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Applications open for programme to revitalise Argyll towns through social enterprise

21 July 2015

Social enterprise development agency Firstport is launching an exciting new programme in Argyll and the Islands to help boost local economies and create jobs.

Vital Spark is a programme that aims to stimulate and support budding local social entrepreneurs to come up with ideas that will have a positive impact on their communities, starting with the launch of a social enterprise hub in Dunoon.

Vital Spark has been working with residents in three local towns to find out what people thought was good about their areas and what could be improved. Five strong themes emerged from those consultations and the programme invites local residents to apply for a place in the programme with an idea that relates to one or more of those themes. The best ideas will gain access to a programme of one to one business training, mentoring from industry experts, funding and free workspace in a local hub. 

The first round of applications opens on Monday 20 July for the hub in Dunoon. Anyone who is interested in taking part should apply at before 28 August. Vital Spark will then be rolled out to local hubs in Rothesay and Campbeltown in September.

Firstport is delivering the two-year programme in partnership with local support organisation InspirAlba. The initiative is funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and supported by Caledonian MacBrayne, Unltd and the Kilfinan Trust.

Firstport chief executive Karen McGregor said: “Argyll and the Islands has an outstanding cultural and natural heritage and an abundance of assets, but it also faces tough challenges. Communities are separated by huge distances and economic disparities and the area’s biggest export is its young people. What these areas have in common is a strong sense of who they are, a vibrant community spirit and a commitment to getting things done.
“We want to tap into these strengths to build enterprising local cultures where emerging social entrepreneurs can flourish while generating skills and revenue that support themselves and their community.”

Anne MacDonald, Head of Strengthening Communities Policy with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “We are delighted to be working with Firstport on this new initiative in Argyll and the Islands. Social enterprises are achieving positive impacts in communities across Scotland, creating opportunities for employment, training and volunteering, and often delivering vital local services. Through Vital Spark, we’re hoping to generate a wealth of ideas and proposals which could create new, sustainable enterprises with the potential to empower local people to address the priorities which matter most to their communities.”

The themes, identified through meetings with local residents, are: People, Places, Services, Enterprise and Culture and Heritage.

Further information on the programme and how to apply is available at Tel 0131 220 0511.

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