"It is a hugely significant accolade to be selected as a best practice example of inclusive entrepreneurship at European level and one that we are incredibly proud of. "
Lisa McMullan, Development Consultancy Director
Selected from over sixty approaches across Europe, the Liverpool-based organisation has been named as one of just three projects which exemplify the very best approaches to supporting women’s entrepreneurship.
Initially set up in 1996 to promote business opportunities for women, The Women’s Organisation now delivers a broad range of personal development, education and business support programmes aimed at helping women to become more economically active and personally fulfilled.
The internationally recognised social enterprise has supported over 70,000 women from diverse communities to take a more active role in social and economic life and has helped create more than 4,000 businesses since its inception.
Although its services are predominantly targeted at those in the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester, the organisation works on an international scale to ensure that women's interests are represented across communities, business, and government policy.
Its enterprising qualities have now been recognised in a Europe-wide scheme led by the European Network of Innovation for Inclusion to promote exemplary systems for employability.
The Women’s Organisation was invited to apply as part of the network’s annual call for good practices in the fields of innovation, inclusive employment and entrepreneurship.
It has now been named as one of just three finalists from throughout Europe in the category of ‘supporting women’s entrepreneurship’.
The network judged entries in four areas: Innovation, inspiration, impact, and inclusion.
It looked for evidence of answering new challenges using new methodologies and approaches, a willingness to improve and develop through alliances, the ability to cause changes in people and society, and promote the inclusion of people at risk of social exclusion.
The Women’s Organisation explained how, since it was established, it had targeted women, in particular, who were socially and economically disadvantaged, and provided support services for women and under-represented groups in creating and growing their own businesses.
This is achieved through various programmes including personal development, business planning and business skills training.
Through its 54 St James Street headquarters, which was established as an international centre for women’s economic development – a worldwide first - it also provides business incubation facilities for start-up ventures which are then supported to scale-up.
Another key enabler for the organisation is its ability to work closely with leading academics, thinkers and influencers to inform policy development and improve the wider environment for women entrepreneurs.
Lisa McMullan, the organisation’s Director for Development and Consultancy, said: “It is a hugely significant accolade to be selected as a best practice example of inclusive entrepreneurship at European level and one that we are incredibly proud of. To be hand selected from over sixty approaches from across Europe is testament to our values-driven approach to developing, designing and delivering services.
“Our commitment to inclusion and innovation means that we have been able to make a difference to tens of thousands of individuals over the last twenty four years, supporting them to fulfil their potential and participate more fully in their communities, the labour market and in business.”
And when participants successfully establish their own business ventures or personal goals, she said The Women’s Organisation will seek to highlight their achievements to act as an example, or role model, for others within their communities to follow: “We actively promote women's achievements to raise visibility of the individual and collective potential, and provide opportunities for the women we work with to be role-models for others.”
In naming The Women’s Organisation as a finalist, the network said: “It has been a really hard decision to make, since we have received a total of 64 proposals, but both our technical team, the methodology managers and other members of the evaluation committee have agreed that what The Women’s Organisation is doing provides a very impactful and inclusive response to the challenges women face towards starting a business.”
As part of the process, the finalists will share their winning methods and strategies with a Europe-wide community. For The Women’s Organisation this will include a presentation and tour – physical or virtual – of its headquarters, the opportunity to meet some of the women they have worked with for them to share their stories and discuss the impact of accessing support, and working collaboratively to share examples of successes and challenges, making it easier for similar agencies across the continent to replicate these proven systems and strategies and to work together.