Inspiring Innovation through the International Spark Programme

Nina Emett, Founder and Director of Brighton based arts education social enterprise FotoDocument, is participating in the inaugural, year-long European Innovation Programme and shared her experience of the Safari that took place across the Coast to Capital area earlier this month.

The Spark programme launched on 12th June 2017 in Chichester and it was wonderful to embark on this journey with British, Dutch and Belgian social entrepreneurs – long may this cross-European collaborative spirit last! The week long ‘safari’ comprised of peer learning sessions, workshops and a tour of social enterprises around the south-east of England.


One of our visits was to ‘Frame of Mind’, a social enterprise that offers a picture framing service and employs individuals living with mental health issues or learning difficulties. I was inspired by the impact they make and, being in the photography business myself, made a real business connection with them. I will now be using their services to frame an exhibition which FotoDocument are curating in London for International Women’s in March 2018. This is just one example of a connection I made that week that has supported my enterprises development. Amazing how the ricochet of good in the world can be amplified.

The week culminated in the excellent Spark Innovation Conference which took place on Thursday 15th June in Brighton. The day-long event consisted of inspiring talks, breakout workshops, panel debates around innovation and clinics. I had a very productive one-to-one session about procurement with a business advisor that I pre-scheduled through the Spark programme.


The conference was brimming with ideas exchange, meaningful chatter, creative modelling, mini social enterprise pitches and delicious food provided by catering social enterprise, The Big Fig. I was pleased to learn that the supply chain for the conference was ethical including the use of our photography agency, FotoAgency. It was a seamlessly organised and very professional affair. Being based at The Platform I was privy to the immense amount of hard work and thoughtful decision-making that led up to it, full respect.

The highlight of the conference for me was the key note speech by the rabble-rousing John Bird, founder of The Big Issue. I found myself guffawing loudly in response to his edgy tales and anecdotes and nodding furiously as he expressed his irrepressible anger at the shocking levels of poverty and inequality in the UK. I should of course refer to him as Lord Bird given his relatively new entry into the House of Lords, but I think (and hope) he is too badly behaved to want to necessarily stick to such conventions. In fact, he is perfectly placed now to disrupt the status quo as much as possible from within the Westminster bubble and I hope he is successful. I feel aligned with his views in so many ways.


In my opinion, it’s a harder job running a social enterprise than just running a for-profit business because of the triple bottom line, so we do need additional support, but isn’t it worth it for the difference we can make? I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Spark Innovation Accelerator as well as being based at The Platform offices as their social enterprise incubee.

A Huge Thank You!

The Platform would like to extend a huge thank you to all of the contributors that help to make the conference. From the understated awesomeness of Ivo Gormley sharing his GoodGym story to the rustle of tissues dabbing moist eyes, to about 130 delegates working together to solve societal issues, to the rock and roll status of rule-breaking Big Issue founder, Lord John Bird which, in the words of a delegate ‘really made the conference unforgettable.’

With many breakout sessions with standing room only, a fly on the wall would’ve seen delegates exploring the world through virtual reality, sitting on floors to masking tape innovation onto the carpet, fashioning seagulls from plastic milk bottles or prototypes of their innovations out of recycled junk, enlarging their ears as they learn how to listen better in order to influence, chewing the fat of growth and commercialisation with the great and the good, absorbing the citrusy hue of case studies with a (The Big Lemon Bus), gleaning the Belgian perspective on communicating impact, finding out how to find the right social investor and working out if their innovation will truly flourish…

Phew, what an exhilarating experience!


Thanks to everyone that contributed:

Dr Caroline Bucklow – Senior Knowledge Exchange Officer, Research Services, University of Oxford

Charlie Peverett – Brand, Culture and Communication Partner, In Essence

Craig Carey – Director of Business, Bubble Chamber

Dave Wolff – Director, Community University Partnership Programme (CUPP), University of Brighton

Emma Whelan – Brand, Culture and Communication Partner, In Essence

Fiona Anderson – Entrepreneur Development Manager, Natwest

Fiona Ras – Business Development Director, The Platform

George Tsekouras – Principal Research Fellow, University of Brighton

Iris Verhoeyen – Director and Knowledge Manager, Sociale Innovatie Fabriek

Ivo Gormely – Founder, GoodGym

Jim Byford – Founder, Adventure and Wisdom Institute

Jo Cutler – Doctoral Researcher, The Social Decision Lab, University of Sussex

John Montague – Managing Director, Big Issue Invest

Baron John Bird – Founder, Big Issue

Kaat Peeters – Director and Knowledge Manager, Sociale Innovatie Fabriek

Kerry Kyriacou

Lisa Westbury – Co-Founder, Generate

Lorraine Bell – Business Support Manaer, Green Growth Platform, University of Brighton

Mark Corbett – Co-founder, UniHack

Nickala Torkington – Director, Flourish CIC

Pieter Werrebrouck – Advisor, de punt.

Simon Hutchins – Manager of the Aldingbourne Country Centre, The Aldingbourne Trust

Temujen Gunawardena – Graphic Recording and Facilitation, TemJam

Tom Druitt – Founder, The Big Lemon CIC

Umesh Kumar – Co-founder, UniHack


The Spark Social Enterprise Project has received funding from the Interreg 2 Seas Programme 2014-2020 co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund under subsidy contract No 2S01-043Interreg 2 Seas Logo

Budding Social Entrepreneurs Start their Journey to Success

In May 2017, we were excited to welcome 10 budding social entrepreneurs to The Platform to take part in a course to help develop their ideas and confidence in setting up a social enterprise. The 6-day intensive course, otherwise known as the Launch Pad, was the first stage of the application process for the SEEK Programme which starts on the 3rd of July.

We were in awe of the applications that came through which covered a wide range of ideas to tackle social and environmental issues in Greater Brighton. Key themes were mental health and wellbeing and several ideas focused on supporting socially isolated groups and individuals.

Pitching Workshop 12 edit

The course, co-created by The Platform and the project partners – StartUp Croydon, University of Chichester, Croydon Council and UnLtd, offered a thorough introduction to social enterprise (what is and what’s not a social enterprise?), a chance to understand social issues and uncover the root causes and activities to explore viable business models.

The content covered was designed to provoke applicants to dig deeper and explore their idea thoroughly. Tools and techniques were shared to encourage applicants to develop an entrepreneurial mindset that would build their confidence in setting up a social enterprise and embarking on the startup journey. A safe space was created where there were no silly questions and we saw support being offered by applicants as well as specialists delivering sessions.

Before I started the Launch Pad course I had little or no idea of what a social enterprise was. All I knew was that I had an idea about helping young communities. Two weeks later, and now I am able to say I know what a social enterprise is and what they do. Thanks to SEEK I can now call my idea a social enterprise.

Following the Launch Pad applicants attended a pitching workshop and were then given the opportunity to pitch for one of seven places on the programme. The panel consisted of Project Coordinator, Sara Osterholzer; UnLtd startup specialist, Rebecca Luff; and social entrepreneur and Founder of FotoDocument, Nina Emett. Nina shared that she “was very impressed by the quality of the candidates and their ideas. The SEEK programme is clearly a great way to get people who are out of work back into the workforce in an exciting and innovative way”.

The selected entrepreneurs start their journey in July 2017 with a week-long training event in Brighton followed by 6 months of group and individual support to help build a strong foundation from which the participants build their enterprise and achieve their social mission. We will be highlighting the SEEK social entrepreneurs individually on a monthly basis so keep an eye out to follow their journey.

I would absolutely recommend the course to others as it was a very positive and inspiring experience. The course forces you to address issues you may not have known even existed. Good for personal growth as well.

Day 4 Launch Pad 01 edit

Interested in hearing more and applying to the programme?

The programme is taking place simultaneously in Brighton, Croydon and Chichester and much of the activity sees cohorts come together to engage in larger groups. The SEEK team will be recruiting for the 2018 cohort from November 2017. If you would like to stay in touch with updates and recruitment dates, sign up to the SEEK mailing list here.

The SEEK project has received funding under the Building Better Opportunities Programme which is jointly funded by the Big Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund.

Social Enterprise Hub Incubation Competition

The Platform is very excited to announce a new opportunity for a social enterprise to benefit from incubation support in the social enterprise hub at The Platform; including free work space and a range of resources and activity.

The competition is open to all social enterprises, start-up and established, that feel they would benefit from basing themselves at Brighton & Hove’s vibrant social enterprise hub and from full engagement in the support and activity The Platform has to offer.

What will you get from the Social Enterprise Hub?

  • A base for a 6-month period
  • A free individual desk space in a dynamic shared office space (with potential to rent the desk after 6 months)
  • Central Brighton location, just off West St and close to the beach!
  • Free phone line for local landline calls
  • Reasonable use of photocopier
  • Access to reception for message taking and deliveries
  • Access to wi-fi & broadband internet
  • Lockable filing cabinet
  • Support with finance; forecasting, spreadsheets, cash flow (6 hours across the 6 months)
  • Use of meeting rooms (60 hours across the 6 months)
  • Own set of keys – to enable access to office between 9-6 Mon – Fri
  • Use of postal address
  • Close access to car parks
  • Free attendance at Social Enterprise Support Events and support (mandatory where relevant)
  • Access to informal in-house support and resources
  • Access to support from volunteer experts and work placements
  • Access to the most recent news and knowledge about social enterprise
  • 1 free use of Wagner Hall and training rooms and further uses heavily discounted
  • Kitchen facilities with microwave, teas and coffees
  • Being at the centre of the growing community of social entrepreneurs in the city, with continual organic connections and introductions to like-minded entrepreneurs

What you will commit to the Social Enterprise Hub:

  • Monthly blog posts on your experience and progress
  • Involvement in wider publicity activity
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Attending social enterprise events
  • Being open to supporting The Platform and other social enterprises, wherever possible

How to apply?
Return a complete Expression of Interest form to by 12noon on the 28th Feb. Downloadable here.

What kind of leadership do we need, right now?

On the 1-4 March, 2017, The Art of Hosting Brighton will take 35 people through a 3.5 day intensive training in the skills of Participatory Leadership.

But what’s that when it’s at home, and who really needs it?

Participatory Leadership, or “The Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter” is an approach to harnessing the collective intelligence and self-organising capacity in groups of any size. Put simply, it’s about inspiring leadership in everyone, by tapping into what really matters to them, and creating space for them to act on it. It’s been taught to thousands of people worldwide, including 700 at the European Commission, across every sector you can think of.

max-st-johnMy name is Max, and I’m part of the international organising team, and a resident of Brighton. I’ve brought this training to our city because I want to support people to build their own leadership capacity, and for them to inspire that in their organisations and communities.

I believe that at a time when our political and economic systems are no longer willing or able to fully support us through times of rapid change, we need to be organising for our own future. And at a time where there seems to be a great deal of conflict and misunderstanding, that better dialogue is on the critical path to a better world.

My belief is that this approach to building better dialogue, and an increased sense of agency, can be a catalyst for healthy, active communities and organisations that can add value to them without huge resources.

We have 10 places left on this training, and we really want to hear from people in social enterprise and community development, who might like to join us.

Read the full details of the 3.5 day training in March and confirm your place.

Have you got questions?

On the 16th January, from 12.30-2pm, we’re running a lunch conversation on “What is The Art of Hosting?” for you to find out more about the training in March. Book your place for this introduction here.


Do you REALLY know your audience?

Simon Bottrell of 7creative lead a hands on workshop on the 6th December 2016 that ultimately supported participants in creating a more effective communications strategy for their social enterprise. Our newest addition to our team, Sara Osterholzer, took part and shares an overview.

Simon began the workshop by highlighting the questions we were going to focus on which included: “What’s in it for YOU and THEM?”. With our brains switched on, we jumped straight into an audience mapping and prioritising work session where we were coupled with another participant to brainstorm and soundboard our thoughts and ideas. The second work session took our ideas to the next level. We focused on the bespoke and engaging messages needed for each individual group and the complexity that can create.

“Before the workshop I was feeling fragmented with all my ideas in my mind. This session allowed me to categorise and establish steps that gives me more confident in turning my idea into an enterprise”

Simon took time to visit each pair and offer his insight and suggestions. The comments were specific to our own organisations which you rarely get in workshops.

During the break, it was great to meet other social entrepreneurs who lead organisations I have heard or seen around Brighton and Hove. This was as much an opportunity to learn from an expert as it was an opportunity to support and learn from others on the same journey as I am.

 “This workshop has highlighted that it is not just about what we offer to our audience; it is about what benefit we bring to our audience”

In 2 and a half hours, I felt I got some real work done and left the workshop with clear next steps to follow. Thank you Simon for your nuggets of expertise and support.

The BHSEN at The Platform’s season of events have now come to a close. Sign up to our mailing list to receive an update when the new season event details are released.

Welcome to our newest addition to The Platform

Last week The Platform team welcomed Sara Osterholzer to the team as the Social Enterprise Support Coordinator. As a member of the BHSEN, and already active in the #socent space, we wanted to introduce her to those who’ve not already had the pleasure of meeting her yet!

We are asked her about her journey to us …

Sara was first introduced to the concept of social enterprise while completing her International Business degree at The University of Sussex. It was there that she joined ENACTUS, a global organisation that supports university students in creating and growing social enterprise projects. Sara created the role of Social Project Coordinator as she saw a need to offer strategic and management skills to those students leading projects that didn’t have the business degree.

Since leaving university, Sara has worked as the right hand (wo)man for a number of entrepreneurs, gaining first-hand experience in starting up enterprises. She has lived and breathed the entrepreneur journey and is now wanting to use her experience and learnings to support a larger group of social entrepreneurs.

When we asked Sara why she choose to focus on social enterprises and what excited her in this space, she had this to say;

“The moment I was introduced to the term social enterprise, I saw it as a vehicle to marry my philanthropic and caring passions with the business expertise I was developing at university. I have been a #socent junkie ever since!

We are seeing a global momentum building up around caring for social and environmental causes. As a society, this change comes in the form of customers using their purchasing power to support the organisations that are focused on more than just profit. This movement excites me as I truly believe we will see a world one day where the term social enterprise will be redundant as that will be the norm. I want to be part of making that world a reality and supporting entrepreneurs that are making that a reality today.

I have followed The Platform for a few years. Julie and Fiona’s shared focus and vision was one of the reasons I wanted to get involved with the organisation. Now coming to the end of week two with the company, I know I’ve found my tribe that mirror my ambitions for this sector and enthusiasm and I am looking forward to growing the existing social enterprise energy in Brighton and Hove and beyond.”

We are excited to have Sara in the team who has already infected the sector with her enthusiasm backed up by an abundance of knowledge. We hope you’ll join us in giving her a warm welcome when you see her. Feel free to get in touch with her at

Let’s keep our city’s #socents growing!

Photo credit: NACUE: The Tata Social Enterprise Conference 2013

A letter from your new #Socent Rep

Dear Social Enterprise Sector of Brighton & Hove

I am very happy to have been elected as the new Social Enterprise Rep on Brighton  & Hove’s Community Works Rep Council. I would like to express my full commitment to developing a strategic voice for the sector to influence key policies, plans and service re-designs –

  • Providing a strategic vision and direction for the sector representation and leadership activities, suggesting which key agendas should be focused upon at which times
  • Maintaining dialogue and influencing key policies, plans and services by;
    • Developing relationships with key decision makers in the city
    • Attending committees, partnerships, steering groups etc. as relevant and according to priorities in the Reps Council action plan
  • Connecting with the sector via Community Works membership and networking activities (as well as other groups and organisations) to ensure the sector’s current views are heard and understood.
  • Feeding back to the sector on reps influencing activities and outcomes.

I am always keen to hear from you regarding the challenges, opportunities and support needs that you face. I commit to sharing regular updates as to the activity of the Reps council with you, this will be done via this e-list, here on our website blog and also via the social enterprise network’s e-list. You can sign up for this at the bottom of this page.

I look forward to representing you well, now, and in the future.

Best wishes

Emma Turner

Motivating positive investors – pioneers to speak at The Platform

Leading pioneers in positive investing will be speaking about the motivations of positive investors and savers at an event being held at Wagner Hall, The Platform in Brighton on Friday 18th November.

The free event is being organised by Ethex, the UK’s leading online positive investment and savings marketplace, in collaboration with The Platform, whose aim is to create a thriving social economy in Brighton and Hove, and local community energy groups Brighton Energy Coop and BHESCo.

Ethex has recently conducted a landmark survey on attitudes to and experiences of positive investing – investing for social or environmental good. Its founder and chairman Jamie Hartzell will be presenting some of the survey’s preliminary findings, which will be followed by a full report being issued early in 2017.

Jamie Hartzell, Ethex founder and chairman, said: “We’ve discovered some intriguing findings about what makes people want to invest or save their money for positive good, and we’re keen to share these results. We’ve segmented positive investors into six different ‘types’, so come along to find out what type you are! There will also be useful insights for social businesses looking to raise investment and those that are already part of the positive investment marketplace.”

Emma Turner, Social Enterprise Network Manager, The Platform, said: “Social enterprises play a key role in helping tackle social problems, strengthen communities and improve the local environment. Positive investors have a key role to play in helping social businesses raise the funds they need – so we’re really excited about participating in this event with Ethex sharing useful knowledge and building confidence in the sector.”

Damian Tow, Secretary, Brighton Energy Coop, said: “We’ve been leading the way in developing community-owned solar energy in the area and have raised more than £ 1.5 million from local people in the past five years. We have first hand experience of the power of positive investment, and want to see the market grow even bigger delivering greater environmental benefits going forwards.”

The event lasts from 10 am to 12 noon pm on Friday 15th November and takes place at the The Platform’s Wagner Hall, Regency Road, Brighton, BN1 2RT.

It is free to attend, and a few tickets are still available from Eventbrite:

#Socent Social & Showcase - a whistle stop tour

October’s #Socent Social & Showcase was an energetic affair.

#Socent Social & Showcase

#Socent Social & Showcase – Ruth at hiSbe

We started with a whistle stop tour of Brighton’s pioneering hiSbe supermarket, where co-founder, Ruth Anslow, shared her experiences of setting up what is now a thriving social enterprise that successfully explodes the traditional supermarket model.


One thing we would have done differently? … asked for help earlier on.‘ BHSEN at The Platform didn’t exist then, so make sure you reach out for help as soon as you know you need it.


#Socent Social & Showcase – The Rose Hill


We then sauntered / strode down London Road to convene the ‘social’ aspect of the event at The Rose Hill, a new community owned pub and social enterprise at the very early stages of its journey where Kassia shared with us their vision for the arts hub.



#Socent Social & Showcase – Kassia of The Rose Hill

The social began in earnest with budding social entrepreneurs chewing the ears off existing social entrepreneurs, #socent supporters sharing their offers, with enthusiasts and ‘simply interesteds’ exploring ideas and hearing stories.

There was space to share what you needed and space to share what was offered:

I need – 

A space to run a regular fitness class on a one off charity fitness event. Contact via Facebook: Vida Woman

I can offer – 

Desk space; we are going to run a competition for startups to win 6 months desk space at our offices. Contact The Platform

Desk & furniture – Contact The Platform

@weareneo can help puropose driven #socents with your brand, communications and campaigns. Contact

Join us at our next extra special #Socent Social & Showcase on Wed 16th Nov, which is a fringe event to the meaning conference that is happening on the 17th Nov. Tranood will be available and showcases will be with The Big Lemon Bus and The Bevy.

15th December welcomes Stoneham Bakehouse as the showcase. Click to book your free place.

Email for more info

Current funding opportunities

Here’s a handy highlight of current funding opportunities for food projects and more, gathered together by our friends at Brighton & Hove Food Partnership

Sussex Community Foundation
Up to £5,000 / Next deadline Friday 15th July
Your go-to place for local grants if your income is less than £500,000.  This round includes the following grants; East Brighton Trust (up to £500), Ardis Fund (to support people with dementia Up to £10,000), Brighton & Hove Community Health Fund (Up to £1,500),  Brighton Rock (benefit older people and environment, Up to £5,000),  Cullum Family Fund (Homelessness, children and older people up to £5,000), southern water (up to £2,000 – will address issues of water on community allotments).

The Southern Cooperative – Love your Neighbourhood Fund
Up to £1,000 / No deadline
Key themes are greener, healthier, safer and more inclusive neighbourhoods.  This includes improving green spaces by supporting community gardens and improving people’s diets and encouraging healthy eating habits..  This fund is to support project’s starting or to purchase equipment.

Greggs Small Environment Grants / Local Community Projects Grants
Up to £2,000 / Deadline 1st July
Will fund community growing projects who are working with disadvantaged people.​​

Postcode Local Trust
Up to £2000 (non-charities), Up to £20,000 (charities) / Funding open 1st Sept – 30th Sept
This fund is specifically about enhancing the natural environment in a way that benefits the wider community.  Will fund community growing projects, orchards etc


Postcode Trusts
Up to £20,000 (if charity) up to £2,000 if not / Open 1st – 31st May
Also both these postcode trusts are open in May for applications, one based on poverty the other around Community Engagement.  They may not be suitable to community growing projects but could be suitable for other food projects:

Brighton Soup
Next event Friday 1st July
Fancy pitching your idea to a group of people eating soup and gaining some funding?

Skiptons Building Society Grassroots Giving
Up to £500 / Deadline 29th July
Funding for small community projects