Co-researching Micro Enterprises

By Isabelle Brant, co-researcher on a recent project on the effectiveness of micro-enterprise projects

Featured article – 8 July 2015

Photo of Isabelle Brant

There were a lot of people involved in our two-year project on micro-enterprises: the Birmingham research team and then loads of people like myself – older and younger people who use services. I have autism; I was diagnosed when I was about 12. I never really use services myself now – I used to when I was younger, but now that I am older I am more capable.

We launched the project’s report at the Social Care Institute for Excellence.

Here, I’m going to tell you what we found out.

About the study

We did some research to find out about very small care organisations – where about five people or less people work.  We called these organisations “micro-enterprises”.

We found five ways that micro-enterprises can be better than bigger care.

  1. Micro-enterprises offer more personalised support.

    So, personalised support means being flexible about care and support activities and changing them to suit the person using the service. So, you can do a range of activities – like gardening, cycling, dancing, going out to the shops, going to the theatre or just chatting in a room with lots of other people and having a good discussion really.  It’s about being friendly and acting like a second family; it’s really good because it gives them confidence – if they can’t get on with their own family they can go to them and get support and a voice and ideas. 

    People can choose and control their activities which is really good because some day centres I’ve found through other organisations don’t really control their activities; mthey just do set routines – that shouldn’t really happen, but it often does, unfortunately.

  2. Micro-enterprises help people to do more of the things they value and enjoy.

    So, in my opinion, this makes the people more independent.  When I did the research I visited a micro-enterprise day centre and it reminded me of my time when I was in the Barnardos project.  When I was in year nine at school, I went with a couple of girls to a Barnardos project and it wasn’t such like a day centre; it was more of an after-school project, and this micro-enterprise daycentre reminded me of what I did there – it was really fun and interesting and it made me more confident and raised my self-esteem. It was brilliant.

  3. Microenterprises are good at finding new ways to work with people. 

    For example – on this project, I visited a farm which offers farm skills to people with severe disabilities.  We watched them inject some goats, which I personally didn’t really like! But what we found was, really, they take some people and the don’t ‘shake them up’, but they shake up their daily lives so it makes it more interesting; it makes them want to go back and just like the day centre and the Barnardos project I went to. It shook up my daily life and made it more interesting for me.  So that’s pretty good!

  4. Micro-enterprises are good at involving people that sometimes get left out.

    For example, the day centre we visited is good at this because it lets people be themselves; it makes them grow in confidence and self-esteem and makes them have fun at the same time.  Like the Barnardos project, it does all those things.  Also, some of them work with black and minority ethnic communities that might get less support, so it includes many people.

  5. Microenterprises offer better value-for-money than larger organisations. 

    The average charge for Micros is less than larger organisations, so they can do all this great work without costing any more.


University of Birmingham: Evaluating Micro-Enterprises in Adult Social Care – with accompanying film