The SEED Centre is Liverpool Hope University's research, teaching and enterprise centre that acknowledges the difference between social enterprises and ethical businesses and seeks to engage with such organisations and the financial sector to develop ethical practices with mutual, and societal, benefits.
The SEED Centre exists to disseminate through research, teaching and network development the good news of social and ethical enterprise. In this it connects ancient wisdom with contemporary ways of doing business, focusing on the need to seed the best business values in the new soil of young minds, hearts and vigorous business ventures.
Established through funding from the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), The SEED Centre provides international academic leadership in the area of social and ethical enterprise (SEE) scholarship, together with offering research-informed teaching on the principles, practice and formation of SEEs.
In addition, The SEED Centre is actively engaged in developing a range of sustainable and highly entrepreneurial revenue-generating projects, including new applications for 3G mobile platforms, to assist ethical consumers; and creating ‘safari-opportunities’ for enterprise leaders from different national and regional territories, providing opportunities to visit alternative geographically diverse SEE models.
There is a rising sense of shared responsibility, especially amongst a new generation of young social entrepreneurs – who operate in an increasingly global market space, and a genuine concern to organise, manage and develop ventures diverging from classic capitalist models. They are seeding a world of business that is intentionally ethical, green, sustainable and concerned to develop society and protect the poor, in developed, emerging and developing markets. The SEED Centre has been created to research and teach about this movement, as well as to germinate new companies and facilitate knowledge transfer between traditional businesses, financial services and the increasingly large SEE sector.
Our innovative SEED Safaris provide an opportunity for leaders from the financial services and conventional business sectors to learn more about regional, national and international SEEs. These knowledge transfer events will help to bridge the gap between those who understand finance, corporations, big business and the burgeoning SEE sector. There are real and tangible business reasons for finance capital to be interested in supporting the objectives of SEEs, particularly considering this sector has been significantly out-performing the economy as a whole during the downturn, with median turnover growing by 3% above inflation year-on-year.
Social and Ethical Enterprises are rapidly increasing in numbers and entering sectors across the UK. Although estimates vary, Government data indicates that there are more than 60,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing at least £24bn to national income. Corresponding data for ethical enterprises is not available, but our own research into the size of membership directories for ethical businesses suggests that there may be a similar number of EEs as SEs in Britain.
£40bn is a conservative estimate of the SEE sector’s contribution to UK income, not accounting for the significant number of conventional joint-stock corporations and SMEs that increasingly want to identify with the values of this sector. Even so, there is widespread agreement that the SEE sector is not widely understood, recognised or properly resourced by financial services and private equity, notwithstanding the pioneering work of such organisations as Charity Bank, Unity Trust, Triodos, The Co-operative Bank and, most recently, Big Society Capital.
In addition to the standard, legitimate cry of small businesses that lack of access to affordable finance is a significant barrier to development, almost 10% of SEs, in a large-scale recent survey, identified ‘cultural barriers to understanding by banks’ as inhibiting expansion. Equally, we have anecdotal evidence from business pitching events, indicating that private equity and wealth fund managers simply don’t understand the social benefits business model of SEEs.
To discover more about our SEED Safaris and how your business can benefit, please contact us.
 Social Enterprise UK, (2012), Chapter 7, Social enterprise barriers and enablers, in Fightback Britain – a report on the state of social enterprise, survey 2011, p14, London: SEUK
 Annual Survey of Small Businesses UK, 2005-2007
 The largest network of ethical businesses in the UK (Ethical Junction) has c 940 members, compared with Social Enterprise UK’s 585 enterprises in its membership database of social enterprises (out of a network of 9000 organisations). There is remarkably little overlap between these membership lists, which indicates that social and ethical enterprises occupy largely different social and enterprise worlds.
 Social Enterprise UK, (2012), Chapter 7, Social enterprise barriers and enablers, in Fightback Britain – a report on the state of social enterprise, survey 2011, p45, London: SEUK
The SEED Centre is directed by Dr Bob Doherty, Head of Hope Business School. Bob is a pre-eminent international expert in Fair Trade, formerly Marketing Director of Divine Chocolate and, currently, Editor-in-Chief of the Social Enterprise Journal (Emerald Publishing).
SEED’s Deputy Director is Revd Tony Bradley. Tony has twenty five years of experience in managing SEEs and teaching, writing and consulting on organisational leadership and change.
The SEED Centre successfully hosted an Official Fringe Event to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress on March 12th, 2012: “Turning “Good” Business into Profits (or why “Bad” business will be bad for your wealth)”.
The Global Entrepreneurship Congress, organised by the Kauffmann Organisation, delivered its third international event in Liverpool; the first time this event has been held anywhere in Europe. More than 7,000 people attended the Congress as a whole, with a host of Official Fringe events being run across the city-region. One of the most successful of these was organised by The SEED Centre, in conjunction with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). It was a rare occasion for social and ethical enterprise leaders and businesses to come together from the NW region, to learn, network and do business.
More than 90 people attended, most of whom were new to Hope University, with more than 50 coming directly from the social and ethical enterprise sector. Comments received included:
"As a new ethical business we were amazed at the energy and motivation in the room. It has really spurred us on".
"It is really important to meet with other like-minded business people. It can feel very isolated running your own company. And when you are mixing profit with care not everyone understands. Please lay on more events like this one".
Part of the mission of The SEED Centre is to increasingly help the regional network of social and ethical enterprise leaders, managers and staff to meet, learn together and resource one another. As such, we will be planning similar events for the future, which will be listed here.
Liverpool Hope University
T: +44 (0)151 291 0000