Big Red Ladder is a development framework pulled together by NESEP and a small number of VCSE partners in anticipation of the Big Lottery Opt-In (”Building Better Opportunities”) call. It’s a framework based on key values, as well as the concept of the VCSE sector shaping and delivering the offer.

We’re having an event to explore with Northumberland VCSEs their interest in getting involved in all aspects of moving forward. This initial meeting takes place at 1-3pm on 12 June in Stannington Village Hall, Morpeth.

If you’d like to come along, just register your details at:

The North East’s first ever knowledge exchange for social enterprise

The Universities of Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside have been working collaboratively to promote and support social enterprise in the North East over the past year. We know that the region can become a leader for social entrepreneurship and we are gathering key stakeholders, such as yourself, to celebrate achievements so far and look to the future of our regional social enterprise support infrastructure.

The five Universities would like to invite you to participate in the region’s first ever knowledge exchange for social enterprise.


We will be hosting a morning of high-quality discussion, led by a panel of national and regional experts, taking a look at social enterprise support ‘ecosystems’ at different levels (national, regional, municipal and community level). You will then have the chance to question our panel of experts on how to cultivate social entrepreneurship, how the region can further support the sector and what the future holds for social enterprise in the North East.

Panel Members:
Dr Caroline Bucklow - Senior Knowledge Exchange Officer, Oxford University
Andrea Winders – Executive Director of Enterprise Development, Sunderland City Council
Tim Kielty – Special Projects Manager, New Prospects (Whitley Bay)
Karen Wood – Chief Executive, North East Social Enterprise Partnership (NESEP)


Robert Ashton, The Barefoot Entrepreneur
After lunch you will hear from two of the UK’s best known social entrepreneurs. Firstly, Robert Ashton, best-selling author of Sales for Non-Salespeople and How To Be A Social Entrepreneur. Robert will share the trials and tribulations of being a social entrepreneur and what it means to achieve social impact AND sustainability. Robert will also be available for short surgery appointments (see below), please indicate your interest on the registration form.

Susan Aktemel, Founder, Homes For Good CIC
We are also delighted to be hearing from award-winning social entrepreneur, Susan Aktemel, founder of the charitable social enterprise, Impact Arts, and the innovative letting agency, Homes for Good CIC. In 2011 Susan was named Social Enterprise Leader by the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition, and had the honour of winning the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 in the social category. In 2012 she was named the Global Business Leader of the Year by Ogunte, which promotes female social entrepreneurs across the world.

The Big Social will conclude with networking and a chance to meet 1-2-1 with a business advisor, social investor and Robert Ashton in one of our bookable afternoon social enterprise surgeries.


The Big Social will be providing delegates access to short 1-2-1 meetings with social enterprise experts. However please express your interest on your Eventbrite registration form in order to book a 10-15 minute appointment.

Steve Camm – Business Development Manager, North East Social Enterprise Partnership
Steve is Business Development Manager at the North East Social Enterprise Partnership. He helps businesses through incorporation into the right legal structure and improves their performance and sustainability once established. He is currently a Director of South Tyneside Gymnastics and Well Being Centre CIC.

Rod Jones – Regional Investment Manager, Big Issue Invest
Rod has been an independent Consultant since the end of 1999, when he left Barclays, as Regional Retail Director of their North West Region. Rod is the former Chair of a focus group for Newcastle New Deal for Communities, President and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers and a Justice of the Peace. Rod was a founder of Financial Inclusion Newcastle Limited.

Robert Ashton – The Barefoot Entrepreneur
Robert Ashton helps individuals, organisations and communities achieve greater, positive social impact through achieving economic self-sufficiency. He’s been described as a ‘disruptive innovator’, because he challenges the status quo, not for the sake of it, but because it enables him to reach the goal he can usually clearly see. Robert is also a best-selling business author. He has the intelligence and experience to see through the fear and fluster and sensitively deliver success. Something he does time and time again.


This ground-breaking event will give you the opportunity to meet key stakeholders from the nation’s expanding network of social entrepreneurs and support organisations.


Our public services are vital – there to help us live our lives, whoever we are. But they are failing us because they are being outsourced to national companies, distant from the communities they are supposed to serve. There’s a better way – Keep it Local. Community-focused services delivered at a local level that give us what we need, when we need it – delivering services that work for the individual, the community and the taxpayer.

Locality is campaigning for public services to be commissioned and delivered at a neighbourhood level – instead of supplied by large national companies.

Locality’s research proves that local organisations offer substantially better outcomes and value, because they know their communities and have a flexible approach, which is vastly more effective than standardised, one-size-fits-all services.

Find out more >>>>

Read the Keep it Local campaign report >>>>

Clinks website

The needs of service users are increasing and becoming more complex, and the majority of organisations rarely achieve full cost recovery on the contracts they deliver.

These are some of the findings from Clinks’ latest ‘State of the sector’ survey, which offers us valuable insight into the voluntary sector in the Criminal Justice System. This new report gives us the opportunity to check how the delivery of services to some of society’s most marginalised people is faring amidst new policies and financial arrangements.

It assists our understanding of how the voluntary sector can continue to deliver its essential mission, highlights the impact of policy changes on the wellbeing of your service users, and throws the spotlight on the knowledge, skills and motivations of the sector’s staff and volunteers.

We are seeing increased numbers of clients with complex needs compared to previous years – as additional burdens such as debt, arrears, and benefit changes impact upon their mental health. (Survey respondent)

The report also finds…

  • Many organisations are relying on their reserves putting them at risk of closure
  • The majority of the sector is having to make redundancies
  • Organisations are spending more time on funding applications
  • Volunteering remains vital for the sector, and volunteer recruitment is increasing

and asks ‘Where next?’ for the voluntary sector working with offenders and their families.

Click here to download the report >>>>

Click here to read the blog, ‘The latest news on the state of the sector’ >>>>


New opportunities funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) that help you to take control in your neighbourhood launched on 1 April 2015. New programmes on My Community are:

Our Place
Want to put communities at the heart of service delivery in your area? Our Place helps you work with local people to identify the issues that matter most to them and to develop partnerships and plans – revolutionising the way your neighbourhood works. Grants and support are available for at least 100 neighbourhoods – find out more on the My Community website.

First Steps
Are you starting out on your journey to improve your neighbourhood? First Steps is a new initiative helping groups decide what practical actions to take bringing positive changes in their community.  The programme offers opportunities to 115 communities with support and grants available. Find out more on the My Community website.

Community Ownership and Management of Assets (COMA)
Want to have more influence over what happens to land and buildings locally? We will support up to 50 partnerships between local public bodies such as local authorities and community groups (including parish councils) to develop multiple asset transfers or single, ground breaking asset projects. Grants and support are available – find out more on the My Community website.

Community Economic Development
This new initiative is for community groups who want to take a lead in shaping their economies for the benefit of local people. If you belong to a community that wants to work towards seeing real economic change in your area – whether this is in food, housing, finance, energy or other opportunities – then find out about support and grants on the My Community website.

Visit the My Community website to find out more.


Tees Valley Unlimited and the area’s five Local Authorities have launched a free voucher scheme to help small and medium-sized companies in the area turbo-charge their businesses communications through better broadband links.

Tees Valley Unlimited and the area’s five Local Authorities have launched a free voucher scheme to help small and medium-sized companies in the area turbo-charge their businesses communications through better broadband links. The drive to ensure that SMEs, charities and social enterprises have access to high-speed reliable communication systems follows Tees Valley being designated a broadband connection voucher scheme area by the Government.

Eligible organisations, across Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees, can apply for a free voucher, worth up to £3,000, towards the fixed cost of getting better connected. The vouchers, which are designed to cover the cost of installing the next generation of broadband services, are backed financially by Whitehall as part of the SuperFast Britain campaign to get more businesses and residents online.

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said, “This is fantastic news for Middlesbrough and Tees Valley as we know how important a fast broadband connection is for businesses across the UK. We want to make sure that small businesses have the technology they need to compete in the digital age. This scheme will help tens of thousands of small businesses around the UK and I urge all Middlesbrough and Tees Valley businesses to apply for a voucher from April 2015 onwards.”

Councillor Charlie Rooney, Executive Member for Regeneration for Middlesbrough Borough Council, the Tees Valley local authority leading on the project, said: “In today’s fast-moving hi-tech world, superfast broadband is no longer a luxury, but is essential for businesses and our local economy.

If Tees Valley is to be able to grow and prosper in an increasingly digital world more companies must be able to plug into the high-speed network.

Stephen Catchpole, Managing Director of Tees Valley Unlimited, the Local Enterprise Partnership for Tees Valley, said: “I would urge eligible businesses to apply for a voucher as allowing an organisation to access the latest technology can positively impact on its ability to meet its customer needs and grow the business.”

The Connection Voucher, which will open up broadband services capable of delivering 30Mbps or higher, will pay a business between £100 and £3,000 towards the fixed cost of getting connected. If a business is part of a building or business park and knows of neighbouring businesses that also would like to access the scheme, they can pool their vouchers to obtain a better connection across the whole of the site.

Organisations could qualify if they:
• Are a SME, charity or social enterprise employing less than 249 people or volunteers
• Have a turnover of less than £41m / balance sheet of less than £35m
• Have received less than £120,000 in public grants in the last three years
• The connection will cost more than £100
• Are willing to sign up for a minimum six month contract with their chosen supplier

More information here >>>>
Download a flyer here >>>>

The scheme is administered by Go Digital Newcastle on behalf of Tees Valley.

Join us for a networking lunch and celebratory showcase – Wednesday 10 June 2015, 11am – 1:30pm, Space Six.

Sign up via Eventbrite >>>>

Which is the UK’s best co-operative? It could be a large successful business, a fast growing start-up or an innovative community enterprise. This year, for the first time, Co-operatives UK is asking its members to decide. For the last three years, the winners have been Suma Wholefoods, Central England Co-operative and Midcounties Co-operative. Who will it be this year? This is your chance to nominate and vote for the UK’s Co-operative of the Year.

The winner will be announced and presented their award at Co-operative Congress on Friday 26 June. John Atherton, Membership Officer at Co-operatives UK, comments:

The Co-operative of the Year Award has been won by some flagship businesses over the last few years. This year, we’re opening up the nominations and vote to members of Co-operatives UK. It’s your opportunity to choose the co-operative that you think is performing the best.

Read more & nominate >>>>

ACEVO (the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) launched its report in March on ‘alliance contracting’, but what on earth is it and why might it be relevant to social enterprises and other third sector bodies?

To answer those questions, it’s worth being aware of a couple of important documents relating to the NHS that were issued towards the end of 2014. The first one was the NHS Five Year Forward View, which set out the challenges to the NHS and the need for further change. The second was the so-called ‘Dalton Review’, the main title of which was ‘Examining new options and opportunities for providers of NHS care’. Both have a common thread of ‘integration’ and alliance contracting is proposed as a key way of achieving it. As explained below, alliance contracting is not actually new, though its application to the NHS is.

It wasn’t that long ago that NHS services were provided by NHS bodies. There were private healthcare providers too, of course, but the landscape was reasonably straightforward. Then followed the decision to get rid of Primary Care Trusts which in turn led to a number of health services being run by a range of providers including social enterprises formed under the ‘Right to Request’. Since that time, things have got even more complex with private companies and GP provider companies coming in to the mix too. The future envisaged under the Forward View and Dalton is that we will need new models of care to meet patients’ needs going forward.

So, what is alliance contracting and why did ACEVO bother writing a report about it? Unlike a traditional contracting model whereby the commissioner is removed from the delivery process, risk is transferred as much as possible to the provider, and decision-making could be said to be based on ‘what is best for me’, the alliance model takes a different approach. Here, the commissioner is closely linked to the delivery team, risk is shared, and decision-making should be based on ‘what is best for the project’.

Though new to the NHS and to other public services, this kind of approach was actually introduced by the oil company BP in the 1990’s as a way of helping to bring a co-operative rather than adversarial approach to certain problems it was facing. Alliance contracting models have since been widely adopted in respect of public services in both Australia and New Zealand.

A desire for more integrated care in health and social care services is at the heart of the alliance contracting model in the NHS context. This means models where there is genuine collaboration between multiple partners whilst looking to achieve longer-term or outcomes-based goals. It is an alternative to putting things in small lots (popular with smaller providers but much harder for commissioners to manage), tendering out to one enormous provider who will do everything itself, and also an alternative to the current common approach of one lead provider and a series of sub-contractors (or even sub-sub-contractors).

Successful alliance contracting needs the different bodies to collaborate with one another with a view to achieving a common goal, and this is a key part of what commissioners will be looking for. In recent years particularly, with shrinking grants and moves from commissioners towards tendering in larger lots, third sector bodies have had to learn to collaborate to survive. This is one way in which the world of social enterprise can offer something valuable to this type of approach. Again, with a trend towards outcomes-based commissioning in contracts, the third sector has something to offer (particularly those who have sought to understand and embrace reporting of social value). On top of these things, there are of course many social enterprises who directly provide health and / or social care services so there are opportunities on the direct provision side of things too.

There is a genuine opportunity for social enterprises and other third sector bodies to be involved in helping to shape the changing NHS. As with most things in life, there are two options: to be proactive and be part of the changes, seeking to influence it in a positive way, or to sit on the sidelines and wait for others to make the important decisions. If you’re in the latter camp, then the answer to the question ‘what’s next?’ is to do nothing at all; otherwise, it’s a case of engaging with local commissioners and letting them know what you can offer. Surely, it’s better to be round the table early rather than waiting till it is too late and others have done the talking for you.

Could this whole alliance contracting idea turn out to be the latest fad in the ever-changing world of the NHS, something which is popular now but forgotten in a few years’ time? Maybe, but there’s only way to find out…


Simon Lee, Hempsons Solicitors 

Simon has provided legal advice to social enterprises, charities, and other community and voluntary sector bodies for over 10 years. He is passionate about the sector and is able to advise on a wide range of matters affecting such organisations including legal structures, contracts, funding and governance issues.

Contact Simon >>>>

It is with great sadness that we report the unexpected passing of Tony Curtis this weekend, at the age of 62. Tony was the Chair of NESEP’s board of directors at the time of his death, and had been an integral part of NESEP at all levels of its operation for over ten years. His loss will be keenly felt, and our thoughts are with his family.

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