English | Cymraeg Tel: 029 2076 5760 Connect: Twitter

i2i sponsorship feature

Where’s the value?

Discussions around public service reform, measuring and recording outcomes and the future direction for social housing have created a new ‘buzz’ around the role of social enterprises within the housing and regeneration sector over recent months.

We already have a number of exciting examples of landlords working with existing or creating their own in-house social enterprises for a wide range of services – this could be through supporting existing social enterprises, through looking at how we allocate our investment and services, or establishing new social enterprises where a gap in services has been identified locally.

Whilst organisations like RCT Homes through Meadow Prospects have created a social enterprise, GREW, undertaking a wide number of maintenance services, much smaller scale enterprises also play a valuable role. For example:

  • Medra in Tai Ceredigion are able to offer grounds maintenance and handyman services to tenants
  • PS Services is a cleaning and grounds maintenance business with a social conscience that aims to promote the mental wellbeing of those it employs to provide informal welfare checks to vulnerable tenants it works with.

It is not limited to bricks and mortar services either, GREW is dedicated to training and up-skilling young people in a range of disciplines, whilst Bron Afon Community Housing houses the Bron Appetit café which supports people with learning disabilities to experience catering work.

More organisations are looking to support existing social enterprises by either hosting them or developing in-house opportunities to help them grow.

Tai Calon has embraced the mentoring role with Young Wales in Blaenau Gwent by providing rent free accommodation at their headquarters, and using their services for their own business activities. However, the relationship is mutually beneficial as the organisation offers services to Tai Calon tenants at competitive prices and offers training and skills development for some of the hardest to reach young people in the area.

In addition, they have taken social enterprise Green Earth in-house in order to deliver on their grounds maintenance, as well as collaborating to identify future business opportunities. United Welsh is also reviewing its spend and identifying what investment can be directed to existing social enterprises and are already working with social enterprises such as Vision 21, Young Wales and PS Services.

Eva Trier, a senior consultant at CM International, an organisation that specialises in creating innovation in the public sector has some tips for landlords exploring the use of social enterprises:

  • Before initiating any commissioning exercise the strategic objectives of the organisation must be clearly defined. It is worth revisiting a number of strategic documents and corporate plans to ensure that the ethical fit between the use of social enterprise and the landlord is evident
  • The first stage for any organisation is to identify gaps in their services or in their community aspirations and research what the current market is able to offer. One of the drivers for the developing relationship between Tai Calon and Green Earth was that they would not displace any existing organisation already carrying out that type of work in their communities
  • If a landlord is considering setting up a social enterprise in-house it should connect with community outcomes at a corporate level. If the activity is merely a business opportunity without community benefits a social enterprise may not be the best vehicle
  • The question of scale should also be considered. What often starts out as an opportunity to create community capital can lead to community enterprise, and is your organisation ready for increased management, marketing and staff activities?
  • When considering setting up an in-house enterprise, landlords must consider how responsible for the ownership of that organisation they want to be. In addition to the added managerial commitment, there is long term viability and planning to consider, opportunities for work outside the parent organisation, and financial competitiveness in the market place
  • Social landlords need to think about how they use their buying power to engage contractors and other organisations that they have a procurement dialogue with to consider the use of social enterprises within their supply chains and support both parties to develop a relationship

Eva states:

‘The only reason to look at social enterprise is to create the opportunity to develop a blended mix of complete commitment to community outcomes while bringing a commercial discipline to the task.’

There is also a fine balance between having an organisation that has social objectives primarily, with any surplus being ploughed back in to the community and the business, and the financial viability of a business to succeed. And this must be the starting point for any social landlord investing time and energy into developing social enterprise whether in house or through continued support and buying power.


Sign up to our email newsletter

Every two months we'll email you a summary of the latest news & articles on the WHQ website. Better still, if you're a fully paid up magazine subscriber, you'll get access to the latest members-only articles as well.

Sign up for the email newsletter »

Looking to advertise in our magazine?

Advertising and sponsored features are a great way to raise your profile with our readership of housing and regeneration decision makers in Wales.

Find out more »