An interesting article – Reconceptualizing the Social Economy – for those interested in the changing face and shape of our sector over the last two decades. The article is published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (US Journal) – but its focus is very much on how our understanding of what the social economy means has changed in Europe. Traditionally, the social economy had been seen as a way to address market failures or failures by the state – playing an important role in providing social services, advocating for the most vulnerable groups of society, and contributing to social cohesion and solidarity.

The 2021 Holyrood election is fast approaching, but there’s still time to check out the Social Economy Pledge that SENScot and others are asking Scottish Parliamentary candidates to sign to demonstrate their commitment to Scotland’s third sector. Throughout the election campaigning we have repeatedly heard that health inequalities have been exacerbated by Covid.  Sadly, this has come as no surprise to most social enterprises, many of whom have been tackling health inequalities for many years.

With the launch of the second SE Action Plan last month – a lot of the online commentary focused on the £30m in loan/investment finance; the £1.5m towards accessing international markets; an additional £1.5m towards the Adapt and Thrive Programme; as well as £14m as part of the Third Sector and Communities Recovery Programme . However, one that didn’t grab the attention that it might – and likely to have as much significant long-term impact on the future of social enterprise in Scotland as any other initiative – has been the £2mto ensure that by 2024 every schoolchild can engage with a social enterprise project

Employability SEN session:  Consultation on the Social Enterprise Action Plan 2021-2024 (Wednesday 28th April, 10-11am) – We’re keen to get your feedback on the recently launched SE Action Plan, particularly in relation to the contribution of social enterprises to Scotland’s employability and employment outcomes.  Please come along to this informal session and let us know what you think and where the opportunities are for your social enterprise.  Contact Jayne to book.

Scotland is widely acknowledged as having one of the world’s most supportive environments for social enterprises – with colleagues from other countries often casting an envious eye. Much of this merited – but that is not so say we should not be continually striving to improve or refine this ‘environment’ – to ensure that frontline organisations have support that is relevant and appropriate to their needs. It is also fair to say we should all be big enough to accept some criticism – especially when backed up by evidence from practitioners and ‘delivers’ alike. The Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health at Glasgow Caledonian University has produced this report, ‘What about Efficiency? Exploring perceptions of current social enterprise support provision in Scotland’ – which points to a number of areas for improvement. The report is based on a study carried out last year – which was published in December 2020 – to, surprisingly, little fanfare.

Welcome to the April newsletter. I hope you that are staying safe and well and enjoying some of the spring sunshine. Please remember to send me updates for the next Newsletter and SENScot bulletins and remember you can post events and jobs on the Senscot website.

This year will see the fourth SE Census – following those in 20152017; and 2019. Last week, the SE Census 2021 Steering Group met for the first time – and, we understand, folk should expect their bi-annual Census Survey in the coming months. All being well, the Census will be completed by the end of this year – with publication expected early in 2022. It had been anticipated that the 2021 SE Census would be the first to show evidence of the impact of the SE Strategy for Scotland and supporting Action Plans on our SE sector – but the scale of Covid 19’s impact will somewhat overshadow this. The last 12 months has very much been a ‘backs to the wall’/ ‘all hands on deck’ approach across the sector – with the full extent of the impact yet to be seen. Nonetheless, it will be important that the 2021 SE Census continues to identify progress in certain areas. As always, there will be a range of views as to what constitutes ‘progress’. For our part, it is, again, about building from the bottom up – ensuring that frontline social enterprises are able access the support and resources they require.

It is so nice to see the days getting longer and hopefully more opportunities to be outside participating in some physical activity.  As more people head outdoors, Visit Scotland has launched a campaign calling on people to respect, protect and enjoy Scotland – Keep Scotland Special.  Watch this video and find out more here about the campaign and how you can get involved #RespectProtectEnjoy.

Place-based Social Enterprise Networks (SENs) have been a feature of the social enterprise landscape in Scotland since 2004. Thematic SENs came a bit later – in 2010. Today, there are 20 place-based SENs covering 22 local authority areas. Together, they provide peer support and joint working opportunities to around 1000 frontline social enterprises in Scotland. The nature of each place-based SEN varies – about half are constituted – a number are partners in local Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) – many are supported via the local TSI – with some others being less formal. Like for many in our sector, fortunes fluctuate – some stop operating; new ones emerge; and, in some instances, dormant networks re-emerge. This week sees two contrasting stories. Fife SEN – the first ever SEN – has sadly intimated its intention to cease operating. In spite of having over 150 members – and being supported so well by BRAG Enterprises over many years – they have been unable to secure further resources to support the work of the SEN. We had hoped for a better outcome. However, in North Lanarkshire, a new SEN is beginning to build momentum – and this week, North Lanarkshire SEN (NLSEN) has produced its own information pack for members.