Change Please receives an award. Image: Social Enterprise UK
The UK Social Enterprise Awards took place on Wednesday night, recognising the work done across the country by organisations with a social mission.
There are more than 100,000 social enterprises making a difference in the UK, but just a handful scooped the top prizes.
From veg boxes to accessible dental work, here are – officially – the best social enterprises in the UK right now.
The overall winner of Social Enterprise of the Year was Locavore, a Glasgow organisation which delivers boxes of veg and runs zero-waste supermarkets.
It delivers “vegboxes” to 1,800 customers, and grows its own vegetables, employing 100 people. Locavore kept all its staff employed through the pandemic and provides emergency food for those in need.
The judge said: “Passion and commitment shone through the application. Locavore has seen phenomenal growth and has made a commitment to its whole staff team finding innovative ways to put them to meaningful work.”
Fink Street Food
The awards also recognised up-and-coming companies. Fink Street Food won the One to Watch award, off the back of its 2000 per cent revenue growth during the pandemic, and its efforts to match every meal sold with a donation to a soup kitchen.
Fink Street Food is a Berkshire street food and catering company which reinvests half of its profits into community mental health services, such as funding counselling for young people.
Social enterprises making a big impact in their communities were given a platform, with Community Shop awarded the Prove It award for social impact. Community Shop in South Yorkshire provides access to massively discounted food, and has delivered 125,000 food parcels in the last year.
Community Dental Services
Winner of the Health and Social Care Social Enterprise award, Community Dental Services aims to ensure everybody has access to dental care.
Based in the West Midlands and commissioned by the NHS, the social enterprise operates in 54 locations and often works with patients with mental health challenges or those experiencing homelessness.
Striving for a world with no homelessness, Change Please trains people experiencing homelessness as baristas while offering support with mental health, accommodation, and employment. Boosted by funding from Big Issue Invest, it has not only expanded to France and the USA, but won a contract to supply coffee to 10 Downing Street.
Recognised with the Consumer Facing Social Enterprise award, Change Please was described by judges as “an exemplar to the business community as a whole, showing you can be successful, have a social purpose and still grow.”
During lockdown, nearly all of Radiant Cleaners‘ work vanished – but the social enterprise still managed to pay its wages in full.
It employs people facing barriers to employment – including ex-addicts, survivors of domestic abuse, and ex-offenders – as cleaners in Nottingham. As the winner of the Education, Training and Jobs Social Enterprise award, Radiant Cleaners also helps staff with services such as debt counselling and English lessons.
Managing to sell over eight million tea bags in the past five years, NEMI Teas employs refugees and tries to combat the environmental impact of the tea industry.
It’s helped over 20 refugees into work, and its tea bags are fully biodegradable. With its products now sold in over 300 stockists across the country, NEMI Teas won the Environmental Social Enterprise award.
For vulnerable people, getting access to legal help can be a challenge. Lambeth-based law firm Commons Law helps overcome this, by helping its marginalised clients navigate the criminal justice system.
As the winner of the Social Enterprise Building Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Justice award, Commons Law has also worked to fix the justice system. In March, the firm helped to get the requirement that defendants declare their nationality in court scrapped.
Breathe Arts Health Research
Breathe’s founder Yvonne Farquharson won the Women in Social Enterprise award in recognition of the firm’s work to use creative programmes to improve health and wellbeing. Built by Farquharson in her spare time, Breathe now reaches over 37,000 people every year.
By employing autistic adults as IT consultants, auticon aims to shift perceptions of autistic adults in the workplace, and make work environments more suited to autistic employees. It won this year’s International Impact award, and has offices across Europe, the USA, and in Australia.
Taking an old council building in a Welsh World Heritage site and turning it into a cafe and office, Glyn Wylfa breathed new life and purpose into its corner of the Ceiriog valley.
Awarding it the Transformative Community Business award, a judge said: “Glyn Wylfa is a great example of a social enterprise very much geared to creating economic opportunity in less advantaged rural communities – by creating jobs, services and even cultural benefits such as promotion of the Welsh language”.
Supporting 28,500 people in the past year, P3 provides a host of services for vulnerable people. From homelessness services to supported housing, its team has helped thousands during the pandemic.
It helped 918 people access accommodation during the Everyone In push to house people during lockdown, and has helped over 3,000 people off the streets. P3’s team was rewarded with the Social Enterprise Team of the Year award last night.
For people experiencing homelessness, lockdown brought a host of unexpected challenges. Beam stepped in to provide laptops, tablets and WiFi dongles to allow homeless children to access remote learning. Its Emergency Coronavirus Fund crowdfunded over £150,000 worth of vouchers and items, helping homeless families through lockdown. As winner of Technology Social Enterprise, the company was commended for its innovative use of tech to tackle homelessness.
If you can't visit your local vendor on a regular basis, then the next best way to support them is with a subscription to the Big Issue. As a social enterprise, we invest every penny we make back into the organisation. That means that with every subscription, we are supporting people in poverty to get back on their own two feet.