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Scotland's world lead in social enterprise research boosted by major international event in 2018

29 September 2017

GCU Chancellor Muhammad Yunus.

GCU Chancellor Muhammad Yunus.

Scotland’s growing reputation as the world leading centre of social enterprise research has helped attract a major international event with 1200 delegates from 40 countries due to visit next year. Social entrepreneurs, politicians and academics will be among those drawn from around the globe to the prestigious Social Enterprise World Forum in Scotland next September.

The Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health, Glasgow Caledonian University’s flagship research centre, will play a major role in the Forum. Named after the world’s best known social entrepreneur, the Nobel Peace Laureate and Chancellor of GCU, Muhammad Yunus, the Centre will host a two-day event before the main gathering in Edinburgh and will use the occasion to promote Scotland as the leading country in the world for social enterprise research. They will showcase some of the new research methods assessing the impact that social enterprises – businesses that trade for social benefit rather for the personal enrichment of owners or shareholders – are having in reducing inequality, changing lives and creating fairer societies.  

The announcement has been made at this year’s Social Enterprise World Forum being held in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Forum has grown significantly since the first was held in Scotland in 2008. Accepting the handover of the event, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary Angela Constance MSP said: “Social enterprises are fantastic examples of what we want to achieve in a fairer Scotland – reducing inequality, lifting people out of poverty and encouraging more empowered and resilient communities. It is staggering, but perhaps unsurprising, that the sector makes a combined contribution to the Scottish economy every year of just over £2 billion.”

Dr Michael Roy, Senior Lecturer in Social Business, addressing the Forum on behalf of Glasgow Caledonian University’s Yunus Centre, said: “Scotland is leading the world when it comes to Social Enterprise research. We are well known for having an incredibly supportive policy environment for such businesses to thrive in Scotland. But now we have the largest team of academics working on the biggest projects, and our work is attracting international interest. People instinctively understand the potential of social enterprise to make a difference in socially vulnerable communities, but proving that difference requires a whole new approach to research. By taking methods that are tried and tested in public health, we are developing innovative new ways to make sense of the complex environments these social enterprises are working in, and prove what is working and what isn’t."

Gerry Higgins, CEO of Glasgow-based social enterprise CEiS, said: “We know there is a real passion to establish social enterprise as a viable business model for non-profits looking for sustainability and entrepreneurs seeking to create businesses that benefit society. The World Forum in 2018 will enable delegates to experience our unique Scottish and UK social enterprise scene, where social enterprises and government are working together to tackle inequality, build healthy communities and create vibrant local economies.”

Academics at the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health are currently leading a five year programme of research called CommonHealth, which is due to finish at the end of 2019. This is believed to be the largest single research project on social enterprise in the world. The Yunus Centre has attracted £4 million in research grants since 2010, and has grown to become the largest and one of the most important centres of its type anywhere. Dr Roy said: “We are working with dozens of social enterprises across Scotland, as well as with other universities, looking at the health and well-being impacts of social enterprise-led activity in local communities."