How one organisation is overcoming their challenges through social enterprise

By Iqbal Husain, Director of Shared Heritage

Shared Heritage was set up in 2004 with a vision for using the arts as a catalyst for creating shared spaces in which people could meet. We currently specialise in design and textiles and have gradually developed a programme of work securing small amounts of funding starting with a £2000 grant from the SENSE fund in 2005. This was a local social enterprise fund which was keen to support small projects with a view to them developing trading activities. We designed a felt purse and wallet making project for local community groups that was well received and spurred us on to apply for other funding. 
At the time there was still a lot of funding and support available and on the back of this we secured an Awards for All grant for a weaving project (Tana Bana – ‘warp and weft’) and Grassroots funding for a project we called ‘Colourful Characters’. Our early activities helped build a close and trusting working relationship in our small team between artists, administration and trustees. This in turn has helped us identify our particular approach which we trialled in our 2011 project, Chin Wag. Through a series of conversations and simple arts activities participants were able to make their own creative choices and use these to inform their creative making activities. This conversational approach has become something of a signature technique for Shared Heritage and helped inform the design of our newest project, The Harmony Project, based on the life and work of the 19c designer Christopher Dresser. The Harmony Project has secured funding from Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and a partnership with the V&A (Victoria & Albert Museum) to deliver a design and textiles project across six south London boroughs working with nine community centres or groups. Christopher Dresser provides a useful inroad into both the influence of African and Asian design on British design at that time and also creative and entrepreneurial work that was starting to take off then. 
In these much leaner times for funding we are very aware like so many colleagues that solely relying on public or lottery funding will not be enough. Increasingly projects are being encouraged to diversify income streams to include sponsorship, commissioned activity and trading. Whilst we at Shared Heritage do not discount any stream of income we still hold to our initial trading interest which in more plentiful times of public funding it was easy to be distracted away from. Alongside a strategy to secure funding, sponsorship and commissions we are determined to maintain a strand that looks at ways of trading to achieve income. Trading can be one of the best income streams as it is ‘no strings attached’. Whether you consider setting up a trade arm attached to a not-for-profit organisation or decide to become a social enterprise, in this new climate we find ourselves thinking of ways you can sell services or products that further your vision, this is definitely worth keeping in mind.
For more information about Shared Heritage visit