Action plan to boost Scotland’s burgeoning social enterprise sector
A scheme to encourage the launch of new companies that benefit and involve communities has seen annual funding double to £1 million for each of the next three years.
The Social Entrepreneurs Fund offers grants and business support to help people make their ‘social start-up’ aspirations a reality. Increased backing for the fund is just one of 92 commitments made in the 2017-2020 Social Enterprise Action Plan.
The plan follows publication of Scotland’s first-ever Social Enterprise Strategy, aimed at sustainably growing the sector over the next decade. Already, Scotland has more than 5,000 social enterprises – business that reinvest profits to address important issues like homelessness, unemployment or climate change – with 200 new enterprises starting up every year.
Other commitments in the action plan include:
£1.2 million for Just Enterprise, a business support programme providing workshops in finance, sales, market research and e-commerce
Bringing the international Buy Social certification scheme to Scotland, making it easier for consumers to know the social impact of buying certain products or services
Expanding the use of Community Share schemes – an innovative way for communities to raise capital for new local social enterprises
Providing social enterprise learning in every school through the Enterprising Schools programme, inspiring the next generation of social entrepreneurs
Equalities Secretary Angela Constance announced the action plan on a visit to the Milk Café in Govanhill – launched in 2015 with £3,900 seed capital from the Social Entrepreneurs Fund. The café provides employment, training and support for ethnic minority women in Glasgow.
Ms Constance said: “Scotland’s social enterprises are all about empowering communities and being a catalyst for change. They also employ more than 100,000 people and contribute around £1.86 billion to our economy each year, so they make a significant economic contribution as well.
“We are already recognised as a social enterprise world-leader, backed by Scottish Government support in 2016/17 of around £6.5 million, however I am determined we do more. That is why we have set out a three-year action plan, including doubling the Social Entrepreneurs Fund, helping encourage the next phase of social enterprise innovators.
“Businesses like the Milk Café – offering a safe space for ethnic minority women to gain work experience, improve their English skills and integrate locally – show the huge difference a social enterprise can make in their local community.”
The Social Entrepreneur Fund is administered by Firstport, Scotland’s development agency for social start-ups.
Firstport Chief Executive Karen McGregor added: “Social entrepreneurship has a proven ability to tackle problems and transform lives and communities. Firstport supports an average of three people a day to take their first steps into social enterprise and has invested in over 800 social entrepeneurs.
“We are delighted that the Scottish Government is doubling its investment in the Social Entrepreneurs Fund, which combined with Firstport’s free business advice and resources, will enable us to boost the number of social enterprises throughout Scotland even further.”
In a joint statement, Pauline Graham, CEO of Social Firms Scotland, Aidan Pia, Executive Director of Senscot, and Fraser Kelly, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise Scotland, said: “Scotland is driving forward an ambitious strategy for social enterprise growth and development. We believe that the new ten year strategy should be backed up by strong, practical action on the ground. We therefore warmly welcome the launch of the first action plan to take this process forward.
“Our social enterprise community, stretching across every part of urban and rural Scotland, is ambitious and ready to increase its contribution to Scottish society. We now have a clear plan for the growth and development of social enterprise in Scotland over the next decade.”