Spotlight on Public Affairs Co-operative and Speyside Trust

Posted: 01 September 2014, in Member Spotlight

In the spotlight for two weeks (28 July – 10 August) is Neil Cuthbert and Public Affairs Co-operative, Scotland’s first public affairs social enterprise – ethical, open, worker-led and community-minded, helping people reach the right audiences. Get in touch with Neil on 0131 240 1225 or Check out:

What’s your social and/or environmental mission? We wanted to create a different kind of consultancy from the norm, given the poor reputation and lack of confidence in lobbying right now. We run on an ethical, open basis, and unlike other agencies, we publish our fees. We give a portion of our profits to charity; and our aim is to provide an affordable route for other social enterprises, charities and co-ops who would benefit from the kind of services we provide. We’re aiming particularly to support community renewables projects in Scotland – as these can offer both a social and environmental benefit.

How do you do it? We launched in March but it feels like a lot has happened already. We’re already working on a community renewables project, and in partnership with SES, as well as ACOSVO and Co-ops UK, we ran our first free political event – specifically for people from social enterprises, charities and co-ops – on the independence referendum (we held this at Serenity Cafe, another social enterprise!). It was so successful we’re planning on doing several more.

What’s your personal motivation for being a social entrepreneur? I saw a need for something different. I believe public affairs can be a force for good and positive change, and I’ve seen it be that. This was a way to take that to the next level, and make doing good core to the business.

What are your current projects? Among our projects, the major work we’re doing right now is working on a community windfarm and with an organisation promoting sustainable forestry in Scotland.

What exciting things do you have coming up? We’re planning our next run of free political events post-referendum. It’s all at an early stage, so more details on our website and Twitter (@PACooperative) soon.

Who do you want to work with more? We’d love to hear from other social enterprises. Charities are often politically engaged, but many social enterprises could also benefit, particularly on a local basis, to gain support for the great work they’re doing.

What’s your biggest challenge? The same as for many consultancies – organisations are experiencing challenges in funding and security, and might be thinking they can’t think about communications right now, despite the benefits it could bring in tackling those very challenges! It’s why we offer fixed price, short term support packages – we want to provide something accessible, and affordable, for only as long as it’s needed to make a difference.

What top tip would you give to other social enterprises? Get the word out – don’t be afraid to talk yourselves up. You’re doing something incredible.

In the spotlight for two weeks (11-24 August) is Andrew MacKenzie and Speyside Trust (Badaguish Outdoor Centre), an outdoor education and sport social enterprise based in Aviemore. Get in touch with Andrew on 01479 861285 / and check out:
What’s your social and/or environmental mission?
Our aim is to provide the best outdoor activity holiday centre in the world for people of all abilities to enjoy the National Park.

How do you do it? The heart of our centre is a purpose built holiday care unit providing fully staffed, 24 hour care, respite holidays and short breaks for people with a learning or multiple disability. In addition we have a large holiday lodges for self-staffed youth and community groups and schools, a 100 pitch campsite and a wigwam campsite for people who like to keep things simple and a bit more affordable.

What’s your personal motivation for being a social entrepreneur? The thing that makes me most proud to be Scottish – freedom of access to the outdoors. When I became a Countryside Ranger I was shocked to find mostly rich privileged people using the National Park. Since my salary was paid by the taxpayer I decided it was unfair and to do something about it. Sadly I don’t think much has changed because you still need to be a car owner and be able to afford a hotel or B&B. My wife is trained in residential care and therapy for people with a disability – so that’s where the holiday care unit comes in. The fun, excitement and freedom it gives to folk who need it so badly is an inspiration to all of us.

What are your current projects? We’re working on a new wigwam campsite and mountain bike funpark at the moment, which are both great fun. We’re surrounded by a lot of the best bike trails and a wigwam campsite is a good way to keep outdoor holidays affordable for youth groups.

What exciting things do you have coming up? We do some fundraising events like the Aviemore Half Marathon & Corrieyairack Challenge. Now we’re getting really excited to design a new mountain bike event. Maybe as a big opening celebration when the bike park is finished and we’ll get in a display team.

Who do you want to work with more? We’d like to work more with schools – to help the next generation fall in love with the outdoors and organisations who offer support to people with disabilities – so they can choose how to use their use self-directed support funding. Last but not least – corporate sponsors who’d like to sponsor our fundraising events.

What’s your biggest challenge? Staggering levels of inertia and resistance to change at all levels of government bureaucracy.

What top tip would you give to other social enterprises? Easy question – tough answers. Firstly, just never give up. Always ask for help (otherwise how will folk know what you need!).