UnLtd has distributed £627,000 to nearly 100 social entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the last year.
The Social Enterprise Support Fund and Inclusive Recovery Fund, two large funds created in response to the pandemic, were only able to be delivered in England. As a result, UnLtd doubled its existing grant budget in the devolved administrations, offering cash awards and support from £500 to £15,000 to social entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
The awards made initially focussed on recovery, and then targeted early-stage entrepreneurs looking at new ways to tackle issues emerging through the pandemic. We saw demand from a wide range of themes, with particular interest in tackling mental health, wellbeing, inclusion, food poverty and the environment.
In response to both COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, UnLtd continues to look at what we can do better to support the most impactful social entrepreneurs across the UK. We are determined to make our cash and support reach those individuals who have the lived experience, long-term desire, and potential to make the most difference.
To understand why we have taken this approach read Making inclusion a reality: lessons in equity from the Social Enterprise Support Fund.
Here's the evidence from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales during 2020-21:
56% of our awards have gone to individuals with personal lived experience of the issue they are addressing.
21% of awards made across the 3 nations went to disabled people (19% of working age adults are disabled in the UK, Scope 2018).
14% were made to people who identified as from a Black, Asian or from a minority ethnic background. In Wales, this figure was 26% of awards.
During the year we also adapted how we convene our award panels to ensure applicants were able to talk to people who really understand their position. All judging panels included past UnLtd Award Winners - social entrepreneurs with their own lived experience, who represent the needs and culture of the devolved administrations, and were able to clearly identify with the applicant. Feedback from these panels was overwhelmingly positive with applicants expressing how much they had learnt from the experience.
Proud to support incredible social entrepreneurs
Here are just a few examples of the inspiring social entrepreneurs we have supported over the last year. These and many more are tackling some of society's most pressing issues – employment for the most marginalised, inclusion, isolation and mental health.
Northern Ireland - Michael Holden, a disabled entrepreneur and founder of AccessoLoo from County Down. His venture provides a unique mobile Changing Places service allowing any disabled person to use bathroom facilities with dignity. The business is user-led and provides employment for disabled people; 80% of the staff team identify as having a disability. A £15,000 UnLtd Grow It Award will enable Michael to pivot the business to supply fixed place high dependency bathrooms for both the private and public sector.
Scotland - Audrey Mutongi, founder of The No.1 Care Agency, a Glasgow-based social enterprise offers a bespoke, home-based care service. An UnLtd Scotland Grow It award will allow her to grow the befriending offer, providing support to lonely isolated older adults in their own homes across Scotland. Audrey has her own lived experience of social isolation as an asylum seeker and refugee, and clearly understands the issues people like her face. She now has a place on the UnLtd Thrive Accelerator Programme for Healthy Aging which hopes to provide further support and investment to scale.
Kath Pierce, founder of Somewhere EDI champions LGBTQ+ community, culture, lifestyle and enterprise in Scotland. With UnLtd's help, Kath has created a vibrant community that includes business support and networking opportunities for members of the LGBTQ+ community. She has created an LGBTQ+ Masters Scholarship in partnership with the business school at Edinburgh University. In late 2020 Kath launched Somewhere for Us; a high-quality print magazine providing a platform for new and aspiring LGBTQ+ writers and journalists working in Scotland.
Wales – based in Swansea, Emma Clarke's own lived experience has driven her desire to help other young people not in employment or mainstream education access early intervention services for mental health support. Emma's deep knowledge has helped design her new venture, ReShape Youth Mental Health. Tailored support will be provided alongside physical boxing training, as well as nutrition advice. Emma will also engage the police in fitness sessions to breakdown potential stigma with young people. An UnLtd Do It Award of £5000 will pay for essential equipment and overheads as her venture develops.
We want to hear from you
Do you have direct lived experience of the issue you are tackling and are aiming to support the most marginalised in society?Our awards are now open to individuals from across the UK who have tested their idea, are ready to start or are looking to scale.
Are you a partner organisation addressing inclusion, employment, disability, isolation, aging and want to increase your impact? Do you know individuals who need help to start independent ventures solving these issues? We would love to talk more.
Contact our local Social Entrepreneur Support Managers:
Northern Ireland – Nuala Smyth (Belfast), NualaSmyth@unltd.org.uk
Wales – Jane Ryall (Carmarthenshire), JaneRyall@unltd.org.uk
To find out more about our grants and support for social entrepreneurs across the UK visit our awards page