Pioneering partnership creates new ‘home of social enterprise’ in £3m former East End warehouse

11 Mar 2024

Social Enterprise UK and the School for Social Entrepreneurs have co-invested £3 million in new shared London headquarters, marking a first-of-its-kind partnership that they hope will serve as a model for sector collaboration.

The national membership body for social enterprises and the leading charity supporting social entrepreneurs in their vital work have a history of collaboration; having shared office space in London Bridge for more than a decade previously, they currently work together on major projects including the Future Economy Alliance campaign for national business policy reform and the Government’s VCSE Contract Readiness Programme to boost sector opportunities.

The freehold purchase of 13-15 Dock Street in Tower Hamlets was enabled through a new limited liability partnership (LLP), Home of Social Enterprise, whose board members comprise an equal balance of senior leaders from each organisation. The acquisition of this new sector asset represents enhanced sustainability for both organisations, serving as a long-term home for their staff and creating opportunities for collaborative impact locally and nationwide.

Originally a dock warehouse in 1860, the renovated office has a gross internal area of 5,500 square feet and a small external courtyard. As well as giving Social Enterprise UK and the School for Social Entrepreneurs a permanent and accessible workspace, in future the building will provide further opportunities for sector activity in London and benefit social entrepreneurs from around the UK when visiting the city.

The major project was made possible thanks to early development financial support from City Bridge Foundation and Postcode Innovation Trust, with senior debt from Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) Bank and further investment from CHK Foundation. Legal advice was provided to the School for Social Entrepreneurs by Bates Wells and to both Partners by Trust Law (Dechert LLP & Eversheds Sutherland) and Hogan Lovells, with consultancy support via social entrepreneur Richard Kennedy of Cornerstone Place.

Peter Holbrook CBE, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, commented: “This important achievement has been a real collective effort that we feel reflects the very spirit of our sector: working towards systemic positive change and doing business in a way that doesn’t just benefit ourselves but also the community, the social enterprise movement and environment around us.

“After many years of effort, I’m delighted that we now have a long-term home and an asset that I believe will help strengthen and secure our organisation’s future. This massive undertaking would not have been possible without CAF Bank, CHK Foundation, Postcode Innovation Trust and City Bridge Foundation, as well as the work of many social enterprise supporters.”

Alistair Wilson, Chief Executive for the School for Social Entrepreneurs, said: “Acquiring 13 Dock Street with Social Enterprise UK marks a significant milestone for SSE, and we’re thrilled to elevate our longstanding partnership to new heights as we join forces in our new shared space! It’s more than just a building; it’s a beacon for collaboration, a home for social entrepreneurship and a symbol of our commitment to long-term sustainability.

“We would like to thank David Adair, Head of Community Affairs at PwC, and his colleagues for their instrumental support throughout this transition. We’re so grateful for their expertise in facilitating our move – and of course, for providing our previous accommodation at the Old Fire Station on Tooley Street, which was exceptional.”

Richard Hunt, Director of Customer Lending at CAF Bank, added: “The co-locating of Social Enterprise UK and the School of Social Entrepreneurs is an exciting venture, which will encourage collaboration and opportunities for social impact.

“It’s been a special project for us to support with our team, working with the Home of Social Enterprise to support an innovative structure, including our first-time loan to an LLP representing a charity and community interest company. As a bank focused on supporting social purpose organisations, we’re delighted to help the Home of Social Enterprise make a lasting difference.”