Can Milton Keynes be a leading city for social enterprise?

    A soon-to-be published report claims that Milton Keynes could be the perfect location to develop a leading social enterprise community.

    The report, a collaborative effort between Milton Keynes residents and the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE), highlights how social enterprises – businesses that prioritise social and environmental outcomes - are the ideal business model to support Milton Keynes City Council’s strategy to create “equal opportunities for all” and to “build an environment that is able to thrive, is progressive and delivers a sustainable future for new and existing residents”.

    Three Milton Keynes residents are already proving the impact that social enterprise can have in Milton Keynes and want to inspire and empower others to do the same at an upcoming event on the 16th of February.

    Along with SSE they will be sharing insights and learning at ‘Milton Keynes Social Enterprise Boost’, an event that aims to equip those keen to start and grow social, community or environmental with essentials skills, confidence and networks.

    Among the local champions is Marie Osborne of Future Wolverton. She has been instrumental in transforming Wolverton into a model of sustainability and community resilience through initiatives like the Wolverton Town Centre Neighbourhood Plan, Old School House community space and café and an ongoing effort to save the Wolverton Central Working Men’s Club for community benefit.

    Osborne believes for social enterprises to thrive, there needs to be support and a network of like-minded individuals as she got from SSE. “Being accepted on the programme in 2010 was a turning point,” she said. “It gradually dawned on me that I wasn't weird, and that there were people who like me who wanted to make big change happen in their communities too! I finally believed that it was ok to give it a go.”

    Tom Bulman is another social entrepreneur who is campaigning for the growth of social enterprise in Milton Keynes. “I moved here from London 25 years ago and I’ve always thought Milton Keynes should have a course to help people get their social business ideas off the ground. I did a course in London to get a project for excluded teenagers up and running in 2001. Over 10 years, 300 young people enrolled in our work-based school-without-walls.”

    Junior Smart moved from London to Milton Keynes in 2022. He is the Founder and Business Development Manager of SOS Project at St Giles Trust, which has led to a dramatic decrease in prisoner re-offending rates. “For me it was the way they taught at SSE that made the difference,” he said. “It was more about learning by doing than doing what you’re told. It gave me the confidence to take on one of society’s bigger issues.”

    Authors of the report are hopeful that it’s publication will see a wave of support for social enterprise in Milton Keynes that will be central to the exponential positive growth that is planned for the city and surrounding areas. They are inviting anyone in Milton Keynes and surrounding areas with an interest in running their own project to come and find out more about social enterprise on the 16th February at Milton Keynes Social Enterprise Boost, which you can register for here.

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