What we delivered to our members the past 6 months

We are ESSENCE, the heart of social enterprise in the Exeter area. We are a member-led network of social enterprises and organisations supporting a social economy, providing vital support and representation to the people and organisations that do ‘business for good’ within and throughout the communities of Exeter, its surrounding areas and beyond. Our 55+ paying members are based in a triangle of Honiton (East-Devon), to Totnes (South Hams), to Chulmleigh (North-Devon). Through our Regenerate Devon and Enhance Social Enterprise partnerships we connect socially driven organisations and individuals across the Heart of the South West.

What support did ESSENCE members have access to over the past 6 months? Here is an overview of the activities that have been delivered, in these challenging times. Do you want to join the social enterprise movement? Do you want to support the local social enterprise sector to become more robust? Get in touch with the ESSENCE Board.

Funding & training

Through our newsletter and social media channel we signpost to available funding and training opportunities. We experimented with co-designing a 8-part project proposal with 8 ESSENCE members for the South West Water Neighbourhood Fund. Although we were not successful, we gained a lot of insight into what each of us does, about the complementarity of our services and that sum is larger than its parts when social enterprises comes together.

Peer-to-peer learning events

ESSENCE have been able to continue the monthly peer-to-peer focus groups for members active in the Arts & Culture sector as well as in the Health, Care & Well-being space. For our larger members we added a new offering in collaboration with Rick Dent from The Alternative Board: a peer-Board to help take the next step in any organisational challenge. Facilitated peer-to-peer learning spaces are a vital part of connection, learning and innovation for our members.

Stronger social enterprise infrastructure

As part of the Mobilising Exeter’s Community Enterprising Spirit multi-stakeholder project, we co-hosted a 4-part Event Series highlighting community enterprising opportunities across a variety of themes. Available to watch here.

Together with our colleagues in Torbay and Plymouth we hosted the second Regenerate Devon event, this time we focussed on policy makers, and driving progressive economic policy from the lenses of Jobs, Health, Equality and Carbon. Available to watch here. These events showcase the good work that is going on within and outside of our membership, which both celebrates and normalises the social enterprise model and way of doing business.

Creating more opportunities for social enterprises and building a thriving social enterprise ecosystem

‘Behind the scenes’, the ESSENCE Board is engaged in multiple projects. They contribute to one of the 3 subgroups of the Community Mental Health project led by CoLab Exeter. The group looks at improving the overall mental health culture and mindset, and wider system improvement recommendations. The ESSENCE Board are also representing the social enterprise sector as co-chair on the Devon Recovery Task and Finish Group, as well as being part of the Delivery team of this group. This strategic work is ultimately creating more (business) (support) opportunities for our members as well as building a thriving social enterprise ecosystem.