Last week, our partners Comic Relief launched their first ever Christmas appeal, helping to raise money towards our Inclusive Recovery Fund: a £4.75 million fund to help social entrepreneurs build a more inclusive recovery. The campaign put a spotlight on a few of the amazing people UnLtd has previously funded; people who have used their own direct experiences to make change for the better in communities, in ways that are sustainable.
In particular, at a time when the economic and social impact of COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on Black, Asian, and ethnic minority communities and inequality is rising, social entrepreneurs are using their ingenuity and resilience to create jobs, tackle homelessness, and support some of the UK’s most vulnerable people.
The response to the campaign was broadly positive, and while it’s early days, the public have been generous in their support.
But it also attracted some negative attention on social media. One commentator used the appeal to undermine the work of an individual social entrepreneur, suggesting that their work was not of value and that Comic Relief’s money would be better spent elsewhere. There was a racist subtext to some of this commentary, querying why social entrepreneurs using their experience to help those from minoritised communities to overcome barriers to success and find employment should be a priority.
This mirrors the deeply unpleasant social media backlash we’ve seen recently targeting everyone from supermarkets who include Black families in their adverts or charities who launch anti-racist material.
In times of crisis, we support those in need and show solidarity. We come together. We do this based on clear and compelling evidence. Where opinions denigrate the humanity or value of any community, we must challenge them. If one of our social entrepreneurs is being targeted because of their race and the communities they support, we must challenge that.
When we spoke to the social entrepreneur who was targeted, their response was stoic. In their words: “This is why I do, what I do.”
As our Director of Social Entrepreneur Support added, “This is not the first time this type of racism has reared its ugly head. Responding to everything as an individual becomes draining and restrictive. This is why it is so important we come together to stand, firm, together, against this. If this happens to one person, it is an attack on us all who stand against racism.”
Social entrepreneurship is often rooted in people’s direct experience of the social issues they address, which we know can be a powerful force in tackling creating positive change.
The work social entrepreneurs do is informed by deep personal experience of social injustice and expertise in tackling it. And it is helping those from some of the most disadvantaged communities in the UK – over 34% of the funding has gone to places classed as having the highest levels of deprivation.
Why does this matter? Because social entrepreneurs use this lived experience to create solutions. It’s estimated that there are around 100,000 social enterprises, contributing £60bn to the UK economy and employing 2million people. Around 35,000 of them provide employment for those who would otherwise struggle to find work. We know from our own research that between 2018-2019, a study of five social entrepreneurs alone created £18.35m in social value following support of £483k. That is some return on investment.
Over the past 12 months, social entrepreneurs have played an integral role in community responses to COVID-19. Almost all (96%) have maintained some level of activity to support their community, staff or beneficiaries to get through the crisis. They have eased the pressure on front line health and social care services by producing personal protective equipment (PPE), delivering food, transporting staff to and from work. They have delivered home support, food and prescriptions to the most vulnerable, particularly in rural areas, and at the same time reduced feelings of isolation and loneliness. They have been at the forefront of community responses, coordinating activities and providing reliable information. And they have been supporting some of the most vulnerable communities affected as they have worked through the collective grief, trauma and loss of this year.
We continually learn from and are humbled by the efforts of the social entrepreneurs we have funded, many of whom have faced significant barriers and challenge to get where they are today.
As an organisation committed to being anti-racist, we stand in solidarity and promote their work with pride.
Social entrepreneurs come from all parts of society, all kinds of demographics, and represent every different type of community you can think of. What unites them is a shared belief that better things are possible, and a determination to make them happen. In the midst of the great trauma of 2020, this is a message we would hope we could all get behind.
The UnLtd Executive Team
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I’m UnLtd’s Head of Communications & Digital. I run our communications team and ensure we’re telling the fantastic stories of our many social entrepreneurs. I’ve spent the last eleven years working in brand communications across the tech and social impact sectors. When I’m not evangelising about the potential of social entrepreneurs to change the world, I spend my down-time skiing, playing roller derby and being a board game nerd.
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