Social Enterprise engagement in Third Sector Interfaces

Social Enterprise engagement in Third Sector Interfaces

Alasdair Nicholson
Social Enterprise Spokesperson, Voluntary Action Scotland


I have recently taken on a spokesperson role for Voluntary Action Scotland on social enterprise and public sector reform, and wish to respond to comments made on behalf of Networks 1st as well as take the opportunity to make some wider points.


In the recent Senscot bulletin questions were raised concerning the ability of Third Sector Interfaces to deliver the social enterprise support strands, but which also made some sweeping and ill-founded comments on the track record, experience and knowledge of Interfaces.  While it is quite proper to question, debate and discuss the adequacy, degree and delivery methods for infrastructural and other network support, it is unreasonable, clumsy, and perhaps even defamatory, to make the statements made by the author and carried by Senscot. There are many good men and women who work for, or serve as volunteer board members, on interface bodies, and their delivery partners, who do indeed have relevant experience, as well as those who have previously managed, worked or set up social enterprises in different forms over the years. 


The Third Sector Interfaces are new arrangements, still bedding in, only becoming operational from April.  It is unreasonable to rush to judgement so soon in their infancy, but even then there are good examples of social enterprise activity in many parts of Scotland, even out with the stated “exceptions” of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Fife, which have been supported by interfaces and their preceding bodies.  In the Highlands, for example, Voluntary Action Lochaber, part of the Highland interface, has long been proactive in grassroots networking and conferences focused on social enterprise, the most recent in March.  In East Lothian, Social Enterprise East Lothian plays a full part in their  interface.  In both Falkirk and Aberdeenshire, they play a key part in Public Social Partnership pilots which are of strategic importance to the future social enterprise agenda. 


These and other examples demonstrate and evidence a real common and mutual interest in ensuring that the transformational potential of social enterprise is developed and grown.  Voluntary Action Scotland fully supports and encourages the development of social enterprise and the establishment of good local relationships as part of normal arrangements consistent with good quality improvement standards, part and parcel of development plans.  For our part, VAS is more than willing to engage with the wider social enterprise community as well as work with Government and other partners both to maximise local social enterprise outcomes as well as pursue policy objectives on which there is so much common ground.