The international picture

international.jpgAlthough Social Firms UK's primary focus is on developing the UK Social Firm sector we often link with international partners and have a high profile in the international Social Firm scene.

In addition to the initiatives below, anyone worldwide can join Social Firms UK as a member - we have members based in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Africa and many of the benefits of membership can be accessed remotely.  We communicate with our international members by email and most resources are downloadable electronically.  Visit  How to join Social Firms UK

International agencies/membership organisations


isfa_logo.jpg International Social Firms Alliance (ISFA)

In recognition of the growing interest in Social Firm development in countries all over the world, Social Firms UK launched ISFA in March 2007.  ISFA provides an online area where people can discuss and share common issues and practice. It is free to join this online discussion forum. More about how and why to join ISFA.   

Social Firms Europe (CEFEC)

CEFEC logo.jpgSocial Firms UK is a member of Social Firms Europe (formerly known as CEFEC - European Confederation Of Social Firms & Co-operatives). Social Firms Europe is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and the Secretariat is hosted within Social Firms UK. With members all over Europe, Social Firms Europe holds an annual conference which provides excellent networking opportunities for those developing Social Firms. The 2010 conference will be held in the UK. Any organisation involved in training, vocational rehabilitation or employment initiatives - including Social Firms - for disadvantaged people can become a member (

European Network For Social Integration Enterprises (ENSIE)

Social Firms UK is also an active member of ENSIE. The ENSIE Network wants to contribute to opening up opportunities for all men and women to exercise their rightful claim to participation in social life and be part of the economic changes across the whole spectrum of employment and the scope of retraining facilities. It is designed to actively contribute to the permanent prevention of long-term exclusion. In its membership it has 14 national and regional networks of Social Integration Enterprises, based in 10 member states. There are a total of 1,500 enterprises covered by ENSIE, with a total of 220,000 salaried staff – many of whom are disadvantaged in the labour market.

International consultancy services offered by Social Firms UK

 We welcome involvement in projects and initiatives abroad focused on the growth of Social Firms.  Our support can range from sharing resources to organising events, to influencing national policy:

  • help with setting up national Social Firm support agencies, like Social Firms UK, in other countries (we have to date helped with the development of Social Firms Australia and Social Firms Japan);
  • transfer of intellectual property around the introduction of a Social Firm quality standard, based on the highly acclaimed, independently verified, Star Social Firm quality standard which was developed and launched by Social Firms UK in 2008;
  • help with analysing business ideas for Social Firms in the partners’ country: transferability of DIY Feasibility Tool, introduction to market intelligence in the UK with a view to accessing similar type of intelligence, exploring profitability, potential for good quality job creation, varied and transferable job roles;
  • sharing of know-how built up on Franchising and Replication of Social Firm businesses; joint analysis of the potential for the country concerned to adopt any of the business opportunities available from the UK or consider completely new ones;
  • assisting to make the case for Social Firms at a national or regional government policy level (e.g. our involvement in describing our UK experiences directly to federal and state government in Australia was instrumental in unlocking a large development grant for a pilot programme in Victoria);
  • involvement of the international partner concerned at the annual Social Firm conference in the UK at which more than 150 delegates from around the UK come in attendance and learn/network about Social Firm development issues;
  • assistance to the international partner concerned in organising an awareness event about the potential of the Social Firm sector, based on previous experience of organising 3 transnational conferences and a total of 12 national conferences since 1997 – help with determining themes, topics for workshops, supply of speakers where appropriate, etc. To include provision of ‘conference organisation template’ that has been developed within Social Firms UK for the purposes of its own annual conference;
  • provision of information about the UK Social Firm sector, linking with similar firms in this country and promoting/encouraging inter-trading and exchange of best practice and experiences;
  • provision of useful development and management tools and assistance with adaptation to the international partner concerned’s Social Firm sector:
  • provision of reports that Social Firms UK has written and which might prove of interest to the partner concerned’s own partners, e.g.:

o Branding for Social Enterprises o Internet Marketing for Social Enterprises o Retail Marketing for Social Enterprises o Minimising Disincentives within the Benefits System – A Guide for Social Enterprises o Addressing Disincentives (a report for policy makers of the Benefits System)

Basis for Social Firms UK input:

- Three key staff at Social Firms UK to be involved: Sally Reynolds (Chief Executive) and Kathy Baker (Quality). Other staff may be called upon depending on the level of input required; - time requirement not to exceed 6 days per month in total (e.g. 3 days from each member of staff); - rate of £350 per day per person + all travel, accommodation and subsistence expenses; - arrangements for claiming payment and receiving payment to be agreed.

Please contact us if any of the above are of interest:

Examples of work carried out with international organisations:

  • "Social Firms: too much subsidisation kills entrepreneurial spirit" - interview with Sally Reynolds of Social Firms UK with EuroActiv in Prague (September 2009)
  • Czech Republic (September 2007): presentation by Sally Reynolds and Kathy Baker on 'The Development & Support Of Social Firms In Britain." at a Czechoslovakian conference organised by Focus Praha about Social Firms. For more information about the Social Firm sector in The Czech Republic, visit
  • Serbia (March 2007): consultancy case study
  • Seville (October 2006): presentation given by Sally Reynolds at the CEFEC conference about the development  of the UK's Star Social Firm quality standard.

Placement opportunities at Social Firms UK

Social Firms UK has a unique overall picture of the UK's Social Firm sector.  This can provide valuable insight for other countries as to what lessons they might learn for their development overseas. We have so far hosted placements from Japan and Korea within the offices of Social Firms UK. A Japanese professor came to study the Social Firm model in order to be able to set up a resource centre in his country, and a Korean visitor learned about success factors and benchmarking in the Social Firm sector. Social Firms UK charges a monthly fee for such placements in the region of £300-£400 per month depending on requirements.  

Useful resourcesgolden_ratio.jpg

  • Social Firms UK Resource Centre - we have a comprehensive collection of resources in our resource library. Many are downloadable for free and some incur a fee.  Some have a discounted price if you are a member of Social Firms UK. Items that require posting may cost more than in the UK. Payments must be made by bank transfer in sterling. 
  •  "An update on affirmative businesses, or Social Firms, for people with mental illness"  (Psychiatric Services Magazine, October 2006) - a useful article on the status of the international Social Firm movement.
  • Third Sector Performance Dashboard (Social Firms UK) - we are only able to work with one organisation per country to work as an agent to distribute this resource and deal with licences and bank transfers.