The annual Social Enterprise Policy & Practice Conference, hosted and organised by CEIS in Glasgow every September, has long been a key event in the Scottish social enterprise calendar. This year’s conference was held on 7 September 2016, and had a particularly international flavour. Among the delegates were 45 participants from Taiwan and South Korea, brought to Scotland by British Council on a week-long study tour to share learning about social enterprise in our respective countries. In addition, the conference was a platform for the launch of the Scottish Government’s new Internationalising Social Enterprise strategy, unveiled by Angela Constance MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities. The new strategy aims to support Scottish social enterprises to grow their international reach – currently 6% of Scottish social enterprises trade internationally. Collaboration and interconnection are central themes.
The conference overall reflected a decade of growth and development in the Scottish social enterprise movement, which now has over 5,000 individual organisations working in a diversity of fields – from waste management to architecture, construction, publishing and barista training - and making significant social, economic and environmental contributions in Scotland and beyond. Several of the conference sessions touched on what the future might hold for social enterprise – a theme addressed by international contributors such as guests from Canada and the United States, as well as local social entrepreneurs. This prompted British Council Scotland Director Jackie Killeen, who closed the conference to observe, quoting Abraham Lincoln, that "the best way to predict the future is to create it" and this sector has an impressive track record in doing just that.