Social Enterprise Accreditation

Social Enterprise Acumen is proud to be an affiliate partner of Social Enterprise Mark CIC, the international social enterprise accreditation authority which provides a pathway to recognised standards of good practice and excellence.

Our very own Kate Welch was one of the original Social Enterprise Mark Ambassadors and remains a strong advocate for the importance of independent standards for social enterprise businesses and Social Enterprise Acumen has held the Social Enterprise Mark since 2013.

Social Enterprise Mark CIC provides a pathway to social enterprise good practice and excellence via a portfolio of externally assessed accreditations:

  • Aspiring Social Enterprise accreditation – an entry level accreditation for new and aspiring social enterprises, or those looking to convert to a social enterprise business model. Annual licence fee of £150+VAT or £15/month
  • Social Enterprise Markthe recognised standard of social enterprise good practice. The only accreditation to independently assess organisations against sector-agreed criteria to provide a guarantee of a commitment to trading for the primary benefit of people and planet. Annual licence fee starts at £250+ VAT or £25/month (dependent on company turnover)
  • Social Enterprise Gold Mark  – the only standard of social enterprise excellence. Provides enhanced accreditation to established social enterprises which can show best practice across several key business areas that are central to social enterprise excellence, including governance, business ethics and social impact. Annual licence fee starts at £1,900+VAT (dependent on company turnover)

At Social Enterprise Acumen we believe that genuine and transparent accreditation helps you stand out as a credible social enterprise.  That is why businesses referred by Social Enterprise Acumen to Social Enterprise Mark CIC can benefit from an introductory discount of 10% off the cost of their first annual licence fee for any Social Enterprise Mark CIC accreditation. You can find out more and register your interest here.

Buy Social – Local Programme

Social Enterprise Acumen is delighted that, as lead for the Social Enterprise Places Programme in North East England, we have been selected alongside Bristol, Birmingham and Salford to work in partnership with Social Enterprise UK to develop the ‘Buy Social – Local Expansion Programme’

Buy Social is SEUK’s flagship campaign that aims to build markets for social enterprises among the general public as well as the private and public sectors. It challenges all of us to think about where we buy our goods and services, and the social impact of our purchasing decisions.

The aim of the Buy Social-Local Programme is to better support local social enterprises to access business to business markets. We aim to match at least 100 social enterprises in the North East with larger buyers who want  to buy from them to increase their social value and diversity of suppliers. The programme will directly address the barriers facing smaller B2B social enterprises trying to grow their businesses and will make more corporate buyers aware of the benefits of buying social as well as increasing their spend with social enterprises.

In recent weeks you may have received an email from SEA asking if you would like to update your records and join our refreshed Social Enterprise Directory. If you have not yet completed your response, please complete this quick survey to give SEA permission to include your social enterprise in our directory. Alternatively, for a more robust profile on our directory, please fill out your details via this webform.

Over the next few months we will be delivering online training sessions to help social enterprises prepare for selling to larger buyers and will also be working with corporate buyers to understand which social enterprises are already in their supply chains and how we can grow the number and range.. This will culminate in Meet the Buyer events to match buyers and suppliers to develop the buy social marketplace.

If you are interested in finding out more about joining our programme as a buyer or supplier, please email us at

Delivering social enterprise support during a lockdown

Like many social enterprises Social Enterprise Acumen (SEA) has had to adapt to the current environment to continue to provide its services. The organisation was in a strong position to do so as it moved its IT operations to Microsoft 365 in 2019 so was already using collaborative tools such as SharePoint file sharing and Teams video chat before the Covid-19 lockdown in March. Since then we have continued to use these routinely and have also subscribed to Zoom to increase our capacity and flexibility to work with others. 

Moving forward we believe that we will all increasingly rely upon digital tools to deliver services, and we wanted to share an example of how we have incorporated this approach into working with our customers.

Last week we delivered a social impact measurement workshop with a group of nine participants using Zoom. We began with a short PowerPoint presentation which we shared with all participants using the ‘share screen’ function. This enabled participants to read slides while the facilitator spoke. After an initial group discussion, we split participants into smaller working groups using the ‘breakout room’ function online, and then asked a representative from each group to feedback to all parties. After debating a series of opportunities, we used the ‘poll’ facility to enable participants to vote on their preferred option for moving forward.

We believed that this approach provided the same opportunity for debate and interaction as a face to face meeting would have, but we tested this theory with participants. They too enjoyed the workshop, found the Zoom meeting easy to join and navigate, and were delighted with the chance to see and speak to each other. Moreover, they felt that the digital workshop was an effective use of their time, enabling them to focus and reach consensus on the topic being addressed.

Of course we all enjoy meeting face to face, but we at Social Enterprise Acumen have always embraced the digital tools available to help our organisation to deliver services, and with the positive feedback we have received, we will continue to use these throughout the Covid-19 lockdown and beyond.

Lean Startups for Social Change: The Revolutionary Path to Big Impact – Michel Gelobter

In business, the lean start-up movement is turning the traditional approach to innovation on its head. Rather than developing an elaborate plan, raising money to fund it, and then following it to its uncertain conclusion; a process that can take years; entrepreneurs in companies new and old are launching small inexpensive initiatives to test ideas, quickly learning from failures and successes, and using that data to further refine the ideas and test them again. Social entrepreneur Michel Gelobter says there’s no reason the social sector can’t do the same.

He uses dozens of real-world examples: a homelessness group that discovered the one metric they needed to improve to get more people off the streets; a technology-based literacy startup that was able to reach two million children in two years, when it took a more traditionally-oriented program fifteen; and many others.

Well worth a read for everyone starting up or for those who want to innovate effectively.

Purchase this book via Amazon

Social Enterprise: How to Successfully set up and grow a social enterprise – Heidi L Fisher

This is a book written by a Finance Director, Heidi Fisher so the messages about making money come across loud and clear. Heidi uses the Japanese concept of Ikigai “your reason for being” to illustrate how your passion, mission, profession and vocation can come together to shape a successful social enterprise.

The amazon description says: This book tells you what social enterprise is, how to set up a social enterprise and how to run, manage and grow it successfully.

•Do you want to make a difference to people and the planet?
•Do you want to make money in a way that aligns with your values?

This book makes it easier than you think with information on legal structures for social enterprise, how to develop products and services, pricing, tax and VAT issues, people management, marketing, financing and investment, social value and impact measurement, as well as looking at your exit strategy, how to avoid burnout and the future of social enterprise. The book is based on the UK perspective, and the tax and other legislation currently operating in the UK.

Purchase this book via Amazon

Start Something That Matters – Blake Mycoskie

In 2006, while travelling in Argentina, young entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie encountered children too poor to afford shoes, who developed injuries on their feet that often led to serious health problems. Blake knew he wanted to help, but rather than start a charity, he went against conventional wisdom and created a for profit business to help the children who he met. With the help of a local shoemaker, Blake struck out to merge activism and fashion in the form of a local canvas shoe worn by farmers and gauchos alike, called the alpargata. Blake called his creation TOMS Shoes (which stands for “Tomorrow’s Shoes”) and promised to give a pair of new shoes to a child in need for every pair that he sold. Starting with only two hundred pairs of handmade shoes, optimism, and entrepreneurial charisma, Blake successfully launched TOMS into the high fashion world. They can now be seen adorning the feet of celebrities such as Keira Knightley, Scarlett Johansson, and Tobey Maguire.

Blake’s mission is to prove that you can achieve financial success and make the world a better place at the same time. In this book, he shares the six counterintuitive principles that have guided the growth of TOMS for the past three years:

Make business personal
Be resourceful without resources
Reverse retirement
Keep it simple
Stay humble
Give more, advertise less

The result is an inspiring account of a young man whose entrepreneurial spirit was able to affect change in the world, and a call to others to be inspired to do the same.

As part of the One for One initiative, Random House will provide a new book to a child in need with every copy of Start Something That Matters purchased.

How to be a Social Entrepreneur Make Money & Change the World

This book by Robert Ashton, a good friend of Social Enterprise Acumen is grounded and sensible. It’s now only available from 3rd party sellers but well worth both reading and then turning into action.


The blurb says

“Don′t just make money make a difference.”

As a social entrepreneur, you can build a business that changes the world. But you will face some unique challenges. This book will prepare you for them.

Packed with advice, inspiration and real–life stories, it will help you:

  • Define what you want to do and why you want to do it
  • Find the right kind of funding
  • Build a brand that makes you unique
  • Find a team as motivated and inspired as you are
  • Measure the impact you′re having

How to be a Social Entrepreneur is the only social enterprise start–up guide you′ll ever need.


How to Change the World – David Bernstein

How to Change the World provides vivid profiles of social entrepreneurs. The book is an In Search of Excellence for social initiatives, intertwining personal stories, anecdotes, and analysis. Readers will discover how one person can make an astonishing difference in the world. The case studies in the book include Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for the international campaign against landmines she ran by e-mail from her Vermont home; Roberto Baggio, a 31-year old Brazilian who has established eighty computer schools in the slums of Brazil; and Diana Propper, who has used investment banking techniques to make American corporations responsive to environmental dangers.

We love the chapter on the six qualities of social entrepreneurs and use it as a quiz for start-ups

Answer these questions as follows.

1 = not at all like me

2 = a bit like me

3 = fairly like me

4 = very like me

5 = absolutely me

Question 1 2 3 4 5

I am willing to admit I am wrong and change my plans



I don’t care who gets the credit for what is achieved



I am happy to break the mould to achieve impact



I can bring together thinking from different disciplines



I want to do something rather than be someone



I want to restore justice in society or tackle a social issue







25-30               you are definitely destined to be a social entrepreneur

15-25               You are ready to change your bit of the world

6-14                 Think about staying with the day job


KOTO transforms the lives of disadvantaged and at-risk youth in Vietnam through a holistic hospitality training program

KOTO stands for Know One, Teach One. Learning should be passed on; knowledge is meant to be shared. This is the essential idea of KOTO’s Vietnamese-Australian founder, Jimmy Pham. More than 16 years ago, Mr Jimmy opened a hospitality training centre in Hanoi, giving at-risk and disadvantaged youth the opportunity to learn and thrive in their lives.​

KOTO’s purpose is to end the cycle of poverty by empowering and helping our targeted youth to forge a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.  ​

As a social enterprise, KOTO has trained over 700 students in training centres in Hanoi and Saigon, with 200 of them currently enrolled.​

In addition to the Foundation arm that focuses on raising funds to support its cause through charitable activities and initiatives, KOTO also operates an Enterprise arm, which serves as a platform for real life hospitality training and also a source of income to support the training and welfare of our students.

Kate Welch was privileged to work with The British Council in Vietnam and visited KOTO in Hanoi, tasted the lovely baked goods and met young trainees. She has since met the founder, Jimmy Pham on a number of occasions and still supports KOTO

Value Proposition Design – Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Greg Bernarda & Alan Smith









Value Proposition Design helps you overcome the core challenges every business faces when creating successful products and services for customers.

Using the same outstanding visual format as the authors global bestseller, Business Model Generation, this sequel explains how to use Value Proposition to

1. Canvas
2. Design
3. Test
4. Evolve
resulting in products and services that customers actually want.
This book will help you understand what customers want and how to deliver it to them, you’ll learn simple new skills of design and testing which will help you deliver the needs desires of the target audience.
In addition the book gives you exclusive access to an online companion on You will be able to assess your work, learn from peers, and download pdfs, checklists, and more.