Hugh Bayley MP praises social economy project

York Central MP, Hugh Bayley, visited York St John University on 28 August to learn about a project funded by the Erasmus Mundus programme of the European Union which seeks to promote ways of doing business with a strong social purpose.

The social economy, also known as the third sector, consists of economic activity in the community, voluntary and social enterprise sectors.  It is concerned primarily with social aims and includes non-profit organisations, community enterprises, co-operatives, mutuals, and other grassroots groups and individual volunteers working to serve and transform society both socially and economically. This sector places social and economic justice above profit and works to increase empowerment and participation in the economy.

The York St John University project aims to gain an in-depth knowledge of the nature and practice of this people-centred economic approach. It will also produce a handbook about the social economy which can be used to inform university courses, to better prepare students to work in the sector and to be able to question the current ‘profit at all costs’ approach.

During his visit, Hugh Bayley visited the Phoenix Centre, an enterprise incubator on the York St John campus which enables graduates to start their own businesses with mentor support. Many of the Phoenix Centre tenants are explicitly ‘social’ businesses seeking to promote employment amongst groups on the margins of the employment market.

Margaret Meredith, one of the project co-ordinators, said:
“We are delighted that our MP, Hugh Bayley, has given his support to the York St John-led social economy project. We are involved in a European Union-backed project which is seeking to study and understand ways of doing business which have a strong social purpose and the common good at their core, such as community enterprises and mutual societies. The aim is to make studies and practical experience of this sector more visible in higher education. We believe that politicians should be paying more attention to this sector and it is very encouraging that Hugh Bayley has agreed to meet us to talk about it.”

Hugh Bayley MP commented:
“The consequences of the economic downturn, such as increased inequality, inadequate job creation and stagnant or declining standards of living, has shown that new thinking is needed to create more good jobs especially for young people, to raise education and skill levels and to reform finance and support innovation and entrepreneurship.  Some of these jobs will be not-for-profit.  There is growing interest in co-operatives, mutuals like the building societies and York-based Benenden Health, and in social enterprises like the York Furniture Store and the businesses York St John University’s Erasmus Project are working on.”

For more information on the Erasmus Mundus Social Economy project and to sign up for the project newsletter