Leader in co-operatives and diversity: Dorothy Francis awarded honorary degree

On 20 July, the University of Leicester proudly awarded Dorothy Francis an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws for her incredible contribution to the co-operative movement and promotion of diversity.

Dorothy Francis, who is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Leicester, has worked within the field of co-operatives and social enterprise for 35 years and is passionate about how social businesses change lives and communities for the better. Dorothy is the CEO of the Co-operative and Social Enterprise Agency (CASE) and is a leader, trainer, mentor and adviser. She has over 30 years’ experience in advising cooperatives and social enterprises to establish and grow and specialises in social enterprise legal structures, working practices and management. Dorothy is committed to promoting business to women, especially women of colour and women from newly arrived communities and has twice received Business Woman of the Year awards.

Dorothy was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in April 2016 when she received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion (Lifetime Achievement Award). The Lifetime Achievement Award is an OBE-equivalent honour given to one person annually; Dorothy is the 12th person in the UK to hold this accolade and the first in Leicestershire. Dorothy was invited to become a Companion of the Chartered Management Institute in 2017 and she received an MBE in the 2017 New Year’s Honours list in recognition of services to enterprise and the communities of Leicester and Leicestershire.

Dorothy said: “I work for the Co-operative and Social Enterprise Agency, known as CASE, and we have partnered with the University of Leicester for many years to deliver programmes that introduce students to the world of social entrepreneurship. We have achieved excellent results through the WISE and SEW programmes with a number of students going on to establish social enterprises through their involvement in the schemes. The excellent working relationship between CASE and the University of Leicester has allowed us to achieve great outputs and to develop outcomes that have changed the lives of students who have accessed the programmes.

“I am also pleased to act as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence to the University of Leicester, meeting locally with undergraduate and post graduate students and speaking with distance learning students from across the globe to discuss their business proposals. This voluntary commitment allows me to share in the dreams, plans and expectations of University of Leicester students and I enjoy the two way process whereby I learn from the students whilst sharing my experience and knowledge of business with them.”

In congratulating Dorothy on her honorary degree, Dr Matthew Higgins, Associate Dean for Business Engagement at the University of Leicester School of Business, praised her commitment in developing enterprise activity in the community and her support for the University of Leicester. “Dorothy has a remarkable level of knowledge and energy that she shares with entrepreneurs, staff and students alike. In receiving the honour at the July graduation ceremony, Dorothy was forthright in her acceptance speech, encouraging graduands to challenge preconceptions and pursue personal ambitions in business, being mindful of principles, integrity and ethics”. It is a powerful message that all students in Business Schools should embrace.