Seed2Table Social Enterprise Hub Research

Hometown Plus commissioned a research project entitled Seed2Table with the support of Morrisons PLC in 2017. The research examined whether repurposing an empty, former Morrisons supermarket site in Wigan town centre, as a food and growing social enterprise hub, was feasible. The report took account of trader and customer potential, local authority interest and financial viability.

This work was undertaken by researcher Sarah Spanton (director of Waymarking) and the methodology was co-produced with three key local stakeholders:

·         Shirley Southworth and Ann Fairhurst Fur Clemt (Real junk food café)

·         Mandy Wellens-Bray Independent agriculture and social enterprise consultant

·         Dave Baxter Abram Ward Community Cooperative

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The research findings integrated perspectives from across the public, private and third sectors, through face to face meetings/interviews, phone interviews, an online questionnaire, an engaging participatory customer survey and a site visit with stakeholders. The interviews and conversations conducted were with a diverse range of potential businesses and organisations that might have had an interest in being based at or being involved with a food and growing social enterprise hub in the town centre, these included: UTC Wigan, Greenslate Farm, Miss Places, Wigan Council (Healthy Wigan Partnership and Town Centre Management) and Incredible Edible.

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Findings concluded that many of the research participants considered the food and growing hub concept to be valuable and relevant to their business/ organisation and there was a highly positive customer reaction to buying food grown and made locally, and of supporting social enterprise development.

An exciting collective and collaborative vision for the site as a food focussed social innovation hub was outlined in a final report and shared with Morrisons Estates Team. The vision combined three overarching areas of food innovation, social impact and entrepreneur and business development integrated and working together on the site.

The research identified a set of inter-linked goals for the prospective hub:

·         To promote healthy, fresh locally (Wigan) grown and made food

·         To initiate and grow new and existing local social, community and private businesses

·         To support the development of a thriving local economy

·         To contribute to the re-invigoration of Wigan Town Centre

·         To practically tackle health, inequality and employment challenges in Wigan

The hub was envisaged as being an experience-led destination, providing the town centre with a dining hall, retail outlets, an events programme, workshops/training, courses and volunteering opportunities.

Whilst there was trader interest, the research concluded that ongoing work was needed to find potential partners to form a consortium to take on a lease and develop an approach to managing the hub. Additionally, Morrisons PLC weren’t able to take the ideas forward at that time, and the site has since been purchased by Wigan Council. However, there may be an opportunity to re-visit the food hall and enterprise hub concept in the future?

 

Image credits: 1, 2, 3, 4 Sarah Spanton, 5, Daniel Kelso (and Sarah Spanton)