How Forward’s enterprise support is creating new opportunities for economic growth

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Forward’s social enterprise development manager, Tev Souleiman, reflects on Forward’s enterprise support over the past year and shares the organisation’s plans for the future.

Social enterprises are a powerful means of creating employment and economic opportunities for the people we support and their communities. Entrepreneurial and responsive to their audiences’ needs, they are also empowering, giving people with lived experience the chance to unleash their talents and shape their own futures.

That is why Forward launched our first Enterprise Strategy in 2018. Part of our wider work to support people from disadvantaged backgrounds into meaningful and rewarding employment, away from past offending or addiction, it focused on providing intensive enterprise coaching for our clients who wanted to become self-employed or set up their own businesses.

Until March 2021, our strategy was supported by the Forward Enterprise Fund, which invested £400k in eight social enterprises to help with their growth ambitions. Delivered in partnership with the Social Investment Business, it also included financial pledges through a crowd funder scheme.

And our client group is truly diverse. To date: 35% of our clients have been from BAME backgrounds; 22% have been female; and 40% presented with mental or physical disabilities.

Responding to the pandemic

When I joined Forward in March 2020, the enterprise service was really beginning to flourish. Our enterprise coach, Stephen Anderson, was supporting a varied and exciting caseload, and when Covid-19 made face to face support impossible, our team quickly embraced digital platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom to support our clients throughout the many challenges of the pandemic. As Tinyan Okungbowa, founder of Chasing Prospects CIC, explains:

“Covid-19 and the lockdowns presented various challenges, but Stephen maintained contact with me throughout. The constant encouragement via emails and calls increased my confidence and helped turn Chasing Prospects into fully-fledged organisation.”

Our online support also included a series of seven enterprise masterclasses. Delivered in partnership with Deloitte and a range of fantastic organisations and speakers, these reached over 200 participants from pre-start-ups, new enterprises and other professionals in the sector.

Read the full blog post here.


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This content was created by The Forward Trust