This guide has been written for voluntary and community organisations that want to develop new social enterprises. Most are looking at social enterprise as a route towards sustainability or as a way to expand their portfolio of existing services.

Although the guide is focused on helping voluntary and community organisations to develop new social enterprises, they anticipate that it will also be useful for:

Individual social entrepreneurs who are aiming to set up a business for a social purpose.

Cooperative or employee owned social enterprise activity.

Community groups exploring whether social enterprise is an appropriate way to regenerate and/or create employment for their community.

Voluntary or community organisations that want to transform their organisations into social businesses.

Banks or building societies who are increasingly working with social enterprises to help them to develop their business.

Within the guide, they’ve outlined a step-by-step approach to starting up your social enterprise and have focused on several key issues surrounding business development.

They’ve assumed a fundamental knowledge of business planning, because they recognise that there is already a range of good resources to support business planning, so they’ve chosen to focus on those issues that are specific to social enterprise.

The feedback that we received on the previous edition of the guide highlighted its usefulness as a management tool for community groups, voluntary organisations and project-based social entrepreneurs. Many said that they found the guide to be a useful resource in writing a business plan and in developing their organisation with a view to generating a significant income from trading or commercial activity.

The guide is available here and here.


The author of this guide – Fourth Sector Development – is part of the wider Forth Sector group which provides supported employment placements, training and employability skills to people with long term and enduring mental health problems and others significantly disadvantaged in the workplace. 

Forth Sector is a registered charity and social enterprise running social business offering real and meaningful employment to people facing difficulties in securing employment.  FSD repatriates all profits generated through trading back to Forth Sector enabling the charity to further its work in the community.  Currently Forth Sector offers around 80 supported employment placements annually as well as a further 80 learning and development opportunities. To find out more about key FSD team members and their expertise, click on their picture below.