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Social Enterprise

Social enterprises trade to tackle social problems, improve communities, people's life chances, or the environment. They make their money from selling goods and services in the open market, but they reinvest their profits back into the business or the local community.

The term 'social enterprise' came about from recognition that in the UK and across the world, there were organisations using the power of business to bring about social and environmental change without a single term to unite them.

Social enterprises, like any other businesses, sell goods or services and need to make a financial profit. They differ from mainstream businesses however, in that they are primarily driven by Social and/or Environmental objectives and their profits are principally reinvested in the work of the enterprise or the local community.

The number of 'not-for-private-profits' in the UK is increasing rapidly and it is estimated that at least 1 in every 5 business start-ups has a primarily social or environmental purpose.

Social enterprises operate in just about every industry including farming, renewable energy, retailing, education, manufacturing and providing health care. They employ millions of people across the globe.

Somerset Social Enterprise Fund (SSEF)

The SSEF has been established with initial funding from Somerset County Council  to provide loan finance to support new and established social enterprises. Whilst the SSEF is primarily a loan fund, there is scope for an element of grant funding.

 The SSEF is intended to:

  • Improve access to finance for social enterprises in Somerset
  • Increase the number of social enterprises in Somerset attaining the 'Social Enterprise Mark'
  • Enable and support measurable improvement in benefits delivered to local communities through increasing activity of social enterprises 


Social Enterprise Network Somerset (SENS)

SENS is the support hub for new and existing social enterprises in Somerset. It offers a wide range of activities including peer-to-peer support opportunities, networking events, signposting and training. SENS champions 'a different way of doing business' and enables the sharing of expertise, ideas, information and other resources so that social enterprises can grow sustainably and benefit the local economy, the environment and wider society.

Social Enterprise UK (SEUK)  pdf icon Start your Social Enterprise - downloadable guide [382kb]

SEUK are the national body for Social Enterprise in the UK.  Their downlaodable guide aims to take you through the start-up essentials from forming your social mission to funding.  They believe social enterprises should:

  • Have a clear social and/or environmental mission set out in their governing documents
  • Generate the majority of their income through trade
  • Reinvest the majority of their profits
  • Be autonomous of state
  • Be majority controlled in the interests of the social mission
  • Be accountable and transparent
Last modified: 31 July 2017