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Close your eyes. You’re in an airport departure lounge. Polished hallways stretch off to either side. What do you hear?

Announcements. General bustle. And within all that, the clickety clack of dozens of wheelie suitcases rolling towards their gate.

True now. But not in 1970, when Bernard Sadow was going store to store in New York trying to sell the concept of wheels glued to the bottom of luggage. He was laughed at. Seen as crazy. “Not-macho” said one, “men like to carry their wife’s bag.” Sadow hadn’t been the first to sell the concept; others, like David Bloom in the ‘50s, had tried with no luck. Eventually Macy’s decided to take a closer look, and the soundscape of airports changed forever (the study on the impact on male masculinity is sadly yet to be undertaken).

What’s all this to do with healthcare in 2023? And particularly on Social Enterprise Day?

Social enterprises – companies outside of state control with social purpose at their core –  offer an alternative. There’s over 100,000 across the country, contributing £60bn to the economy, and reinvesting £1bn every year to help people and the planet.

While they remain a relatively small proportion of how we plan and provide healthcare in the UK, social enterprises such as the amazing Navigo in Lincolnshire, Medway Community Healthcare in Kent, and indeed ourselves, Here, in Sussex, have a disproportionate impact.

This is in large part because social enterprises in health are able to do for the NHS what Sadow was able to do with suitcases – understand the problems faced while providing a different take on how to solve them.

As Matthew Syed has written much about, study after study has shown that combining ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ perspectives is one of the main reasons behind successful innovation. “We need to be able to understand the status quo” Syed writes “but also able to question it.”

At Here we see our social enterprise freedom to do things a bit differently as core to how we meet our purpose: exceptional care for everyone.

You see it in how we deliver services. Working with our Sussex partners, our radical approach to personalised musculoskeletal care has transformed outcomes (at a lower cost) for many years. Our latest innovation – ‘Community Appointment Days’ – has been highlighted by the Today programme, Amanda Pritchard, and hundreds more across the country seeking to explore how its principles could be applied to other long-term conditions.

CAD attendee and clinician

It’s also deeply ingrained with how we think about the wellbeing of our staff. Supporting all those who work for us is core to how we think about the quality of our care to patients.

It’s an approach to staff wellbeing which isn’t about add-ons. Yes, we provide hot lunches twice a week, have run wellbeing weekends, and provided wellness vouchers. But it goes deeper than that; an ‘everyone culture’ with a genuine commitment to support individuals to have work which nourishes them even (and particularly) when times get hard. We’re immensely proud that 88% of our staff would recommend Here as a place to work (compared to an NHS average of 66%), not least in part due to 97% of staff seeing Here as taking action on health and wellbeing.

A world without wheelie suitcases is a poorer world. An NHS without social enterprises likewise. With healthcare facing a sea of challenges, it’s never been more important to find new ways to encounter surprising ideas.

wheelie suitcase

Social Enterprise Day is a moment to raise awareness of our pioneering business model and celebrate the more than 100,000 social enterprises in the UK working to benefit people and planet. Social enterprises are businesses that trade for a social or environmental purpose. Like any other business, we look to make a profit, but it is what we do with that profit that sets us apart: re-investing the majority to further our vital mission.

About Social Enterprise UK

Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) is the UK’s membership body for social enterprises. They lead the world’s largest network of businesses with a social purpose who together are helping to create a fairer economy and a more sustainable future for everyone. They exist to be a strong voice for social enterprise, to evidence the difference that social enterprises are making and to demonstrate solutions and influence decision-makers to create an environment in which social enterprise can thrive. They work with mainstream businesses and public sector institutions to help them bring social enterprises into their supply chains.

Rich Taunt, Lead Non Executive Director

I work with Board colleagues to support the organisation to be the best it can be. It includes a focus on how colleagues across Here can make good decisions to enable us to meet our purpose.

Rich Taunt

tagged in CAD, community, community appointment days, Culture, health equity, healthcare, Healthy, ideas, innovation, msk, partnership, purpose, social enterprise

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