Cabinet Office
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Joint open data initiative "game changer" for social enterprise industry

Social Enterprise UK and the Cabinet Office have teamed up to publish data for the first time that enables people to track money spent by local authorities and central government on social enterprises.

Since the launch of the Buy Social Directory in June 2014, work has been underway to strengthen the quality of the entries in the directory and make the data open. By releasing this data, it will be easier to understand the range of products and services that social enterprises offer. A new dashboard was launched on International Open Data Day (Saturday 21 February) to help users analyse this data.

Users will now be able to drill down into the statistics to discover the top local authority and central government buyers of products and services from social enterprises . Users can uncover the amount of money spent on social enterprises by total spend and region and the hub also enables users to analyse the top social enterprise suppliers by financial year.

Social enterprises are different from other businesses in that they invest significant amounts of their profits back into society. It is a growing sector with businesses succeeding in public and private sectors.The government estimates that there are now 180,000 social enterprises in the UK, 15% of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), contributing billions to the economy and employing more than 2 million people.

Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson said:

The UK has the world’s largest social enterprise sector and providing data on over 10,000 businesses will give a powerful insight into how social enterprises work. Giving access to data will open up opportunities and demonstrate how these organisations invest their profits locally so that businesses can have a positive impact on communities and the environment.

Peter Holbrook CBE, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), said:

The growing social enterprise sector provides public authorities with a new way to do business and we can now see how they are taking advantage of it.The data initiative will lead to greater accountability throughout public bodies, in regards to their respective spend and procurement.”

It will be a game changer for our members because, for example, they can identify and target markets that are increasingly using social enterprises.

The new data on the Social Enterprise UK website will also help improve accountability around the use of the Social Value Act and help set benchmarks for its use.

This tool is based on the data from the Buy Social Directory, which is a comprehensive index of over 10,000 social enterprises throughout the UK. Published in June 2014, its purpose is to encourage consumers as well as the public and private sectors to buy from social enterprises. It was created in association with the Cabinet Office, City of London Corporation and Aspire Group. It is a part of Social Enterprise UK’s #BuySocial campaign.

The datasets on SEUK members and community interest companies (CICs) were created by linking to Companies House URI codes and then cross referencing records with published spend information from across local authorities and central government. The work was carried out by Spend Network and Open Corporates.

The project was led by SEUK with support from the Cabinet Office Release of Data Fund.

Notes to editor

Social Enterprise UK is the leading membership body for social enterprise.

Data from members of Social Enterprise UK and thousands of Community Interest Companies have been used to cross reference with information from public sector bodies to come up with fresh statistics. The data looks at the past four years and is based on invoice information.

The Social Investment Finance Team has released a central inventory of data resources into the public domain.

International Open Data Day was on February 21, 2015. It was a volunteer-led event, with no single organisation managing it. There are a coalition of partners that promoted the event and provided micro grants, up to $300 to £195, to help communities organise their events.

View International Open Data Events.

The original Open Data white paper was published in June 2012.

The Cabinet Office Open Data initiative aims to:

  • make it easier to access public data
  • make it easier for data publishers to release data in standardised, open formats
  • engrain a ‘presumption to publish’ unless there are clear, specific reasons, such as privacy or national security, not to do so. From the Prime Minister down, central government said it is committed to making open data an effective engine of economic growth, social wellbeing, political accountability and public service improvement

For more information and interview requests contact Hamant Verma, senior communications officer at Social Enterprise UK on 0203 589 4851 or


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