Get inspired from the a range of selected case studies covering a number of different areas.


Bikeworks is an award winning social enterprise which tackles environmental issues by getting more people cycling and recycling used bikes for re-use while at the same time creating employment and training opportunities for disadvantaged communities. Bikeworks CIC is based in East London and began actively trading in March 2007.

Bikeworks uses bikes to tackle environmental, social & economic challenges in London. It creates local solutions to global issues through the promotion of sustainable urban transport with cycling, with a geographical focus on areas of social deprivation in east London. Creation of employment and training opportunities for marginalised individuals is integrated into the heart of the enterprise, and Bikeworks works closely with both local government and commercial business to achieve its goals.

Specific activities include:

  • recycling & refurbishing second hand bikes in London
  • providing dedicated (free to the public) training to get more people cycling safely 
  • creating training and employment opportunities for disadvantaged communities in a  booming cycling industry.

HCT Group

HCT Group is one of the UK’s biggest and most successful social enterprises. It is a social enterprise in the transport industry, safely providing over 12 million passenger trips on our buses every year. HCT deliver a range of transport services – from London red buses to social services transport, from school transport to Park and Ride, from community transport to education and training. The group reinvests the profits from their commercial work into further transport services or projects in the communities they serve.


Fifteen is a restaurant group that uses the magic of food to give unemployed young people a chance to have a better future. The group is made up of three restaurants: the flagship Jamie Oliver's Fifteen, established in 2002, Fifteen Amsterdam in December 2004, and Fifteen Cornwall in May 2006.

Fifteen was founded by Jamie Oliver in 2002. His vision was to create a professionally run kitchen, serving beautiful Italian food, alongside a pioneering Apprentice Programme. At the heart of the business is a desire to enable young people to believe in themselves, to show them their past can be left behind and persuade them the future is theirs to create. 

Every year, each restaurant recruits unemployed and under-qualified young people, aged between 18 and 24, from the local area and trains them to become qualified chefs through a unique Apprentice Programme. They are taught to love and respect food and its provenance - taking in everything from traditional bakery and butchery, to the finest pastry skills. As part of their course, apprentices also study professional cookery at college, get hands on training in the Fifteen restaurant, learn about food provenance on sourcing trips and do work experience at some top restaurants. Apprentices graduate after 12 months of extensive training and start their journey of becoming the next generation of professional chefs.


Ebico Ltd is a not-for-profit gas and electricity supplier aiming to offer a better, fairer deal for domestic energy to British households. It is also an expanding enterprise committed to working both for social justice and the wise use of the earth’s resources, in a variety of ways.

Ebico supplies gas and electricity throughout Britain and charges its customers the same rate, regardless of payment method, usage or which services are purchased. Ebico has been trading for over 10 years, making a genuine difference to low-income households. The company works closely with housing associations, non-profit organisations and the energy suppliers to help combat fuel poverty in the UK. Profits from Ebico’s work go to the Ebico Trust for Sustainable Development, which helps fund community energy projects across the UK.

The Elvis & Kresse Organisation (Eako)

Elvis & Kresse create stunning lifestyle accessories by re-engineering seemingly useless wastes. The innovative and pioneering Fire-Hose range is made exclusively from genuine de-commissioned British fire brigade hoses which, after a distinguished career fighting fires and saving lives, were otherwise destined for landfill.  50% of profits are donated to charity.

Elvis & Kresse are constantly thinking about waste. The instant they met the London Fire Brigade they fell in love with their old hose. Although they started in London, Elvis & Kresse now collect hose across the UK and in order to thank Britain’s Brigades, 50% of profits go back to the Fire Fighters Charity. They scrub away all the soot, grease, and everything else that builds up after 25 years of active duty, and in the process reveal a truly remarkable, truly green textile. 

All of Elvis & Kresse's products have the environment at their core - industrial waste is the cornerstone of the brand. These are some of the materials they reclaim 

  • Condemned fire-hose
  • Waste coffee sacks
  • Tea sacks
  • Scrap sail cloth
  • Used Air Traffic Control flight strips
  • Closed cell foam cardboard
  • Pallets
  • Parachute silk
  • Office furniture textiles

Versa Weight Management Programme

For some time, Versa had been running a programme working with people with eating disorders. In 2002, Bradford Health Promotion Unit asked the organization to run two pilot projects combating the growing problem of obesity.

Post pilot evaluation led to a change and development of materials and further successful programmes have been run in Bradford and Sheffield. Jean believes emphatically that the success of the Weight Management programme is due to the methodology. People do not choose to be obese; something in their lifestyle is causing them to be so, therefore they need educating to understand what those things are and support in making changes to their lifestyle to solve the problem. Week by week, small changes are made incrementally.

The Big Issue

The Big Issue was launched in 1991 by Gordon Roddick and John Bird in response to the growing number of rough sleepers on the streets of London. The two set out to address the problem of homelessness by offering homeless people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income; to ‘help them to help themselves’. Twenty years on, the organisation has helped thousands of vulnerable people to take control of their lives, and currently works with around 2000 homeless and vulnerably housed people across the UK.

In order to become a Big Issue vendor, an individual must prove that they are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and must undergo an induction process and sign up to the code of conduct. Once they have done so they are allocated a fixed pitch and issued with a number of free copies of the magazine. Once they have sold these magazines they can purchase further copies, which they buy for £1.25 and sell for £2.50, thereby making £1.25 per copy.

Last year alone they put more than £5 million in the pockets of their vendors, releasing them from a dependence on hand-outs and providing an alternative to begging.

They also recognise that earning an income is the first step on the journey away from homelessness. The Big Issue Foundation, a registered charity, exists to link vendors with vital support and services. The organisation offers advice and referrals in four keys areas; housing, health, financial independence and aspirations, and relies almost entirely on voluntary donations.

Over the past two decades the magazine has become synonymous with challenging, independent journalism, and renowned for securing exclusive interviews with the most elusive of superstars. It currently circulates over 105,000 copies every week.

Created as a business solution to a social problem, The Big Issue has gone on to become one of the most instantly recognisable brands in the UK and a powerful blueprint for social change which has inspired hundreds of imitations: from Johannesburg to Tokyo, Sydney to Addis Ababa, Perth to Sao Paolo, Seoul to Nairobi, The Big Issue is leading a global self-help revolution.

Divine Chocolate

In autumn 1998, Divine, the first ever Fairtrade chocolate bar aimed at the mass market, was launched onto the UK confectionery market. In an exciting new business model, the cooperative of cocoa farmers in Ghana own shares in the company making the chocolate bar.  Two farmers' representatives came to London to celebrate at the Divine launch party in town. Here's how it all happened.

In the early 1990's, the structural adjustment programme involved the liberalisation of the cocoa market in Ghana. A number of leading farmers, including a visionary farmer representative on the Ghana Cocoa Board, Nana Frimpong Abrebrese, came to realise that they had the opportunity to organize farmers to take on the internal marketing function. This would mean that they could set up a company, to sell their own cocoa to the Cocoa Marketing Company (CMC), the state-owned company that would continue to be the single exporter of Ghana cocoa. 

These farmers pooled resources to set up Kuapa Kokoo, a farmers' co-op, which would trade its own cocoa, and thus manage the selling process more efficiently than the government cocoa agents. Kuapa Kokoo - which means good cocoa growers - has a mission to empower farmers in their efforts to gain a dignified livelihood, to increase women's participation in all of Kuapa's activities, and to develop the environmentally friendly cultivation of cocoa. The farmers who set up Kuapa Kokoo were supported by Twin Trading, the fair trade company that puts the coffee into Cafédirect and SNV, a Dutch NGO.

Women Like UK

Women Like UK is a multi-award winning social business that works to build a better future for women who want to carry on working after they've had children. 

Their aim is to give women the choice to fit work around the needs of their family, without losing their value in the workplace. They:

  • Run affordable career support workshops to give women the practical advice and support they need.
  • Offer bursaries to women on low incomes, to access career support.
  • Help to grow the part time jobs market. In April 2012, They launched Timewise Jobs, a new jobsite specialising in the quality part time vacancies that women need so much, as well as a London based recruitment agency called Timewise Recruitment.
  • Work with employers to help them design part time jobs to benefit their business.
  • Work with policy makers and opinion formers to put the business benefits of part time work, and the issues facing working women, firmly on the map.

Big Society Capital

Big Society Capital is an independent financial institution, established by the UK government to develop and shape a sustainable social investment market in the UK. This gives organisations tackling major social issues access to new sources of finance to help them thrive and grow. It was set up with £600m from dormant bank accounts.

Big Society Capital invests in social investment finance intermediaries (SIFIs). These are organisations that provide appropriate and affordable finance and support to social sector organisations that are tackling some of our most intractable social problems. SIFIs connect socially motivated investors with social sector organisations that need finance. This allows social sector organisations (charities, social enterprises etc) to grow.

Social Enterprise UK

Social Enterprise UK is the national membership body for social enterprise, SEUK members include start-ups, micro-enterprises and large, well-established social enterprises together with public sector and private sector organisations supportive of social enterprise. As well as representing their members’ interests at national level (including as a strategic partner to six government departments), Social Enterprise UK carries out research, share information and news, advise public and voluntary sector organisations, and provide practical business support, networking and training for social enterprises.

School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE)

SSE exists to provide training and opportunities to enable people to use their creative and entrepreneurial abilities more fully for social benefit. SSE supports individuals to set up new charities, social enterprises and social businesses across the UK. It was founded by the British Social Entrepreneur Michael Young, also known as the Lord of Dartington, in 1997. Michael Young was a social innovator who had previously launched the Consumers' Association, the Open University and around 40 other organisations.

The School opened in the summer of 1997 and welcomed its first cohort of students in early 1998. Since then, over 800 social entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 80 have completed the SSE programs. Today the SSE runs active schools in Cornwall, Devon, Fife, Liverpool, London, Hampshire, Suffolk and Yorkshire, as well as international schools in Australia and Canada.

The SSE runs practical learning programmes aimed at helping develop the individual entrepreneur and their organisation simultaneously: the approach, and belief, is that social change is people-powered, and that the most valuable assets and resources we have are human ones.

UnLtd UK

SSE exists to provide training and opportunities to enable people to use their creative and entrepreneurial abilities more fully for social benefit. SSE supports individuals to set up new charities, social enterprises and social businesses across the UK. It was founded by the British Social Entrepreneur Michael Young, also known as the Lord of Dartington, in 1997. Michael Young was a social innovator who had previously launched the Consumers' Association, the Open University and around 40 other organisations.

The School opened in the summer of 1997 and welcomed its first cohort of students in early 1998. Since then, over 800 social entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 80 have completed the SSE programs. Today the SSE runs active schools in Cornwall, Devon, Fife, Liverpool, London, Hampshire, Suffolk and Yorkshire, as well as international schools in Australia and Canada.

The SSE runs practical learning programmes aimed at helping develop the individual entrepreneur and their organisation simultaneously: the approach, and belief, is that social change is people-powered, and that the most valuable assets and resources we have are human ones.

Pioneer Post

Pioneers Post delivers the news and sets the agenda for the new wave of responsible business leaders and social entrepreneurs.

Their aim is to create intelligent and engaging content through news, analysis, comment, profiles, debate, specialist reports, the Pioneers Post Business School and our own online TV and podcast channels.

A growing movement of corporate businesses, SMEs, charities and social enterprises is looking beyond the immediate bottom line and seeing value and opportunity in social innovation, sustainability, investment and creating meaningful business at scale.

Social entrepreneurs are seeking to increase their size and impact; corporate leaders are bringing social value and environmental values closer to the heart of their business; charity and public sector CEOs are sharpening their business skills and creating new models to deliver effective, innovative services in challenging economic circumstances.

Pioneers Post is the magazine that brings these people, their organisations and their stories together into a dedicated platform – championing their vision, sharing their ideas, testing their mettle, and exploring their challenges, successes and failures.

Blue Sky

Blue Sky is a social enterprise with a difference – they only employ ex-offenders. Offering a proper job with a proper company, Blue Sky aims to break the cycle of re-offending and challenge perceptions about ex-offenders, achieving real and long-term benefits for society.

Blue Sky’s unique model of offender rehabilitation involves winning commercial contracts from local authorities and private companies and then fulfilling the work by employing ex-offenders. As well as a full-time, fully-paid job we offer each of their employees a personalised package of supervision, mentoring and resettlement support. Since 2005 Blue Sky has employed and supported over 1,000 ex-offenders and only 15% have re-offended, a quarter of the national average.


Shelanu is a developing social enterprise, supported by Craftspace, of migrant and refugee women producing high quality craft objects inspired by their new home, the city of Birmingham. The aim of the Collective is to assist other migrant and refugee women to become more aspirational through creative development, working towards their integration into local communities and for those communities to profit from the rich diversity of the women’s experience. Shelanu undertake a range of activities, assisting members to develop new skills, increase confidence, combat isolation, challenge preconceptions and support integration. They do this through: workshops for schools, adults, children and families; making and selling jewellery inspired by the theme of migration and Birmingham; and public and private commissions.


GLL exists to make community services and spaces better for everyone. That means providing access to quality community leisure and fitness facilities - and more - at a price everyone can afford. GLL already manages over 115 facilities, and it is adding more all the time.

GLL is a charitable social enterprise, which means it works for the benefit of everyone: the public, the communities it works in, the environment, its staff and its partners. As a result, GLL is proud to be the first leisure operator in the UK to be awarded both the Social Enterprise Mark and the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award.

The London Aquatics Centre is operated by charitable social enterprise, Better.  The venue consists of a variety of facilities to accommodate all visitors.  There are three swimming pools, the first is the 50 metre competition pool, the second is a 50 metre training pool, and the third is the diving pool with platforms at 1m, 3m, 5m, 7.5m and 10m.  In addition the London Aquatics Centres provides a state-of-the-art gym and a dry diving facility for athletes of all levels.  Additional facilities of note include the crèche, café, family friendly changing facility and designated pram parking.

Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB)

Coin Street Community Builders is a social enterprise and its aim is to make its neighbourhood a great place to live, work in, and visit. CSCB has transformed a largely derelict 13 acre site into a thriving mixed use neighbourhood by creating new co-operative homes; shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes and bars; a park and riverside walkway; sports facilities; by organising festivals and events; and by providing childcare, family support, learning, and enterprise support programmes. Income is generated from a variety of sources including the hire of retail and catering spaces, event spaces, meeting room spaces and conference venue spaces as well as the provision of consultancy services.


Fikay is a multi-award winning lifestyle fashion brand. They not only seek to produce unique, stylish and meaningful fashion accessories but they also invest in the people and places behind the products. Fikay’s unique model empowers individuals all over the world.

By rethinking traditional supply chains they have and continue to transform lives. They equip widows and disabled adults in developing countries with a roadmap out of poverty by providing them with sewing machines, micro loans and training. These members of the community go on to become local heroes and sources of inspiration.

Fukay believes that parents should earn and children should learn, therefore for each and every purchase they donate educational resources to schools where they are needed most.

Fikay also supports communities closer to home. Throughout the UK they create training and job opportunities for adults with severe learning difficulties through knowledge and skills transfer, entrepreneurial fashion training and paid work experience.


Livity is a youth marketing agency. They clients – including Google, Public Health England, Channel 4, NSPCC, the Big Lottery Fund and Barclays – get uniquely deep youth insights and a precious pool of young talent, energy and ideas. Livity works with young people everyday, who receive training, equipment, support and opportunities to build brighter futures. Offering unrivalled youth access, Livity delivers; marketing strategies and solutions, social media campaigns and management, co-created design and artwork, content production and strategy, youth insight and consultancy, and innovation.


Belu started with a simple idea – that there was a better way to do business by reducing our environmental impact and using all the profits to fund clean water projects.

Belu is an award-winning ethical business and leading social enterprise that produces great tasting British natural mineral water, sold in all the best places.

Belu takes every possible step to minimise our environmental impact in everything that we do. They make the best environmental decisions across all aspects of their business – from the way they run their head office, to their distribution model and the materials they use. Belu’s way of doing business is not just driven by cost, but by the impact we have on our planet.

Belu is the exclusive bottled water partner of WaterAid and they give them all of their profits. They pledged to give them £1m by 2020, and to date Belu has donated £1,531,903 transforming the lives of 102,127 people.

Whitmuir Farm

We believe that food should be a trusted relationship, not an anonymous commodity for the global food giants to profit from.

So - back in 2006 we started the Farm Supporters scheme. Now over 250 people have joined and have accounts with the farm, making us one of the largest community supported agriculture projects in the UK.

Farm Supporters pay a montly amount into their account. They can use these funds in the shop, online, in the restaurant and for farm events. Every 2 months we send out a statement lettng you know what you have paid in, what you have spent and your balance.

Neilston Development Trust - Community Wind Farm (NDT)

Community resilience - human and financial resources for the long term- is the name of the game in these hard pressed times. For some communities, ownership of renewable energy offers this prospect. Seeing the potential of Neilston’s hilltop location NDT with its joint venture partner Carbon Free Developments, concluded a deal with the Coop Bank, private investors and social lenders to finance and build the £15.6m Neilston Community Windfarm. This Limited Liability Partnership is the first of its kind in Scotland.

Over its 25-year life the windfarm will deliver millions of pounds to support the long-term sustainability and development of the village, in local control.

New Lanark

The award-winning New Lanark Visitor Centre tells the fascinating story of the cotton mill village of New Lanark which was founded in the 18th century. New Lanark quickly became known under the enlightened management of social pioneer, Robert Owen. He provided decent homes, fair wages, free health care, a new education system for villagers and the first workplace nursery school in the world! Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, New Lanark has been beautifully restored as a living community, which welcomes visitors from all over the world.

Travel back in time on the Annie Mcleod Experience dark ride which features mill girl Annie who magically appears and reveals the amazing story of her life and times in New Lanark in 1820.

Registration of Community Interest Companies (CICs)

In July 2005, the UK Department for Trade and Investment approved a new juristic person for registration of social enterprises called the Community Interest Company (CIC). It was the first new form to be created in the UK in 100 years. A special characteristic of CIC is that it merges the private sector structure with NGO aims to allow social enterprises to increase fund-raising and equip social foundations/organisations to gain income.

Form of CIC organisations 

Control of asset movement (or asset lock) to the benefit of the community.

Dividend interest cap - organisations can make profit, but profit will be used for the benefit of community/organisation development. 

CICs are limited companies registered under the Companies ACT 2006. There are two kinds of companies:

  • Company Limited by Shares is a form of company that has shareholders and is able to pay dividends of not more than 35% and can be registered as either a private company or a public company
  • Company Limited by Guarantee is a form of organisation without shareholders / owner, so there is no profit payment.

The organisation responsible for registration and annual operation reporting of CICs is Companies House under the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Now there are more than 6,000 organisations registered in the form of CICs. Most companies are from the old Third Sector, such as public health and community services, education, etc. Now, there are more companies from mainstream business seeking to register as CICs, such as property businesses, financing, and others. The average rate of registration of CICs has increased by more than 100 organisations per month, so CICs are a part of the business sector that is experiencing rapid growth in the UK.