Social enterprise support

How we work with social enterprises

HIE is committed to raising awareness and directly supporting the important social and economic role that social enterprise deliver.

Social enterprises trade just like any other businesses, but at their heart they have a social purpose.  They trade for social, community and environmental benefits rather than distributing profits to shareholders or owners.

Across the HIE area social enterprises own and manage land, including whole estates and islands, harness renewable energy technologies, create employment, undertake infrastructure projects and provide an increasingly diverse range of essential services.

Scotland's Social Enterprise Strategy

The Scottish Government recognises the direct contribution that social enterprises make to the growth of Scotland's economy, the wellbeing of its citizens and the improvement of its public services. Likewise, HIE sees social enterprises as being increasingly important contributors to social and economic growth in the Highlands and Islands.

In November 2016, the Scottish Government worked with the social enterprise community to co-produce Scotland's Social Enterprise Strategy 2016-2026. This 10 year strategy provides a framework for action over the next decade. The government will specifically concentrate on three areas:  stimulating social enterprises, developing stronger organisations and realising market opportunities.

In April 2017, the Scottish Government subsequently published the follow up Action Plan: Building A Sustainable Social Enterprise Sector In Scotland: 2017-20. This sets out an ambitious framework to help realise the full potential of the social enterprise sector. It specifically outlines important first steps, working across government and with partners, to deliver the vision for social enterprise over the first three years. The plan is being published in support of Scotland’s Economic Strategy, and demonstrates in particular how social enterprises can be assisted to deliver on our ambitions for inclusive growth. 

Starting your social enterprise

If you are considering setting up a social enterprise, Just Enterprise, HISEZ and Business Gateway can offer help to develop your business and how you might access funding.

Support Network for Social Entrepreneurs (SunSE) and Social Start-Up School

SuNSE is an exciting and ambitious 3-year project, aiming to support, nurture and grow social entrepreneurship across North West Europe. Our partnership is made up of nine organisations, from eight countries, representing a diverse range of economies and geographies.

The project will develop a network of social entrepreneurship hubs across Europe. The hubs will support ambitious individuals to establish locally-based social businesses, which will not only create career opportunities for themselves, but will help regenerate areas experiencing market failure, through job creation and delivery of products and services vital for community resilience.

SuNSE will test and trial different approaches to delivering support to social entrepreneurs (such as virtual delivery, pop-up shops, semi-permanent spaces and peer networking) utilising the transnational expertise across the partnership. Through sharing good practice, delivery techniques will be refined and adapted as the project develops. As we grow our network, participants will be encouraged to link in with an international peer group.

To find out more and keep up-to-date with progress, visit our project webpage 

Across the Highlands and Islands, we are developing Start-up Schools to support social entrepreneurs. Each school will be tailored to the needs of the geographic area in which it is located and the specific needs of the communities and individuals it will serve. The hubs will run for 18-months, allowing participants to develop their own social business ideas and providing them with the skills, business acumen, support network and most importantly the confidence to take it forward.

Social enterprise financial sustainability

Financial sustainability encompasses everything that enables social enterprises to realise their targeted income.  In addition to financial assistance, HIE, through the account management relationship with its clients can offer access to advice, either directly, or through specialist external sources.

Growing your social enterprise

HIE has a close working relationship with around 150 social enterprises across the Highlands and Islands through our account management approach.  These social enterprises deliver a diverse range of services and products, but have the shared ambition to significantly expand their activities.

For more information on HIE support to help grow your social enterprise, please contact your local HIE Area Office.


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