Unlocking Social and Economic Innovation Together (USE-IT!)

Partnership of organisations including two local authorities (Birmingham and Sandwell), academia (University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University), social enterprise sector (Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs) and the private sector (KPMG).
United Kingdom
An initiative that looks at the impact that large assets, their commissioning, employment strategies and interactions with local residents have on the communities they are based in with the aim of tackling social exclusion and inequalities.
What solution does the innovation propose?

USE-IT meets the top-down (investing in infrastructure) and bottom-up (investing in communities) approaches to regeneration and focuses on building bridges between large assets and communities. With the purpose of ‘unlocking assets’, the project analyses the impact of anchor institutions such as the National Health Service (NHS) in their adjacent communities. Then, it encourages them to employ local migrants with relevant qualifications, engage in partnerships with local third sector organisations and social enterprises as well as to analyse what impact their spending has on the immediate proximity.


The project has been supported by the Urban Innovative Actions initiative.

Impact evidence

  • 60 community researchers trained. 
  • Almost 200 individuals with overseas medical qualifications engaged.
  • 120 social enterprises supported. 
  • 3 large communities mobilised to create their own Community Economic Development Plans.
  • 22 individuals with overseas medical qualifications have been employed.
  • The West Birmingham and Sandwell NHS Trust admits that, while before starting the project they have not had any working relationships with organisations in the communities, after two years they work with 30 local organisations.
How does it work?

The project has four delivery strands: 

1. Community research. Individuals from the most vulnerable communities are recruited and trained to become community ambassadors. After receiving formal accreditation, they ate paid to start conducting their own research on a subject linked to their community and their area.

2. Matching job skills with demand. The project identifies professionals with overseas medical qualifications that are working in low-skilled jobs and supports them to find employment within the NHS and the care sector, thus changing the approach of institutions towards employing people with migrant and refugee backgrounds.

3. Social enterprise and social production.This work strand helps making the enterprises self-sustained, working on their business plans, form consortia that subsequently can lead to greater chances in accessing larger contracts. It therefore strengthens the capacity of the whole sector and raises awareness of social enterprises in the city. 

4. Understanding and strengthening community assets and finance.Three communities are working on their Community Economic Development Plans (CED). The CED process is designed to lead to greater capacity on the community’s side to access and utilise their local assets. This strand involves community researchers and support from social enterprise organisations.

Geographical scope

Where was initially developed
Birmingham, United Kingdom.
Last updated: 
March 2019