SOCIAL ENTERPRISE NEWS
This article appeared in The Scotsman on 10/05/19: www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/social-enterprise-support-exists-if-your-business-is-doing-good-duncan-thorp-1-4923910
Social enterprise support exists if your business is doing good
As every entrepreneur knows, starting up a new business can be very
challenging. It can mean taking risks, working long hours, learning as
you go and dealing with the unexpected. Of course it’s often highly
rewarding and empowering too.
But what happens when you want to start up something different? Some
new and innovative business model? A business tackling an environmental
issue or helping excluded people? Maybe something other business people
and support agencies don’t understand. This is starting up a social
A social enterprise faces exactly the same issues as other businesses
but with the additional rewards and challenges of a social or
environmental mission. It seeks to solve or improve a social issue and
exists for that reason, locking all profit into the business.
We receive a wide variety of enquiries in the Social Enterprise
Scotland office – with start-up support frequently topping the list. We
signpost people to their local Social Enterprise Network (where one
exists) and also to Firstport, the national organisation that helps
people on their start-up journey.
Firstport has spent the last year looking into what’s driving demand
in terms of social entrepreneurship and where support isn’t as good as
it could be. Its new strategy, Increasing Social Impact through
Entrepreneurship, identifies four big trends.
Firstly, interest in social entrepreneurship is on the rise, with
increased demand. Secondly, social entrepreneurs do not come from any
single demographic, geography or sector.
There’s also an increasing appetite for social investment and growth
from enterprises, institutions, and private investors. Finally, by
diving into its data, it found that around 30 per cent of the ideas that
Firstport engaged with over the last two years were unable to progress
as social enterprises due to barriers such as sector or operating
It’s this last point that has resulted in FirstImpact, Firstport’s
new trading subsidiary. It will use Firstport’s knowledge, skills and
experience to fill a gap by supporting ideas driven by social mission
but unable to access meaningful support, because they don’t neatly fit
into a private or social enterprise box. It’s about embedding social
impact into the core business of companies.
Like SIS Ventures from Social Investment Scotland, as well as
targeting potential social enterprises, this also aims to capture new,
emerging business models. These mission-led or values-led businesses
that, while not social enterprises themselves, are part of the wider,
extended ethical business movement. Just like social enterprises, they
want to transform what business is and does in the community.
Certainly there are different origins for new social enterprises, as
well as for these new ethical business models. A social enterprise
start-up could simply come from a brand new business idea, a charity
launching a social enterprise arm or indeed a private sector business
converting to a social enterprise model.
Start-up social enterprises that have joined Social Enterprise
Scotland as members in the last couple of years demonstrate innovation,
diversity and new thinking in business, coming from a wide variety of
Edible Estates is about harnessing green space around social housing
estates and seeing them as a valuable resource. They help communities
transform spaces into beautiful, enjoyable and edible landscapes.
Arkbound Foundation widens access to literature and improves diversity
within the publishing industry while Invisible Cities trains people who
have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own
Funky Science is dedicated to providing quality science education to
children and young people using hands-on activities and demonstrations,
while Clean Water Wave CIC helps establish local social enterprises that
sell clean and safe water to rural communities across the world.
For Scotland to thrive we need to encourage and support many new
social enterprise businesses and work closely with the wider ethical
business movement to build an economy and society for everyone.
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