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How to develop a strategy for social enterprise and inclusive business

Watch Yvonne Strachan detail how the Scottish Government put in place their strategy for social enterprise
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My name is Yvonne Strachan. I was until 2017, a Deputy Director in the Scottish Government and I had overarching responsibility for equality and human rights, but also importantly, third sector and social enterprise and one of the fascinating aspects of my work during the period I was with the government was working on the development of the Scottish social enterprise ecosystem.
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I would say first and foremost, government’s an enabler and a supporter. The thing about social enterprise is the very nature, the very name describes what it is; it’s enterprising organisations who want to drive and use the business model for social change and for social good. So inevitably in the social enterprise sector, you have people with huge initiative, understanding, expertise, but what they don’t have is very often the environment within which they can thrive and grow. So government has a really important role to create the conditions that allow social enterprise to thrive.
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So Scotland developed what we now call a holistic ecosystem which comprised leadership and development, strengthened thematic and geographical networks, support for new starts, early starts, social entrepreneurs, support for growth and expansion, looking at complementary policies about our procurement, looking at developing and enabling social enterprises to establish better relationships with commissioners across the public sector.
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The aim of the strategy was to stimulate the sector to develop stronger organisations and consolidate the strengths of it to date, but also to look at what else needs to be done in order to develop it and to realise marketing opportunities.
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The significant point about the development of the strategy for Scotland was that it was done through collaboration. It was driven by a combined effort of the sector and government, have shared interest about seeing this particular type of business, social enterprise, thriving in an environment where the more that it could do and the more that it was enabled to do well, the better that would be for our economy, and for our communities, and for our overall wellbeing.
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So we saw this absolute synergy between the objectives of government in this sphere and the idea that social enterprise could be developed to be transformational for communities or to be better able to make a difference on the ground and to improve the lives of people in and around communities, particularly those who had suffered inequalities or were experiencing disadvantage.
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There are always challenges, of course, but the things that we
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drew out from this were: it does make a difference if there’s high level support and political buy-in so that in Scotland, we had ministers who were championing the cause of social enterprise, who engaged with social enterprise, and got to know and understand it a bit better than perhaps would be normally the case and therefore felt committed and engaged with the development of the strategy, so that level of political buy-in and leadership within government is extremely helpful. I think secondly, the collaboration with those that know and understand social enterprise; hugely important.
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It means that we recognise that when you’re in government, we’re great administrators when we’re in government and we can do all sorts of things, but we don’t necessarily always know the detail about the areas that we’re working or seeking to enable. So a collaboration with those that do understand and do recognise the needs can really make for the best of outcomes, so that what we are then putting into practice or designing a strategy around is intending to deliver something which we hope will make a difference. I think the third thing that we found incredibly helpful was being able to have some evidence and data available.
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So it meant that in the conversations that were had across government or elsewhere, it was possible to relate the nature of social enterprise and the contribution that it could make to communities. And I suppose the fourth thing is that it was really useful to be able to think about a strategic approach that wasn’t based just on either the annual cycle of funding or the period of spending reviews, which tend to be over a three year period. We were able to cast our minds further and think about, in this case a 10 year strategic approach.

This video from Yvonne Strachan, Former Deputy Director, Scottish Government details how the Scottish Government put in place their strategy for social enterprise.

She covers the aim and purpose of the strategy, the process taken to develop and implement it, what was challenging and key learnings from the process.

Reflection

What is the most interesting or important lesson from Yvonne Strachan’s experience of developing the Scottish Social Enterprise strategy?

What is most relevant for your country context?

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