The Value of Co-creation

Henna Butt

Last week we held a roundtable event at the House of Commons to discuss how corporate businesses can integrate social enterprises into their supply chains. Hosted by Hazel Blears Labour MP, Vice Chair of the APPG on Social Enterprise, the idea was to bring together a group of people that care about what we are trying to achieve through the Social Business Partnership venture.

For me, the discussion highlighted a key strength in Shaftesbury’s approach, seeking to consult widely about our ventures with people from across sectors. Shaftesbury is able to follow through on this and use its cross-sectoral networks to bring together the right people for the conversation. The event also marked the end of my six-month On Purpose placement at Shaftesbury rather fittingly, since my placement started with the launch of our “Life Transitions” report at the House of Lords in July.

At the House of Commons our guests included numerous corporate representatives from across different industry sectors, as well as the founders of two successful social enterprises, and the discussions left us with both pertinent questions and thought-provoking insights. Here are just a few of the challenges and opportunities that we identified.


  • Within mainstream business many people still aren’t aware of social enterprise, we need to raise awareness and educate people about the model.
  • Corporates need to see the evidence to show that social enterprises can deliver for the scale of their needs.
  • We need to work between corporates and social enterprises to engineer creative solutions that help social enterprises to service larger contracts.
  • Businesses need an intermediary that can act as a ‘translator’ between social enterprises and their procurement teams.


  • Businesses can manage their value chains by stipulating that suppliers sub-contract to social enterprises.
  • There is a business case for procuring directly from communities – businesses such as British Gas have shown that it can actually improve the bottom line.
  • Corporate workforces are motivated and developed by opportunities to share skills with social enterprises – and they can pick up some entrepreneurialism in return.
  • Social enterprises are able to mitigate the risks of employing people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • The political and business focus on this agenda means now is the time to act.

These ideas will certainly help us to grow and develop SBP. Personally though, the event illustrated how I want the social enterprise movement to look in future: open to collaboration, eager to learn and looking to infect and envelop ‘business as usual’.

If you would like to comment on the scaling report, please email:
If you would like to find out more about the Social Business Partnership, visit the website.

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