The future looks bright for social enterprises

THE winners of the 2009 Social Enterprise Awards were announced in London earlier this month.

As well as the award for Best Social Enterprise 2009, there were prizes for the Best Large Social Enterprise, Best Small Social Enterprise and Best New Social Enterprise. An additional award was given to recognise social enterprise activity in schools.


All the shortlisted finalists for the awards – run by the Social Enterprise Coalition in partnership with the Office of the Third Sector, the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Communities and Local Government – had been national winners in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The overall winner – Best Social Enterprise 2009 – was the Brighter Future Workshop in Skelmersdale.

The workshop repairs and services electric mobility scooters and wheelchairs and provides technical and engineering training for young people – some with disabilities. The trainees also learn workshop administration and IT skills, so they can help with costing repairs, ordering spares and internet research for parts and products.

The workshop prides itself on creating “an awareness of the needs of people with a disability within Lancashire” and promoting a positive image of people with disabilities.

Receiving the award, the organisation’s chairman Peter Cousins said: “This is an exciting night for all of us, and we are thrilled to have won. We believe in what we do and can see the difference we’ve made in the lives of many disabled people, both through our recycling business and our training scheme, and hopefully this award will enable us to reach even more.”

The winner of the Best New Social Enterprise was London’s Bikeworks, a community interest company that recycles and refurbishes bicycles and provides cycling training (including assertiveness and cycle maintenance) in East London.

Set up in 2007, it aims to use bikes to tackle the environmental, social and economic challenges faced by London.

The award is Bikework’s second of the year. It has already fought off competition from purely commercial businesses to win the best growth business award in the Thames Gateway Business Awards 2009, an accolade that shows it is possible for a social enterprise such as Bikeworks to compete successfully with commercial businesses.

Global Ethics, the winner of the Best Large Social Enterprise – and perhaps best known for its One Water brand – generates funds for humanitarian projects indeveloping countries. All company profits are passed on through a foundation.

Since launching One Water in 2005 as a way of raising awareness of the shortage of clean water around the world, as well as tackling the problem by funding water pumps in Africa powered by children’s roundabouts, the organisation has gone from strength to strength.

One Water is now available as both still and sparkling in a variety of bottle sizes and the company has also introduced a range of vitamin waters.

Following the success of One Water, Global Ethics has taken a similar awareness-raising/product development approach with the launch of One Condoms to raise awareness of the 35 million people living with the HIV virus.

Sales of One Condoms – which, like One Water, are available at Co-operative Stores – are funding outreach work, providing screening and counselling in South Africa.

As it completes its 21st year of trading, the social firm Pack-IT can add Best Small Social Enterprise 2009 to its list of awards. In 2005 the company was named European Social Firm of the Year and the following year it received the Welsh Assembly’s Excellence in Enterprise award.

The Cardiff firm, which provides training opportunities and permanent employment for people with learning disabilities, offers distribution, mailing, storage and fulfilment services for public, private and third-sector clients.

The winner of the Social Enterprise in Schools Award, which was restricted to English schools, was Derbyshire’s Holbrook Centre for Autism. Its Perfect Pots business sells hanging baskets filled with plants grown and planted up by the pupils.

Congratulating all the winners and entrants, Labour/Co-op MP and Minister for the Third Sector Angela Smith said: “The winner and nominees for the Social Enterprise Awards show the diversity and quality of social enterprises in the UK, and the impact they are having.

“Congratulations to Brighter Future Workshop, a worthy winner, and to all the entrants to the Social Enterprise Awards. This has been a very successful year for them, and for social enterprises across the UK.”

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