On July 15th, the Greater Manchester Social Enterprise Network hosted a ‘Build Back Better’ webinar, using the innovative participant-led Open Space format. 21 participants joined from a diverse range of backgrounds and sectors; some old friends and some new to GMSEN. 
Cross sector representation, including public, private and VCSE sectors and attendees spanning 8 of the 10 Greater Manchester Boroughs, enriched the discussions and insights.  The webinar was facilitated by Jez Hall of Shared Future CIC with support from Owen Hewson (GMCVO) and Nickala Torkington (Flourish Together CIC). Technical support was provided by Jayne McFadyen of Shared Future CIC.
Participants were sent a 3-page agenda, information on how to join the Zoom meeting and the opportunity to propose a topic for discussion in the lead up to the event. On the day we agreed 7 discussion groups, spread across 2 rounds. People were asked to consider a brief framing statement below, read the Build Back Better in GM press release, and focus during the meeting on the overall question:
'When building back better, how does taking a social economy focus create more resilient communities in Greater Manchester?'
The discussion topics suggested were as follows:
  1. How do (and how are we already) creating a thriving social economy in or across Greater Manchester?
  2. How do social housing providers (and others) work to support or repurpose buildings to enable social enterprises?
  3. How do we aggregate discussions from social entrepreneurs and enterprises to bring to the GM Social Enterprise Advisory Group for sending up to the GM Combined Authority?
  4. If we could leverage £1m to support the GM social economy to build back better…what would we do with this money?
  5. How do we better communicate stories of social entrepreneurs and work together to have a collective, relevant and current voice across social media and other forms of communications?
  6. How do we help small social enterprises to survive?
  7. Food poverty – how do we tackle food and nutritional issues?
This report is being passed on to the Greater Manchester Social Enterprise Advisory Group, convened by the GM Combined Authority. 
From the list above, you can see discussions were wide-ranging, with a vibrant mix of perspectives feeding into discussions.
A key action coming out of event for GMSEN is around the need for more effective, joined up social enterprise communications: 
  • To showcase social enterprise successes
  • To make it easier to ‘Buy Social’ 
  • To improve and grow the GMSEN Social Enterprise Directory
  • To educate and raise awareness about social enterprise
Another take-home message was the value of network meetings, particularly in these socially-distanced times under Coronavirus. It is energising to come together (if only digitally) to connect with other organisations, share ideas, concerns and potential opportunities for collaboration to meet shared social aims. 
Following on from this, GMSEN are looking at other potential social enterprise and social economy engagement events in the coming months. Details to follow as these are confirmed.