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Social Entrepreneurs in Residence

The Saheli Women's Centre in Balsall Heath, south Birmingham. This is one of the projects being supported by the Social Entrepreneur in Residence at Birmingham East and North Primary Care Trust. Dry slope skiing is one of the sports and social activities that Saheli organises for its predominantly Asian community. Image courtesy of Bill Knight.

Social entrepreneurs in residence are entrepreneurs who are brought in to develop the innovative capacities of an organisation. One recent example is the Young Foundation’s Social Entrepreneur in Residence programme at Birmingham East and North Primary Care Trust (BEN PCT).

Under the programme, a social entrepreneur is placed in a local authority or primary care trust, where he/she acts as a catalyst in a local area; identifying entrepreneurial talent, scouting for good ideas, engaging with staff in the National Health Service (NHS) and local authority as well as the third sector to support social innovation and nurture a pro-innovation culture. The SEiR is expected to develop three or more social enterprises to improve local health outcomes within the first 12 months of the project.

The SEiR’s prime aim is to find, energise and help entrepreneurs to develop their concept from an idea or modest project to the delivery of a scale-able, sustainable venture. The SEiR can help organisations and individuals access finance, professional support, for instance, in exercising due diligence, preparing a business plan, marketing and facilitating introductions to networks and potential clients and commissioners. The SEiR helps social enterprises currently working outside the NHS to develop services that NHS commissioners want to contract to help deliver better health outcomes. For NHS clinicians and departments the SEiR can assist in transforming their services, and secure investment from funds such as the Social Enterprise Investment Fund (SEIF) and the Regional Innovation Funds (RIF) managed by the Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs).

In the UK, innovation has been recognised as critical in delivering excellence in clinical care. However, within the complex web of existing NHS and local government frameworks, innovation is notoriously difficult to deliver. Too often, the talent, experience and appetite for working better amongst staff is not sufficiently mined, valued or developed. Public spending cuts add urgency to the need to cultivate innovative ways of tackling a wide range of challenges.

The SEiR programme offers an efficient and rapidly responsive means to delivering innovative public services. Innovation in health services and social care will happen faster if the entrepreneurial energy, skills and values of NHS staff and local enterprises are harnessed and channelled towards delivering sustainable solutions to address health and social care needs. As well as creating new services, a SEiR with roots in the local social enterprise culture, works to change the culture of an organisation so that innovation becomes a natural part of its ethos – not a barrier to success.