UK Social Enterprise expert to open Shropshire conference

A senior figure at the UK’s leading authority on social enterprise will give the keynote opening address at a showpiece conference in Shropshire next year, organisers have confirmed. 

Andrew O’Brien, director of external affairs at Social Enterprise UK, which represents 100,000 businesses looking to improve society through trading, will launch the Spark Social Conference on February 17. 

The free half-day virtual event – titled Purpose to Profit – will bring together social enterprises and private sector companies to encourage new ways of working across the county. 

Event organisers Shropshire Council and the Marches Growth Hub Shropshire say having Mr O’Brien as the opening speaker highlights the importance of the conference locally and nationally. 

Mark Barrow, executive director of place at Shropshire Council, said an effective partnership between the private sector and social enterprises could play a huge role in shaping the post-Covid economic landscape and he was delighted that Mr O’Brien had taken up the invitation to speak at the event. 

“Social Enterprise UK is the leading global authority on social enterprise and Andrew O’Brien himself has been a long-standing supporter of driving economic growth through the development of social enterprises and to have him speak as the opening guest at the Spark Social Conference in the new year is a major coup. 

“It demonstrates that our work here in Shropshire and our status as an officially recognised Social Enterprise Place is creating a real impact, not just locally, but further afield.” 

Mr O’Brien has been a committed supporter of social enterprises since his very first job. 

Before working for Social Enterprise UK, he worked for Chris White MP and supported him as he steered the Social Value Act through Parliament and helped him in his role as Social Value Ambassador.   

He then moved from Parliament to the charity sector, working for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and then becoming Director of Policy and Engagement at Charity Finance Group. 

The Spark Social Conference is an opportunity for businesses to learn about how teaming up with social enterprises can help boost their bottom line. 

And for social enterprises it will be a chance for them to network and raise their profile by showcasing their products and services. 

Other key speakers include Michelle John, the founding director of PEGS – a social enterprise which supports families impacted by Child to Parent Abuse (CPA). 

Michelle set up PEGS in 2019 having lived through Child to Parent Abuse. Now, through a dedicated team, she supports hundreds of parents each year, who are faced with similar struggles. 

Sonia Roberts, chief executive of Shropshire-based supported employment and training charity Landau, also features in the line-up of guest speakers. 

She will also sit on the expert panel along with Nicky Kent, founder of Shropshire-based Social Heart C.I.C, which provides business and leadership advice and coaching to other social enterprises and small businesses, and John Clarke from Shrewsbury-based Social Telecoms C.I.C. 

The 2022 event will build on the success of the initial Spark Social Conference in 2019. 

There will be presentations and webinars to explain terms like ‘social value’ and ‘corporate social responsibility’ and a chance for businesses to hear from companies which are already working successfully with social enterprises. 

Marches Growth Hub manager Emma Chapman said the event would be an unmissable opportunity for any private sector company looking to add social value to its work. 

She said: “Shropshire is officially recognised as a Social Enterprise Place because of the strength of the sector in the county and we want this event both to raise the profile of those social enterprises but also show our private sector how they can get involved in raising their own social impact.” 

If you are interested in exhibiting contact [email protected] to find out more.  

For more details and to register visit https://www.marchesgrowthhub.co.uk/events/spark-social-conference-2021-purpose-to-profit/ 

The event is funded through the Shropshire Council-led ARG Economic Recovery programme. 

The Recovery Programme is a £3.2m series of projects, utilising Additional Restriction Grant (ARG) funding from Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to fund wider business support activities.  

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