Increase Valorisation Sociale (‘social value’ in French) is a partnership between UEA and seven housing associations and two training providers (2018-2022). This is a major new £10.3 million project that aims to boost enterprise training and job opportunities for thousands of social housing residents in England and France.

Of the £10.3m total budget, £7.1m has come from the EU’s Interreg France (Channel) England programme, through the European Regional Development Fund. The programme is being led by Optivo, one of the largest housing associations in England, and will help 4,900 people through entrepreneurship training, supporting 3,200 of those into employment and the creation of 1,200 new businesses.

Launched in April 2018, the five-year programme will support residents in 38 neighbourhoods facing barriers such as single parenting, disability, multi-generational benefit dependency, high rates of poverty and low job opportunities. The areas involved are in the South and East Coasts of England from Hampshire to Norfolk, and the North Coast of France from Finistère to Pas-de-Calais.

Social housing residents can face higher than average unemployment, so to help tackle this the project will deliver ongoing training and support for residents.The first large-scale initiative of its kind, participants will learn skills  to help launch their own businesses, including how to trial and market test business ideas and manage enterprise finances. It will also facilitate further training to those willing to join the job market.

The six-step service offer includes:

  1. engagement and assessment of needs
  2. preparation activity
  3. implementation of new training modules
  4. ongoing support into new business, employment or further training
  5. ambassador training
  6. ambassador activity.

Additionally, the service will include support towards improving the resilience of participants with regards to economic and personal impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as offering digital skills for both start-ups and jobseekers. 


Professor Zografia Bika Associate Professor at Norwich Business School, will lead an academic evaluation of the programme, enabling best practice to be shared for future sustainable entrepreneurship projects.

The team’s work will draw on social housing data, findings from questionnaires, interviews and case studies. The aim is to track the participants’ journey in trying out micro-enterprises, securing employment and engaging in personal development. By working with social housing residents the impact evaluation work will generate new insights into the local socio-economic and cultural dynamics that underpin the lives of those furthest away from the labour market. This will help future work on entrepreneurship and social innovation among marginalised communities and hopefully influence public and policy debate.

The Increase VS programme will ensure sustainability by creating a number of community ambassador roles and a strong stakeholder network in each neighbourhood. These ambassadors will provide on-going support to micro-entrepreneurs and continue to engage future participants, ensuring the long lasting legacy of the project. Impact evaluation is applied social research and this is a study of the ‘entrepreneurial emergence’ processes using mixed methods in order to evaluate the innovation of the Increase VS intervention and assess its replicability and potential for scaling up.


For further information regarding the Increase Valorisation Sociale programme, contact Professor Zografia Bika on +44 (0)1603 591283 /

The Interreg FCE Programme is a European Territorial Co-operation programme that aims to fund high quality co-operation projects in the Channel border region between France and England. It focuses on a range of specific objectives including supporting innovations, improving the attractiveness of the FCE area and developing low carbon technologies.