Alastair Davis: Big Society Capital can build on third-sector success
NEWS of the launch of Big Society Capital should be welcomed with open arms in Scotland. Not only does it raise the profile of the third sector and the role it plays in providing vital community services, but the funding itself will help create growth within those communities.
This capacity can only help towards meeting the Scottish Government’s vision of creating sustainable economic growth through strong and vibrant communities.
The role that Scotland’s third sector plays in the economy should not be underestimated. It contributes more than £4.4 billion a year and employs around 137,000 people in more than 45,000 organisations. And it is precisely these organisations that stand to benefit from Big Society Capital. However, as with any new initiative, the devil is in the detail, and we now need to see how it will operate in practice.
It’s worth noting the aims of the fund are not new. At Social Investment Scotland, we’ve been doing the job of Big Society Capital for ten years. We provide social enterprises and community businesses with funding for projects that simply can’t be provided by traditional lenders. These projects range from wind farms generating income to create sustainable communities to local employment hubs providing jobs for the socially excluded.
However, regardless of the differences between the projects and customers we invest in, they have two things common. All are able to demonstrate a significant impact on their communities and all are focused on repaying their investments through sustainable business models. This latter point is commonly misunderstood, and yet it is crucial for the continued success and growth of the third sector. Social investment is not just about funding worthy causes, it’s about lending to organisations that are founded upon sound business principles but entirely focused on benefiting their surrounding communities.
Once society fully appreciates the role social enterprise can play in building a better Scotland, we can expect to see more investment in this sector, to create more capacity within our communities.
• Alastair Davis is chief executive of Social Investment Scotland.
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