Social Enterprise Academy – 10 years of learning

Social Enterprise Academy – 10 years of learning
Social Enterprise Academy

Context and History

In 2004 the Social Enterprise Academy was conceived by a collaboration of Scottish Government and support agencies Senscot, Unltd and CEiS, for the emerging concept of social enterprise and social entrepreneurs.
They identified that strong training and advice was available on the competences required to run a business (such as finance, marketing and business planning) – but that traditional education and training often does not support the ongoing ‘practice’ and personal development of individuals. What was missing was the development of the practice of leadership and the practice of entrepreneurship. 

The Academy was designed to deliver an approach to learning that enabled non-academic learning styles; developed multiple intelligences (eg. emotional intelligence); was responsive to learners’ needs, strengths and context; prioritised personal development, alongside skills and knowledge; and provided qualifications based on application of learning rather than memory. The founders also believed that the talent existed within the sector to facilitate this learning amongst their peers.
Investing in developing people capable of leading change was a vital strategic part of the founders leading the growth and resilience of organisations and a sustainable social economy.

Funding was gained from the Scottish Government to establish the Academy (2004-2007) with its first Chief Executive who had a background in education and community enterprise.  Our staff also have significant experience in organising and managing learning programmes, logistics, and financial management, designing programmes to meet learner needs, obtaining accreditation for learning programmes, and generally supporting social economy organisations through learning. The first task was to select and train the main asset of the Academy – Associate Tutors – practitioners within, or connected to, social enterprises, who became specialists at facilitating peer learning using Kolb’s learning cycle (Honey & Mumford, 2000)  and embedding reflective practice.

From 2008 the Third Sector Action plan structured the Scottish Government’s approach to supporting the enterprising Third Sector, including a flexible bursary fund to allow responsive learning and development solutions delivered by the Academy. The Academy seized the opportunity to match fund with HIE (Highlands & Islands Enterprise) and the European Social Fund (ESF) in the Highlands and Islands to make learning available to fragile and remote rural communities. The result was the incredibly successful ‘Developing Leaders for Sustainable Communities’ programme (2008-2011), and its successor ‘Working with Social Enterprise’ (2011-2014), which further the use the learning approach and themes of leadership and enterprise to increase the sustainable participation of excluded groups in the workforce.
Engaging in cross sector programmes with family businesses, the Academy is now also working with leaders in the private sector with an interest leading local economic growth and community benefit. Private sales to client organizations with the ability to pay supported the growth and development of Academy income, and experience in delivering public sector contracts and major organizational development programmes. Working with a partner consortium from Scotland’s third sector the Academy successfully won and delivered the Scottish Government contract for provision of Business Support (2011-2014), and has recently re-won the contract with partners.

Similarly, since 2008 in partnership with Scottish Government and their enterprise in Education programme called ‘Determined to Succeed’, we developed the Social Enterprise in Education Programme. Working with teachers, the programme continues to support pupils and teachers to set up social enterprises in their schools, culminating in an annual Social Enterprise in Education Awards ceremony.  To date the Academy has supported almost 500 schools (primary, secondary and additional support needs) and over 1000 teachers, to establish successful, viable and actively trading social enterprises all run by pupils – some with annual turnovers of up to £50,000.  Transferring learning programmes and techniques from supporting third sector leaders to reach young people facing social exclusion, the Academy’s social impact becomes more immediate.

Social franchising is the selected strategy for the Social Enterprise Academy international strategic business plan (2012-2020), responding to demand from other nations to replicate the Academy. This identifies a model building on the Academy’s core competence and strategic focus, to ensure financial resilience, development of an international centre of excellence and improved impact of the Academy in Scotland, and an efficient model for partner organizations to implement in new locations.

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