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From Resilience to Recovery

Alastair Davis, SIS Chief Executive Officer shares his thoughts on how Scottish entrepreneurs and enterprises now need to shift their focus from resilience to recovery.

After the challenges of the last few months, the tentative signs of reopening feel precious and very special. Things that I might have taken for granted in the past have taken on a new significance: hugging my twin nieces; seeing friends inside; managing to book a proper haircut!

Our precious social enterprises are beginning to re-open too, thinking carefully about how they need to adjust to the ‘new normal’, even although that has become a loaded term. And, without forgetting the national tragedy and loss of life from COVID-19, or ignoring the social and economic challenges that lie ahead, at Social Investment Scotland (SIS) we have been thinking carefully about our role as part of the recovery effort.

Our sole focus over the last four months has been, rightly, on resilience. This has largely meant supporting our existing customers during times of uncertainty with loan holidays and restructures. In addition, we have taken on the management of two new Scottish Government funds- the loan element of the Third Sector Resilience Fund (TSRF) and the Credit Union Resilience Fund (CURF) programme. Alongside some, but lower than normal levels of business as usual activity, our team at SIS have approved investments of almost £7m this financial year. And, as part of a refreshed online learning hub, we have designed, developed, and delivered an online support programme that has not only disseminated information but also sought to encourage and inspire.

There are, of course, some social enterprises where the path towards any kind of recovery remains uncertain and supporting resilience remains key. In particular any organisation that generates income from people coming together inside faces continued uncertainty. However, there are also social enterprises firmly in recovery mode and indeed with the opportunity to recover strongly. Our Ambitions for Recovery programme has been designed and developed specifically with these organisations in mind.

During COVID-19 we have seen renewed interest in ethical shopping. Many of us have been buying more food locally whilst supporting small businesses. Online has become a default option for many. Companies and corporates are looking to evidence their contribution by supporting social enterprises in a range of ways. And for social enterprises dealing with public bodies, we have seen some very welcome evidence of flexibility in procurement. Those of us working with social enterprises know that we can- and should- be making a meaningful and visible contribution to the economic and social recovery of Scotland. I believe we need to be bolder with this vision.

The Ambitions for Recovery programme has been specifically developed with this aim in mind. The programme will provide tailored investment and support to a small group of Scottish social enterprises. Building on the success of our Ambitions leadership programme, and also supported by the Peoples’ Postcode Lottery , it will have a number of unique features:

  • Cohort based learning in small groups, providing peer support and encouragement
  • Fortnightly online sessions facilitated by Rachael Brown, SIS Associate and CEO of the Future Economy Company and the Creative Entrepreneurs Club
  • Further online masterclass sessions developed based on cohort needs and feedback
  • Access to business support grants and expertise for tailored interventions (e.g. financial modelling, expert reports)
  • Support with leadership development and mental health
  • Some of the cohort will have access to grant funding and expert mentoring from our partners at Baillie Gifford (up to £5k per organisation).

Our cohort will also have access to the full range of SIS investment products, including a limited pot of interest-free and fee-free investment. More information on how to apply for the programme, and a guidance note, is available on the SIS website.

Last month I was delighted to release the new SIS strategy aiming to help businesses of all kinds create greater social impact, transforming our economy for a better future. As Scottish social entrepreneurs, we are renowned the world over for developing entrepreneurial solutions to social and environmental challenges. As we begin to recover from some of our darkest days, surely now is the time to contribute towards Building an Impact Economy?