Morethanprofitman Blog

Posted: 15 June 2015, in Blog


Highland innovation and social enterprise

The Social Enterprise Summit in Inverness seems to have gone well. Very well. It’s easy to be cynical about events that have an intentional feel-good purpose, as this one clearly did, but what’s not to like about feel-good? And this one had it oozing out of the walls. The speechifying was part of it, at least for the host nation and the host region. In an overlong session it was convincingly posited that the Highlands and Islands are the best place in Scotland to do social enterprise and that Scotland is the best place in the world – probably – to do social enterprise. MTPM can buy into that. It’s not a new thing – it’s been brewing in the culture since the Scottish Enlightenment. Adam Smith would have felt at home with the assertion.

He would also have felt at home with some of the evolutionary dimensions that were present. If MTPM has a theme, it is that the sector is unfinished business – it will always evolve – it cannot be stopped – and it is evolving now under our very gaze. Now, MTPM is a big fan of oor Adam, though not necessarily of his modern fanboy acolytes. The good doctor was keen on the idea of growth, as a prerequisite of capitalism (are we comfortable with social enterprise being a capitalist model?) but he also saw the need for constant innovation, and that’s what Inverness showed us we have in the sector. And lots of it.

Not just in terms of the subsectors that are emerging – who knows what he would have made of community land, community renewables or community broadband, as were well presented in the Kingsmills Hotel? He would have taken it on board though – what he would have seen was the releasing of the productive potential of assets. He was writing before railways, MTPM is writing in the digital age, but it’s much the same. It’s all about working together to make the best use of the tools, whatever they may be, and if that means communities doing that for themselves where normal market forces are unlikely to, then that, surely, is the point. And if it means that communities gain inalienable control of those assets (or tools) so the profits from their continued productivity is guaranteed, then that is the world getting to be a better place.

All very philosophical, but important.  It was also good to see that the Scottish dimension was being bigged up in terms of how good it is rather than how different it is from other models. MTPM was pleased to see the new Big Issue Invest Scotland visibly present and attracting interest, alongside Charity Bank, Social Investment Scotland and others. As the sector in Scotland moves forward, grows and diversifies the funding models are inevitably going to grow ever more sophisticated, and it is good to know that this infrastructure – which will be crucial – is rooting itself in home soil. MTPM understands the queasiness that some feel about the idea of profit being made from social ventures, but isn’t personally over-concerned, so long as the profit is made, that a significant proportion of it is recycled to the social purpose, and the that social purpose itself is addressed, whatever that may be. The canny way it is being woven into the sector’s processes in Scotland is just about right in MTPM’s view.

MTPM loves insights that can make the world look different, and engender new thinking. Apropos of nothing, how many were aware that when casting the Godfather films the producers had a short list of two for the part of the Don? We all know who got the part, and arguably turned in one of the greatest performances in film history. But who was the unlucky one who didn’t get the part? Well, none other than Laurence Olivier. Seriously. Now, if you can open your mind wide enough to take on the notion of Sir Larry as the Don, then you’re ready to be joining the sort of thinking that we need, as the new strategy takes us forward. Anything’s possible…


NOTE: This independent opinion piece blog does not necessarily reflect the views or beliefs of Social Enterprise Scotland.