Guide

Start a social enterprise

Social enterprises and the public sector

Securing contracts to deliver public services can provide a regular income stream for social enterprises. Although as with most businesses, it is important for social enterprises to diversify income sources so that they are less vulnerable to the risks of one income source drying up.

The ability to deliver innovative approaches and fresh thinking to services such as catering and recycling make social enterprises an attractive delivery arm for public services. However, they will be required to compete for tenders through the public sector procurement process - read about how to tender for contracts in the Northern Ireland public sector.

There are a wide variety of opportunities in the delivery of public services, where social enterprises work in partnership with government, including:

  • the health and social care sector
  • fostering and adoption
  • transport services
  • refuse collection/recycling
  • sports and leisure services

eTenders NI is an electronic tendering site which allows you to access the latest public procurement opportunities in Northern Ireland.

Social Enterprise NI also has a new Trade Directory that lists social enterprises so that private and public sector organisations can find out about the social enterprise work taking place in Northern Ireland.

Benefits of public sector contracts

Public sector organisations are stable customers who pay promptly and within agreed contract terms and due to the public procurement process you can be assured contacts are awarded in a fair and transparent way.

Barriers facing social enterprises competing for public service contracts

One of the main barriers facing social enterprises when competing for public service contracts is resource capability – will you be able to deliver on the requirements of the contract? Also will the contract allow you to meet your goals and social purpose? Remember a social enterprise represents more than a healthy balance sheet.

The Department of Finance (DoF) has produced a guide to assist social enterprises with competing for public sector contracts - public procurement guidance for social enterprises.