North East BIC reports rise in social entrepreneurship during pandemic

The North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) has reported a “marked rise” in demand for the business advice services of its social enterprise specialists.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the BIC has seen an increase in individuals preparing to start up new businesses aimed at making a difference to local people and places,

In addition, the Sunderland-based business support company has seen an uplift in enquiries from existing enterprises planning to expand, as well as traditional companies exploring changing their business model to become social enterprises.

Michelle Booth, associate consultant at the BIC, explained: “It’s notoriously difficult to measure how many social enterprises are trading because there are a range of different legal forms. But a good gauge of the overall trend is the number of Community Interest Companies (CICs) recorded at Companies House.

“There are 942 active CICs in our region - 71 per cent of which have been registered in the past five years - and shows a real uptick in social entrepreneurship.”

Kevin Marquis, the North East BIC’s social enterprise manager, added: “As with all crises, the pandemic has brought out the best in a lot of people and has inspired them to take collective action to consider how they can best support others.

“People are thinking more about their social objectives and their own accountability and responsibility to their communities. They’re turning to social enterprise as this is the best model to support those objectives.

“Private businesses too are looking to convert to this model because their social conscience has been pricked and they recognise that this route opens up income and diversification opportunities that will make them more sustainable.”