Scotland and Korea – friends in social enterprise

Posted: 17 December 2019, in News

Daegu sits in the south eastern part of the Korean peninsula. It’s a modern city of 2.5 million people with a GDP of around £31bn and a thriving industrial and manufacturing sector.

In August of this year Scotland received a delegation of social economy representatives from Daegu, keen to learn from Scotland’s experiences in social enterprise development.

As a result of this visit three Scottish representatives travelled to Korea in November to continue the dialogue. Duncan Thorp from Social Enterprise Scotland, Gary Meek from Glasgow Council on Alcohol / Elevate social enterprise and Neil Young from third sector procurement specialists P4P.

Our main activity was taking part in “Social Economy at the Crossroads”, a conference that brought together key people in the city to further develop social enterprise. The event opened with a traditional Korean music and dance display.

In particular, the event organisers wanted to hear from Scotland in terms of Public-Social Partnerships and procurement reform, as well as getting a general summary of the history, context and future development of social enterprise.

As part of the visit we also experienced first-hand the brilliant and diverse social enterprise community in Daegu. We visited social enterprises and met with social entrepreneurs to hear about their purpose, business models and challenges.

Social entrepreneurs in Daegu were very much driven by a personal passion regarding their social purpose, just like in Scotland and indeed all over the world.

Whether it was helping North Korean defectors integrate into South Korean society, helping those with HIV and sexual health, building Korean/Japanese understanding or giving jobs and training to excluded young people, the diversity was impressive.

This included a cinema showing classic films and offering support for older people, Grace Silver Cinema, a social enterprise vegetarian/vegan café called Vege Bakery Café, Elly Rollhouse supporting bullied and excluded young people into employment and much more.

One of the key characteristics of social enterprises in Daegu was this focus on job creation and employability. There was also a recognition that sustainability as a business was essential for social enterprise success.

It was also interesting how any organisation wanting to be known as a ‘social enterprise’ had to be officially recognised by the government. This was a formal application procedure, with the certificate displayed on the wall of each social enterprise we visited.

The visit, funded by our colleagues in Daegu, was a unique opportunity for mutual learning and knowledge exchange. Our aim is to build this relationship to benefit social enterprises in both Korea and Scotland – and help unify social enterprise across national boundaries.

A big thank you to our brilliant hosts and here’s to stronger Scotland-Korea relations!

Duncan Thorp, Social Enterprise Scotland