New research has suggested that the number of social enterprises in south-west England is much larger than previously thought.
A report from umbrella body Rise estimates that the sector in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Gloucestershire could comprise as many as 5,000 organisations.
Lucy Findlay, chief executive of Rise, said: "This is an extremely positive finding, although the survey does reveal issues that need to be addressed in order to consolidate and nurture the future growth of the sector throughout the region."
The findings also suggest that DTI figures on the size of the social enterprise sector in the nation as a whole may underestimate its real dimensions.
The research, by Roger Tym Consultants, concluded that 12 per cent of the UK's social enterprises are based in south-west England, compared with 9 per cent of all businesses. And 67 per cent of the area's social enterprises have a turnover of more than £100,000 a year.