Social enterprise movement can change the way we do business

Nicola Sturgeon will officially open the Social Enterprise Exchange Marketplace conference. Picture: John Linton/PA Wire
Nicola Sturgeon will officially open the Social Enterprise Exchange Marketplace conference. Picture: John Linton/PA Wire
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Scotland is awash with business conferences, sector events, trade fairs, forums, bodies, workshops and training. But how many of these are simply about continuing with business as usual?

How much business activity just gives us more of what we already have? Is it fulfilling human needs and building sustainable communities? Indeed how many business people are really challenging the tired, old business models of yesterday?

Social enterprise is a movement that is seeking to take on this challenge, a way to do business in a radically different way. Profitable, thriving businesses, locally accountable, responsible and empowering – with 100 per cent of profits to good causes. It’s no small challenge.

On Tuesday 21 March, 2017 the Edinburgh Corn Exchange will be open for business for the new Social Enterprise Exchange Marketplace. This is a trade fair, a networking opportunity and a place to learn – and anyone is welcome to take part. The one-day event is a national marketplace of around 100 social enterprises and supporters, trading their goods and services and with a diverse mix of over 600 delegates. It will be a practical and lively event, designed to take Scotland’s social enterprises forward – and give them the tools to drive our business community in a different direction.

We’re also pleased that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will open the conference. This demonstrates how significant social enterprise has now become to the Scottish economy, the public sector and to policy makers from across the political parties. It’s fast becoming an integral part of Scotland’s communities. The Social Enterprise Exchange will provide an opportunity to share knowledge, challenge old thinking and consider new campaigns around a number of crucial topics - from housing to social care, person centred services, natural capital, sustaining impact, community empowerment, ethical finance, inclusive growth and much more.

Discussions will create space to build on the growing understanding of the way in which social enterprise is viewed by the public and private sectors and also capture the energy of consumer-facing social enterprise.

The event will coincide with an exciting, yet challenging, time for Scotland. New powers for The Scottish Parliament, local government elections on the horizon, the implementation of the ten-year Social Enterprise Strategy for Scotland and, of course, the Brexit challenge of UK withdrawal from the EU.

We’re encouraging anyone with an interest in social enterprise to take part. It’s for those who work in a social enterprise or enterprising charity and want to sell their goods and services. It’s also for anyone working in a public body or private sector business who wants to support or work with social enterprises. It’s also for anyone thinking of starting up a social enterprise or for those just interested in learning more.

This event is different from other trade fairs, conferences and events. Yes it’s a new event and a new experience. But more importantly social enterprise is about a new way of thinking and being and a new way for us to deliver jobs and prosperity – in a more ethical, inclusive and sustainable way. As we make steps towards a better economy, based on what people and planet really need, social enterprise has radical potential to benefit everyone across Scotland.

All information and bookings at: #SocEntEx17

Duncan Thorp, Policy and Communications Officer, Social Enterprise Scotland