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RIO heralds Cornwall as UK’s first rural Social Enterprise Zone

By 10th December 2013 No Comments

As one of Cornwall’s original social enterprise orientated companies, RIO is today (Tuesday 10th December) warmly welcoming the announcement that the county has been granted the status of the UK’s first Social Enterprise Zone.

Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, joined Lindsey Hall, RIO’s co-founder, and a selection of other Cornwall-based or influenced companies, at the Eden Project to mark the Zone’s establishment.

The Cornwall Social Enterprise Zone is part of a national campaign to recognise Social Enterprise Places and is awarded by SEUK, the national body for Social Enterprise. The new Social Enterprise Zone will mark Cornwall’s commitment to creating an entrepreneurial culture to drive growth, based on people and planet. It’s also hoped it will help attract investment and deliver sustainable prosperity for all as well as encouraging greater inclusion and innovation across communities; developing entrepreneurial solutions to public sector challenges.

RIO is no stranger to these objectives. Seven years ago, Lindsey and her co-director Matt Little envisioned a different kind of company for the South West – one that could be commercially successful, supporting jobs and ambitions whilst benefiting the surrounding communities, schools and individuals through a new triple bottom line model.

As a result, RIO was born and the company has been on an exciting, if often challenging, journey of its own, creating, developing and honing its proposition for the UK market and beyond, with a wealth of innovative social enterprise learning and activity right here in Cornwall.

Earlier this year, Plymouth and Bristol both received recognition as the first UK Social Enterprise Cities. Although RIO is headquartered in Cornwall, it has offices, teams and numerous programmes in both cities, again illustrating the company’s commitment to the growth of a healthy, and valuable, surrounding social enterprise culture wherever it works.

Today, Lindsey Hall said: “Cornwall has a unique history. It is a place where creating jobs and supporting communities is intrinsically linked; where visionary mavericks take industrial wastelands and transform them into business engines and places that make your soul sing; where doing good business is about doing good. The Cornwall Social Enterprise Zone champions this way of working and challenges it to go further; bringing business, social enterprise and the public sector together to build economic prosperity and a brilliant quality of life for all.”

Lindsey continues, “In retrospect, when we started RIO, we were ahead of the curve in some of our thinking. Social enterprise is a tough gig – all the challenges of running a successful business and at the same time, changing lives. When it works it is brilliant – the most rewarding work in the world and fortunately, over the years, the numbers of social enterprises in Cornwall, Plymouth and Bristol have risen rapidly with us and we’re delighted to see these major recognition marks for each of these areas.” Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd said, “At a time when we need new solutions, it is right to get behind our social entrepreneurs. Cornwall is rich in social enterprise and innovation. So it is right that it should be home to the first rural social enterprise zone in the country. Where Cornwall leads, I hope other regions will follow as the social enterprise and investment movement grows in this country.”

CEO of SEUK, Peter Holbrook commented: “Cornwall remains to be one of the most dynamic places in the UK for social enterprise; it benefits from excellent leaders that are driving economic growth in harmony with local community benefit. Cornwall’s status as a social enterprise zone means that business leaders, politicians and public agencies recognise that social enterprise has a key role to play in shaping the future of Cornwall through job creation, business growth, building community resilience and safeguarding the county’s outstanding natural beauty. This is an outstanding achievement.”

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