John Pearce Memorial Lecture

jp-imageEarlier this month the Yunus Centre held their annual John Pearce Memorial Lecture focusing on community and social enterprise in a Scotland within Europe, an insightful lecture that really got you thinking about the challenges of the sector and the diverse perspectives of the community.

Pauline Graham, Chief Executive of Social Firms Scotland (SFS), joined us this year to provide us with a great lecture drawing on her own experiences and involvement with the government and third sector. Before joining SFS Pauline managed the Social Economy Scotland Partnership at SCVO attracting over £5million in EU funding to support social economy developments in Scotland. Pauline is an inspirational woman representing Scotland at European Commission level, and social enterprise on a range of government and Third Sector fora. She is the founding director of Ready for Business Procurement LLP, and has co-authored several publications related to the sector. It was a great opportunity to hear her speak, providing the researcher brain with some food for thought….

An interesting development, but debatable win for the sector is that the Government have committed to a 10 year strategy for Social Enterprises reflecting the sector’s confidence and finally giving a baseline, this is due to be launched in November. It will be interesting to follow this development.

Some emerging questions from this development include: in a sector so diverse, dynamic and continually evolving is it possible to formulate a 10 year strategy? The sector could look completely different in the next year never mind the next 10 years. Any such strategy will need to be adaptable and flexible to the ever changing needs and developments within the sector. Will the strategy be able to adapt in a timely manner to the changing needs of the communities that social enterprises serve?

Last year’s Social Enterprise Census in Scotland turned a spotlight on the fact that 36% of social enterprises did not say that they identify as a social enterprise. This could make buy-in to the Governments 10 year strategy challenging. Having come across organisations that do not self-identify as social enterprises, it is an interesting perspective where more research could be beneficial to find out why these organisations do not identify as social enterprises. What do they identify as? And how do they see themselves within the sector? There are two sides of the government strategy: how will this 36% (an astonishing 1366 organisations) respond and relate to the strategy?

Graham also reflected in her lecture on the values that student work placements in social enterprises have, do such placements offer added benefits over placements in private and corporate organisations? How can students apply their ideas, knowledge, skills and learning to help social enterprises? Should schools and universities be providing more placement opportunities within social enterprises? What about the value of such placements for skills such as citizenship and innovation?

Pauline mentioned that a key focus for the future is collaboration. Think about what could be achieved if all the offices involved (including Government) could work together to address the needs of our communities!

Melanie Liddell

For more information on the 2015 Social Enterprise Census please follow the link:

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