Introduction: Stephanie Anderson works at Scottish Enterprise (SE) as a Project Manager for Entrepreneurial & Ecosystem Development. Working on everything from infrastructure and large development projects to casual business advice and supporting sectors with international opportunities, SE supports economic development plans across the central belt and the Northeast of Scotland.
Stephanie and her team work with company founders and businesses to develop their entrepreneurial and leadership skills, supporting them to build successful companies of scale. As part of their remit, they were responsible for the delivery of a series of Inclusion Awareness Workshops in March 2021.
Collective: Scottish Enterprise procured several business support organisations in January and February, to support the successful delivery of the workshops. They appointed three partners who each believe in the Scotland Can Do mission: AAI Employability; Tree of Knowledge; and Social Investment Scotland, all of which came together to form the series.
Falling under the overarching umbrella of Inclusion and Awareness, the eight half-day online interactive workshops were centred around various topics to help entrepreneurs and leaders increase their knowledge, understanding and skills around inclusion, diversity, equality and sustainable business practices.
Working together to support one another with complementary skill sets and areas of expertise, AAI Employability, Tree of Knowledge, and Social Investment Scotland collaborated to deliver the sessions about impactful entrepreneurship and how to use business for good.
The sessions created a safe space for people who genuinely wanted to make changes for the better within their business with themes ranging from disability and neurodiversity in the workplace; inclusive leadership; inclusive recruitment; purpose; resilience and personal impact to ways in which attendees could improve their leadership skills.
Stephanie Anderson comments:
“This project was delivered on quite a tight time scale, but we didn’t need to do a lot of prep work for it because our partners completely understood what we were working to achieve. We were all ultimately looking to achieve the same outcomes and, by working together, we were not only successful but we were also able to amplify it to a much wider audience.”
“In terms of being more inclusive, if we were just promoting this around the Scottish Enterprise network, we wouldn’t have been able to provide this opportunity to everyone in Scotland. When AAI and Social Investment Scotland put it out to their network, we connected with completely different pools of talent and businesses. This approach gave us the opportunity to engage with different audiences that might not have worked with Scottish Enterprise in the past.”
Impact: Stephanie continues,
“Generally the businesses who attended the workshops had between £50k and £500k turnover, however, to ensure we were more inclusive, we opened these up to everyone on a first come first serve basis. There was a real mix of attendees, and we used the sessions to pilot the demand out there in Scotland, especially since the pandemic.
“We also opened them up to companies that had staff on furlough creating an opportunity for them to keep their knowledge up to speed. The response was overwhelming and the feedback that we have received so far has been amazing. We asked people to list their top three takeaways and highlight whether there were specific things they were going to change or embed in their business following the sessions.”
“I think that the more that Scottish businesses are aware of diversity and inclusion issues – which some will have never dealt with before – the better armed they will be with information and the more confident they will be about what makes a good business.
“Just learning what these mean in practice will support business owners in creating a fairer, welcoming society. That is not just government-speak – it needs to be threaded through every business. If this culture is built-in as they grow, that is going to have a huge impact. If all these young companies can shape themselves with a business model which puts fairness and equality at its core, that will provide a great springboard for growth.
“In terms of the wider impact, we are hoping to see more diverse teams with people from different backgrounds being employed within businesses. That will lead to more innovative businesses in Scotland, with faster growth potential and better economic performance. While achieving this ultimate ambition is further down the line, these are small changes that will lead to greater innovation.”
Kieran Daly, Head of Market Building at Social Investment Scotland, feels this project established a strong platform for future partnership work with Scottish Enterprise. He commented:
“Our organisation offers investment, courses and business support to charities, social enterprises and mission-led businesses.
“This collaboration with Scottish Enterprises enabled us to support mission-led businesses and the wider business community to explore the relationship between investment and investee, as well as the range of debt and equity products in the market. Central to this was exploring the multiple benefits of environment, social and governance-driven investment, and how investing ethically can increase profitability. Looking at start up and scale up investment, we explored how to make approached to investors and ensure businesses find the right investors to suit their long-term strategy.”
Nick Murray, Enterprise Engagement Lead at AAI Employability, also highlighted the benefits of the collective approach to this project, saying:
“The most powerful thing about this collaboration was the genuine buy-in from Scottish Enterprise to allow those closest to these inclusive business practices to deliver things in their own way. Projects like this not only empower the businesses who attend, but also strengthens trust and transparency within the Scottish business ecosystem.
“AAI delivered six out of the eight events in this series, covering topics including neurodiversity in the workplace, cultural competency and ethical recruitment. We made a conscious effort to target businesses outside of our ‘purpose-driven echo chamber’, and were delighted to be oversubscribed for all of our workshops, with excellent feedback from those who attended.”
Gavin Oattes, Managing Director of Tree of Knowledge added his thoughts on the value of collaboration in the project, saying:
“The way we work is changing and bringing people together to collaborate on this project successfully blended many different experiences, skills and ideas in order to truly make a difference and inspire all those taking part.
“I wish I had the opportunity to take part in this type of project when I was starting out in business.”
Social Enterprise is looking to deliver further workshop sessions over the coming months. For the latest news and updates on upcoming sessions follow them on Twitter, Linked In, Instagram or Facebook.
To find out more about the support AAI EmployAbility, Tree of Knowledge and Social Investment Scotland can offer, visit their websites below: