Realities of poverty, unemployment and regeneration now have added urgency - Duncan Thorp

If you’d visited a fortune teller last March you’d have walked away with a smile, amused at their absurd predictions. Today, of course, that same fortune teller would be a global celebrity.

Duncan Thorp, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Social Enterprise Scotland

The past 12 months have been a strange rollercoaster ride for many social enterprises, with some good outcomes, some bad and some organisations broadly unaffected.

At the beginning of lockdown and then at the beginning of 2021 Social Enterprise Scotland called and emailed every one of our social enterprise members.

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The purpose was to find out their current circumstances, both financial and in terms of their wellbeing, to highlight available funding and to offer any additional support.

In January this year it was a mixed picture. 58 per cent had been negatively impacted and two thirds had applied for financial support. There were also issues accessing funding for some, including start ups, those without premises and those with reserves.

As well as the financial impacts we also need to start understanding the negative mental health impacts of lockdown on our social entrepreneurs, ensuring they get the right support in every respect.

The Social Enterprise Census, that takes place every two years, is due to be completed again this year. In 2019 we had a total of 6,025 social enterprises in Scotland, with over 88,000 full time equivalent jobs and a £2.3 billion economic contribution to Scotland’s economy.

This time we’ll certainly be paying particular attention to the Census to see what has taken place over the past year, which organisations have suffered the most and how we can adapt business support going forward.

We also now have publication of the latest Social Enterprise Action Plan, part of the 10 year strategy for social enterprise. It pledges strong support and practical actions for Scotland’s social enterprise community:

“Scotland’s renewal must be rooted in fairness and equality. Social enterprises will be central to this work, because they point to an approach that helps us rebalance our economy and enables us to translate our aspirations around creating a wellbeing economy into a reality.”

There are significant commitments to equality in social enterprise, a priority of building “place”, an emphasis on the Buy Social approach and public service reform, as well as influencing and connecting with private sector businesses to build more ethical workplaces.

The realities of poverty, unemployment and regeneration now have an added urgency. Unlike the 2008 financial crash we really need to learn the lessons from the past year, change how we run the system and build a genuine wellbeing economy.

We need to harness the innovation, energy and new ways of working of the past 12

months. The key challenge is how we make the phrase “build back better” a reality in every community.

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