Economic development

A central strand of VSNW’s work has always been supporting the Voluntary, Community, and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector in an economic agenda. 

This work is a mix of the strategic and the local: ensuring there is VCSE engagement at the right levels of government, but also developing economic solutions that are community led. 


We have been supporting the sector to engage in devolution processes since 2014, and promoting the vision of ‘Our Devolution’ (see our 2014 publication). Devolution has primarily advanced for economic reasons, and we are ensuring that this is matched with social ambition: in Greater Manchester, we co-ordinate a ‘VCSE Devolution Reference Group’, which is actively advocating on behalf of the sector in the main workstreams, and in Liverpool City Region, support a VCSE infrastructure partnership, VS6, which is developing the sector’s critical role to a strong social economy.

Health, Wellbeing and Economic Development

VSNW is in the relatively unique position of being the only national VCSE network working intensely at the juncture of VCSE economic and health activity. This is partly historic, and partly out of a conviction that this is the most important focus for our sector.

We were involved with Health Equity North, a Public Health England sponsored steering group working across the North of England, that recently commissioned an Inquiry into Health Equity in the North, Due North. Warren Escadale was on Well North’s Executive Board, a project which piloted ‘ways of connecting public service reform to greater community participation and economic initiatives that drive long term change in communities,’ focusing on the very local level.

Building local economies

Our flagship piece of research in this area is Thriving Places, a joint project between VSNW and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies to develop a progressive and socially just vision of the VCSE sector’s role in the life of local places. This work includes thinking about the VCSE sector’s role in the public service reform agenda.

VSNW is a partner to Regional Voices, a network of agencies covering England with direct contact with 25,000 groups, and broader grassroots connections through networks, and generic and specialist VCSE infrastructure agencies operating regionally, sub-regionally and locally. So in the North West, we are also indirectly in contact with 20,000 plus groups via this spectrum of networks.

Inclusive Growth

Although the term Inclusive Growth has only become popular in the UK over the past few years, the concept: ensuring that all citizens can participate fully in the growth and success of their economy, is core to our mission. Our work with CLES on a Civil Economy for Manchester presented an alternative economic framework for the city, and in the Due North inquiry we made the case for the VCSE sector’s role in addressing health inequalities.

Recently we have worked with the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD), to make a contribution to the RSA’s Inclusive Growth Commission, and we have also been working with the University of Manchester’s Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit to ensure their methodologies make good use of the VCSE sector.

We have developed a body of evidence and think-pieces about the sector’s engagement and role in healthy economies, prosperous communities, and in understanding our sector’s role over the past few years. You can find all of our work on economic development in our publications section.