Community and cultural development

EU delegation visit Highland social enterprises

Fourteen delegates from organisations across Europe that are tackling socio-economic challenges will visit the Highlands this week.

The visit is part of the next project meeting of the Support Network for Social Entrepreneurs (SuNSE) and will take place during 1-3 October in Inverness and Sutherland.

SuNSE is a three-year Interreg North West Europe partnership project, which aims to support, nurture and grow social entrepreneurship across North West Europe.

The partnership is made up of nine organisations from eight countries, representing a diverse range of economies and geographies.

Each of the partner regions represent varied socio-economic landscapes; from urban areas in the city of Heerlen in the Netherlands, to the sparsely populated Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

The visit is organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and will give the European delegates a flavour of the region’s social enterprises including Velocity Café and Blindcraft in Inverness on Tuesday. The group will head to Falls of Shin in Lairg, Sutherland on the Wednesday and will meet representatives of Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust and take part in a Social Enterprise Academy workshop. On Thursday, they will take part in SuNSE’s fifth project steering group meeting at An Lòchran, Inverness Campus.

SuNSE project delegates hail from Luxembourg, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Ireland, France, Wales and England and in Scotland it is being led by HIE.

Helen Lavery, senior project manager at HIE, said: “We are delighted to host the European delegation and look forward to showing them some our region’s social enterprises. We will discuss key challenges and opportunities that social businesses can offer from creating jobs to uniting communities. The visit gives us a great opportunity to hear about other countries’ experiences.”

As part of the SuNSE project, a new programme of support known as the Start-Up School has launched across the Highlands and Islands for people with a business idea that will benefit their local community or environment. The innovative programme will be delivering four locally focused initiatives. The first, in Sutherland, is open for applications and others will be in the Outer Hebrides, Wester and Easter Ross. This support is also being developed across Europe and will help ambitious individuals to establish locally-based social businesses. 

Helen continued: “Having previously met with the SuNSE partners, we are confident that sharing the excellent best practice we’ve all undertaken in this area is going to help up continue to provide a dynamic environment for social enterprises to thrive and prosper.”

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