Scotland set to retain its lead in social enterprise
Social Traders, by David Brookes
Coming off the back of a successful Social Enterprise Masters conference and Australian Social Enterprise Awards in Melbourne on 3 June, I travelled for 33 hours via stopovers in Hong Kong and Manchester to attend the Social Enterprise Summit in Inverness, Scotland last week.
Attended by over 220 social enterprise practitioners, supporters and policy makers from around Scotland, the two day conference and tradeshow focussed on social enterprise in regional and rural settings. Inspiring stories of exemplary social enterprises from the Highlands and Islands region of Scotland were on display.
I had the privilege of providing an insight into the important role social enterprise plays in retaining services and enabling economic participation in local towns throughout regional and remote parts of Australia. I shared innovative models from:
– Yackandandah Community Development Company in north-east Victoria,
– the extensive community banking network established in 500 locations across the country by Bendigo Bank,
– Ashoil, one of six social enterprises of Ashburton Aboriginal Corporation in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, and
– Tjanpi Desert Weavers in central Australia.
Delegates were interested in hearing about the GOOD SPENDER platform that Social Traders has developed recently in partnership with Australia Post to enhance online sales and marketing for social enterprise products.
It was inspiring to hear from Mr John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, who told delegates that social enterprise is in a colossal position to help the Scottish Government deliver on its economic goals. He told the Summit delegates that social enterprise is central to what the Government is trying to achieve for the Scottish economy. And he encouraged the social enterprise sector to make an even more significant contribution in the years to come.
Yvonne Strachan, senior official in the Scottish Government responsible for social enterprise, who visited Australia in last year as a guest of Social Traders, spoke about A Vision and Strategy for social enterprise in Scotland from 2015 to 2025, which is currently being developed in consultation with the sector. Yvonne highlighted the critical role she believes the Government needs to continue to play in developing the ecosystem for fostering high impact and financially sustainable enterprises throughout the UK’s northern most country. And she acknowledged there was more that could be done by Government to embed a progressive policy on social procurement
Australia is home to many of the most innovative and dynamic social enterprise models in practice around the world. Unfortunately however, the full potential of social enterprise in urban and regional economies is not being realised due to the lack of a visible and enabling environment. The visionary and strategic approach to social enterprise being adopted here in Scotland is a model worth our Australian political and government leaders considering as we grapple with our own rising economic and social challenges.
A huge thanks to Summit hosts, CEIS and Highlands & Islands Enterprises (HIE), for inviting me to share and learn about some best practice in social enterprise policy and practice.