Text from Senscot Lottery Application
Aim of LSENs Phase 2 Development
The aim of LSENs Phase 2 is to create strong, sustainable and independent Local Social Enterprise Networks. Their characteristics will include an active and growing membership of social enterprises that are directly connected to each other. Strong LSENs will achieve greater influence at a strategic level locally, act as a conduit to and from their membership, promote and encourage best practice, capture and share knowledge, solve problems, drive innovation, promote a professional approach and encourage joint working to reduce costs. With these traits, Networks will develop a robustness and resilience that will allow them to become an essential, distinctive and unique part of an infrastructure that will support a thriving social enterprise sector in Scotland.
By doing so, the Networks will, as stronger entities, be the catalysts to support an environment where social enterprises work together strategically to:
• Develop as better, more sustainable businesses
• Deliver more efficient and effective services to their local communities
• Secure more opportunities to grow and increase their contribution to the national economy.
Need for LSENs Phase 2 Development
New and developing social enterprises require support of various kinds at different stages of their development to establish themselves, develop as businesses and also to influence the policy and practice of external agencies. This requires a mix of support from a variety of agencies that LSENs will be required to work with and influence – as described in ‘Better Business’. Amongst the agencies that Senscot will collaborate with will be Firstport, the Social Enterprise Academy, Aspire to Enterprise, the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, local CVS`s as well as the Local Social Economy Partnerships (LSEPs). These agencies are partners in the Government`s `Action Plan for an Enterprising Third Sector`.
The importance of LSENs was highlighted through research by Haldane Associates (2006) which reported that social enterprises valued most the support they could access through other practitioners. LSENs provide this peer support and access to other services and influence.
Through its `Investing in Ideas` project which built on earlier evaluations of LSENs and ongoing contact with them, Senscot investigated five specific areas to ensure that LSENs Phase 2 focused on the strategic needs of LSENs. These five areas were:
• Exploring specific components that LSENs require to aid their start-up
• Identifying a methodology which could assess the strength and weaknesses of each Network and provide an action plan to make them stronger
• Exploring how Networks can sustain their activities over a prolonged period of time
• Examining the development and implementation of group collaboration software
• New routes to investment opportunities.
This work has led to the definition of Phase 2.
LSEN Phase 2 Development Project: Key Themes
A recent report by Rocket Science for the Office of the Third Sector in England – Review of Social Enterprise Networks – has also described the lifecycle stages of business networks and the purpose of different size networks which is also relevant to phase 2
The detailed outcomes, activities and milestones for the project are described in the relevant sections of the form. In terms of the 4 lifecycle stages of business networks and the purposes of networks described in the Rocket Science report, Phase 2 will invest BLF money to fund development work to assist LSENs to reach the final two lifecycle stages i.e.
• Participation (involving the users) : members communicate with each other, especially with others they have yet to meet, without using the network organiser as a conduit
• Growth (adapting to the evolving needs of the users): networks are planning for sustainable growth in all areas, constantly evaluating and re-configuring to keep pace with the evolving needs of members in a changing environment.
The investment will also move networks to the stage where their purpose will give increasing weight to new contacts and new business, purposes associated with networks which have grown to medium or large scale.
Against this background the key themes of the project are:
• Increasing the flow of information to and between LSENs and their members, especially by the development of tailored web based methods which LSENs increasingly manage and use themselves
• Brokering new business and financial opportunities for LSENs and their members.
• Increasing the independent influence of LSENs in other partnerships both locally and nationally.
• Developing methods and models of continuous improvement, options for organisational structures and paths to sustainability.
In summary, the Phase 2 development is the next critical stage in achieving the long-term goal of a structure of strong, sustainable and independent LSENs across Scotland, made up of grassroots social enterprises. Robust LSENs will enable increased access to opportunities for growth amongst their members and provide a consistent approach, by working together at regional and national levels, in encouraging an enterprising culture within communities throughout Scotland.