Malcolm Chisholm, Minister for Communities
At the Soap Shop, Edinburgh
‘It gives me great pleasure, for two reasons, to be involved in the official opening today of The Soap Company Edinburgh.
Firstly, in The Soap Company I have been privileged to see an example of the way in which social economy organisations can help to change people’s lives for the better. Secondly, the launch of the Soap Company has given me an appropriate opportunity to launch the Futurebuilders Scotland funds. Through these funds I hope we will be able to see many more social economy organisations across Scotland displaying the social motivation, innovation and business sense that I’ve seen today at the Soap Company.
To the casual visitor the Soap Company Edinburgh is an extremely good looking shop selling an incredible range of soaps and toiletries. However, there is so much more to the Soap Company Edinburgh than a standard shop. Many of the staff who work at the soap factory in Craigmillar have severe and enduring mental health problems which make it extremely difficult for them to find work. It is hoped that some will soon also be working in the shop. The Soap Company gives excellent work experience, the opportunity to work in a team, to learn new skills and hopefully the chance to move into mainstream employment.
What Forth Sector have created with the Soap Company Edinburgh is an excellent example of a social economy organisation. An organisation that combines the provision of excellent services – in this case the opportunity for one group of people traditionally far from employment to gain real work experience – with good, sound business sense that generates a considerable portion of turnover through trading.
I’m pleased to say that the Soap Company is the result of co-operation within the social economy sector and with the Executive. The Soap Company is replicated from the model developed by social economy organisation COPE, based in Shetland, who are currently working on a series of franchises of the Soap Company model around Britain.
Funding from the Executive, through the Scottish Centre for Regeneration has also made what I saw today possible. Funding from the Seeing is Believing fund enabled Forth Sector to see at first hand how the Soap Company in Shetland operated. Funding from the New Ideas Fund enabled Forth Sector to carry out market research.
It is this sort of organisation that the Executive wants to encourage through Futurebuilders Scotland. We want to see the social economy operating in a business-like way, generating sustainable income through trading and at the same time delivering excellent services.
The Executive is committed to providing excellent public services. Encouraging the development of the social economy is one way that we can meet this commitment.
Furthermore, we live in a country where poverty is still a major issue. Breaking the cycle of deprivation, raising personal and community aspirations and lifting children out of the misery of poverty are key aims of the Executive.
To achieve these aims, we are focusing on the Closing the Opportunity Gap objectives we published in the summer. These objectives are at the heart of what we want organisations benefiting from Futurebuilders Scotland investment to achieve. We must broaden the range of organisations that provide services to the public, particularly in the most disadvantaged and deprived areas. We must improve the quality of those services. We must increase their value for money and effectiveness. And we must ensure that these services are targeted on those who need them most.
I am therefore very pleased to announce that, from today, the Futurebuilders Scotland Funds are officially open for business.
From today organisations can apply for funding from the Investment Fund, the Seedcorn Fund and the Learning Fund. Guidance is available on the Futurebuilders Scotland website [www.fb.communitiesscotland.gov.uk] from where application forms can be downloaded.
At the heart of Futurebuilders Scotland is £16 million of direct investment. £12 million of this has been set aside as the Investment Fund which will be invested in medium to large sized social economy organisations that have established a reputation as service providers. £4 million forms the Seedcorn Fund which will support emerging organisations to develop new ideas and enlarge existing schemes. £400,000 from the Seedcorn Fund will help social entrepreneurs to develop new ideas to turn local ideas into live projects.
To back this up and ensure that best use is being made of Futurebuilders Scotland money we today launch the £1 million Learning Fund to ensure individuals working in the social economy have the right skills to help the sector as a whole flourish. We will also invest a further £1 million to improve the effectiveness of the various support services that underpin the growth of the social economy.
We have made the applications process for the various funds as simple and unbureaucratic as possible. For the smaller Seedcorn and Learning funds application will be by one form only. For the larger Investment Fund there will be a two stage process, including the submission of a business plan.
The criteria are as simple as we can make it whilst still ensuring that our investments are being made wisely. To be successful, organisations will firstly need to be part of the social economy. Secondly, they need to show that they are meeting the policy objectives of closing the opportunity gap. Thirdly, applicants will need to show how they will achieve financial sustainability in the longer term.
I am also delighted to announce that we are extending the funding to cover three financial years rather than two. This will mean that organisations will have a longer period in which they can put together their applications and also that they will have a longer period over which to spend the Futurebuilders Scotland investment. This greater flexibility will make for a much stronger fund.
I am also very pleased to announce that a further £3 million, on top of the £18 million already announced for Futurebuilders Scotland, will be made available to Social Investment Scotland (and the CDFI community in Scotland) to loan to social economy organisations to help them put together funding packages appropriate for Futurebuilders Scotland investments.
Futurebuilders Scotland funding will therefore be bolstered by having an extra £3 million of loan funding available.
Investments through Futurebuilders Scotland will also now be available until March 2007. Looking at the organisations that make up the vibrant social economy sector in Scotland I know that the impact of these funds will last a lot longer than that.
Futurebuilders Scotland is about strengthening the market of potential deliverers of public services; and about providing more effective support to social economy organisations. It is also about ensuring that social economy organisations become key partners in taking forward our strategic objective of Closing the Opportunity Gap.
The Futurebuilders Scotland funds represent the Scottish Executive’s commitment to ensuring that the resources are available to the social economy sector to develop high quality services. I look forward to hearing about a great many more social economy success stories as a result of this funding.
I need to go to another event now but there are a number of officials here from the Social Economy Unit here today who can discuss the operation of the funds. Full information including application forms and guidance are available on the Futurebuilders Scotland website – www.fb.communitiesscotland.gov.uk.
Finally, I would like to add how much I enjoyed seeing the Soap Company and how pleased I am to have opened such a good looking and worthy new enterprise onto the Canongate.’