Oxfordshire designated a ‘Social Enterprise Place’

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Paul Inman OSEP launch

Oxfordshire is the first county within the UK to be named as a ‘Social Enterprise Place’ by Social Enterprise UK (SEUK).

The move follows a successful bid to SEUK by a group of stakeholders led by Oxfordshire Social Entrepreneurship Partnership (OSEP), an innovative new partnership set up by Oxford Brookes University, University of Oxford and Student Hubs to foster and support social enterprise – that’s business with a social mission - locally.

The announcement was made by Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of SEUK, at the launch of OSEP, held at The Launchpad, Saïd Business School on 10 September 2014.

More than 90 potential and existing social entrepreneurs from across Oxfordshire attended the OSEP launch, to find out more about this major new umbrella organisation for social enterprise. OSEP aims to become a ‘one stop shop’ supporting existing and prospective social entrepreneurs to plan, develop and grow their businesses through funding, support, advice and guidance opportunities.

Funding awards from £500 to £15,000 are available as a result of grants made by the Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP’s) Regional Growth Fund and UnLtd, an organisation that supports social entrepreneurs in the UK and globally.

The announcement from SEUK strongly supports the work of OSEP and bodes well for the future of social enterprise, social entrepreneurs and positive social change in Oxfordshire. The launch of OSEP also marks the start of a series of events to promote recognition of Oxfordshire as a Social Enterprise Place and more details about these events can be found on the OSEP website at www.osep.org.uk.

Commented Peter Holbrook of SEUK, "We are pleased to recognise Oxfordshire as our very first county ‘hotspot’ for Social Enterprise. Our aim is to help celebrate the excellent work taking place across the county, promote its successes and support its growth by raising awareness. Across the UK, we are looking to network our Social Enterprise Places, to bring them together to share the learning and help build markets for social enterprise at local and national level."

Paul Inman, Pro Vice Chancellor at Oxford Brookes University, added, "With the birth of OSEP, for the first time, we are offering the wider Oxfordshire community the advice, support, masterclasses, mentoring and funding, that is currently available through the existing components of the two Oxford-based Universities’ social entrepreneurship programmes, which find, fund and support social entrepreneurs.

"One of OSEP’s first tasks was to examine and map in detail the extent of social enterprise activity across the county and estimate its contribution to the local economy. Oxfordshire, with its traditions of volunteering and charitable-based organisations, is already a hotbed for social enterprise and OSEP will help build a community that accelerates that growth, reaching out to local authorities, businesses, charities, consumers and budding social entrepreneurs locally. We’re delighted this has been recognised and welcome the support of SEUK."

Ian Walmsley, Pro Vice Chancellor of University of Oxford, continued, "OSEP was born from an innovative relationship and this first successful collaboration shows just what can be achieved in partnership. The new designation for Oxfordshire recognises the key role that OSEP can play both in seeding and growing social enterprise locally – but also nationally."

Cliff Prior CBE, Chief Executive of UnLtd, which sponsors the University-led programmes and OSEP with support from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), commented, "I am delighted to be here to mark the start of this excellent opportunity for Oxfordshire and its social entrepreneurs locally. Social enterprise is currently one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK and the rewards of social enterprise both in terms of positive social change and economic vibrancy are becoming well documented in the media. OSEP is one of eight regional hubs for Social Enterprise supported by UnLtd, nationally, and was one of the strongest bids our judges received. There’s an exciting future ahead, which I watch with interest."

The work of OSEP will be based on the existing components of the two Oxford-based Universities’ social entrepreneurship programmes which together find, fund and support social entrepreneurs. These programmes are currently available to staff, students and recent graduates of both Universities.

With the birth of OSEP, for the first time advice, support, masterclasses, mentoring and funding, will also be available to the wider Oxfordshire community.