Publication - Strategy/plan

Building a sustainable social enterprise sector in Scotland: 2017-2020

Published: 12 Apr 2017

Action plan setting out the first steps in Scottish Government's social enterprise strategy, in particular pertaining to inclusive growth.

Building a sustainable social enterprise sector in Scotland: 2017-2020
Priority 1: Stimulating Social Enterprise

Priority 1: Stimulating Social Enterprise

"We will enable thousands more people to find out about, and start, social enterprises in the places they live, work or study"

1A. National and International Recognition

Over the last decade, the social enterprise movement has taken shape and achieved a growing significance across the world. Our ambition is now to move social enterprise from the margins to the mainstream of civic society, public life and business. To do so, we must step-up the level of recognition afforded to the social enterprise sector nationally and build links with others working towards the same goals internationally.

Key Actions

Year 1


Year 2


Year 3


1A.1. Shaping a global movement

We will frame, lead and accelerate global developments in the social enterprise movement. This will include hosting the 2018 Social Enterprise World Forum ( SEWF) in Edinburgh and continuing to embed social enterprise in our country engagement strategies and international development programme.

1A.2. Strengthening European co-operation

We will maintain the strongest possible relationship with European partners, for example, through continuing our support for Scottish social enterprise partner participation in EU transnational programmes ( e.g. Interreg, Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020).

1A.3. Showcasing the best of Scotland


We will promote Scotland's position as one of the best places in the world to start and grow a social enterprise. Initially, we will explore the potential for both a National Year of Social Enterprise and Annual Social Enterprise Week celebrations.

1A.4. Shaping the national debate

We will support a small number of high-profile annual conferences with national reach and significance, collectively shaping social enterprise policy, practice and market development.

1A.5. Ensuring a strong national voice

We will support Social Enterprise Scotland, Social Firms Scotland and Senscot to deliver a co-ordinated three-year programme of national representation and support. During this timeframe, we will carry out a review to ensure that this national 'infrastructure' remains fit-for-purpose and responsive to the needs of social enterprises.

1A.6. Developing an enterprising third sector

We will continue to work with SCVO, the Scottish Community Alliance and others to promote social enterprise activity and financial self-reliance within the wider community and voluntary sector, and support the sector to explore the changes in culture, knowledge and skills required to move to a more enterprising model.

1A.7. Championing social enterprise across government

We will realise opportunities across Government to deliver positive outcomes through social enterprise. This will require continuing work to raise awareness and create space for dialogue around key policy areas.

1A.8. Increasing recognition within the business community

We will raise the profile of social enterprise within Scotland's business community, consulting and working closely with each of the main business bodies in Scotland to drive awareness and change.

1B. Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Social entrepreneurs are making a difference, in ways big and small, in local communities and across Scotland. Individually and collectively, these can-do people are seizing the initiative, setting up charities and social enterprises, and introducing new ways of tackling social issues. Our ambition is to encourage and support more people to create, lead and grow social enterprises. This will help to deliver on the aspirations of Scotland CAN DO, our vision of a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation.

Key Actions

Year 1


Year 2


Year 3


1B.1. Sowing the seeds of social entrepreneurship

We will work with Firstport to significantly increase the number of social entrepreneurs that receive seed funding and associated support. This will help reach more people from diverse backgrounds and communities right across Scotland.

1B.2. Developing social entrepreneurs as individuals

We will invest in the 'Developing Social Entrepreneurs' programme, with European Social Fund support. This will support intensive learning and personal development among social entrepreneurs, enabling them to realise their ambitions, grow and develop as leaders.

1B.3. Laying down the social innovation challenge

We will develop a co-ordinated programme of mission-orientated challenges and inducement prizes, including the national Social Innovation Competition and the Good Ideas Academy. These will unleash passion and uncover pioneering solutions to entrenched social issues.

1B.4. Investing in research and development

We will continue with our national Social Innovation Fund, enabling enterprises to collaborate with research institutions and others to develop, test and scale new solutions to poverty and disadvantage.

1B.5. Increasing social enterprise and 'mission-led' activity

We will help budding social entrepreneurs to understand social enterprise and newer forms of 'mission-led' business, through active promotion, knowledge sharing and the encouragement of new activity.

1B.6. Enabling 'co-working' hubs and spaces to flourish

We will support new co-working spaces for social entrepreneurs (including Scotland's first Impact Hub in Inverness) and we will continue to invest in the development of existing ones (including the international replication of the Melting Pot, Edinburgh).

1B.7. Unlocking the potential for intrapreneurship

We will invest in intrapreneurship as a way to unlock entrepreneurial skills, behaviours and mindset in a range of organisations across the public, private and third sectors.

1B.8. Removing the remaining barriers to social entrepreneurship

We will support research into the barriers facing social entrepreneurs and identify the additional actions required to mobilise social entrepreneurship across Scotland.

1C. Social Enterprise in Education

We believe that by helping children and young people understand and experience social enterprises as creative and impactful businesses, they will aspire to effect positive change and play their part in improving society. This in turn will fuel the growth of the social enterprise movement. Our ambition, therefore, is to ensure values-based social enterprise learning in every educational setting to initiate this change.

Key Actions

Year 1


Year 2


Year 3


1C.1. Providing social enterprise learning in schools

We will work towards the delivery of social enterprise activity in every school through our Scotland's Enterprising Schools programme, helping to create the next generation of social entrepreneurs. This will be achieved, in part, through a phased expansion of the Social Enterprise Academy's Social Enterprise in Education programme.

1C.2. Introducing entrepreneurial learning to educational settings

We will support work that enables a wider appreciation among teacher bodies, education practitioners and colleges about the potential of social enterprise and its value to the learning experience.

1C.3. Harnessing the potential of informal education

We will work with Education Scotland and others to examine the potential for social enterprise to play an increased role in community development, youth work, family learning and adult education.

1C.4. Building careers in social enterprise

We will explore with the relevant bodies how work placement and internship opportunities can promote employment in the social enterprise sector as an exciting career of choice for our young people.

1C.5. Providing inspiration on campus

We will develop the potential of Scotland's universities to stimulate social entrepreneurship through teaching, knowledge transfer and business incubation. We will work with Universities Scotland, Scottish Institute for Enterprise, Enactus and others to realise this potential.

1C.6. Delivering world-leading research

We will establish a social enterprise academic forum, independently chaired and led by the university sector. This will build upon Scotland's world-leading reputation for research in this field and enhance postgraduate scholarship opportunities.

1C.7. Ensuring professional recognition

We will extend the range of ways that education practitioners can be recognised for the enterprise and entrepreneurial skills they are developing through Social Enterprise Education. This might include recognition through awards and alignment to recognised qualifications.

1D. Local Development

Most social enterprises start out as a response to a situation that local citizens and their communities face. They are strongly rooted in Scotland's villages, towns and neighbourhoods, and increasingly among groups that come together based on shared identity and needs. Our ambition is to create the conditions where community enterprise can flourish in places across Scotland.

Key Actions

Year 1


Year 2


Year 3


1D.1. Strengthening local social enterprise networks

We will invest in local social enterprise networks to support social enterprises within communities. In addition, social enterprise will be part of considerations on the development of wider arrangements for broader third sector infrastructure.

1D.2. Planning local action

We will encourage the development of new local social enterprise plans that help to drive growth of the sector in every part of Scotland. We will use a national event and Community of Practice to exploit best practice and encourage progress across the country.

1D.3. Sustaining community assets

We will back the Development Trusts Association Scotland and others to ensure that local communities have the help they need to acquire land, buildings and other assets, and to develop the viable business activity that will sustain these.

1D.4. Uncovering local potential

We will support collaborative place-based initiatives to stimulate social entrepreneurship, building upon the early promise of initiatives such as Vital Spark (Dunoon, Rothsay and Campbeltown) and What If (Girvan), and the work of the CAN DO Places programme. This approach will help to empower communities through social enterprise and ultimately build a fairer and more inclusive Scotland.

1D.5. Supporting early stage community enterprises

We will introduce additional, early stage capacity building support to develop collaboration and trading capacity among new, democratically-controlled social enterprises with a place-based focus. This will complement our Strengthening Communities Programme, Aspiring Communities Fund and Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.

1D.6. Promoting activity across equality groups and communities of interest

We will work with equality organisations ( e.g. disabled persons' organisations and ethnic minority organisations) to stimulate and support nascent social enterprise activity among equality groups and communities of interest. As part of this, we will continue to support the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations ( CEMVO) to deliver its Social Enterprise Capacity Building Programme.

1D.7. Enhancing the contribution in rural areas

We will establish a 'rural collaborative' to examine the contribution that social enterprise plays in these communities, and develop learning and practice across rural areas. This will recognise the unique needs of island communities and build on the already strong development of social enterprise in the Highlands and Islands.

1D.8. Extending the reach of social enterprise

We will work with communities and anti-poverty groups to explore ways that social enterprises can play a bigger role in tackling inequality in areas of deprivation. This will support our Fairer Scotland agenda.


Email: Will Tyler-Greig

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road