Scotland has a long history of pioneering new ways of tackling the world’s most pressing social issues in creative ways. It is a leader in the development of co-operative and social enterprise models with chains such as Social Bite making a name for themselves globally.
As part of the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design (YIAD), Firstport launched the Social Innovation Competition – funded by the Scottish Government – in a bid to uncover some of the most exciting early-stage business ideas that address social and environmental issues.
Innovative doesn’t have to mean complex.Karen McGregor, Firstport
“We know that when you go out and run campaigns like this, you tap into potential from people who are carrying round ideas in their heads but haven’t seen them through,” said Firstport chief executive Karen McGregor.
“It was about trying to excite people around a particular theme or issue and stimulating them into action.”
The competition attracted applications from across Scotland, which were narrowed down to just seven finalists, all with their eye on the prize – funding of £5,000 plus tailored aftercare support from Firstport.
“We were looking for people to think about some of the social issues that they see in their communities and come to us with an idea that they think is innovative,” said McGregor.
“Innovative doesn’t have to mean complex; it can just be a different way of thinking about the problem.”
The three winners were announced during an award ceremony at the Scottish Parliament on 10 November.
Anthony Thomas from Edinburgh was recognised for his idea T Gold Handmade Footwear, which will manufacture shoes from recycled leather taken from used chairs and clothes.
His innovation combines environmental and societal benefits, reducing waste and addressing unemployment in his local area by creating apprenticeships for young and disabled individuals.
Laura Petruskeviciute from Glasgow was named “young social innovator” for her project Studio Pop.
Along with two colleagues, she is planning an innovative platform to activate empty sites and buildings while connecting people, skills and needs through an online donation platform and life exchange projects.
Pianos on Prescription was the winning idea from Thomas Binns. The Glasgow-based innovator aims to help people experiencing difficulties including isolation, loneliness and depression through free, informal piano tuition.
Also shortlisted were Radical Renewable Art + Activism Fund (RRAAF) from Ellie Harrison, an innovative product to help people living with Type 1 diabetes administer more accurate insulin doses, plans for a 21st century Glasgow Fair to benefit the community in Girvan and an online department store selling goods from suppliers in small and rural Scottish towns.
Angela Constance, Cabinet secretary for communities, social security and equalities, who presented the awards said: “In this Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, I am proud of what all social enterprises have achieved in our joint task of reducing inequalities and demonstrating what inclusive growth looks like on the ground.
“I would like to add my congratulations to the well-deserved winners of the Social Enterprise Awards and Social Innovation Competition who showcase the very best of social enterprise in Scotland.”
This article was produced in partnership with the Scottish Government.