Duncan Thorp looks at bold pledges and initiatives to enhance and build our social enterprise movement.
The latest Social Enterprise Action Plan for Scotland has now been published.
It is part of the 10 year strategy for social enterprise up until 2026. Produced with input from a variety of partners it pledges strong support and practical actions, in order to develop and grow Scotland’s social enterprise community.
Opening with some important sentiments, "Social Enterprises across Scotland are characterised by kindness and compassion... now more than ever, we need a strong and resilient social enterprise sector to help move Scotland forward”, the plan continues to focus on three priority areas of stimulating the sector, developing stronger organisations and realising market opportunities.
The document contains a range of pledges and initiatives to enhance and build our social enterprise movement and there’s a summary of the key commitments at the end too. It’s clear that the government see social enterprises playing a key role to reduce inequality, support healthy communities and deliver an inclusive, wellbeing economy.
Social Enterprise Scotland looks forward to working closely with The Scottish Government and our partners to implement the new plan, to ensure we map the best way forward for social enterprises in every part of Scotland. Some of the key themes include:
Climate emergency: as Cop26 approaches we know that climate change will see a stronger focus on the role of social enterprise. The plan notes “we will introduce measures that will enable and support the social enterprise sector to lead by example in combating climate change.”
Diversity: there’s a strong focus on equality and inclusion, with a commitment to "develop a third sector equalities baseline to ensure that all activity supported by the Third Sector Unit is calibrated to tackling the barriers faced by people with protected characteristics. With a focus on social enterprise as the first action area."
A trading mindset: the plan emphasises the importance of social enterprise to traditional third sector organisations and it seeks to “encourage programmes that enable people within the third sector to develop entrepreneurial behaviours, mindsets and skills."
Funding and finance: an ongoing issue for every social enterprise and there’s news about the new £30 million Third Sector Growth Fund, aimed at ambitious, high growth potential organisations plus a commitment to "continue to investigate new democratic forms of local capital, including Community Shares and Community Bond." The action plan also notes a continued commitment to Adapt and Thrive and Investing in Communities funding.
Building place: there’s an important pledge to support place-building and to: "create the conditions where place-based social enterprise activity and communities can flourish, through enhanced promotion, developing capacity, and funding." Social Enterprise Scotland has been working on the Social Enterprise Places scheme for a while now, with Uist, Lewis and Govan gaining recent recognition. Community-led regeneration through community wealth building is also emphasised in the plan.
Business and development support: the action plan notes that specialist business support will continue to be provided by Just Enterprise. It notes the importance of connection, of networks and peer to peer learning and covers support from start-up to growth. The plan also notes that government will work with social enterprises to develop a single, enhanced intermediary body and we will be working with The Scottish Government as outlined in the action plan over the next few months.
Market development: other activities to develop market opportunities through the Buy Social Scotland consumer and corporate challenge campaigns are also highlighted: “Early evidence suggests...a growing appetite to support locally produced and authentic products as well as a continuing support for brands with purpose...Buy Social is an example of this, a growing international movement with its Scottish launch at the end of 2020.” In addition, “there is considerable potential to transform the way that big companies do business and impact society, including through their routine spending on social enterprise suppliers".
Public service reform: in terms of public services there is huge potential to do things differently. Procurement reform will be a significant driver for social enterprises moving forwards. The plan notes it wants to support “new opportunities to unleash the passion, pioneering solutions and alternative delivery models of Scotland’s social innovators, entrepreneurs and enterprises. The end result we seek is public services that are more inclusive, sustainable, and effective in improving people’s outcomes” and to “bring forward a programme to help improve collaborative commissioning and the role of social enterprise in the delivery of public services." The recent announcement about the nationalisation of ScotRail is a key example of opening up new opportunities for social enterprise business models.
Finally the action plan also recognises the vital role of our young entrepreneurs: “by 2024 every school child will have the opportunity to engage with a social enterprise project in their school career, introducing the benefits of the social enterprise model to young people across Scotland”. This is an important reminder that we’re building our social enterprise community and a world-class ecosystem of support for both current and future entrepreneurs.
Duncan Thorp is policy and public affairs manager at Social Enterprise Scotland.