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The social enterprise business support ecosystem in Scotland: report for RaiSE - enhancing social enterprise competitiveness


This report presents the findings of the research carried out by Social Value Lab and the Yunus Centre on the support arrangements for social enterprises in Scotland, building on the findings from the 2017 Social Enterprise Census and additional consultation. It has been completed to support the RaiSE programme, an Interreg programme bringing together six pro-active regions and one advisory partner to address the common challenge of enhancing competitiveness of social enterprises. The report sets out the main support needs for social enterprise, the business support infrastructure in Scotland and the gaps in business support provision.


The methodology consisted of: additional analysis of the Social Enterprise Census 2017 survey results; desk-based review of the business support infrastructure for social enterprise in Scotland; telephones interviews with business advisers, Third Sector Interface (TSI) staff, Social Enterprise Network (SEN) coordinators, and local authority economic development staff; telephone interviews with 13 social enterprise leaders across Scotland; and focus group discussion with social enterprise leaders across Glasgow.


The research found that despite an adverse economic climate, the social enterprise sector in Scotland is growing and generally quite successful. Social enterprises are active across all economic sectors, covering the whole geography of Scotland and are generally profitable. They are however negatively affected by the economic climate, with a large section struggling financially and most are cautious about the future. A range of challenges were found that hinder growth, of which a lack of time/capacity to develop trading potential (54%), insecure or declining grant funding (51%) and increasing costs (51%) were the most frequently reported. In terms of support, it was found that there is a comprehensive support structure for social enterprise established in Scotland, ranging from general business support to specialist provision and sector-specific support. However, the awareness of the variety and spread of support available was found to present a particular challenge in navigating the system of support for some social enterprises. The quality and availability of support was found to vary geographically, and there is a perception that social enterprises in urban areas have more choice of support compared to their rural counterparts. The Social Enterprise Census 2017 survey identified 22 areas where support would be helpful. Social impact measurement continues to be the most frequently reported support need. There were also a number of gaps and areas for improvement identified relating to particular types of support, including: tendering for contracts; social impact measurement; board development; and peer support and mentoring.


No specific recommendations were made.

Author Social Value Lab
Published Year 2018
Report Type Research
  • Business infrastructure
    Supporting key sectors
  • Enterprise
    Social enterprise