The Social Enterprise Census Scotland 2015

The Social Enterprise Census Scotland 2015
Social Value Lab


What does your organisation look like in March 2015? This month marks the launch of the first national census of social enterprises in Scotland.

Here we address some of the obvious questions about this major project.

A census, huh?

A census is simply a procedure to systematically acquire and record information about the members of a given population (it is a regularly occurring and official count). This Social Enterprise Census is an ambitious project that will take an official count of the entire population of enterprising charities and social enterprises in Scotland. The aim is to track the profile and growth of the sector every two years.

Who’s behind it?

The census is endorsed and supported by all of the main bodies that represent the interests of social enterprises in Scotland. It is being supported with funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Government, the Big Lottery Fund Scotland, Nesta and Social Investment Scotland. It is being carried out by the team at Social Value Lab, with support from all of the relevant partners.

Why now?

People across Scotland are now switching on to the potential of ‘social enterprise’; indeed, it’s been rising up the policy agenda for years. So, how many social enterprises are out there? What contribution do they make to Scotland? These are very sensible questions, but ones that have proven difficult to answer so far. It’s now time to provide some definitive answers and work together to grow the social enterprise movement in Scotland on the basis of more than hunches or guesswork alone.

How is the census being carried out?

The census is being carried out on the basis of a comprehensive approach developed by Social Value Lab. This requires some innovation and a lot of legwork. It involves combining all of the main sources of company and charity data using a new method, and then identifying the population of social enterprises in line with the Voluntary Code of Practice for Social Enterprise in Scotland. A full and objective financial analysis of social enterprises will be carried out based on the publicly available accounts for all identified social enterprises. This will be complemented by a major census survey of social enterprises (online and telephone interviews) to systematically verify and gather information about the sector.

Did I not take part in similar research?

This may all begin to feel just a little familiar. It’s true that there has been a multitude of research studies that have examined social enterprises in Scotland. You may be familiar with other similar studies carried out by Social Value Lab in Glasgow, Dundee and now in Fife. This is a great opportunity to co-ordinate and update local evidence and, importantly, to begin to make like-for-like comparisons between social enterprise activity in different parts of Scotland.

I’m confused, are there not other social enterprise surveys happening?

Social Enterprise UK is currently undertaking its biennial UK State of Social Enterprise Survey. This draws on a small sample of responses from Scotland. While useful in helping to understand the issues facing social enterprise at a UK level it is not intended to provide a definitive account of social enterprise activity in Scotland. There are also studies being undertaken by the British Council, RBS SE100 and others. Please make time to respond to our Social Enterprise Census among other requests you may receive.

Does this relate to my organisation?

Is your organisation trading for the benefit of others? If you can answer ‘yes’ to the following questions we want to hear from you:

Does your organisation have social or environmental goals?
Are you operating independently of the public sector?
Are you earning some level of income from delivering contracts or selling goods/services?
Do you aspire to greater financial independence through earned income (not simply reliant on grants)?
Do you reinvest your profits and retain assets entirely in pursuit of your social or environmental goals?

You might be an enterprising charity, housing association, development trust, credit union, care provider, cultural enterprise, or other type of ‘social enterprise’. Whatever the case, we want to know more about your organisation and its work. 

How can you get involved?

You will be given the opportunity first of all to register details about your organisation online and provide some straightforward information. We know that this might feel like a hassle, and your time is valuable, but every response is vital. If you choose not to respond online then you may be contacted by telephone to find out if there is a more convenient way to provide the information required. You will find out more over the next week from your usual information sources and networks.

When will we get to see the results?

A major report will be made publicly available in September 2015. This will be designed to tell the full story of social enterprise in Scotland in a clear and compelling way using narrative, numbers, and infographics. We hope that the evidence contained in the report will help you to better understand the movement that you may be part of and to convince others of its impact for Scotland. Our commitment is also to provide open source data from the census – that means that you can readily access data for your area and then carry out further analysis.

Jonathan Coburn

Director, Social Value Lab


18 March 2015