Scotland's Social Enterprise Strategy 2016-2026

A ten-year, national social enterprise strategy, which sets out our shared ambitions for social enterprise in Scotland, jointly developed with the sector.

Our Framework And Priorities

We will deliver on our shared vision for social enterprise through long-term and concerted effort around three strategic priorities.

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.

To do this we will progress the following workstreams:

1A. Local Development

1B. Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation

1C. Social Enterprise in Education

1D. National Recognition

1A. Local Development


The Scottish Government recognises that most social enterprises start out as a response by active citizens to a perceived local need. They are strongly rooted in their community and develop through trading activity carried out in their local village, town or neighbourhood.

Over previous decades, Scottish Government policy initiatives and funding programmes have created opportunities for communities to take on and run services in an enterprising and sustainable way. In fields such as early learning and childcare, social care, transport, land, housing, and many more. During the timeframe of this ten-year strategy many new opportunities will arise.

However, in some places and among some groups of people, community and co-operative enterprise has failed to take hold. Not all communities are equal in terms of the professional skills, networks, people or resources available to them. Likewise, not all communities are equal in the encouragement and support they receive. We must therefore ensure that people get the help they need to get social enterprise activity off the ground, regardless of location or other differences. Where possible and appropriate, we must also ensure that support programmes are locally delivered and locally responsive.

Future Directions

Our ambition is to create the conditions where community and co-operative enterprise can flourish more widely across Scotland.

Community Development

We will work with others, including the community learning and development sector, to ensure that our communities, particularly those experiencing deprivation, receive the continuous community development support needed to define their objectives, initiate community activity, develop their skills and run local assets and services in an enterprising way.

Local Strategies

We will work with Local Government and third sector partners to encourage coherent and localised strategies for developing the social enterprise sector in every part of Scotland, linked to local Community Planning arrangements.

Support Infrastructure

We will work to ensure a consistent and high quality system of social enterprise representation and support in each local authority area. This local support infrastructure must remain responsive over the long-term, building on established third sector and business support arrangements.

Equality Groups

We will work to ensure that social enterprise plays its full part in tackling inequality and discrimination based on gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, race, religion or belief. Where necessary we will put in place additional awareness-raising and specialist, early stage capacity building support where potential exists to realise latent potential. Our approach will embrace Scotland's cultural diversity and contribution to our community language priorities, such as the promotion of Gaelic.

1B. Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation


Social entrepreneurs are making a difference, in big ways 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. In turn, they are offering inspiration and impetus that can bring about wider changes in our public services and society.

The Scottish Government has already offered considerable support to social entrepreneurs. Our Social Entrepreneurs Fund has helped to unlock the potential of successive waves of social entrepreneurs. Mainstream and specialist business support arrangements continue to support socially-motivated entrepreneurs to get started. More and more entrepreneurial people are finding social enterprise a good fit, a way of earning a living, running their own business, while doing their bit to tackle inequality and work towards a fairer society.

Despite progress, the potential to pursue social entrepreneurship is not yet widely understood across Scotland. Social entrepreneurs - when they emerge - can feel isolated, unrecognised and unsupported. They also often find unnecessary obstacles in their way when trying to get promising ideas off the ground. We must ensure that these can-do people get the encouragement and support they need.

Future Directions

Our ambition is to encourage and support more people from all walks of life with the potential to create, lead and grow social enterprises.

Getting Started

We will work with others to make it easier for social entrepreneurs who need help to find it. This will require targeted area-based programmes to stimulate individual and collective social entrepreneurship, a growing network of local champions and mentors, and effective start-up support. Anyone looking to start a business or charity should be enabled to consider social enterprise and understand its potential.

Seed Capital

We will help ensure that budding social entrepreneurs have access to the seedcorn capital they need to test, refine, replicate or grow ideas into viable social enterprises. This will be part of our wider approach to developing the social finance market in Scotland.

Spaces for Innovation

We will work with partners to encourage the development of co-working spaces where social entrepreneurs can collaborate with others and where social innovation can flourish. This should be part of a more coherent approach to encouraging local civic innovation.


We will work with partners to unlock the entrepreneurial talent in various institutional settings, including public authorities, universities and large charities. This will help develop enterprising services that are locally rooted and sustainable.

1C. Social Enterprise in Education


As children grow they begin to understand their part in society and the collective responsibility they share towards it. By helping children and young people to understand and experience social enterprises as creative and impactful businesses, we believe they will aspire to effect positive change and play their part in improving society.

During recent years, we have worked with others to begin realising opportunities presented by Curriculum for Excellence, the Career Education Standard (3-18), and our Developing the Young Workforce strategy. Alongside and within our Enterprising Schools programme in particular, great progress has been made in introducing social enterprise learning. This has helped to unlock the innate desire of young people to take action on pressing social issues and, in social enterprise, given them a powerful tool to achieve this.

Despite much progress, social enterprise education is still not fully understood or embraced in educational settings. We must therefore redouble efforts to introduce and normalise learning about social enterprise and ensure the widest possible role for it in formal and informal education.

Future Directions

Our ambition is to ensure values-based social enterprise learning in every educational setting.

Early Learning and Childcare

We will help create opportunities for children to experience social enterprise from the earliest age in pre-school settings, and for social enterprises to play a growing role in the expansion of Scotland's early learning and childcare provision.


We will work with education partners to extend social enterprise education into every school, supporting young people and teachers to set up, grow and sustain hands-on social enterprise learning. This will be supported by advances in career education, work placements, and school-employer partnerships.


We will encourage colleges to think more creatively about social enterprise, finding ways to tap into the large and growing pool of young socially entrepreneurial talent in further education and support young people's transition to work.


We will work with partners to encourage supportive environments where social entrepreneurship can flourish beyond business schools and across all parts of universities. We will build on Scotland's reputation for research excellence in the social enterprise field. With the active engagement of administrators, academics and student associations this might also include more teaching, campaigns, funding competitions and incubators to encourage social enterprise activity.

Informal Education

We will work with others to cultivate a growing role for social enterprise in youth work, family and adult learning in Scotland. We will explore ways to engage young people in informal educational activities linked to social enterprise, helping them to learn about themselves, others and society. Likewise, through adult learning we will explore ways to help individuals acquire the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to engage in social entrepreneurship and contribute to society.

1D. National Recognition


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

For some years now, the Scottish Government has supported the work of a number of bodies that represent the interests of the social enterprise community. With and through these bodies we have helped to grow recognition, win influence, and build a coherent infrastructure of support.

However, there is much more to do if we are to build mass, collective understanding of social enterprise locally and to help realise its full potential. We want more decision-makers, influencers and supporters (in Scotland and internationally) to understand social enterprise, giving rise to further local action and more social enterprise activity.

Future Directions

Our ambition is to grow national recognition and support for social enterprise.

A National Movement

We will continue to invest in Scotland's national infrastructure of representation and support for social enterprises, to raise public awareness of social enterprise and enable more community and voluntary organisations to understand social enterprise and embrace its potential.

A Community of Business

We will encourage work that embeds social enterprise more firmly within Scotland's business community. We want to see: more widespread social enterprise representation and leadership in national and local business networks; more partnerships between private businesses and social enterprises; and wider consideration of social and co-operative business models as part of business restructuring and succession strategies.

An Enabling Government

Through pan-organisational action and co-ordination with our statutory partners, we will raise awareness of social enterprise and work to realise opportunities as part of policy formulation, through active consideration of alternative service delivery models, and in the design of public sector programmes, services, partnerships and funds.

International Engagement

We will step-up overseas policy, culture and trade-oriented engagement in the social enterprise field. This will help to frame, lead and accelerate global developments in the social enterprise movement, deliver on Scotland's distinctive contribution as a good global citizen, while gaining national and international recognition for our endeavours.

Priority 2: Developing Stronger Organisations

We will ensure that all social enterprises have the resources, knowledge and networks they need to achieve their potential.

To do this we will progress the following workstreams:

2A. Social Finance

2B. Business Support

2C. Collaboration

2D. Leadership Development

2E. Workforce Development

2F. Demonstrating Social Value

2A. Social Finance


Over the past decade many social enterprises have adapted to a changed environment through testing new service models and attempting to scale up to meet new needs and contract opportunities. This has required different ways of funding organisations, including the use of various forms of repayable finance i.e. 'social investment'. Such finance is increasingly important to enable social enterprises to make needed capital investments, develop revenue streams, build capacity, and manage cash flow effectively.

The Scottish Government has played its part in making the shift from reliance on grant funding to a more sustainable funding mix. This includes our support for the pioneering Scottish Investment Fund and the introduction of a series of funds to stimulate social entrepreneurship and the social enterprise market more generally. Our work, and that of others, has supported the development of a strong supply of social finance for Scotland.

However, there are still challenges to overcome as the social finance market develops. Social enterprise leaders remain cautious about taking on commercial loans with a view to operating in sometimes uncertain and challenging private and public markets. Also, the current supply of repayable finance does not yet adequately meet the needs of the many social enterprises that remain small and have relatively modest ambitions for growth - issues remain in terms of the availability of small amounts of loan funding, the affordability of the money available, and the ability to repay within a suitable timeframe and on conventional terms.

Future Directions

Our ambition is for the social enterprise sector to achieve its optimal scale and impact over the next decade through access to appropriate finance.


We will work with social investors and business support agencies to ensure that social enterprises have the advice, skillset, and confidence required to make the most of the finance available. There must be a greater awareness and appetite for risk on all parts together with concerted efforts to reduce uncertainty and fear.

Intelligent Grant-making

We will work with other grant-makers to ensure that adequate funding is available for social enterprises to test new ideas, support trial trading, and develop the track record and confidence to access follow-on loan finance.

Responsive Finance

We will work with social lenders to encourage responsive forms of finance, including small-scale lending and blended capital (mixing grants and loans), equity-like investments (revenue participation), patient recoverable capital (over longer timeframes), and repayable grants. We will encourage grant-makers and lenders to come together in more creative ways, packaging funds and finding ways to bring down the cost of servicing debt to deliver measurable social impact.

Unlocking Capital

We will work with partners to help unlock appropriate forms of social enterprise finance, including from: retail investors, via Donor Advised Funds, Community Share Issues and Social Investment Tax Relief; mutually-owned funds, where social enterprises and workers pool their own funds; and traditional forms of SME finance, including established loan guarantee schemes.

2B. Business Support


The Scottish Government appreciates the significant diversity within the social enterprise sector - differing traditions, business models, motivations and goals. This leads to a very wide range of needs and aspirations, some specific to social enterprises and some common to all forms of business. We recognise that these varied aspirations are best served by a diverse ecosystem of business support, mainstream and specialised, nationally organised and locally delivered.

In this respect, we have made considerable progress. Scotland now enjoys one of the most extensive systems of business support for social enterprises in the world. A combination of mainstream business support and specialised provision has provided a level of expertise, capacity and reach previously unavailable.

Despite progress, there remains much to do. Business support must be flexible and responsive, providing coverage across the country, including to those with different needs, for example, community enterprises [24] . For some social enterprises, the overall support ecosystem can also appear complex and difficult to navigate, with access to business support problematic for some equalities groups, including minority ethnic communities. We must therefore ensure that business support is tailored to different needs, accessible and delivered in ways that are responsive, while remaining flexible enough to respond to changing needs and market opportunities over the next decade. We must also ensure that social enterprises are effectively case-managed and are able to access the right support at the right point in their development.

Future Directions

Our ambition is to build the strength of the social enterprise sector by building on the strengths of Scotland's system of business support.

Advisor Network

We will work with mainstream and specialist business support providers towards creating a more knowledgeable, connected and empowered network of business advisors and professional advisors (accountants, legal advisors, etc.) committed to supporting social enterprise.

Specialised Support

We will continue to encourage and support the delivery of specialised business support to enable social enterprise start-up, growth and resilience. We will ensure that this is tailored, accessible, responsive to the needs of local community enterprises, and delivered in a way that complements mainstream provision.

Mainstream Services

We will work with our mainstream business support services to appropriately prioritise support to social and co-operative enterprises, and ensure a responsive portfolio of stand-alone support products, effective co-ordination between local and national provision, and continuous and measured improvement in services to the sector.

Internationalisation Support

We will work with our national and international partners to help expand the activity of social enterprises in overseas markets. This should ensure that an increasing number of social enterprises are accessing high quality export advice and related financial assistance, and are growing beyond Scotland.

2C. Collaboration


The Scottish Government recognises that many social enterprises remain small, stretched and financially fragile. In an increasingly market-oriented environment, and climate of restricted resources, social enterprises pursue a fine balance between collaboration and competition - collaborating with partners on some issues while competing with them on others. With current trends set to continue, we believe that social enterprises can ultimately achieve much more by working together than alone. We must therefore look beyond single organisations and consider new ways of organising and supporting wider systems of provision.

There are many examples of social enterprises collaborating to achieve a greater social impact. Some of this work has been aided by the Scottish Government's investment in Social Enterprise Networks, new models of Public Social Partnership and service co-production, the work of Co-operative Development Scotland, as well as early work to support social enterprise consortia development.

Over the next decade we want to see more social enterprises benefit from shared resources, reduced costs, and access to new markets. To do this there are various barriers to overcome, including the absence of pre-existing relationships between organisations, and the perceived loss of independence or control associated with collaboration.

Future Directions

Our ambition is for more social enterprises to realise the full benefits of organisational co-operation.

Social Enterprise Networks

We will support the extension of Scotland's Social Enterprise Networks to every part of Scotland that wants one. These should develop as an important collective voice on key issues for the sector, establish an extended range of peer mentoring and peer-to-peer support, and facilitate further collaboration between social enterprises.

Consortia Development

We will support work to initiate and develop new co-operative and consortia models. This activity should enable social enterprises to tender for contracts together, find new ways of sharing risk and reward, and deliver on a larger scale - or create a greater social impact - with increased efficiency.

Collaborative Technologies

We will encourage more efficient methods of communicating, connecting, and embarking on collaboration. This may include, for example, the use of technologies and systems that enable information-sharing, peer-to-peer connection, tendering and sub-contracting, and collaborative models of service delivery.

2D. Leadership Development


We recognise that the single most important determinant of the success of any organisation is the quality of its leadership. Effective leadership - both individual and collective - will be essential if social enterprises are to navigate successfully the uncertain period ahead. We have therefore established leadership learning and development as a central component of our support to the sector.

We have worked with partners to ensure that leadership and entrepreneurship learning and development opportunities have been delivered to thousands of aspiring leaders across urban and rural Scotland. These opportunities have helped give rise to some extraordinary entrepreneurial and leadership talent and led to transformative change for individuals, their teams, organisations and communities.

There is still scope to extend opportunities further and to dismantle the remaining barriers to participation. Time, cost and flexibility continue to present obstacles to individual participation in leadership experiences. The development of leadership culture and practice is still not always adequately prioritised or resourced by organisations. More generally, we are not yet drawing from or developing a sufficiently wide pool of leadership talent.

Future Directions

Our ambition is to fully realise the personal and organisational potential within social enterprises through leadership development.

Learning Programmes

We will continue to encourage and support high quality learning and development experiences. This will include the extension of accredited leadership and entrepreneurship learning, further opportunities for cross-sectoral learning, and more programmes tailored to the needs of targeted organisations and clusters of organisations.

Future Leaders

We will work with partners to find new and better ways of nurturing the contribution of community leaders, developing the social enterprise leaders of the future and supporting succession planning as earlier waves of social enterprise leaders hand over the baton during the next decade.

Empowered Governance

We will work with partners to ensure progressive governance and an enabling leadership culture in organisations. We will encourage new ways of engaging with social enterprise directors and trustees, developing their collective potential not simply as organisational stewards but as entrepreneurial leaders.

International Leadership

We will further Scotland's international ambitions by both: encouraging opportunities for social enterprise leaders to develop their international outlook, learning, and connections; and facilitating the extension of our world-class social enterprise education, research, and leadership programmes into international markets.

2E. Workforce Development


Social enterprises rely on a capable and motivated workforce and, in turn, have been shown to actively nurture the contribution of their employees. Indeed, many Work Integration Social Enterprises (including Social Firms and Supported Businesses) exist mainly to improve the employability and employment prospects of people furthest from the labour market. The evidence now available tells us that collectively this already adds up to a very substantial contribution to volunteering, job creation, social inclusion, and employability in Scotland.

As part of wider commitments set out in our Developing the Young Workforce, Fair Work, and Labour Market strategies, we have already supported many social enterprises to make their contribution. Over the next decade we want to build on these solid foundations.

We recognise, however, that the contribution of social enterprises remains fragile. By taking on and nurturing some of Scotland's most vulnerable employees, social enterprises experience higher employee support costs, lower productivity and reduced profitability. This situation is not always recognised or adequately compensated. Likewise, in recent years, we have not fully recognised the role of social enterprises in supporting social inclusion, health and well-being outcomes for the individuals they support.

Future Directions

Our ambition is to create the conditions where all social enterprises are able to provide fair workplaces and nurture human potential.

Careers and Skills

We will work with partners to ensure that social enterprise becomes a destination of choice for young people. Knowing about social enterprise will become a firmly established entitlement in career education and Scotland's young workforce will be able to benefit from an expanded range of training and progression opportunities.

Fair Workplace

We will recognise and champion social enterprises (and other responsible employers) that pay the Living Wage in Scotland, respect employee rights, champion equality and diversity (including at Board level), strive towards greater levels of workplace democracy, and implement other progressive workplace policies.

Work Integration

We will step-up our support to Work Integration Social Enterprises. This includes finding creative ways to enable Social Firms to take on employees with higher support needs (including the use of targeted wage incentives) and to enable an expanded base of Supported Businesses to flourish commercially and sustain employment for disadvantaged and disabled people.

Devolved Employment Services

We will use new powers for employment support to good effect. This will include contracting and commissioning models that encourage partnership delivery and provision from a wide range of providers, including social enterprises. The aim is services that build on delivery strengths in Scotland, which focus support on those with highest need, while supporting our ambitions for sustainable economic growth, social justice, inclusion and fair work.

2F. Demonstrating Social Value


As fair, inclusive, and impactful businesses, social enterprises should ultimately be measured on both their social and commercial performance. We must therefore ensure that social enterprises are able to produce the evidence they need to show they deliver well, produce impacts (social, economic and environmental), and live up to appropriate values and practices. This is vital if social enterprises are to extend influence, make better decisions and ensure public accountability. It is also vital if we are to generate better evidence about the impact of the social enterprise sector and in doing so ensure good policy-making.

The importance of demonstrating social value has been widely recognised within the sector. However, despite the availability of various performance frameworks, quality systems, and impact measurement approaches, social enterprises have generally been slow to embed effective practices.

There are some barriers to overcome before further progress can be made. The field is currently complex and confusing to the sector, with differing approaches and expectations on the part of purchasers, funders and investors. Current impact measurement methodologies tend to be perceived as inherently complicated and beyond the skillset and means of most social enterprises to implement, particularly those that are relatively new and small. There is limited support that social enterprises can access to help navigate their options and implement effective systems.

Future Directions

Our ambition is for all social enterprises to be able to demonstrate social value in a holistic, transparent and compelling way.

Measuring Impact

We will explore approaches to developing a flexible and holistic Scottish model of impact measurement. This could provide a standard for tracking and reporting on the value that social enterprises deliver in their market, the workplace, for their supply chain, local economy, communities, and environment. It could enable even the smallest of organisations to provide a balanced account of their performance and impact.

Social Reporting

We will work with funders, purchasers and regulators to encourage reporting requirements that are co-ordinated, consistent and proportionate, whilst minimising duplication. Over time, we will consider extending the requirement for all social enterprises to produce a straightforward Annual Social Report in a consistent format that is aligned with the annual reporting requirements of Scotland's main regulators.

Capability Building

We will work with partners to promote awareness and commitment to social impact measurement and to help develop the associated understanding and capabilities of social enterprises. Recognising that there is more to be done, further investment will be required in the support models, technologies and advice available to the sector.

Priority 3: Realising Market Opportunity

We will enable more consumers, public authorities and businesses to understand and purchase from social enterprises.

To do this we will progress the following workstreams:

3A. Public Markets

3B. Consumer Markets

3C. Business Markets

3A. Public Markets


Against a challenging backdrop the public sector in Scotland continues to spend in excess of £10bn each year on a very wide range of goods and services. The Scottish Government recognises that this considerable purchasing power creates a market in which social enterprises can and should play a more central role.

During a decade framed by legislative and regulatory changes, the foundations for sustainable and socially responsible public sector procurement are now in place. This has created an environment where it is possible to routinely deliver local economic and social benefits through procurement processes and where public contracts are among the most accessible in the world to SMEs and social enterprises. In this context, more public sector commissioners and buyers are experimenting with the flexibilities afforded to them, and more social enterprises are stepping up to deliver public contracts.

However, even within a quickly changing public services market we appreciate that there is more that can be achieved. Public sector policy and procurement practice remains variable across the country and there is the opportunity to cascade the innovation and creativity that already exists. As it stands, some social enterprises are also not in a position to access opportunities due to their limited size, capacity or track record.

Future Directions

Our ambition is to increase the number and range of social enterprises involved in the delivery of Scotland's public services.

Public Sector Engagement

We will work with public sector partners, locally and nationally, to develop a deeper understanding of social enterprise and a commitment to a more radical, collaborative culture. This will include the development of a growing network of public sector and third sector leaders and champions committed to realising social value and working with social enterprises.

Collaborative Commissioning

We will work with public bodies to achieve a transformative change in commissioning practices. This will include ensuring that public authorities routinely consider social enterprise delivery as part of service reviews and make use of Public Social Partnerships and similar models of collaborative service design and co-production. These approaches are intended to make the most of trusted relationships with local social enterprise suppliers and support innovation in the process.

Social Procurement

We will continue to develop the Scottish model of procurement. We will encourage contracting authorities to explore creative ways to open up market opportunities to social enterprises. We will encourage forward procurement planning to create the time and space required for social enterprises to respond collaboratively. We will ensure that Community Benefit Clauses are embedded more widely across public contracts. Where appropriate to do so, we will encourage public bodies to reserve agreed contracts for Supported Businesses in fields where they have the capacity, expertise and potential to create additional social value.

3B. Consumer Markets


We know that people across Scotland are becoming more concerned about where and how they buy products and services. These ethical considerations are increasingly likely to positively influence purchasing from social enterprises, where other factors such as price, quality, and availability are more or less the same. We recognise that if social enterprise is to really take off during the next decade then it must be fuelled by this consumer demand.

This consumer behaviour already chimes well with the strong ethical and community focus of social enterprises. Over the last ten years, a growing number of social enterprises have entered consumer markets. Many are now making and selling excellent, high-quality products as well as services. Indeed, more social enterprises today are selling to the general public than to Scotland's public sector.

However, there is still vast untapped potential. Public awareness and recognition of social enterprise remains low. Social enterprise products and services are not yet widely available or easily accessible to consumers. Many social enterprises are also still learning that the inherent good-ness of their offering alone is not enough to compete successfully in consumer markets.

Future Directions

Our ambition is for social enterprise to be more visible to consumers and for more social enterprises to tap into the growing desire from consumers to buy ethically.

Buy Social Certification

We will encourage and support the introduction of Buy Social as an internationally recognised third party certification programme to label social enterprise products and services. This will need to be supported by a coherent and long-term national campaign.

Social Enterprise Nation

We will support partners to encourage villages, towns, cities and islands to showcase social enterprise activity and to make a commitment to purchasing recognised social enterprise products and services. As part of a 'Social Enterprise Nation' campaign this should encourage local people, organisations, and networks to get inspired and creative about promoting social enterprises through local media and events.

Consumer-facing Enterprises

We will encourage targeted business support to social enterprises operating in consumer markets. Interventions should raise the aspirations of social enterprises and help them bring forward the right products at the right price. Such interventions should also recognise the importance of avoiding unfair competitive advantage relative to other forms of business, while remaining compliant with state aid and competition law.

3C. Business Markets


The Scottish Government views social enterprise as part of a wider community of businesses. As such, we envisage substantial opportunities to increase trade within this community at both the national and international level. These business-to-business opportunities exist regardless of whether the potential purchaser is part of the private sector, social enterprise community, or wider third sector.

Some progress has already been made. Social Enterprise Networks have given rise to a growing range of opportunities for inter-trading among social enterprises. Some larger, forward-thinking private companies have also welcomed social enterprises into their supply chains, in part encouraged by the introduction of Community Benefit Clauses and social enterprise sub-contracting requirements in public contracts.

Overall, however, trade and relationships between social enterprises and other companies have so far been modest. Most conventional, privately owned companies have low levels of awareness about social enterprises or are unsure how to find them. Social enterprises themselves are also often unaware of the opportunity to sell to other businesses, may lack relationships within the business community, or are not yet well placed to serve this market.

Future Directions

Our ambition is raise the level of trade between social enterprises and other businesses.

A Sharing Economy

We will work with partners to test and develop new models of economic exchange between social enterprises and with the wider third sector. This might include online platforms, sector currencies, regional buying consortia, and systems of local exchange and trading. These should enable and incentivise organisations to pool and share resources, buy and sell from each other, and keep money circulating within the social economy.

Corporate Supply Chains

We will work with partners to encourage an increase the level of social purchasing by private companies. This will involve raising awareness of opportunities to buy from social enterprises, and to understand the associated business and community benefits of doing so. It will require more creative ways of brokering relationships between social enterprises and prospective corporate partners and purchasers.


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