Thompson, John L. (2012) Incredible Edible: Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship in the Era of the Big Society. Social Enterprise Journal, 3 (1). ISSN 1750-8614

Purpose - The purpose of this Case Study is to allow the exploration of social entrepreneurship, environmental improvement and volunteering in the context of the UK’s declared Big Society. Recently, there has been increased interest in ‘environmental’ as well as social entrepreneurship. Volunteering is also an area of growing concern in policy circles, particularly with the advent of the ‘Big Society’, the UK Government’s vision of citizen involvement.

Design/methodology/approach - The case was written with both secondary and primary data and with the co-operation of Incredible Edible. Primary data includes street questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with relevant stakeholders.

Findings - Incredible Edible is an environmental initiative started in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. Basically community members – largely volunteers – have looked for opportunities where they could plant and grow fruits and vegetables that others could just help themselves to. Any spare land and space has been seen as suitable. From this the themes of local food growing and self sufficiency have taken over. Over a (short) period of years the initiative has grown and received considerable support from local stakeholders as well as extensive publicity. The initiative has attracted attention elsewhere and not just in the UK. But its real impact has been on the community and its sense of place.

Practical implications - The data has been used (so far) to write a case that traces the journey of the people behind the initiative, their motives and their impact. It explores a number of themes, namely: • Social entrepreneurship in action • Improving the local environment aesthetically • The Big Society and volunteering • The local economic and social impacts – a new sense of place; improved diets and healthy eating – but also the impact on other local businesses which sell rival food products • How local successes can be replicated elsewhere • The sustainability of initiatives such as this.

Originality/value - The case demonstrates five important themes that could be seen as a litmus test for the effectiveness of projects and initiatives in the Big Society – namely the presence and commitment of a visionary who provides the purpose and direction; volunteers; velocity – and emergence; visibility; and value.

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