Welsh social enterprises losing out on digital boom
New research from Lloyds Bank shows that many SMEs are missing out on the benefits of being online, and that community groups and social enterprises are lagging behind. As Director of Strategic Development & Performance at the Wales Co-operative Centre, I’ve looked into what the study means for social businesses here.
The Lloyds Bank research gives a snapshot of how SMEs, including social enterprises, use the internet. The backdrop is that business is increasingly being done online: this year, UK consumers are forecast to spend £107 billion on the web, an increase of 17% year on year.
And it’s not just buying that’s going online, it’s giving too. Charities that can accept donations over the internet, saw a 27% increase in the number of contributions they receive. In 2013, £2.5 million was raised online from 3.7 million Tweets through social media service Twitter and Just Giving. This was an increase of 448% on 2011.
And yet the facts in the Lloyds Bank UK survey are stark:
- Around a third of SMEs and social enterprises don’t have websites
- Social enterprises are much less likely to be online than for-private-profit businesses
- Just 28% of community groups and social enterprises have the skills to transact online
- A quarter of community groups and social enterprises feel that the internet isn’t relevant to them
The Wales Co-operative Centre’s experience of running the Social Enterprise Support and Communities 2.0 projects is that an effective ICT strategy is integral to the success of flourishing social enterprises. The Welsh Government funded Communities 2.0 project has supported over 800 social enterprises and community groups, conducting ICT reviews and supporting investment in new systems to increase revenue, create jobs and improve business efficiency. For example, the Wales Co-operative Centre’s support to Canolfan Soar in Merthyr Tydfil has helped the enterprise increase the proportion of their income that comes from trading from 35% to 65%.
Independent analysts Booz and Co. estimate full digital take up, with everyone online, could add £63 billion value to the UK economy. The danger is that community organisations and social enterprises will continue to lag behind the rest of the economy. They will lose out. Our Social Enterprise Support and Communities 2.0 projects have had a huge impact already, and Wales needs specialist ICT support to social enterprises to continue.