Support needs in the social enterprise sector – one size doesn’t fit all

Support needs in the social enterprise sector – one size doesn’t fit all



Report for Senscot and Communities Scotland
by Haldane Associates
March 2006


(Executive Summary and download link to full document)



Executive Summary


The aim of this work was to provide a reasonably comprehensive and quantifiable analysis of the support needs of social enterprises in Scotland.


It was intended to give those developing the Social Enterprise Strategy up to date intelligence on the support needs of the sector, and enhance their ability to address these issues with greater knowledge and authority.


111 social enterprises participated in the survey, with a good spread of geographical location, size, scale of trading and progress along the business development cycle.


The top points and recommendations arising from the analysis are:


• Social enterprises mainly want support from experienced social enterprise practitioners who understand the sector but who have the necessary skills to provide quality advice. Providing this support should be funded.


• Social enterprises ‘pick and mix’ their support agencies, and 70% are relying on more than one agency. Social enterprise intermediaries are providing almost 60% of all nationally provided support, and are therefore fulfilling a need.


• The main gap in support is in appropriate and adequate funding. The greatest need appeared to be for post-start up core funding, to bridge the gap between start up and sustainability and allow managers to develop the business. Access to business growth development funding, and a more flexible arrangement for funding, were also identified as issues.


• The other main gap is in practical one to one and longer term mentoring and more of this type of support should be made available. This support could come from a range of sources (social enterprise intermediaries, the private sector, statutory agencies) as long as social enterprises have choice and can feel confident of quality.


• Start up social enterprises, and those trading at levels up to £50K feel least supported and need a focussed programme of coaching and mentoring.


• There is a need for more coordination of support services, and an enhanced portal that helps people learn from successful exemplars.


• The ‘cultural gap’ needs to be tackled head on, to improve understanding between the statutory and social enterprise sectors at local level, with better marketing by the social enterprise sector, improved skills and knowledge within the social enterprise sector, and a much greater preparedness of the statutory sector to overcome apparent prejudices and include social enterprises as partners.


• There is a need to address human resource capacity issues: social enterprises have problems recruiting good staff, have difficulties accessing experienced business advisors and there appears to be a lack of capacity amongst social enterprise Board members.


• The strategy must ensure new ideas and creativity remain a feature of the sector, as growth in the sector will be dependent on the pool of ideas for start up businesses, through continuing to invest in small social enterprises.


• Access to Business Gateway/Scottish Enterprise support should be clarified, but should include wider criteria rather than just growth in income.


• Urgent progress must be made with the public procurement of goods and services from social enterprises, as currently these opportunities are largely unavailable.


• Further investigation should be undertaken of the real potential for Service Level Agreements and procurement activity in rural areas, as there are indications these may not be sufficient for social enterprise growth.


• Development of benchmarking, and monitoring and evaluation that takes into account the social, environmental and community benefits social enterprises will generate, should be undertaken.


It is recommended that Communities Scotland undertake this type of survey on an annual basis, to provide evidence on which to monitor the strategy and Local Social Economy Partnerships.


This would allow everyone to gauge the success of the strategy from the end user’s perspective, and identify areas for improvement.


To download the full document in word format, click here