Building sustainable growth in social enterprises

Credit: The District

The Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation (CCSI) in the Cambridge Judge Business School has pioneered a unique approach to securing the sustainable growth of social enterprises (SEs, business ventures that address social problems). Cambridge Social Ventures (CSV), an SE incubator, is the main route to research impact.

CSV was founded in 2014 after securing government funding as part of a national initiative to improve the support available to SEs, a sector that is a key part of the UK innovation landscape, with approximately 100,000 SEs employing 2 million people and contributing £60 billion to the economy in 2017.

CSV is the only university-based SE incubator and occupies an important role in the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. It has had a transformative effect on a range of organisations in the sector, successfully nurturing over 170 SEs tackling a range of social and environmental issues – including those related to health, transport, housing, ageing and education – through a tailored system of support.

These SEs have raised more than £31 million funding, secured £3.7 million in public sector contracts, and reached about 1.7 million beneficiaries. Approximately 90% of these SEs are based in the UK, however CSV also supports local teams to create impact in Myanmar, South Africa, Gambia, Mexico, Romania, India, Indonesia, Tanzania and Kenya.

Two years after joining CSV, 80% of the SEs supported are still trading.

“The team of mentors helped me to create a sustainable business model – one designed to maximise social impact while at the same time generating the revenue needed to sustain my business. I also learned how to put the social mission at the core of all my activities, and to make it the reference point for all my decisions.”

– Founder Bush Adventures UK