‘I wish we could bottle the energy in the room tonight’ – celebration as SSE heads to Westminster

2 Feb 2024

“I wish we could bottle the energy in the room tonight”

SSE Fellows, VCSE sector leaders, policy makers, social entrepreneurs and business leaders joined us on Wednesday evening at a packed event at the Palace of Westminster. The event celebrated the power of social enterprise and officially launch an independent report by AKOU into the latter five years of the decade long Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs Programme, supported by funders The National Lottery Community Fund (TNLCF), Lloyd’s Bank and Bank of Scotland.

If you were unable to attend, we’ve picked out some highlights below:

Cross-party consensus

The event achieved something rare for Westminster: MPs agreeing with each other! It was fabulous to see such support for SSE and for the social enterprise sector as a whole.

Stuart Andrew MP (Minister for Equalities) described social entrepreneurs as people with the solutions and commented that it’s clear to me that social enterprises are innovators” while highlighting the importance of government investment. He was also impressed with the outcomes from the AKOU report: social enterprises supported by SSE have a 2-year survival rate or 81% (versus the UK SME average of 73%) and organisations supported by Match Trading grants saw a 41% uplift in income from trading.

Stuart Andrew MP

Shadow Levelling Up Minister Liz Twist MP described the great work delivered by social enterprises in her Blaydon constituency, including SSE Fellow Corrina Mulholland’s Gateshead Community Organisation.Social enterprises seek to deliver outcomes such as increased wellbeing and equitable opportunities, alongside maximising profits, creating opportunities nationwide. I support the work that SSE does to help the sector to grow, and to make social enterprise mainstream”.

Baroness Thornton highlighted that currently civil society and the social economy is given too little attention in ministerial briefs and said it “deserves a much bigger role in parliamentary decision making given its significance to the economy, the value it brings to society and its ability to deliver public services better than the private sector.”

Celebrating our Fellows

Some of SSE’s brilliant Fellows


It was fantastic that so many SSE Fellows were able to join us and work the (very hot) room.

Change Please CEO Cemal Ezel gave a keynote speech and thanked SSE for the support the programme gave him as a very early-stage social entrepreneur, “providing the seeds to grow my idea into a tangible business”. Change Please began in 2015 with initial support from SSE and is now a global organisation, with a 70% success rate in getting people back into work. 

We also heard from SSE Fellow Veronica Gordon, founder and CEO of Our Version Media CIC. Veronica discussed Match Trading, a new way of grantmaking that was a feature of the Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs Programme. Veronica said “this way of grant making got me thinking like a business-person; it pushed and challenged me, and made me proactive. This turned into new clients, new services and new opportunities to increase our impact. It ensured Our Version Media CIC was resilient”.

The power of partnership

A theme for the evening was collaboration. SSE’s Sally Heard reflected that “it feels almost surreal to be here this evening. As CEO of SSE Cornwall during the entire duration of the decade long programme, it was such a fantastic opportunity to make connections that spanned across the private, public and voluntary sectors. This led to Cornwall Council investing further funding into the Cornwall programme after we had such incredible results between the corporate mentors and social enterprise students”.

Tracey Muirhead and Sally Heard


It was a similar story in Scotland. Tracey Muirhead recounted that “in 2012, building upon the past decade’s work in Fife region, we incorporated SSE Scotland to support the whole of Scotland, thanks to support and investment from the Bank of Scotland. We felt fully backed by all the investors, including The National Lottery Community Fund in Scotland and the Scottish Government. If I needed resources, space or procurement I called and they delivered. For me this was truly about partnerships. We’re only the facilitators and really it is all about our students and what they achieve. With that in mind, it is so humbling to be here this evening.”

Phil Chamberlain (The National Lottery Community Fund, England Director of Strategy) ended the evening’s speeches to a packed room in the Palace of Westminster, championing the work delivered by SSE over the past decade, saying “the Lottery believes in this programme and we have done since 2012. It is exciting to see the difference made by the programme in this report, and the impact made to communities”. 

Read the Akou report