Marx - as well as leading arts figures such as William Hogarth and Charles Dickens.

According to Wikipedia,

Notwithstanding its establishment credentials, the RSA has always been a radical body which has sought to challenge the status quo and change the world around it "to remove the barriers to social progress". Its founders spoke of the need to "embolden enterprise, enlarge science, refine art, improve our manufactures and extend our commerce", but also of the need to alleviate poverty and secure full employment.

The potential synergy between the RSA and social enterprise is apparent from this description, and the fact that people from social enterprise are being elected as Fellows is evidence that social enterprise is now important as both a radical and a mainstream movement.


Guy Rotherham Award - 2008 Winner...

STIMATS - the South Tyneside Intermediate Musculoskeletal Assessment and Treatment Service - won the 2008 Guy Rotherham Award from the Improvement Foundation. The new model service is currently part of South Tyneside Primary Care Trust, but Geof Cox Associates are assisting its establishment as an independent social enterprise, under the name of Accedo Health Community Interest Company.



2008 - Social Enterprise Conference in Russia...

Geof, Anna & NicholasGeof Cox at the Ostashkov Conference. Oxfam Country Manager Nicholas Collof is on the left, and super-interpreter Anna Borodina in the centre.

As part of his ongoing work with Oxfam in Russia, Geof Cox recently led a 3-day social enterprise training conference in Ostashkov, midway between Moscow and St.Petersburg.

Participants were mainly from NGOs already involved in Oxfam's anti-poverty programme, but the conference also drew participants from a number of Russian Funds interested in social enterprise, as well as WWF, which is partnering Oxfam in a project out in Siberia creating alternative livelihoods for indegenous people currently over -exploiting a conservation area. Clearly, social enterprise will have a role to play there.

For more on social enterprise development in Russia please see Geof Cox's Blog. If you can read Russian go here.



Launch of The Childcare People...

As part of his on-going work on social enterprise development with South Tyneside Council, Geof Cox has assisted the establishment of The Childcare People. This new model child care social enterprise has been developed by childcare experts Training in Childcare, and was launched by David Milliband, then Foreign Secretary and MP for South Shields, on 22nd February 2008. See some of the local press coverage here.



Template Social Firm Share Community Interest Company...

2008 saw the publication of the second in Geof Cox's series of template Social Firm organisational structures.

This template takes the relatively unusual form of a share community interest company. More than three quarters of community interest companies take the guarantee company form, but it is the share community interest company that has the potential to open up the full range of both commercial and charitable funding sources, as well as enabling employees to participate financially in the success of their Social Firms.

This is an important example constitution because it contains notes on the whys and wherefores of community interest company design, and detailed instructions on how to actually establish a community interest company. Most of this accompanying information is applicable to any social enterprise, though some specific objects, equal opportunities, and other details of the structure do relate specifically to a social enterprise that will employ people with disabilities.

The new Template is available from Social Firms UK.