Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is investigating the role of community run businesses - in a bid to see how the wider Scottish economy might benefit.
HIE, which has a unique role as a social and economic development agency, has for over 40 years recognised the importance of social enterprise to the economy. Social enterprises function to generate profits like any other business but, in addition, they have social purpose which is at the very heart of what they do, and the profits they make are all reinvested towards achieving that purpose.
A strong and expanding social enterprise sector is a key priority for HIE. And to ensure that social enterprises are provided with the support they need to grow and to explore the niche markets unique to the region, HIE has commissioned GEN, an independent economic and social research consultancy, to carry out a profile of the sector.
Fiona Robb of HIE commented: "Social enterprises can be very different in purpose and activity. One might reinvest income into community development projects; another may support a vulnerable workforce; others provide lifeline services that might otherwise not exist in remote communities. One thing they all share is the important role they play in our Highlands and Islands communities - socially and economically.
"As public resources are stretched, social enterprises like all businesses are looking at how they can be more independent, resilient and sustainable. This includes the need to maximise the use of their assets and to find new income generating opportunities
"The study we have commissioned will provide a comprehensive database containing up to date information on the scale and nature of the social enterprise sector in the HIE area. Our hope is that by sharing what is happening we will highlight new opportunities and ways to maximise income generation. It will also help inform policy for HIE as we work to take the sector forward."
The field work is scheduled to take place between September and November 2011 and the study is due to be completed in January 2012.
For further information contact: Fiona Robb, third sector innovation manager HIE, (01463) 244 377.