CEIS was pleased to welcome over 50 delegates to Scotland from the UK, Asia and Africa as part of the British Council’s Business and Investment Readiness programme. The delegation convened in Scotland’s capital to provide an update on the progress within the social enterprises in Asia and Africa with the support of their appointed UK partners.
With many visiting Scotland for the first time the British Council were keen to deliver an educational programme, supported by local study visits aligned to the delegates areas of business. With the delegates travelling a long distance and only staying for a short time the study visits had to be meticulously planned to allow participants maximum opportunity to see different business models that they could adopt or adapt in their own organisations.
To meet the diverse needs of the group CEIS Events arranged two separate study visits that encompassed arts and creative industries, employability, technology and community empowerment in urban and more rural settings. This was preceded by an introduction to the Scottish Government’s support of the sector by Yvonne Strachan, Head of HR, Equality and Human Rights to set the scene.
Urban study tour
The first tour took in the Edinburgh Furniture Initiative, Out of the Blue, MAKLab and the Glasgow Bike Station. At the first stop, Matt Lopata, General Manager, Edinburgh Furniture Initiative (EFI) provided delegates with a background of the social enterprise, which was set up by Four Square as a means of raising money through the sale of second-hand donated furniture to support the homeless and vulnerable people in the city and Scotland.
The group then moved on to Out of the Blue, where Rob Hoon, Finance Manager described their mission to provide opportunities for artists and other people who face barriers to creativity. This is achieved by housing over 150 artists in studios throughout Edinburgh, offering larger production spaces and promoting their work, helping to create jobs and opportunities.
A short bus journey later and it was through to visit MAKLab. Here, Richard Clifford, Managing Director detailed MAKLab’s journey. With a background in architecture, Richard in collaboration with professionals from other fields wanted to use their disciplines and skills to create a space for anyone to access current technology and equipment to develop individual projects that have a positive impact on their lives. From opening their flagship space in Charing Cross, Glasgow the company has gone from strength to strength with branches opening Scotland-wide and the purchase of a mobile unit to help reach more remote locations or people who cannot travel.
Finally, it was on to the Glasgow Bike Station where Greg Chauvet, Managing Director provided a tour of the bike store, the bike workshop and described their business model. All bikes within the store are donated and refurbished onsite. However, if your bike is just in need of repair, then you can pay for a repair service or the bike workshop is available to anyone who needs space and tools to repair or to build a new bike with guidance from onsite mentors. They can even teach you how to ride the bike you’ve built!
Rural study tour
Meanwhile the second tour visited McSence, Whitmuir Farm and Cockenzie House and Gardens. At McSence delegates were welcomed by David Maxwell, CEO; Chris Harris, Director and Alan Paterson, Manager. Here, delegates discovered the journey of McSence since it was first established in 1987 by Brian Tannerhill in response to the loss of jobs in the mining industry. Since then, McSence have developed into a successful multi-service self-sustaining enterprise offering jobs and training to the local community; adjusting direction to ensure they continue to meet the needs of the community and market.
Then, it was on to Whitmuir Farm to meet with farm owner, Pete Ritchie. Pete’s ethos to educate and use seasonal, organic produce was evident in their onsite farm shop and restaurant. Participants learned about the farm’s model of selling shares to 200 members, in return for fresh produce from the farm and his ambition for the community to take ownership of the farm in the longer-term. The group also met with Kate Orchard, Project Manager for 2000m² who delivers school projects bringing kids to the farm to see where their food comes from, and then it’s in to the restaurant kitchen to cook with the freshly picked produce.
After a delicious lunch in the farm restaurant, it was on to Cockenzie House and Gardens; a formidable 17th Century House once owned by the Cadell family from 1719-1919, before being used as an orphanage, then a nursing home and now run by the local community in response to them not wishing the house, which the community holds dear, being turned into a hostel as was originally planned.
Marietta Di Ciaccia, Trustee described the challenges of the newly established registered charity which aims to bring one of the few remaining unique late 17th century manager’s houses in Scotland back into community ownership. It is open on a daily basis offering practical and elegant spaces for hire within easy access from Edinburgh − excellent exhibition and function space, a traditional tea room, studio space for artists (currently 35 rented) and professional businesses and holiday accommodation.
Both visits then culminated in the group coming together for a tour, food and fun at The Experience.
“The Experience was delighted to host a delegation of Social Entrepreneurs from Asia and Africa. The British Council arranged the study tour of social enterprises across the Central Belt of Scotland, and given that the delegates were interested in employability, arts and the creative industries, The Experience was a perfect place to end their day.
After a long day on the road visiting other social enterprises the delegates thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity for dinner and a chance to relax in the Academy Restaurant. Thereafter, they were given a guided tour of the facility including the track, conference facilities, training kitchen and, of course, the jet. The overarching desire to provide worthwhile training and employment opportunities for young people helped explain the genesis of the programme. The scale of the project impressed the delegates, all of whom were amazed at the range of facilities and activities on offer and the fact that The Experience has only been open for just over one year.
After the tour and a question and answer session delegates then had the opportunity to race on track. It was great to see the competitive juices flowing and once the race suits were on all signs of fatigue evaporated.
It was a great honour to be recognised by the British Council, by way of CEIS, as a worthwhile destination on the study tour and hope that our visitors gained a useful insight into this most unique of social enterprises”.
Geoff Barrett, Leisure and Learning Developer, The Experience
“The early feedback from our delegates mirrors our own — namely, that the study tour was highly productive and enriching, the visits provided an insightful and multifaceted view of Scottish social enterprise, the meeting venues were gorgeous and historically resonant and the CEIS events team were unfailingly helpful, solicitous and friendly”.
Adam Pillsbury, Senior Communications Manager, British Council