Social enterprise resources

Help building social enterprises

This overview of resources draws on existing successful social enterprise initiatives as well as on the knowledge base of organisations that have undertaken the commitment to support such initiatives. It has been aimed to support community-driven collective bottom-up initiatives. Additionally, it could also inform the social enterprise undertakings of individual persons. The proposed supporting tools and resources have been aimed to be relevant to initiatives within the UK.

The organisations listed here provide support in three key areas of social enterprise development:

  • Information on the sector and support for enterprises – organisational types of social / community enterprises; areas of interest for the not-for-profit / third sector; Enterprise setup and support services;
  • Provision of donor funding – either for particular activities within the enterprise start-up or for specific types of business satisfying social objectives that would not sustain with own funding;
  • Toolkits – resources providing support information that has been organised with a framework and suggests a systematic approach to undertaking a social enterprise initiative. Most of the listed sources providing support are offering additional support reads. These are often focused on a specific type of organisation like a shop, or a pub, or a buying group; or on a specific part of the business like marketing for example.

Institutional support for social and community enterprises

Support, advice and case studies

  • Co-operatives UK: dedicated to supporting the creation of collective organisations in the UK; providing expert help free of charge on the legal set up of co-operatives and other community-based enterprises.
  • Plunkett Foundation: committed to supporting social enterprises in the form of co-operatives and other community ownership organisations; provides examples through case studies of good practice; offers funding for consultancy support.
  • Social Enterprise UK: a national body for social enterprise; involved in collecting and analysing up to date information on the sector on the one hand, and providing information and support services to social enterprises on the other hand; it offers guides and manuals explaining social enterprise organisations and providing advice on their setup.
  • UK Government: provides online resources to inform the setup of social enterprises. Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) aims at fostering community initiative.
  • Third Sector: an online publication venue for up to date information from the voluntary and not-for-profit sector.
  • Locality: supports community enterprises and social action by building a network of existing examples. Also provides additional information aimed at strengthening community capacity for grassroots initiative leading to enterprise creation.
  • Esmée Fairbairn: with its funding priorities focused on the socially disadvantaged and those experiencing the consequences of institutional failures this source provides opportunities for supporting social objectives. In addition, this funder encourages applications with strong enterprise orientation as well as local food initiatives.
  • Heritage Lottery Fund: aiming at impact within the framework of heritage, people and communities this funding source supports the preservation of historical, environmental, and cultural heritage initiated by communities or individual persons.
  • Ashoka: an international network of social entrepreneurs. Contains social entrepreneurship teaching materials and information to support enterprise creation as well as on funding sources; interested in investing in social enterprises with scale-up potential.
  • Inspire2Enterprise CIC: provides support services for social enterprises in the form of information, specialist advice and support from start-up to development and maintenance.
  • Local Councils: the Environmental Health Department maintains the registration of local food retailers. They also provide information about food safety regulations and good practice. The Trading Standards Officer can advise about trading regulations including weights and labelling.


  • Ananda Social Venture Fund: an Europe-wide investor in social enterprises with potential for re-payment of investment and growth.
  • Big Lottery Fund: oriented towards community support by funding initiatives aiming at tackling a variety of social problems. The organisation has a UK wide coverage but some strands of funding are country-specific. Examples of available funding schemes are: Reaching Communities – it has a buildings strand that provides funding for land and buildings projects costing more than £100,000; People and Places – aimed at supporting community relationships, services and environment; Awards for All – funding focus on themes like ‘supporting positive transitions’, ‘stronger communities’ and ‘environment’ to support initiatives like Transition Network.
  • Social Investment Business: offers funding in the form of loans and grants to community enterprises.
  • GRANTfinder: an online database facility providing information on grant funding opportunities including ones that are suitable for social and community enterprises.
  • Finding Finance: a service provided by the Community Development Finance Association offering business and charity loans to social enterprises.
  • Funding Central: an online database facility providing information on grant and loan funding opportunities especially aimed at social and community enterprises.
  • ClearlySo: primarily focused on provision of finance advice for social entrepreneurs.
  • Community Investment Fund: invests debt and equity in social and community enterprises operating in the UK.


  • Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE): a policy campaigning organisation aiming to protect, promote, and enhance rural towns and the countryside. It offers a number of toolkits aiming to facilitate and support specific activities within the third sector rather than social enterprise creation – examples include a toolkit for volunteer management and a toolkit for local food mapping.
  • Sustain – Food Co-op Toolkit: Created within the Making Local Food Work project this toolkit aims at facilitating the setup of co-operatives and buying groups focusing specifically on sourcing local food.
  • Making Local Food Work – The Social Enterprise Toolbox: This toolbox includes the Food Co-op Toolkit above and offers additional supporting tools on the organisation, financial management, and marketing of social enterprises.
  • Business in the Community, Sustainable Business Toolkit: Aiming to support potential social entrepreneurs by guiding them through a process from idea generation and opportunity identification towards implementation.
  • Shropshire Council Toolkit: A case study-based set of toolkits aiming to equip rural communities with means for talking market town development issues. It is more useful for supporting community initiative through citizen engagement rather than community enterprise creation.
  • Skye and Lochalsh Council for Voluntary Organisations Community Toolkit: Aiming to help community groups in transforming into enterprises it includes UK context specific organisational and start-up information. The toolkit provides extensive support to planning and running community enterprise. It includes resources on technical knowledge like web site creation and maintenance as well as marketing and communication management through newsletter and printed materials.
  • Cheshire East Council Community Enterprise Toolkit: Supports the creation, development and maintenance of community enterprises by providing guidelines on different steps of the process like market research and business planning. It does not aim to provide up to date information on organisational and financial legislative issues.
  • Wrexham County Borough Council Social Enterprise Toolkit: Supports the creation, development and maintenance of social and community enterprises by providing guidelines on different steps of the process like market research and business planning.
  • International Institute for Sustainable Development Enterprise Toolkit: A dynamic wiki-based set of tools aiming at supporting social entrepreneurs in the creation, development and maintenance of their enterprises.
  • International Finance Corporation (IFC) SME Toolkit: Aiming to support entrepreneurs in general rather than social entrepreneurs in particular this resource is useful for initiatives striving for achieving business viability alongside social objectives. It provides tools for business planning and finance management.
  • Social Creatives Toolkits: Provides a compilation of tools for support in approaching social innovation and the communication strategies of social enterprises.
  • UnLtd Social Entrepreneurship Awards Toolkit: A business-oriented tool for social enterprise creation targeted at individuals rather than communities. The organisation also offers various streams of funding aimed at supporting social enterprises in aspects like: replicability, growth, young entrepreneurs, pursuit of market opportunity and others.

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