What ‘Accelerating Growth’ could mean for social enterprises in South East Scotland

Gavin Yuill, Managing Director, Yuill Community Trust: CIC
The City Region Deal bid, at its heart, is a mechanism to support new ideas.  It is an opportunity for local people to take charge of the decisions that affect their area. It is built on the belief that shifting power from central government to the people of a place will make it quicker, and easier, to achieve sustainable economic growth. And it is about encouraging collaboration across a wider economic area: increasing the scale of the 'Accelerating Growth'. 

The ideals of the City Region Deal also run through the central principles of social enterprise: local people who work together in good faith will make a more profound difference in resolving local problems. So the question is, what could 'Accelerating Growth' mean for social enterprise in the region? From the perspective of #SocialEnterpriseSouthEastScotland, support from the 'Accelerating Growth' deal would transform the sector forever.

The Social Enterprise 2015 Census estimates the GVA contribution from the social enterprise sector to the Scottish economy is £1.68 Billion (1.77% of the Scottish Economy's GVA rate in 2013); yet the average person struggles to define what social enterprise is. Is it not for profit, a charity, fairtrade, community groups, a cooperative or socially conscious businesses? Of course, it can be all of those things. However, if social enterprise had a recognised regional identity, #SESES believes it could significantly increase the sector's GVA contribution. 

In recognition of both this idea, and the huge opportunity that the City Region Deal could provide, the region's six local authority social enterprise networks have come together independently, to develop the country's first ever social enterprise regional network. 

Social enterprise is built from the foundations of social capital: people who are socially connected will be more productive - both socially in reducing inequality, and economically in terms of growth. Each of the six networks sees this principle in action on the ground each day, working with local communities, but the wider public generally don't see what the sector does because there is no face. A social enterprise zone would change all that. 

The zone will become the inspiring public face of the sector, both physically and virtually. The hubs will primarily focus on revitalising existing buildings, showing local people what is possible when it comes to revitalizing town centres across the region, and anyone will be able to benefit from the support of the dedicated social enterprise facilities. 

Having collectively been involved in social enterprise for decades, #SESES knows that the hub network will work. Each of the six regions are involved in individual projects that are making a difference, but by working together it will allow each authority area to resolve local issues through regional collaboration: a larger melting pot of ideas to draw from, and be inspired by. 

One of the biggest long term differences would come from economies of scale. The large scale City Deal funding will allow #SESES to access match funding of a similar proportion. This would help support locally administered project investment funds and employment programmes, both of which would benefit from the long track record and in depth experiences of #SESES network members.

And the outcome of this vision? The profile of social enterprise would be raised and defined within a new brand so that people would be able to instinctively define what social enterprise is.  They will see it in their every day life as they walk down their town centre streets, and they will consider social enterprise as part of the “mainstream”. It will no longer be doing great work in the background, it will be front and centre across the region.  Anyone looking for employment, at any stage, will consider social enterprise as a credible career route.  They will recognise social enterprise as the sector that can provide immediate solutions to local problems, and the sector that will allow them to stay in their communities; building a career by improving the quality life of the society in which they live.  This is what the #SocialEnterpriseSouthEastScotland regional network will provide.

#SocialEnterpriseSouthEastScotland believes that the regional hub network has the potential to benefit not only the South East of Scotland, but the rest of Scotland and the UK.  And beyond that, it has the potential to become a world exemplar for generating sustainable community growth; and this is what #SESES will endeavour to become. Because of this, the six local authority social enterprise networks have already formed #SESES, and have begun the journey in establishing this big new idea.

If the 'Accelerating Growth' deal was to be agreed, the first ever social enterprise zone would arrive today rather than tomorrow; and sustainable long term economic growth will arrive sooner rather than later.  So please, support the deal, and let the social enterprise sector of the South East show the way.