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Building an Impact Economy post COVID

Alastair Davis, SIS CEO, shares his thoughts on the importance of involvement from charities and social enterprises as we work towards building an Impact Economy in a post COVID world.

‘Well I’ve never wanted to be third in anything, so why would I want to start now’ is a comment that I often hear in relation to the concept of a ‘third sector’. Whilst it might be said with tongue firmly in cheek, it highlights a more serious point – we operate as part of a sector that is sometimes as seen as being less important or influential than the public and private sectors.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, there can be no doubt that Scotland’s charities and social enterprises proved their worth, particularly during the worst phases of lockdown. The innovation and speed of response shown by many has been remarkable. However, as we emerge, hopefully, from the worst of the pandemic, I know that many of us are reflecting on the impact of the past 18 months and how we might ‘build back’ some of the best that we have seen.

For example, at Social Investment Scotland we have now fully transitioned to hybrid working – taking advantage of the benefits of home working blended with more regular ‘moments that matter’ – when it is important to come together face to face.

Even before the pandemic, many of us argued for an economy where social enterprises could play a greater role – indeed the SIS strategy developed before we had even heard of Covid focusses our energies on ‘Building an Impact Economy’. Our argument has only been strengthened by the pandemic and many social enterprises are demonstrating how they might contribute to the economic and social regeneration of Scotland post pandemic.

Take Locavore, for example, who refer to themselves as Scotland’s first ethical supermarket. Encouraged by the demand for ethical, local shopping, as well as investment from SIS, Locavore are in the process of rolling out their stores across Scotland- creating up to 90 jobs paying the living wage and ensuring more consumer pounds are retained within local communities. Or Willow Den, a new social enterprise developing a network of outdoor nurseries for pre-school children. This expansion is expected to create up to 40 jobs, with eight already created, not to mention the ripple effect of flexible childcare provision on the overall labour market.

It is good that the Scottish Government are also thinking about economic transformation after the pandemic and in the words of the Finance Secretary ‘to build on… innovations and guide our economy to the industries and opportunities of the future’. That said, it has been disappointing to see that from the new Council established to oversee this work no one member has a direct link to the charity and social enterprise sector.

Third place again? I hope not – and I know that many social enterprises, like SIS, are taking the opportunity to make direct representation to the consultation. Let’s make sure our collective vision for a fairer, more impactful economy is heard and understood.