Duncan Thorp: Enterprising forum where Scotland leads the way

Hey Girls founder Celia Hodson in the social enterprise's warehouse
Hey Girls founder Celia Hodson in the social enterprise's warehouse
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Scotland’s ecosystem of support for social enterprise is recognised worldwide. Impressive ventures like the Homeless World Cup are well known and there are many others. Grassmarket Community Project sells tartan textiles to California and Shanghai, Hey Girls is exporting their products to tackle period poverty and Ginerosity sells social enterprise gin overseas.

Rural social enterprises like Knockando Wool Mill are making waves too, developing e-commerce platforms to further increase sales to international customers. Shetland Soap Company has taken forward the innovation of new products and tourism, seeing sales rise throughout the UK and Europe.

Duncan Thorp, Policy and Communications Manager, Social Enterprise Scotland

Duncan Thorp, Policy and Communications Manager, Social Enterprise Scotland

“Internationalising Social Enterprise: A Strategy for Scotland” was published at the end of 2016 as Scotland’s first ever global blueprint. The strategy exists to raise the profile of social enterprises, promoting Scotland as a world leader in social enterprise expertise, research and innovation. It’s about helping social enterprises unlock markets, boost sales and enabling them to access global funding opportunities and business support, as well as support international development.

One of the key things that has cemented Scotland’s reputation is the Social Enterprise World Forum.

This impressive global summit originated in Scotland and returns to Edinburgh on 12-14 September for its tenth anniversary.

The purpose of the World Forum is for social enterprise leaders, practitioners and supporters from all over the world to come together to share knowledge, build networks and discuss practical ways to build a more sustainable economy.

It also attracts business support agencies, policy makers, community leaders, investors, activists and academics from across the globe.

The event has gained recognition as a springboard for progress and establishing global relations. Previous locations include San Francisco, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong and Christchurch. After a decade of exponential growth in social enterprise the Edinburgh Forum will look at progress so far and establish a vision for the future.

Gerry Higgins, CEO of social enterprise development agency CEIS and member of the SEWF Board, said: “We have an incredible week of activities lined up with some of the most inspirational social enterprises in the world.

The Forum is much more than a conference, it’s a gathering of people who are passionate about social change.

We’re looking forward to inviting the world back to Scotland, where the last decade has seen social enterprise become a key part of the national strategy for inclusive growth. One of the key aims of this forum is to get the general public involved in social enterprise.”

The rapidly expanding overseas hubs of the Social Enterprise Academy are bringing Scottish innovation to the global marketplace too. Their learning and development programmes have now reached people in over 30 countries, by developing hubs with local partners in 10 locations around the world.

It’s fair to say that Scotland is leading the world in social enterprise development in many ways but we have to keep up the momentum. Increasing international trade and influence and exporting social enterprise best practice should remain a top priority. This is how we’ll help build a better, inclusive economy for people in both Scotland and across the world.

For more information about the Social Enterprise World Forum go to www.sewf2018.org

Duncan Thorp, policy and communications manager, Social Enterprise Scotland.