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Turning up the volume

Next month, it will have been 13 years since I joined Social Investment Scotland. Considered an unlucky milestone for some – for me, it is quite the opposite – I consider myself lucky to have been part of SIS for this extended period of time. Much has been achieved, but there is still plenty more to do.

During my time with SIS, we have delivered progress through successive strategic frameworks. In 2019, following extensive consultation and reflection, we developed ‘Building an Impact Economy’, our latest strategic framework. In contrast to previous plans, Building an Impact Economy sought to present a vision for SIS over a 10-year period, with delivery supported by a series of shorter-term action plans. When we published the first of these plans in early 2020 for a two-year period, we never expected that this would be against the background of the challenges, but also the opportunities, of a global pandemic. It was therefore in this context that we developed the second action plan, re-engaging with many of those stakeholders that helped inform the inaugural plan.

This summer, we will publish our latest impact report that will focus on the achievements and learning from the first plan, cognisant of the impact of the pandemic. In March, the SIS board endorsed the second action plan which remains firmly aligned with the ‘impact economy’ vision. This plan seeks to embrace the learning from Covid and the opportunities for social enterprise but also the challenges faced by people and communities as we emerge from this global crisis.

The plan is called ‘turning up the volume’, reflecting our aim to be bolder and more confident in the articulation of our impact economy vision. In the Scottish Government’s new National Strategy for Economic Transformation, social enterprise, alongside other alternative business models, is highlighted as an area of opportunity. To capitalise on this, social enterprises need champions that will be able to support them step up and scale up; invest in their sustainability; create opportunities for increased trading; and help others, including governments and their agencies, understand how they might support and invest in this transformational business model. SIS aims to be one of those champions.

There are a number of key actions detailed as part of our new action plan:

  • The complete revision of our market building programmes based on learning and feedback. Programmes now include a mentoring ‘leadership exchange’ as well as practical business support from a growing group of SIS Associates with a range of expertise.
  • Continually available investment from a range of SIS communities funding programmes between £10k and £1.5m. This now includes funds that offer an element of blended finance.
  • Expanded support for other lenders providing access to finance where others won’t, particularly other responsible finance providers providing affordable credit for individuals and households that find themselves excluded from the mainstream.

That said, our desire to turn up the volume is not to drown others out. As has always been the case, we look forward to working in tandem with others to amplify messages.

Alastair Davis , April 2022.