Representatives from social enterprises in the Highlands and Islands are currently taking part in the Social Enterprise World Forum 2015 in Milan where they will promote a range of activity from the region.
Taking place on July 1-3, the annual event examines the conditions needed for social enterprises to thrive, highlighting outstanding examples of innovation from all over the world.
Alongside the summit, study visits to social enterprises in Milan, Naples and Berlin will help delegates from the Highlands and Islands to gain an insight into, and learn from, social enterprises in other countries.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is supporting Ingrid Webb from COPE Limited in Shetland and Helen Munro from Lochbroom Woodfuels in Ullapool to attend the week long forum and international study tour.
HIE staff are also participating at the World Forum where they are speaking about community assets and how social enterprises achieve social impact.
The importance of social enterprises in promoting equality, creating jobs, developing skills and boosting the economy is a priority for HIE.
Rachael McCormack, Director, Strengthening Communities, said: “Social enterprises bring far reaching economic and community benefits to many of our most rural areas. They create jobs, attract people and bring investment. Our region’s social entrepreneurs are very ambitious and optimistic. The sector is expanding and is well placed to drive further growth in areas such as creative industries, renewable energy, food and drink and tourism.
“We are delighted that the two Highland based social enterprises are joining us at the World Forum, and for them to get the opportunity to learn about what’s going on in the sector in other areas around the world and explore potential partnerships and collaborations opportunities with other delegates.”
Other Highlands and Islands social enterprises have attended the annual event in the past.
Tina McGeever from Elgin based social enterprise, Out of the Darkness Theatre Company, attended last year’s Social Enterprise World Forum in Seoul, South Korea, and found it inspiring. She said: “Connecting with experts in their field was inspirational. My visit allowed me to examine my leadership approach, formulate new developments and connect with people that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise. I’ve learned to cherish my team and use their skills and not to be afraid of making mistakes. My attendance there made me realise that a small social enterprise can make a big impact and that we are part of a much bigger and powerful movement.”
The sector currently generates £53 million for the Highlands and Islands economy and employs 1,700 people. In addition it provides opportunities for 8,700 volunteers whose work is valued at £10.8 million.