A social enterprise owned by a North Wales housing association is set to revolutionise business and empower communities after launching its own academy, according to a Welsh Government minister.
Lee Waters AM, deputy minister for the economy and transport, was at the recent launch of the Social Enterprise Academy; a venture by Creating Enterprise, a subsidiary of housing association Cartrefi Conwy.
The organisation, which is based in Mochdre, near Colwyn Bay, has secured the licence to set up Wales-wide learning and development programmes for companies, social enterprises and public bodies. The academy is using a model trailblazed in Scotland that’s now been replicated across 14 countries as far afield as Canada, China, Australia, and Africa.
Waters described the academy as a “catalyst for change” which would hopefully replicate the success of the concept in Scotland: 65% of the 6,000 or so social enterprises there are led by women, employ 88,000 people and have pumped more than £6 billion into the economy.
“I think the academy has huge potential and I have a lot of faith that it will be a success,” Waters said. “It has the potential to be a very powerful economic development tool. Social enterprises have already generated billions of pounds in Wales and with the direction and vision offered by the academy can influence the sector in parts of the economy where the private sector is not flourishing.
“Social enterprises have a key part to play in keeping wealth within our communities, and the important thing about them is that it’s still an enterprise. It’s still about making money and running successful businesses, what defines them is what they do with the profit, and the values that you embody.
“The academy is not going to reverse every economic problem that we’ve ever had. But it has the power to empower people to help people to realise their own potential, because they’re acting in the spirit of common purpose. It is about being part of a business, but it’s also unleashing a wider potential, and I think that just on a human level is a very powerful idea.”
The academy has 11 facilitators who are leaders in social enterprises and in the business community across Wales.
“We’ve identified just over 2,000 social enterprises across Wales who contribute over £3 billion to the economy,” said Jocelle Lovell, from the Wales Co-operative Centre. “I think quite often people don’t think of social enterprises as being profitable and sometimes they think not for profit isn’t a good thing.
“We all need a profit to be sustainable. It’s what you do with that profit that really makes the difference – 76% of social enterprise pay the living wage and over 57% say that their workforce live within 10 miles of where they go to work. We have local jobs for local people, keeping that money local and recycling it in those communities.”
Nazia Ali, representing the original Social Enterprise Academy in Scotland, said: “The collaboration that takes place at community level has blown me away and to create lasting change we all have to come together. Social enterprise is a vehicle that can create lasting change. Our ethos is that we are learning to change the world.”