ANGUS North and Mearns MSP Mairi Gougeon saw first-hand how social enterprises are transforming Scotland’s local economies during a visit to a pioneering Forfar community support group.
She visited Community First, which provides work and training opportunities, as well as affordable food for people across Angus.
It offers a wide range of support and services to communities, groups and organisations – and helps those who help, volunteer and support their communities.
Community First is one of more than 6,000 social enterprises in Scotland and together they contribute more than £2.6 billion to Scotland’s economy, creating almost 90,000 jobs.
Ms Gougeon was welcomed to Community First by Pauline Lockhart, founder and chief executive, and Duncan Thorp, from Social Enterprise Scotland, which champions and supports the social enterprise sector.
Community First provides training, upskilling and employment opportunities through a community and business hub based at West High Street Forfar.
Within the hub it operates Angus’s first Social Supermarket, S-Mart, which is tackling food insecurity and food waste by using surplus goods from big chain supermarkets, local businesses and suppliers then selling these items at discounted prices.
The S-Mart model is unique in that it is open to everyone which means there is no requirement for means testing or need for referrals, promoting dignity and inclusivity.
During the pandemic Community First worked with charity food network Fareshare to provide more than 35,000 meals in the shape of free grocery packs to those in need across the whole of Angus.
Profits from the Supermarket and Community First’s Little Green Café go back into the organisations to support training and work opportunities as well as a programme of activities supporting local people, enterprises and businesses.
In July this year, Social Enterprise Scotland was chosen by the Scottish Government to represent social enterprises in Scotland with one clear voice. The independent and membership-led organisation supports and promotes the rich and diverse social enterprise sector across the country, helping them to maximise their social and economic contribution to Scotland.
It follows on from the Scottish Government’s Social Enterprise Action Plan 2021-24, which commits to placing social enterprise at the forefront of ethical and socially responsible business in Scotland.
It includes investment, building capacity and supporting social enterprises to flourish – as well as creating the SEI.
Mairi Gougeon, MSP for Angus North and Mearns, said:
“It was great to meet up with the team at Community First again to see their ongoing work in helping people in Angus with training, work opportunities, and amongst many other things support with food.
“Social enterprises are vital for our communities as they provide opportunities and support for people that need it most.
“I know that Social Enterprise Scotland will give organisations like Community First a stronger voice in Scotland whilst also supplying extra investment and capacity to ensure these vital community organisations flourish.”
Chris Martin, chief executive of Social Enterprise Scotland, said:
“We are proud to be growing a strong and inclusive voice for social enterprises in Scotland.
“We were delighted to welcome Ms Gougeon to see first-hand how the more-than-profit approach at the heart of the social enterprise movement is making a difference every single day.
“Social enterprises play a leading role in putting greater fairness and equality into our economy and Community First is a fantastic example of what can be achieved.”
Pauline Lockhart, founder and chief executive of Community First, said:
“Enterprising, sustainable social businesses like ours are the backbone of communities across Scotland and will be even more so in the face of the cost of living crisis and more.
“Like many other wonderful organisations in Angus, and indeed across Scotland, we are doing what we can to support our communities.
“Since Community First began in 2016 we have been passionate about empowering individuals, by supporting them to develop skills and knowledge and as a result of their learning and experiences increase in confidence in their lives.
“With over 2,000 members from across Angus, Tayside and beyond, our vision is to see an
S-Mart is being introduced into every town in Scotland ensuring no one is left behind and that everyone has access to affordable food in a stigma-free and dignified environment.
“I believe with support and investment that vision is achievable.”