Digbeth SE survey - A profile of social enterprise activity in the Digbeth/Highgate area

Close Icon
Contact Info    
There are over 50
social enterprises based
in Digbeth - dedicated
to using business for
social good.


About   arrow

Introducing the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter (DSEQ)
Birmingham has one of the largest concentrations of social enterprises in the country and the number is highest in the Digbeth/Highgate area, where over 50 social enterprises are currently based. Led by the support and development agency iSE (Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs) these businesses have come together to form the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter (DSEQ) — an exciting new phase in the history of the sector’s development in Birmingham.

DSEQ was launched on 12th December 2013 by the Leader of Birmingham City Council, Sir Albert Bore. Birmingham City Council has pledged to support the development of a thriving social enterprise sector, seeing it as an important part of a healthy mixed local economy. This initiative is aimed at maximising the impact of the natural clustering of social enterprises in the Digbeth area and ultimately putting Birmingham on the map as a Social Enterprise City.   Social Enterprise UK has already formally recognised DSEQ as a Social Enterprise Place.

The boundaries of the area defined as ‘Digbeth’ for the purposes of the Quarter are fluid.   Social enterprises already based in and around Digbeth are encouraged to become members of the Digbeth, Highgate and Cheapside Social Enterprise Network and explore opportunities to work together. Others are encouraged to move into, or start up in, Digbeth and join this vibrant community.

The Digbeth, Cheapside and Highgate Social Enterprise Network (DCHSEN)
DCHSEN is an informal group, which has been meeting every other month since 2012. Its members are keen to engage in making DSEQ work. They want to demonstrate the benefit to both their social enterprises and the local area of collaborating and creating a cluster in a particular place.

The principles underpinning the Network are:

  • Inclusion
  • Partnership
  • Co-operation and collaboration
  • Transparency
  • Democracy
  • Effective participation
  • Representation
  • Respect
  • Equality

Membership is open to anyone with an interest in supporting social enterprise in the Digbeth area and in ensuring it is a safe, cared-for and attractive place in which to live and work. The Network is keen to work alongside existing groups and organisations, helping to bring people together. Current members include not only social enterprises but also the local residents association and Friends of the Earth, as well as colleges and universities around the city looking to engage their students with social enterprise.

If you are interested in becoming a member of DCHSEN email info@digbethsocentquarter.co.uk.

The DCHSEN has identified three streams of activity for DSEQ, each of which has a group of members driving through an agenda for change. These are: Environmental Improvement; Economic Improvement and Social Impact.

Environmental Improvement

Current activities include:

  • Clean Up Digbeth Campaign – encouraging businesses and residents to clear up their litter and keep the environment clean and tidy. If large items are dumped in the street everyone is being encouraged to make a report to the Council and get them cleared up quickly.
  • Art Installations – funding applications are being made to support distinctive street art projects in Digbeth.
  • Digbeth in Bloom – members of DCHSEN are being asked to brighten up their buildings, and the area as a whole, by placing plants on window sills and window boxes and tubs outside their premises.

Economic Improvement

Current activities include:

  • Baseline Survey – undertaken to map and understand the activities and needs of social enterprises based in Digbeth, the economic contribution that they are making to the area and what is needed to support their development.  The impact of DSEQ can be measured against these findings in future.
  • Social Enterprise Growth – DSEQ is committed to supporting the development of social enterprises.  As a result of being based in the area it is hoped that they will be able to start up and grow more quickly, as well as benefit from peer support and opportunities for inter-trading and partnership working.
  • Social Enterprise Incubator Units – spaces of varying sizes, specifications and costs are being identified around Digbeth that are suitable to support start up social enterprises; these will be made available with back-office and business support.
  • Digbeth and HS2 – DSEQ, along with other groups in the area, is keeping an eye on the proposals for HS2, aiming to ensure that Digbeth remains open and connected to the heart of the city if/when the new line comes into the old Curzon Street station near Millennium Point.
  • Social Enterprise Walks and Talks – your chance to visit some of the social enterprises based in Digbeth on a guided walk and hear their stories.   We hope you will be inspired to join or support the sector!
  • Work Placements for Students – DSEQ is engaged in a dialogue withlocal colleges and universities concerning the establishment of a process that will allow students to gain experience of working in a social enterprise and bring social enterprise into their studies.
  • Volunteering Opportunities, Jobs and Internships – even if you are not a student, you may wish to volunteer to work with a social enterprise, or look for a job or internship. Details of the opportunities available will be posted on the Get Involved and News pages, or you could sign up for the DSEQ newsletter.
  • Social Enterprise Markets and Pop Up Cafes – these provide an opportunity to buy a wide range of products and services, from street food to hand-made jewellery, scatter cushions to a day course on baking artisan breads. Keep an eye on the News page or sign up to receive the DSEQ Newsletter to find out when and where.
  • Exhibitions and Entertainment – social enterprises dedicated to the arts, and those with space for exhibitions and entertainment of all kinds, will be adding to the already vibrant social scene in Digbeth with a programme of events of their own. Look for details on the News page, or sign up for the DSEQ Newsletter to be sure you don’t miss anything.

Social Impact

Current activities include:

  • Reports on Social Value – DSEQ is aiming to quantify and report on the social value the Quarter is delivering in support of Birmingham City Council’s Strategic Plan for the city as a whole. It is already known that social enterprises based in Digbeth are tackling a variety of social issues, including: unemployment, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental and physical health issues, helping to alleviate problems and improve quality of life.
  • Building Social Cohesion – DSEQ is reaching out to the local community aiming to to develop productive partnerships and encourage everyone with a stake in Digbeth to connect and work together to create a vibrant area with a strong sense of identity.
  • Improving Health and Well-being – DSEQ is committed to ensuring that programmes related to improving long-term health and wellbeing are being delivered in Digbeth and that the most disadvantaged groups are benefiting from them.

If you would like to get involved in any of DSEQ’s activities, or have ideas of your own that you would like to suggest, please email info@digbethsocentquarter.co.uk.

Who is part of Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter?

Members of the Steering Group, which reports to Sir Albert Bore, and the activity stream Sub-Groups currently include:

Sarah Crawley, iSE (Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs)

Sally Edwards, Spot On Marketing & Communications

Martin Hogg, Citizen Coaching and Citizen Click

Richard Trengrouse, South Birmingham College

John Gordon, Digbeth Residents Association

Tony Clabby, Digbeth Trust

Erica Barnet, BITA Pathways

Lee Blake, Made by Young People

Ted Ryan and Pauline Roche, RnR

Graham Beaumont, Health Exchange

Birgit Kehrer, Change Kitchen

Alison Sharp, University of Birmingham

Phil Burrows, Friends of the Earth

Noel Dunne, Creative Alliance

Mohammed Zahir, Birmingham City Council

There is more information about the social enterprises based in Digbeth under Shop.

DSEQ Fits with Birmingham City Council’s Strategic Plans

“Birmingham City Council is wholeheartedly committed to buying goods and services which deliver social value and to working in partnership with the city’s social enterprise sector.” Sir Albert Bore, DSEQ Launch, December 2013

Social enterprise is seen by Birmingham City Council as a vital part of a balanced and resilient local economy. It not only helps to create jobs and growth, alongside other sectors, it also brings another dynamic to the mix – being rooted in the local community.

Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter is seen as being closely aligned with, and able to contribute to, a wide range of key city plans and strategies including:

Birmingham City Council Plan & Budget 2014  

This identifies the following priorities to which DSEQ is relevant:

  • Birmingham becoming the enterprise capital of Britain
  • Birmingham as a social enterprise city
  • A focus on the creative economy (amongst others)
  • Tackling inequalities and creating jobs
  • The importance of ‘place’
  • Purposeful development that recognises Birmingham’s diversity, the value of community assets and local engagement
  • Young people and employability
  • ‘Co-productive’ approaches and co-production in the provision of services
  • Early intervention and reducing/managing demand on statutory services

Birmingham City Council’s Leader Policy Statements

The Leader’s Policy Statement July 2013 first set out major ambitions for social enterprise in Birmingham, including:

  • Establishing Birmingham as a ‘social enterprise city’
  • Celebrating and promoting social enterprise in Digbeth
  • Enabling social enterprise to fully contribute to the economic development and local regeneration of Birmingham
  • Creating opportunities for social enterprises to help address issues of community cohesion and empowerment

These aspirations are reflected in the formation of the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter and ongoing plans for its development.  They can also be seen to inform the Leader’s Policy Statement July 2014, especially in its commitment to enable community groups, local businesses, voluntary organisations, social enterprises or public services to “participate in Social Innovation Zones”, the aim being to enable “innovation and experiment in how organisations and individuals work together using digital tools and engagement methods to develop new ways of improving neighbourhoods”.

The concept of ‘social innovation zones’ is very much in keeping with the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter and our vision of social enterprise-led regeneration.

Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility

This is Birmingham City Council’s response to The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, which imposes a pre-procurement duty on the Council to consider how procurement might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the area in which a contract is delivered.

The principles of the Charter are:

  • Local Employment
  • Buy Birmingham First
  • Partners in Communities
  • Good Employer
  • Green and Sustainable
  • Ethical Procurement

Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership Strategic Economic Plan

GBSLEP, of which Birmingham City Council is a member, identifies the following priorities:

  • Business incubation and support for start-ups
  • Skills for entrepreneurship
  • Social enterprise support and development
  • Social inclusion through increased employment
  • The HS2, Curzon Promenade and Eastside developments, all of which include Digbeth/Highgate/Cheapside

Social enterprise and DSEQ also have the potential to contribute to the GBSLEP’s priorities of supporting “the formation, growth, attraction and retention of businesses” as well as helping to ensure that the HS2 and Curzon developments – flagships of the GBSLEP’s major infrastructure projects – deliver opportunities that are socially and economically inclusive.

Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership European Structural and Investment Fund Strategy

GBSLEP’s European Structural and Investment Fund Strategy identifies the following priorities to which social enterprise and the DSEQ are relevant:

  • Support for social enterprise, entrepreneurship and self-employment
  • Recognition of the role of social enterprise and the third sector in social innovation
  • Access for economically excluded groups including through the use of and involvement in social enterprise
  • The use of social enterprise and third sector providers to help tackle deep-seated obstacles preventing routes into employment, community self-help and overcoming cultural factors contributing to worklessness
  • Enabling voluntary and community organisations and especially social enterprises to engage with the most excluded communities and individuals “and support them on the journey to work or self-employment”

Print Friendly