The Scotsman

Talk­ing about an in­clu­sive so­cial en­ter­prise com­mu­nity is not enough

As­sump­tions about suc­cess should be chal­lenged, says Dun­can Thorp

- HAVE YOUR SAY www.scots­man.com Society · Discrimination · Social Enterprise · Human Rights · Philanthropy · Voluntary Sector

Soci al en­ter­prises and the third sec­tor are lead­ers in many ways when it comes to in­clu­sion and di­ver­sity.

In­deed many of them ex­ist with a spe­cific so­cial mis­sion to im­prove lives for so­cially ex­cluded groups, eth­nic mi­nori­ties and those with dis­abil­i­ties, for ex­am­ple.

How­ever, it’s im­por­tant not to make as­sump­tions about our suc­cess and in fact we should chal­lenge our so­cial en­ter­prise com­mu­nity when it comes to in­clu­sion.

Do peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds re­ally feel wel­come in our or­gan­i­sa­tions and in our so­cial en­ter­prise com­mu­nity? If we want to find out if mi­nor­ity groups feel ex­cluded then we must ask them.

We also need to be more open about hav­ing what are some­times awk­ward con­ver­sa­tions re­gard­ing race and eth­nic­ity, gen­der iden­tity, dis­abil­ity and other char­ac­ter­is­tics that make up our com­mu­ni­ties.

We should all feel able to con­fi­dently dis­cuss th­ese is­sues and chal­lenge un­com­fort­able truths. Of course it’s equally as im­por­tant for us all to help give a plat­form to those with­out the means to ex­press their voice.

In ad­di­tion there are other char­ac­ter­is­tics that are rarely talked about. For ex­am­ple, how can so­cial en­ter­prise work­forces re­flect the com­mu­ni­ties they work in? What can we do to en­cour­age peo­ple in poorer com­mu­ni­ties to be­come so­cial en­trepreneur­s? Do we re­ally recog­nise and mea­sure non-vis­i­ble dis­abil­i­ties or neu­ro­di­ver­sity?

Aside from the head­line suc­cess of women’s lead­er­ship of so­cial en­ter

prises (at 65 per cent ac­cord­ing to Cen­sus 2019), are women oth­er­wise paid less than men in our sec­tor? Are LGBT+ peo­ple able to play a full part in our busi­ness com­mu­nity? We need to look at board mem­ber­ship as well as staff teams and vol­un­teers to be truly rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Cur­rently we don’t have good data on other char­ac­ter­is­tics in terms of di­ver­sity.

So­cial En­ter­prise Scot­land re­cently hosted a we­bi­nar on the topic with a num­ber of ex­pert speak­ers and an op­por­tu­nity for par­tic­i­pants to dis­cuss the key is­sues.

Zahra Hedges of the Diver­sit y in So­cial En­ter­prise project group has been look­ing into the is­sues in­volved and, along­side oth­ers, pro­duced the diver­sit y website. She says: “I don’t think any­one in our sec­tor dis­agrees with the prin­ci­ples of di­ver­sity and

in­clu­sion, but it’s some­times eas­ier to talk about than to do ef­fec­tively.

“At the start of the year Me­gan Veronesi and I be­gan to work with oth­ers across the sec­tor who feel that, while we are very in­clu­sive in the peo­ple we sup­port, that doesn’t of­ten ex­tend to board or staff po­si­tions.

“This is not a new con­ver­sa­tion, but we have seen a real mo­men­tum build­ing over the sum­mer and would in­vite ever yone who hasn’t yet had their say to take par t in our shor t di­ver­sity sur­vey.”

It’s clear that the con­ver­sa­tion is just get­ting started. We need to build an in­clu­sive so­cial en­ter­prise com­mu­nity, not sim­ply talk about it.

In the con­text of the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment and an in­creas­ing recog­ni­tion of the hu­man rights of trans peo­ple in Scot­land, some level of aware­ness is emerg­ing in wider so­ci­ety.

It’s this chal­lenge that so­cial en­trepreneur­s and their sup­port bod­ies need to take for­ward to re­ally prac­tice the spirit and val­ues of an in­clu­sive busi­ness com­mu­nity.

Dun­can Thorp, So­cial En­ter­prise Scot­land

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