Social enterprise moves from the Third Sector Division to the Wellbeing Economy

Posted: 29 August 2023, in News-Sector News

Below is a letter from our CEO to Social Enterprise Scotland members about the responsibility for social enterprise support moving from the Third Sector Division to the Wellbeing Economy.

Dear friends,

I write to you with an update following the recent changes in Cabinet and Ministerial portfolios.  Scottish Government’s support for social enterprise has, on Monday of this week, moved from the Third Sector Unit to the Wellbeing Economy Division and will sit under Neil Gray MSP as Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy. 

Social Enterprise Scotland welcomes this move, and we are optimistic about the opportunities this will bring for our members to influence, shape, and inform a different economic model that is not predicated on GDP but rather wellbeing in Scotland.

Social Enterprise Scotland can align with the Scottish Government’s ambition to deliver a Wellbeing Economy for its citizens.  An economy that serves people and the planet and promotes the delivery of sustainable, fair, and equal economic development opportunities across a range of interest areas in the public, private, and third sectors, including both local as well as national government.  

There is a commitment from the Scottish Government to deliver a Wellbeing Economy and, we believe, social enterprise can and should have a central role, in the development of the kind of economy we wish to see in Scotland.  Social enterprise in Scotland makes a significant impact on people, place, and the planet and can be an exemplar of how Scottish businesses can be both financially sustainable and socially and environmentally impactful.

Transferring social enterprise support and development into the Wellbeing Economy is a bold statement by the Scottish Government and demonstrates confidence in the resilience of the social enterprise business model.  Social enterprise as a movement can play a key role in contributing to the delivery of this vision, notably in the context of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation. 

The new economic approach of Community Wealth Building and imminent legislation will require new thinking and social enterprise needs to be at the heart of that, both influencing the agenda while building the capacity of the sector to take up those opportunities when they emerge.  At present, we recognise that while the sector has matured considerably over the last decade, parts of our movement remain fragile.  Ongoing, high-quality support will be required over the coming years to ensure that social enterprise can maximise its contribution across local communities the length and breadth of Scotland.  In doing so, this ‘specialist and tailored’ support will need to understand the dual driving forces of maximising social impact with the ongoing challenge of sustainability and, at the same time, appreciate the nuances of social enterprise in both rural and urban contexts.  There are additional differences in approach required for social enterprises looking to scale and those working at a grass roots level, while acknowledging that those in areas of deprivation may require a more targeted support method.  We are very conscious that as members and stakeholders, you will have questions of your own relating to this move and its implications for our sector.

Social Enterprise Scotland has been liaising and working with Scottish Government over the last couple of months regarding this potential move (while noting it was an internal Scottish Government decision).  We, along with other members of the Social Enterprise Action Plan group met, last week, with the new Cabinet Secretary to remind him of the huge contribution social enterprise makes to a Wellbeing Economy.  We were able to confirm that there will be a continued commitment to the third Social Enterprise Action Plan and we are working actively to consult with members on what that should look like.

We are keen that officials and Ministers in the Wellbeing Economy Division are clear about the nature and scale of the social enterprise sector, and, to that end, we will reach out in the coming weeks as we gather case studies and plan site visits so the Minister and colleagues so they can, first hand, see the impact of our sector.  We have worked to secure commitments from the Scottish Government to continue working closely with the Third Sector Unit as the broader third sector is vital, and bridges will be retained and strengthened with this move.  We know that a number of social enterprises will continue to see themselves as third sector organisations in addition to being economic actors and there was a commitment from the Cabinet Secretary to ensure that Scotland retains the world-leading social enterprise infrastructure that it currently enjoys.

We would like to gather your views to help inform our ongoing dialogue with Scottish Government officials and Ministers and to ensure that the voice of frontline social enterprises is heard.  We are hosting a Social Enterprise Scotland member’s session on Tuesday 12th September to update on the move and answer any questions you have for what it means for social enterprises operating in Scotland. 

I look forward to seeing many of you soon. 

Chris Martin,

Chief Executive Officer

Social Enterprise Scotland

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