Who Are We?
Be Inspired is a Norfolk based social enterprise started in 2010. In 2020 we pivoted to share our experiences of social enterprise, and to provide support to start-up and early-stage social organisations. This change came a few weeks before the pandemic hit in March 2020. COVID-19 transformed our growth overnight, setting us on a new path of social and technological innovation to help thousands of social entrepreneurs across the globe.
What’s Changed For Our Target Audience?
Individuals that have approached us have either been community champions looking to start a new social project, or existing social entrepreneurs looking to stabilise or scale. Many founders are running a small organisation, with less than 5 staff, and many working on their own. Our work has meant we have built a close relationship with them, gaining a strong understanding of the impacts of the pandemic on their community and their ability to operate. We have seen several factors coming together that are creating a shift in approaches to social challenges.
Global Pandemic - COVID-19 has catapulted social organisations into the front line to deliver community services in a crisis situation. Huge waves of volunteers have been mobilised by community champions. Now, nearly 20 months after the pandemic started, and 3-4 months after the lockdown eased, we are seeing many founders burnt out, overwhelmed and are considering stopping.
Social Environment - Social Enterprises are growing strongly with over 3,200 CICs registered in the UK in the last year, growing at 10% a year. The public gets the impact social organisations can make to their community.
Lived Experience Leaders - Lived Experience Leaders have been moved to bring change to their community, to help others like them either, manage crisis situations, adapt to normal living, or integrate into society.
Public Sector Spend - Public Sector services, already struggling from cuts to funding, have channelled their resources to support social organisations’ response to the Pandemic. This potentially will create a shift in future commissioning of services, especially with the emerging trends of Social Prescribing in the UK as part of the NHS 10-year strategy.
Why Fundraise Now?
We have worked with over 40 organisations across the UK in the last 22 months. As a social enterprise ourselves, we have found a high level of demand for support and requests for help.
Our work and research in the early part of the pandemic indicated some key themes from the community we were supporting.
Theme 1 was that although funding was a big challenge, founders were feeling overwhelmed, stressed and isolated, yet had small networks in order to call out for emotional support and ideas.
Theme 2 was that we found that much of the request for support had consistent themes, and requests that could be met through group work, or even self-service by signposting to resources.
Theme 3 was the confidence and ability to reach out to experts for services and advice for areas that were becoming a barrier to them.
At the peak of demand last summer, we sat as a Board and considered our options to scale. Our solution was SE Folk.
We are building a digital community, where people who run social organisations can connect with other founders, provide peer-to-peer support, and receive expert advice. A dedicated online platform, it is a self-service space for vocational learning, a one-stop-shop for collaboration and networking, and for finding opportunities to grow.
The digital format is available across desktop and mobile 24/7, making it accessible for those with disabilities, restrictive life-styles, low income, isolated locations, and general low confidence. It allows them to connect with other founders who are in similar situations and can offer further insight and guidance.
As this is a community content led project, it continually evolves through the knowledge and experience of founders and experts on the platform. As facilitators, that allows us to accelerate the evolution of social organisations, and their social impacts.
What We’ve Achieved So Far
Through surveying many founders and exploring technology solutions, as a team we started to develop the concept of SE Folk. Through Q1 of 2021 we researched, piloted events and built the platform. At the end of Q2 we soft launched the community, CPD events and the platform. And at the end of Q3 we have launched the mobile app for ease of access.
SE Folk is now a private membership community of founders. They have access to a knowledge hub with content that is being built by experts and the founders themselves. We run two networking events a week, one for peer-to-peer support and a second expert CPD. As a private social platform members can connect, chat and explore collaboration.
Our membership is growing month on month, and currently 60% of our members are ‘lived experience’ leaders from marginalised communities, and 75% of them are operating in deprived communities in England.
We currently have 50 users involved in our current MVP and mobile App trials, and we are expecting the membership to increase to 100-200+ in the next 6-9 months and 500+ in the next 12 months. Beyond this, the scope is thousands of users, especially when we explore international territories.
Can You Help Us Now?
Our main focus for the next 12 months is to grow the SE Folk community so that we can help all these amazing people make a major impact in their communities. To achieve this, we have to invest further in our online presence both through the landing website, and through social media. We estimate that this will cost us £4000 over the coming 12 months, helping us work towards our community growth goals.
We also want to develop our full learning experience so that we can offer the best product to our community and reach more founders. We want to develop the functionality to offer extended and deeper learning experiences, widening the platform to include E-Learning functionality, and the development of some of the content. This expansion needs to be researched, developed, tested and deployed. We estimate that the initial research and exploring technologies would cost us £1000.
Your support will allow us scale the community we have already started, building more peer-to-peer support for founders. It will enable us expand the space these community champions can connect, collaborate and grow, impacting thousands of lives around the country, across the globe, and in your neighbourhood.
Thank you for your generous support.
Please visit www.sefolk.com to see our supporters.
CO-Founder of SE Folk
Founder of Be Inspired Today (Registered social enterprise-Co No 8642692)