Tuesday, August 25, 2020

New resources set to foster entrepreneurial learning across Europe

Two new EntreComp resources published by The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) this month are set to further enhance entrepreneurial learning across Europe – one of which The Women’s Organisation is proud to have contributed to.

The publications are expected to be a vital resource in developing understanding of EntreComp - The Entrepreneurship Competence Framework - and the ways it can be applied by its international community of users.

EntreComp is a comprehensive, flexible, and multi-purpose framework designed to help individuals and organisations understand what it means to be entrepreneurial and the key enterprising competences needed for personal development, social inclusion, active citizenship, and employment.

The two new publications, ‘EntreComp at Work: The European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework in action in the labour market: a selection of case studies and ‘EntreComp Playbook: Entrepreneurial learning beyond the classroom, are an important next step in the success and development of EntreComp.

Both of these resources build on the work of EntreComp into Action: Get Inspired and Make It Happen’, a practical user guide for the framework which The Women’s Organisation worked in partnership to create last year.

The EntreComp playbook, offers a toolkit of practices, tools and examples which can be used to support the design and delivery of entrepreneurial learning activities for adult learners.

By developing these entrepreneurial competences in adults, the playbook aims to increase their employability by up-skilling the workforce to face the changing needs of the labour market, to support career progression, as well as business start-ups.

EntreComp At Work showcases 10 case studies, including The Women’s Organisation’s own experiences, which highlight the diversity of ways the framework can be used, including: workforce development, design of training, support for start-ups, and personal development plans.

Having started using EntreComp in 2016, it has been an invaluable resource for us at The Women’s Organisation, particularly in the context of creating employment pathways for women across the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester.

This is achieved through personal development and employability programmes, training and support, as well dedicated programmes for women creating and growing their own businesses, all of which have been mapped against the EntreComp framework.

The Women’s Organisation’s experience of the framework has now been used as a case study in EntreComp At Work.

Lisa McMullan, Director for Development & Consultancy at The Women’s Organisation
Lisa McMullan, Director for Development & Consultancy
at The Women’s Organisation

Lisa McMullan, Director for Development & Consultancy at The Women’s Organisation, says: “The importance of entrepreneurial learning and the competencies which go alongside it cannot be underestimated. This is more apparent than ever as communities, educators, and enterprises across the world face unprecedented challenges, which call for resilience, innovation, and collaboration.

“Here at The Women’s Organisation, we have experienced first-hand how EntreComp inspires and enables these key attributes. From the mapping of our training provision and the creation of new training materials, to the development of our own team and tender development at a strategic level, the framework has been an invaluable tool and has helped shape the development of our organisation and its services.

“As a social enterprise, this means that EntreComp has supported us to deliver transformational services which enable underrepresented and disadvantaged groups to take a more active role in social end economic life.

“We now hope that our experiences and learning will inspire and enable others to uptake the framework and explore how entrepreneurial learning can be fostered within their organisation, or as part of their own personal development.”

The Women’s Organisation’s Enterprise Evolution consultancy team are now working with international partners to support the development of the EntreComp 360 platform, as part of the Erasmus+ programme.

This new project is developing toolkits to further support the learning of those using EntreComp. The EntreComp 360 platform will be a one-stop-shop to provide guidance, collate tools, share practice, learn through online training and connect those working on the practical implementation of EntreComp into learning and work.

To find out more about EntreComp and how you can put the framework to use within your organisation, you can read the user guide: ‘EntreComp into Action: Get Inspired and Make It Happen’.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Ground-breaking new research collaboration is set to shine a light on social enterprises

The Women’s Organisation has announced a national partnership with Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) to commission pioneering research highlighting the role social enterprise can play in economic recovery.

Liverpool-based charity, The Women’s Organisation, will collaborate with ERC, the UK’s leading centre of excellence for research into the growth, innovation and productivity of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to deliver new research on social enterprise.

Produced by recognised economic experts across the UK and internationally, the research will offer expert insights into how social enterprises can play a key role in driving economic recovery and support the communities hit hardest by the impact of COVID-19.

Research will be delivered in a special series of five State of the Art (SOTA) reviews, tackling individual key themes in relation to social enterprise, such as employment and skills opportunities, diversity and inclusion, and environmental sustainability. 

Set to be published in Autumn 2020, the SOTA reviews will be launched through an online event and be made readily available for download for policymakers, business-leaders and wider audiences.

SOTA reviews were established by the ERC, which has research bases at both Warwick University Business School and Aston University Business School, in response to a growing demand from policymakers for specialist concise summaries on topical issues within the social economy sector.

The research will draw upon the latest economic evidence, address research gaps, and respond to key policy questions, seeking to provide solutions to the economic, social and environmental problems facing the UK following COVID-19. 

This partnership follows the news that The Women’s Organisation was this year listed in the top 1% of UK Social Enterprises in the SE100 Index, which is the country’s leading source of market intelligence on social enterprise.

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, says: “The social economy has long been a stalwart in providing opportunities to disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, a demographic that has been hardest hit by the impact of COVID-19. This ground-breaking research will highlight the key role that social enterprises can play in rebuilding the economy in a financially sustainable way, whilst also supporting individuals and communities who need it most. 

“The Women’s Organisation is committed to supporting a stronger social economy, and we believe now is the time to trust social enterprises to take on the social, economic and environmental challenges currently facing our country. We are delighted to collaborate with the Enterprise Research Centre, a pioneering, internationally renowned research body, on this innovative research that will play a vital role in shaping a fairer, more sustainable and prosperous economy.”

Dr Vicki Belt, Deputy Director of the Enterprise Research Centre at Warwick University Business School, says: “Covid-19 is having a huge impact on businesses and communities across the country. As we look to recovery, social enterprises - which have been a real success story in recent years - have the potential to play a key role. The ERC are delighted to be working in partnership with the Women’s Organisation to produce a new set of ‘State of the Art’ (SOTA) reviews on focusing on social enterprise. We launched our SOTA review series in response to the growing demand from policymakers for concise summaries of knowledge on topical issues in enterprise research. There are now over 40 reviews in the series. This new set of five reviews will fill several important knowledge gaps. 

“Social enterprises generate huge value to the UK, and are often based within some of the most disadvantaged communities, employing some of the most vulnerable people in society. I am looking forward very much to working in partnership with the Women’s Organisation, with its wealth of practical experience in delivering business support and training, to explore critical issues around the role of social enterprise in economic recovery and in building a more a more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive future.”

Monday, August 10, 2020

Experts forecast “catastrophic economic impact” ahead if Government policy fails to support women’s enterprise


Some of the UK’s leading voices in women’s enterprise have come together in a new report to say that current Government policy has failed to recognise the additional challenges faced by millions of women-led businesses.

As the Government and local authorities across the country launch campaigns to “Build Back Better” and help the UK’s economy recover and grow in a sustainable way post Covid-19, leading voices in business and academia say that more needs to be done to support women’s enterprise and avoid a “catastrophic” social and economic end to 2020.

The Women's Enterprise Policy Group (WEPG) has today (11 August) launched a ‘Framework of Policy Actions to Build Back Better for Women’s Enterprise’ which aims to address the gaps in Covid-19 enterprise support for women.

Evidence from the report indicates that women face a “tsunami” of job losses and business closures, unless the Government develops enterprise policy that is productive and fair for women.

The report outlines how current policies have failed to reflect the extra challenges that women entrepreneurs face - including childcare responsibilities, gender bias and access to finance – and how the Government has failed to introduce measures to facilitate their survival and growth.

The WEPG is a national coalition of leading women entrepreneurs, researchers, business support providers and social entrepreneurs from across the UK. The group develops policy calls based on the latest evidence and years of experience supporting women’s enterprise creation and growth.

The group is now urging the Chancellor to bring them to the policy table to help shape policy that ‘Builds Back Better’ for women entrepreneurs, for the economy, and for society.

Professor Julia Rouse, Co-Chair of the WEPG and
Professor of Entrepreneurship at Manchester Metropolitan University

Professor Julia Rouse, Co-Chair of the WEPG and Professor of Entrepreneurship at Manchester Metropolitan University, says: "As our report shows, women running businesses have faced acute pressures during Covid-19. We know that women tend to trade in sectors that do more face-to-face work - for example, as carers, in hospitality and tourism or as beauticians - and that means their trade is only coming back slowly and is vulnerable to local lockdowns. Add to this school and nursery closures, and the threat of 'bubbles' and consequently support networks bursting when these re-open fully, and you can see the scale of the challenge.

“What is more, many women are excluded from proper income protection due to gaps in current schemes. The Government is facing legal action for disadvantaging self-employed women who took maternity leave in years prior to the pandemic under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. Looking at the picture for women who are directors of small firms, the main form of support they have been offered is through loans, but without any targeted marketing to women business owners who are typically more cautious about risking family security via business loans. 

“The question we now must ask is whether the Chancellor fully understands the extent of these issues and whether he is committed to supporting women’s enterprise? There is already a huge gender gap in entrepreneurship across the UK - only about a third of all small firms are led by women. Equality simply cannot wait until the pandemic passes because Covid-19 is causing further inequality. Now is the time to develop practical policy that supports women business owners: any later could well be too late. That’s why we are calling on Rishi Sunak to bring us to the policy table to avoid the disaster of thousands of failed businesses at Christmas time and catastrophic economic impact." 

Helen Burkinshaw, Programme Lead for the WEPG at The Women’s Organisation

Helen Burkinshaw, Programme Lead for the WEPG at The Women’s Organisation, says: “There is compelling evidence that the UK’s economic recovery will be severely hampered if women’s enterprise development is not reflected in Government policy and investment. There is a real risk of the UK missing out on the immense economic opportunities that female led businesses offer, particularly in terms of new business start-ups and growth, products and service innovation, internationalisation, and new employment creation.

“Now is the time and the opportunity for Government and devolved administrations to recognise the needs of women business owners and their economic potential for the rebuilding of the UK’s economy. It is key that women’s enterprise advocates, like the WEPG, are involved in policy development and have the full support of Government.”

The WEPG have put forward a framework of policy actions to Government which they say will ‘build back better’ for women’s enterprise. These asks are around six key areas:

  1. Finance: Income Protection, including:

-       Extend the eligibility of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) for new traders and the part-time self-employed and exclude maternity periods from payment calculations.

-       Compensate Business Directors for lost dividends.


  1. Finance: Grants, Loans & Investment, including:

-       Introduce an Equality Impact Assessment to monitor the equity of all Coronavirus grant and loan funds, looking particularly at gender, ethnicity, disability, and age.

-       Address the causes of likely lower take-up by women: business structure, caution, and gender bias.


  1. Valuing Women-Led Sectors:

-       Give due value to the economic contribution of sectors such as early years/childcare and the beauty and wellbeing industry in lockdown decisions and investment programmes.


  1. Business Support: Time and Space to Enable Women Entrepreneurs to Pivot, including:

-       Ensure that enterprise ecosystems include women’s enterprise support and specialist or inclusive programmes for BAME women.

-       Publicly record and monitor the scale and quality of provision to women and BAME business founders and owners as part of an Equality Impact Assessment and meeting a Gender Equality Duty.


  1. Business Start-Up: Founding Vibrant Women-Led Businesses, including:

-       Invest in innovative approaches to business start-up that will enable women to form team-led enterprises, trade in higher productivity sectors, garner business resources and be enterprising.

-       Respect slower, part-time founding (e.g. extending the exemption period for Universal Credit’s minimum income floor).


  1. Invest in a Care Infrastructure: It Will ‘Build Back Better’ More Productively Than ‘Build, Build, Build’, including:

-       Properly value the keywork of social care businesses and radically expand supply by fixing long-term problems of inadequate commissioning that result in low pay and conditions.

-       Urgently protect social and private early years businesses

-       Investing in expanding the childcare sector to create jobs, close gender employment gaps and support the 600,000 mothers who are self-employed or business owners.


You can download the full ‘Framework of Policy Actions to Build Back Better For Women’s Enterprise’ by following: https://www.thewomensorganisation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/WEPG-Framework-of-Policy-Actions.pdf

Members of the WEPG include representatives from some of the country’s leading academic institutions, including the University of Liverpool, Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Birmingham, the University of Nottingham, the University of Newcastle and the University of South Wales. Alongside international representation from Mohammed Bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship (MBSC) in Saudi Arabia.

Representation from women’s business support comes from The Women’s Organisation, Women’s Enterprise Scotland, Women in Business NI, International Consultants for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise (ICE), GrowBiz and Radiant and Brighter CIC.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Gear Up to Grow with Sutcliffe: Impact on Construction

Like in every sector, every profession and every walk of life, Covid-19 will impact and change the way construction is done for many years to come - we can all be sure of that.

Sean Keyes, Managing Director - Sutcliffe

Sutcliffe was probably one of the first in the country to witness these changes first-hand. We had already been working with Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (as civil engineering consultants following the demise of the previous contractor), when some elements of the project were accelerated to enable additional ICU wards to open in order to meet the increasing capacity caused by the escalating pandemic.

In my 30 plus years in the profession I am currently witnessing very different construction sites to those I am used to - social distancing, where workers never encroach within two metres of their colleagues, face masks being worn by all, and more frequent hand washing. I have also introduced temperature checks to all staff, and one-way networks adopted similar to what the supermarkets have been doing for some weeks now. Importantly, if employees cannot get to the site safely and sensibly, then they shouldn't be there. I would be lying if I said the atmosphere wasn’t unique, and strange almost - but everyone is getting on with the job at hand, carrying out their tasks in a professional and sensible manner, being respectful of their workmates and alert to the potential risks.

And who can blame them. Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the death rate among low-skilled construction workers was 25.9 per 100,000 males, or 22 deaths in total, placing it among the worst-hit occupations. However, I remain incredibly optimistic for the construction industry, and believe that if we follow the safety guidelines, we will adapt and prosper in this new norm. We are used to working in dangerous conditions such as demolition sites, contaminated land and sites containing asbestos - this is no different.

At the time of writing this article, the Prime Minister continues to ease the lockdown restrictions - with more people encouraged to return to work if it is safe to do so. Sutcliffe has implemented a phased return to work. Our decision comes following guidance given by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE), and regular conversations with other engineers from across the UK to gauge general opinion. The ACE informs us that they have been consulting with the Government for many weeks now about the easing of restrictions, and I am told that Downing Street recognises the construction sector as being instrumental in getting the UK economy motoring again. I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment.

Now in our 35th year, Sutcliffe enjoyed one of its most successful years to date in 2019, which crucially provides us with a solid financial footing in such extraordinary challenging times.

The speed at which Covid-19 has hit all our lives is quite surreal and reminds us all how we need to better look after our planet and the food chain. Sutcliffe has an experienced top team with 100 years of management experience between us, and all have lived through many difficult periods before - we will be drawing from this wealth of experience and knowledge to guarantee our future success and to do our bit in rebuilding the UK economy.

For more information about Sutcliffe, visit the website, and on social media - Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Respected, reliable, resilient and trusted, Sutcliffe has been future-facing, inspiring and influencing the built environment since its conception in 1985.

Looking for help to grow or adapt your business? For more information about the support available through The Women’s Organisation to help you and your business, please contact us via e-mail at hello@thewo.org.uk if you're based in the Liverpool City Region.