Every schoolchild in Scotland to engage with social enterprise under new three-year plan 

The Scottish government this week unveiled its latest three-year plan to support social enterprises – including new investment of £5m, a £30m loan fund – and plans to fund just one “clear voice” representing the sector.

The 2021-2024 Social Enterprise Action Plan, published on 24 March, will see additional investment to help the sector grow and to put it “at the heart of Scotland’s recovery” from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell said post-Covid society needed to be “free from inequalities and disadvantage”.

She added: “The Scottish government wants to create a wellbeing economy that works for everyone. Social enterprises will be central to this work, demonstrating this ethos through conducting business with social purpose. The social enterprise model can also help us to deliver on our aim to protect the environment, ensuring a just transition to a net zero future.”

The Scottish government wants to create a wellbeing economy that works for everyone. Social enterprises will be central to this work

Additional funding for the coming three years includes:

  • Doubling funding to £2m to ensure that by 2024 every schoolchild can engage with a social enterprise project. During the previous three years, the education programme led by Social Enterprise Academy engaged with over 850 primary and secondary schools
  • £1.5m to build on the Adapt and Thrive programme, which helps community organisations wanting to diversify their income streams
  • £1.5m to help social enterprise expand into international markets, with a focus on emerging economies in Africa and south-east Asia


‘A single intermediary’

Other objectives listed among the plan’s 27 actions include helping the social enterprise sector to lead by example in combating climate change, supporting action to create stronger and more diverse boards, and making fair working practices a criteria for grantees. 

The government will also publish plans by the summer to fund “an enhanced single intermediary body” responsible for representing Scotland’s social enterprise sector.

But the sector would be “best served by having one clear voice advocating for it”, the Action Plan states, citing a “changing landscape” and “international comparisons”. 

The government would work with one intermediary “to develop a national infrastructure that represents and supports the sector most effectively” and would support local third sector bodies “to provide meaningful and consistent support” to social enterprises across Scotland.

The commitment to a single intermediary was the result of a two-year review into the social enterprise support ecosystem in Scotland, Chris Martin, CEO of the membership body Social Enterprise Scotland, told Pioneers Post. “Social Enterprise Scotland is pleased to see the process outlined in the new Action Plan and we will work closely with the Scottish government and partners to ensure we find the best solution for social enterprises across Scotland,” he said.

Pioneers Post has contacted Social Enterprise Network Scotland, which was formed from a merger last year between two network bodies, Social Firms Scotland and Senscot, for comment.



Flexible finance and corporate backing

The 2021-2024 action plan is based on the objectives of Scotland’s 10-year Social Enterprise Strategy. Published in 2016, it is seen by some as a model for how governments can proactively support the movement.

This week the Scottish government also announced a new £30m Third Sector Growth Fund. It has three elements: the £15m Social Catalyst fund to offer loans that can be repaid based on turnover, the £10m Circular Economy Fund, to lend to charities and social enterprises operating in the circular economy or to environmental projects, and the £5m Social Impact Venture Portfolio, to make equity investments into mission-driven businesses.

Meanwhile, membership body Social Enterprise Scotland announced the launch of the first Buy Social Scotland Corporate Challenge – also backed by the Scottish Government – which will see 10 companies pledge to spend £1m collectively through their supply chains. 

There are over 6,000 social enterprises in Scotland, supporting more than 80,000 jobs and contributing £2.3bn to the Scottish economy in 2019, according to the Social Enterprise Census of 2019. 

Header image: Students from Shawlands Academy, Glasgow, running a shop as part of a programme run by Social Enterprise Academy in 2018. Profits from the products they sold, including stationery and healthy snacks, were used to put on activities for old people in their community

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