Aston University to support delivery of £1.7m WMCA programme to help community businesses

Aston University is helping to deliver a £1.7 million package of support to help community-focused businesses improve the lives of more local people in some of the region’s most...

Aston University is helping to deliver a £1.7 million package of support to help community-focused businesses improve the lives of more local people in some of the region’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods launched by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The free business support programme, backed with the WMCA’s Commonwealth Games legacy money, is one of the biggest of its kind ever launched.

The growth programme is being delivered in partnership with Enterprise Nation, Locality, Aston University and the School for Social Entrepreneurs using funding from the £70 million Commonwealth Games Legacy Enhancement Fund, which is being administered by the WMCA on behalf of the UK Government.

Aston Centre for Growth will deliver two of the four main programmes. The GROW and ACCELERATE programmes aim to help participants develop the tools and strategies needed to foster growth with a focus on increasing trading revenue and reducing dependence on grants, growing the number of employees and elevating business skills and confidence.

It is now open to applications from leaders of social enterprises, community-owned businesses, cooperatives and charity trading arms.

The money will be used to support 160 business leaders to sharpen their key business skills through peer learning and for one-to-one coaching and mentoring to help them grow their organisations, become more sustainable and widen the impact they have in addressing inequalities.

The social economy is the collective term for businesses that use their profits to achieve positive community and environmental impact. In the West Midlands, the social economy is already worth £3.5 billion a year and directly impacts the lives of over 250,000 people – as employees, volunteers or as beneficiaries.

Through the West Midlands Social Economy Business Support programme, the WMCA is delivering one of the key recommendations of the Social Economy Taskforce, which was set up by the Mayor to look at what the WMCA and its regional partners could do to help double the size of this key area of the economy so that even more local people benefit.

Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said:

“Across our region we have around 11,000 social economy businesses and organisations providing valuable jobs, training, housing and other services which are being delivered by local people for the benefit of local people. These are underpinned by a central aim of doing good for their communities.

“Thanks to the Commonwealth Games Legacy Fund, we’re now able to provide support to 160 leaders in this sector to ensure they have the right skills and capacity to develop their businesses – ultimately having a positive impact on the lives of even more people in their communities.

“I look forward to seeing the opportunities this creates to help the social economy continue go from strength to strength in the months and years ahead.”

Kate Angel, head of business support operations at Aston Centre for Growth, said:

“The Aston Centre for Growth is delighted to have received funding to develop and delivery specific support to the Social Economy sector in the West Midlands.

“We have worked with many social enterprises and CICs across our other programmes and the Grow and Accelerate programmes will allow us to increase this support to charities, and cooperatives.

“The programmes will be delivered in our new Enterprise Hub, a space dedicated to supporting enterprise across the region to prosper.

“This exciting new programme in our strategy will increase our impact in line with our purpose to make our world a better place through education, research and innovation, by supporting our communities to thrive economically, socially and culturally.”

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