SEFORÏS partner in the spotlight: UnLtd

UnLtd is a charity that supports social entrepreneurs in the UK – people who have the determination and commitment to change the world around them. This is a presentation of their case study, in their own words.

We have a powerful vision – a world where people act to make it better. Our mission is to reach out and unleash the energies of people who can transform the world in which they live: people who we call social entrepreneurs.

We invest directly in individuals by making Awards of financial and non-financial support to social entrepreneurs in the UK. Awards include funding, confidence building, diagnostics, signposting and access to networks, pro-bono support and mentors. We put individuals at the heart of what we do, backing people first and their social ventures second.

We know that communities facing problems contain the people who will create the solutions. A small number of those social entrepreneurs achieve even more by instigating a transformation in the fortunes of their entire community. We back social entrepreneurs in their own communities: developing ventures based in local areas, and building a movement for social action. We also help social entrepreneurs with high potential for growth to scale up their social impact.

We help build the wider ecosystem of support for social entrepreneurs by helping other organisations and individuals to deliver support in the UK and beyond. We seek to influence the environment in which social entrepreneurs start up and thrive, experimenting, learning, and using what we learn to influence policy and practice.

UnLtd backs social entrepreneurs to develop their skills and capacity to lead, and to set up or grow a social venture. By venture we mean the idea or project that the social entrepreneur is developing. We invest directly in people by providing them with financial and non-financial support.

We have a pipeline of Awards specifically designed to meet the needs of social entrepreneurs at different stages in their development. Try It, Do It and Build It represent a progression, while Fast Growth and Scale It give ambitious social entrepreneurs the opportunity to scale rapidly.

In 2013–14, we worked with our partners to make 1,744 Awards to individuals and groups of social entrepreneurs in the UK. We provided non-financial support and awarded a total of £6.1 million in cash.

To understand our Award Winners' impact, we ask them to tell us how many beneficiaries they have reached, how many volunteering and training opportunities they have created, how many people they have helped into employment, and their contribution to the economy, as well as their leadership learning and development.

Of the social entrepreneurs who responded to our survey in 2013–14, together they reported supporting 832,496 people.

Our survey asked about the types of social capital created by Award Winners. Social capital is a way of describing the benefit people get from their links with others. It is important for anything from getting a job to staying healthy in old age.

Our survey looked at the types of social capital created by Award Winners – 95 per cent of respondents reported creating at least one type of social capital.

Our Award Winners seek to influence people's behaviour and attitudes. For example, the majority of Award Winners responding to our survey reported that they help people connect with others (84 per cent) and build trust within or between communities (59 per cent).

Whatever stage they are at in their venture, Award Winners are excellent at connecting people, as well as building deeper social capital, such as promoting trust within or between communities, promoting neighbourliness and giving people the opportunity to be involved in decision making. Try it, Do it and Build it Award Winners are more likely than Scaling Award Winners to connect people with others they may not otherwise meet.

Our social entrepreneurs contribute to the economy too – in 2013–14, our Award Winners employed 970 people between them, and 50 per cent of Award Winners employed at least one person.

The majority of UnLtd Award Winners can be classified as microbusinesses or sole traders, with the majority not employing anyone. Most of our Award Winners are at the early stages of their venture, so we expect to see these numbers grow in time.

Around half (50 per cent) of Award Winners employ at least one person (including themselves), and a small number of ventures have larger workforces, particularly those receiving our higher level awards. For example, 13 per cent of Build It and Scaling Award Winners surveyed can be classified as either small or medium businesses, meaning they each employ between 10 and 249 people.

We are constantly looking to improve both our own support offer and the wider ecosystem to help social entrepreneurs maximise their impact. As such we are very excited to be participating in the Seforis research project, designing and implementing experiments with the Stockholm School of Economics to test what really motivates social entrepreneurs and tailor our support offer accordingly, as well as improve the take-up and retention of our volunteering and pro-bono support offer.

For more information on UnLtd, read our 2013/14 Impact Report: