Duncan Thorp: Working together will make a real difference

Social enterprises seek to change the world for the better, whether that's in social housing, providing jobs for ex-offenders and so on. Picture: Robert Perry
Social enterprises seek to change the world for the better, whether that's in social housing, providing jobs for ex-offenders and so on. Picture: Robert Perry
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BUILDING social enterprise is key to a better future, writes Duncan Thorp

2016 is election year for Scotland and a unique opportunity to make the social enterprise voice heard loud and clear.

Increasing public and media awareness, social enterprise statistics for the first time, a national vision and strategy, a supportive national policy environment and the gradual opening up of public services to social enterprises, mean a perfect storm of opportunity.

Social enterprises seek to change the world for the better. Whether that’s in social housing, providing jobs for ex-offenders, working in ethical finance, running inclusive sports centres or a range of other areas. But we also need realistic expectations and appropriate support. We’re just one part of the solution to building a better, more equal society and a more resilient and sustainable economy.

We believe in partnership and shared values and we can demonstrate to others a better way to do business. We seek to build bridges outwards to our friends in the private sector, particularly to ethical and green businesses, aspiring social enterprises and local SMEs, as well as to our many partners in the public sector.

Scotland has a constructive and positive national policy environment for social enterprise development and we genuinely appreciate the cross-party political support for social enterprises.

As the national membership body for social enterprises, Social Enterprise Scotland exists to promote and raise the profile of Scottish social enterprises and the social enterprise way of doing business. We campaign on behalf of all types of social enterprise, ask them what they need and seek to change national and local government policy as a result.

Influencing the 2016 Scottish Parliament election candidates with our new election manifesto “For the Good of Everyone” is the starting point, as we seek to change and improve the policies of The Scottish Government and Parliament and public bodies over the next few years. As the election candidates and political parties look for new, simple and affordable policy ideas, social enterprise is very much part of the solution.

The manifesto was formed after an open consultation with social enterprises across Scotland. We simply asked them what they wanted and needed in order to thrive. It aims to be a clear and accessible document, for members of the public as much as for politicians.

The manifesto has a number of broad themes, as part of our vision for a growing and resilient social business movement, with a high public profile. “Building mass public awareness” is about promoting social enterprise across Scotland, which is essential to boost the numbers and size of social enterprises and create more ethical high street options for consumers.

“Transforming public services” is about social enterprises offering positive solutions to better, more inclusive, responsive, person-centred public services. We’re not the only solution to public service reform but social enterprises must be at the core of the changes - and are the viable alternative to big, private outsourcing companies that hold shareholder profits as their top priority.

In addition we have a theme of “Driving business support forward”, to ensure that all types of business support, in the public sector and elsewhere, include specific and effective social enterprise knowledge and expertise.

Boosting social investment and funding is also crucial to social enterprise growth. Building social investment and innovative finance models, plus protecting and opening up funding, is a key ask in the manifesto. Being able to access and utilise finance to change Scotland’s communities for the better is vital.

We also believe that the best solutions are made locally. By working together to grow social enterprise we’ll make a real difference.

• Read the full manifesto at: www.socialenterprisescotland.org.uk/policy/184

• Duncan Thorp, Policy and Communications Officer, Social Enterprise Scotland