A new bidding consortium for social enterprises is aiming to become the "go-to provider" for public service delivery contracts and to enlist 1,000 organisations by January 2014.
The National Consortium of Social Enterprises, which is being backed by the bidding consortium 3SC and the umbrella bodies Social Firms UK and Social Enterprise UK, hopes to make it easier for social enterprises to respond to public procurement opportunities and to participate in the delivery of public services.
Many social enterprises find it difficult to respond to opportunities because of timescales, complexity and scale, the new body said.
The National Offender Management Service Co-financing Organisation and the European Social Fund, which was set up to improve employment opportunities in the European Union, are funding the consortium with £218,750 until December 2014.
Anne Utting, senior delivery manager for justice services at 3SC, said that although the new organisation would look at bidding for public services in any sector, it was set up to be ready to look at opportunities in the third phase of the National Offender Management Programme ESF CFO programme, designed to enhance the employability of offenders and to increase access to employment and skills opportunities.
The third phase is expected to open in the summer, in readiness for a January 2015 start.
Utting said the consortium aimed to develop employment opportunities for offenders and other disadvantaged groups through the delivery of public services by social enterprises.
The consortium, which was launched in London in July, is running free roadshow events in eight towns and cities across the UK, starting in Manchester on 12 November, to enable social enterprises to find out more about the proposal. The final event will take place in Leatherhead, Surrey, on 12 December.
Organisations that are already social enterprises, or are working towards becoming social enterprises, can apply to the consortium, the new body said. They must support the employability or employment of people furthest from the labour market.