Business support to third sector organisations contract review: research summary

Summary findings of the review of the business support to third sector organisations contract, the service known as ‘Just Enterprise’.

1 Introduction

1.1 This report presents the findings of the review of the Business Support to Third Sector Organisations contract, the service known as ‘Just Enterprise’. The primary research was carried out over the period July 2017 to November 2017 [1] . The review covers the contract period from 2011 and is the first review since Just Enterprise’s inception.

Aims of the Review

1.2 The aims of the review were “to assess how effective the various specialised business support services delivered by the contract have been, and how these services ‘sit’ within the business support landscape in Scotland”. The review sought to answer the following questions:

  • How effectively has Just Enterprise delivered specialised Business Support, Start-up Support and Leadership Support services to progress achieving the contract objectives?
  • Have the objectives identified for the contract been delivered, and how effectively, or are there objectives which have not been delivered (and if not why not) during the contract period?
  • Have there been any unintended consequences arising from the work of Just Enterprise?
  • What key lessons can be learned from the experience of Just Enterprise, for example: around growth, resilience, sustainability, leadership, equalities; and in relation to issues such as the diversity of the sector, geography, levels of demand; and the consortium method of delivery, and referrals into and out of Just Enterprise?
  • How does the specialised business support developed and provided by Just Enterprise co-exist with support provided by other organisations (mainstream business and Third Sector) in Scotland [2] ?
  • What are the advantages / disadvantages of a national contract to provide specialised business support in Scotland compared to separate contracts, for example, contextualised to geographic localities or themes [3] ?
  • What would have happened if specialised support was not developed and provided by Just Enterprise through the ‘Business Support for Third Sector Organisations’ contract?
  • Are there any gaps in provision of business support for Third Sector organisations in Scotland (with consideration around what more needs to be done)?

1.3 It is expected that the findings of this review will shape future direction, investment and inform the (re)design of specialised business support for Third Sector organisations in Scotland for Start-up, Growth and Recovery; complementary to mainstream provision.

Overview of Just Enterprise

1.4 The Business Support to Third Sector Organisations contract known as Just Enterprise is a Scottish Government funded business support programme for enterprising Third Sector organisations and social enterprises. Just Enterprise services are organised around the following groupings: a Start-up service covering one-to-one support and Start-up workshops; a Business Development service, again comprising one-to-one and workshop support; and Leadership programmes.

1.5 The service commenced in June 2011 upon the initiation of a two-year contract. [4] This contract has since been extended on a number of occasions. The latest extension having taken place in May 2017 when the option to implement a fourth year of the second contract was implemented. [5]

1.6 Just Enterprise is delivered by a consortium of organisations with expertise in business support for the Third Sector and social enterprises. The consortium partners are: Community Enterprise in Scotland ( CEiS), Highlands and Islands Social Enterprise Zones ( HISEZ), Firstport and the Social Enterprise Academy ( SEA), with the consortium delivery partners: Forth Sector Development, Community Enterprise Ltd, Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations ( CEMVO) Scotland, Lanarkshire Enterprise Services, Ready for Business and InspirAlba. [6]

1.7 Over the past six years, Just Enterprise has provided 6,697 instances of support to some 4,927 organisations and 9,922 instances of support to individuals. Recipients came from a range of different sectors and across all 32 Scottish local authority areas.

Context for the Review

1.8 The review of the Business Support to Third Sector Organisations contract comes at an important time. The Social Enterprise Strategy for Scotland 2016-2026 [7] has been prepared, a ten-year Strategy to stimulate social enterprise, develop stronger organisations and to realise the considerable market potential that exists in the sector.

1.9 Out of the Social Enterprise Strategy came the Building a Sustainable Social Enterprise Sector in Scotland Action Plan 2017-2020 [8] which sets out the first steps that will be taken to put the strategy into practice with future action plans to be published in 2020 and 2023.

1.10 The results of the second Social Enterprise Census for Scotland [9] were also made available during the course of this commission. There are now 5,600 social enterprises ( SEs) operating in Scotland, representing an 8% growth over the period from 2015 to 2017. In total SEs in Scotland have an annual income of £3.8 billion, representing a 5% growth from 2015 to 2017. Of this income, £2.7 billion was trading income, and there has been a 22% growth in trading income since 2015.

1.11 The social enterprise movement has grown strongly over the past decade and, reflecting this, the sector remains fairly youthful with over one-third of Scottish social enterprises being established within the last 10 years.

1.12 This means that our review is not happening in a vacuum, and builds the evidence base further, in order to help make informed decisions on the best way to support the sector going forward.

1.13 The review also comes at a time when the Enterprise and Skills Review [10] Phase 1 and 2 reports have been produced. This too is important context: The Review recommends (and is designed to facilitate) far stronger agency working and collaboration in the arena of Enterprise and Skills. The extent to which business support to Third Sector organisations could and should be integrated with mainstream business support provision is part of this review brief.


1.14 The review has involved a mix of survey, consultation, and desk-based research. Appendix A sets out the detailed research methods. In summary the work comprised:

  • An online survey of service beneficiaries, gathering 231 views;
  • A telephone survey of service beneficiaries, obtaining 200 views;
  • Qualitative consultations with a further 25 service beneficiaries;
  • An online discussion forum involving 14 service beneficiaries;
  • A short telephone survey with 50 social enterprises and enterprising Third Sector organisations that did not take-up the service offer;
  • Consultations with 17 stakeholders with a range of different experiences of Just Enterprise;
  • Consultations with the 20 Just Enterprise delivery partners, including advisors and delivery staff;
  • Desk-based research, including a literature review, contract and management information analysis, and survey and consultation analysis.

1.15 The beneficiary feedback has been anonymised. Individuals (also anonymised) from delivery partner and stakeholder organisations that participated in the research are at Appendix B.

Structure of the Report

1.16 The report is structured in the following way:

  • Chapter 2 reviews the contract and management information, including an assessment of reported performance;
  • Chapter 3 presents the service beneficiary feedback and economic impacts, based on experiences and benefits of those that participated in the review;
  • Chapter 4 reviews the Just Enterprise service and offer, its alignment with mainstream business support, and operational issues such as contract management;
  • Chapter 5 looks at the Just Enterprise offer in light of the new and emerging policy context and new sector intelligence, notably the Social Enterprise Census, with a view to looking forward;
  • Chapter 6 presents the Conclusions of the review, along with considerations for the Scottish Government and stakeholders going forward.


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