Why Including Social Enterprises in the Procurement Process is Essential for Local Prosperity


On Social Enterprise Day last November, Business News Wales brought together prominent figures from Welsh social businesses and the City Regions – exploring the opportunities to embrace a range of social enterprises capable of delivering sustainable employment, inclusive growth and greater social equity to local economies and communities. 

Jonathan Burnes, Portfolio Director of the Swansea Bay City Deal, shared his views on the important development of social enterprises in the Swansea Bay City Region.

“At the heart of the Swansea Bay City Deal is our aim to stimulate economic growth for the region by creating conditions that attract and grow businesses and, as a result, deliver sustainability and resilience for the local economy. In my experience, social enterprises are key to stimulating this growth at a local level and creating positive and sustainable impacts on the community. Social enterprises were front and centre in my previous role with the Communities First programme. Everything we did with community groups to support and enable them either led to or supported community enterprises. They’re key to economic regeneration as well as social, environmental and community change.”

“Social enterprises are key to stimulating growth at a local level and creating positive and sustainable impacts on the community.”

“We need to make sure that social enterprises are offered the opportunities that will allow them to effectively contribute to the local economy. Directly involving them in the procurement process is central to this. Procurement has accessible routes for social enterprises to be part of this mix, but we must recognise that there are some local businesses who do not necessarily have the capacity and capability to deliver from a private perspective, let alone a social enterprise perspective. At the Swansea Bay City Deal, we have created clear procurement principles and one of these is to maximise community benefit on each contract. These principles will help ensure that investment stays as local as possible and provide support to local businesses in the region. If, for instance, we have a Tier One contractor we will make sure – working with the project team and engaging with local businesses, including social enterprises – that there’s a community benefit perspective given to every project that we do. It’s essential that regional communities benefit from the major projects that form part of the City Deal in order to further prosperity in the area.

“One of our procurement principles ensures that investment and business support is as local as possible.”

“As an example, Yr Egin, based in Carmarthen, has already begun to look at what they can do to engage with third sector organisations around cultural projects for local communities. Pentre Awel, a life science and well-being development based in Delta Lakes in Llanelli, is also aiming to improve prosperity for the City Region, looking at employment and investment opportunities as well as bringing in local communities and social enterprises to be part of this development. I’m hoping this will all cascade down so that more social enterprises in the region are encouraged to apply for major contracts for these big infrastructure projects.

“There’s a perception that social enterprises support things that local authorities cannot do, but I think they do so much more than just that. I support those that have plans to grow – just as Dulais Valley Transport has grown into DANSA. We must ensure that people understand the potential of social enterprises and break the myths that surround them.

“With social enterprises contributing so much to our local communities and economies, it’s essential that they’re included in the procurement process and have the opportunity for involvement in major projects. I hope that as social enterprises continue to become more prominent across the region, we’ll soon see the positive impact they can have in many different areas.”