Opinion

Why we’re Powering Up a social enterprise revolution

Big Issue Invest CSV Investment Manager Michelle Davitt explains how The Big Issue is giving 20 social ventures a £1 million boost over the next two years with loans of up to £50,000

One of the impressive things all of the Scottish social enterprises I’ve been meeting with recently have in common is their ability to create, build and sustain relationships. Which is handy, as our new programme of investment plus business development support, aimed at start-up social enterprises, is looking to do just that.

Power Up Scotland will make links and forge relationships for the long term between the private and public sectors and fledging social enterprises. I know from personal experience, once you’ve connected with social enterprises, communities and entrepreneurs, their ideas, enthusiasm and vision are so inspiring, you’re hooked for life.

We’re lucky to be planting our seeds in fertile ground in Scotland, with the publication this year of the second Social Enterprise Census and the Social Enterprise Strategy Action Plan, plus the Social Enterprise World Forum making a welcome return to its roots in Scotland next year. And with 34% of Scottish social enterprises being based in rural areas, we’re really keen to get our offer of up to £50k loan investment plus business development mentoring out across the country.

Social enterprise has always been fantastic at unlocking the potential of people; now they’re leading the way in looking for new ways to unlock sources of income and work in partnership to develop new ways of funding and investing.

Power Up’s model of bringing partners from across sectors together helps to nurture networks and connections that otherwise may not be made. It’s not about the financial worth of someone’s time – it’s the fact that without a network to bring the sectors together, people on the ground can’t tap into the wealth of expertise contained within businesses and institutions. Power Up will help social enterprises make some of those connections.

Big Issue Invest's John Montague and Ben Macpherson MSP try out Project 42's equipment at last week's Power Up launch

In turn our partners Aberdeen Standard Investments, Scottish Government, University of Edinburgh and Brodies LLP will hugely benefit from witnessing first-hand the creativity and agility of the enterprise sector. When you’re small you can move fast, and when survival is difficult, you adapt and change when you need to.

Employees in large organisations can sometimes be silo-ed in their own particular department – working with social enterprises lets people see what it’s like when a tiny team of people are responsible for every single aspect of a business. Witnessing the joys and stresses of leading a social enterprise, keeping going when the odds are against you because you’ve made a commitment to the people and community you’re working with, will have a profound impact.

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