Social Enterprise Coalition Policy Paper on Business Support
Appendix A – Business Support in the UK Regions
What is happening with Business Link (or Gateway) in your region?
Recent review of Business Gateway support for social enterprise (http://www.scottishenterprise.com/publications/evaluation_of_network_activity_with_social_enterprises.doc) concluded that many organisations reported a positive impact and increased turnover or business activity as a result of support.
Through 2007/08 Business Gateway will move to standardised contracts across the Scottish Enterprise Network – with contractors having to demonstrate the skills and knowledge to support social enterprises. Successful contractors will have targets based on social enterprise activity in the area.
Business Gateway segmentation criteria will remain unchanged although diagnostic tools used will be adapted slightly for social enterprises. Highlands and Islands Enterprise provide support to all levels of the social economy as they have both a social and economic remit.
What is happening with specialist business support provision in your region?
Presently specialist support is provided by a number of agencies operating on either a regional (e.g. CEiS, HISEZ, Social Enterprise Edinburgh, CEL, CESEL) or subsectoral (e.g. Social Firms Scotland, DTA Scotland, etc) basis, as well as start-up support (Scotland Unltd, Senscot Exchange), as well as the CVS network. The quality of support is good although there are some gaps in provision and what can appear a ‘cluttered landscape’.
Attempts to address this led to the creation of Local Social Economy Partnerships although there is major inconsistency across LSEPs – some areas still do not have an operational LSEP some 2 years after their introduction. Also some LSEPs are regarded as ‘closed shops’ and feature little or no sector representation.
The draft Social Enterprise Strategy proposes a review of pre-Gateway support. It includes testing out avoucher scheme. It will also review the Senscot Exchange service and links with the new Cooperative Development Agency, housed within Scottish Enterprise.
What do you think business support will look like in the future? How would you like it to look?
A more standardised, streamlined approach to business support should be achieved through the strategy. Scottish Enterprise is unlikely to radically alter the support they provide, although we hope they start to demonstrate ambition to support the sector more. This should include setting ambitious targets, like doubling year on year the number of social enterprises meeting their segmentation criteria. They should also work closely with Communities Scotland to ensure that support given to start-ups helps to develop the ‘pipeline’ of enterprises moving on to client or account managed support. We would also like them to lead a campaign to grow the sector as a business model – particularly aimed at encouraging aspiring business leaders to ‘go social’. Clearly we also want to see clarification of pre-Gateway support that draws on the expertise that exists within the sector itself and existing sector-led support bodies.
We think a voucher system may be effective in this regard – a marketplace in support would hopefully serve to drive up standards and favour growth in specialist rather than generalist support, which is what the sector really needs. However there will be a need for a level of brokerage as it is unrealistic to expect fledgling businesses to independently identify their own support needs and know the best sources of that support. Independent brokerage would also protect against abuse of the system.