Researchers celebrate landmark social enterprise research

05 December 2018

Researchers have marked the completion of one of the largest ever research programmes on social enterprise with a celebration event at Glasgow Caledonian University.

CommonHealth was a collaborative five-year study, led by GCU, aimed at addressing health inequalities and establishing new ways to help vulnerable communities across Scotland.

The programme, funded by the Medical Research Council and the Economic & Social Research Council, was made up of eight research projects delivered in partnership with over 30 social enterprises across Scotland and academics from Stirling, Glasgow, Highlands and Islands and Robert Gordon Universities. Glasgow Centre for Population Health was also a research partner and the programme received endorsement from Social Enterprise Scotland the ScotSEN (Scottish Social Enterprise Networks).

Subjects included the history of social enterprise in Scotland since the 1970s, how social enterprises operate at a local level, and the health and wellbeing effects of rural social enterprise activity in the Highlands and Islands.

Academics also looked at how skills development and training helps build confidence in hard-to-reach groups, what impact social enterprise had on participants aged 50 and over, how information and data can be used to improve service levels, and how social enterprises operating in the housing sector can have a significant positive impact on tenants.

The outcomes stressed the need for organisations to balance their successful relationships with local and national government with community links, and for there to be a better understanding of the impact of small, but transformative actions.

This week GCU hosted an exhibition of project findings and a presentation from Professor Cam Donaldson, the programme’s principal investigator, to celebrate the end of the project.

Social enterprise and public health experts including Leona McDermid, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Foyer, Aidan Pia, CEO of ScotSEN, and Carol Tannahill, Chief Social Policy Advisor to the Scottish Government, also delivered speeches.

Professor Donaldson, GCU’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise, said: “We have pulled off one the largest ever research programmes on social enterprise and managed to conceptualise and evidence a new idea for public policy; that any social enterprise, even without mentioning health in its mission, can be portrayed as acting on social determinants of health.

"This is because the various contexts in which social enterprises operate almost always involve addressing some aspect of social vulnerability that will likely be associated with health.

"As well as completing and publishing the results of our projects, CommonHealth has produced a cadre of talented researchers across Scotland, which is much needed for this important area of social and economic activity in which Scotland leads the way. ”

Figures show there are now more than 5000 social enterprises operating in Scotland, with 64 per cent being led by women.

GCU is to host a national archive capturing Scotland’s social enterprise story after securing £90,000 of government funding.

Scotland’s Social Enterprise Collection will be open to all members of the public and will chronicle the history of the thriving sector. Alongside it, the papers and other outputs from CommonHealth will be archived, so making the work of the research permanently available to public audiences.