What’s in a network?

Blog post by Jessica Holliland, Partnership Development Associate at School for Social Entrepreneurs Dartington and Communications and Membership Manager at Plymouth Social Enterprise Network, part of the Enhance Social Enterprise Network.

Network is a bit of a buzzword the last decade or so. We have social networks, we have school networks, we go to networking events for every reason you can imagine…but at its core a network is a group of people that all know each other through a common factor. For us, our networks are all focused around purpose led business and making the world a kinder, fairer place to do business.

The School for Social Entrepreneurs is a school for those very businesses; offering fully funded learning programmes and grants to social entrepreneurs who want to get started or upscale their businesses. Over the past ten years we’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and their businesses across the southwest from Plymouth to Bristol. Helping them to make a bigger impact in their communities and to change the way people do business.

But in reality it is so much more than just a business school; it is itself a network of amazing change makers, visionaries, doers and specialists. This network is a real strength for the school because from that sharing of information, stories, and resources, a community is formed. And that larger community is what makes the sector stronger. This network to community transition is so important to developing the sector. By bringing people together we increase the opportunities for collaboration and we create a more communicative way of doing business, which is one of the reasons that our learning cohorts are such a valued part of the way we teach. We can use that communication to build relationships and raise the profile of social business with local authorities, business chambers, national organisations, funders and many more useful categories that are often out of reach for the single enterprise.

For us, being involved in the local networks allows us to find out what is happening on the ground and to speak to the business owners and entrepreneurs we want to work with. Those opportunities mean we are able to learn first hand what people need and we take that knowledge with us to talk to funders and improve our offer of support. Local networking events, workshops, and partnership conversations are all fantastic ways to reach people that we might struggle to connect with otherwise. They also allow us to build relationships that mean we can signpost and connect other providers or businesses up, bringing even more resource and capacity to the social enterprise sector.

School for Social Entrepreneurs Dartington is really supportive of the amazing local social enterprise networks and the work they’re doing to extend the impact in their local area. The Enhance Social Enterprise Network is a unique and exciting opportunity to build on that good work by connecting up the counties within the southwest. Having a searchable directory of social impact businesses that vast is a massive step towards inclusive procurement and enabling the general public to shift their buying habits. A shift that we know is essential if we are to build back with a better, more inclusive and purpose led economy post Covid-19.

If you are a social entrepreneur in Somerset, Devon, Torbay and Plymouth and are interested to discover the benefits of part of a network, visit the Enhance Social Enterprise Network for Devon & Somerset website Enhance Social Enterprise for Devon & Somerset website.

European Regional Development Programme logo

The Heart of the South West Enhance Social Enterprise Programme is receiving funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.