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ESSENCE - at the heart of social enterprise in Exeter.

Membership Policy


This membership policy is to be used by the Board, open to the public.

Application process

All who are supportive of ESSENCE’s aims are welcome to join. These applicants automatically become Network members, enjoying all member benefits apart from voting rights & liability.

When an applicant applies for company membership, the Network Lead makes a recommendation to the Board to (not) accept. Applications get decided on in Board meetings, on average once a month. Objections are possible in (Annual) General Meetings.

The Board reserves the right to refuse/withdraw a membership at any given time, duly motivated.

Company membership criteria

ESSENCE wants to be inspiring to and inclusive of organisations that want to be more socially enterprising. ESSENCE also wants to make sure they are an organisation that has and is recognised for having a primary focus to further the development of the Exeter social enterprise sector. This includes amongst others representing social enterprises and educating the public what social enterprises are. We believe this is what makes ESSENCE unique.

Three criteria

Community Interest Companies are eligible for company membership as the legal entity implies they are a social enterprise. Whether organisations with other legal forms are eligible for company membership will depend on the answers they give to these three questions:

  1. Does the applicant have a primary social or environmental purpose/mission?
  2. Do they generate the majority of their income from the (commercially) selling of goods/services to more than one client?
  3. What happens with the organisation’s profits? Do they get reinvested into the organisation? Donated to a charitable cause? Shared amongst management/employees/shareholders?

Other factors

If there is not a consensus about this amongst the Board members, other factors are considered to check whether company membership is the appropriate membership for the applicant. These factors include:

  1. Does the applicant have direct social impact or does the applicant help others increase their social impact? First ‘yes’: company membership. Second ‘yes’: network membership
  2. Who do they mainly see as their customers/clients/beneficiaries? Only paying customers/the environment/underprivileged or vulnerable groups/the (local) community?
  3. Do they include their workforce in decision making? Do they have a fair pay across the different levels of their organisations (average SE ratio is 1:3.6, 1 being the lowest paid member of staff, 3.6 being the highest paid member of staff)
  4. Do they engage and benefit the local community?
  5. Do they make an effort to minimize their environmental footprint?
  6. Are they transparent and accountable?

If these points aren’t overtly present, the Board can decide the applicant is eligible for network membership or reasons such as: an intention to becoming company members (and fulfilling abovementioned criteria). Also, organisations that help social enterprises achieve/increase their social impact are eligible for network membership.

  1. Charities are in principle not the same as social enterprises. If the Board agrees a charity with trading operation is eligible for company membership, the charity is first of all incorporated (obligation of CIC regulations) and subsequently fulfils the three criteria plus other factors (see above).

Applying as an individual

When applying as an individual, not an organisation, the following questions will be considered.

What organisation is the applicant connected to/working for? Is that organisation a Social Enterprise or an organisation that supports the aims of ESSENCE? ‘Yes’: network membership. ‘No’: go to question 2.

Are there strong objections to include this individual on the basis of the organisation they are working for as some sectors might be less compatible with the social enterprise values of a sustainable, fair/inclusive world. ‘No’: network membership. ‘Yes’: application refused.