The specialists bring skills from a range of backgrounds including commercial, retail and private banking, alongside those of project management, leadership, finance and commercialisation.
Eight social enterprises from Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross, Outer Hebrides, Argyll and Bute, Caithness and Sutherland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland are taking part in the six-month pilot.
The idea for the programme came from Bank of Scotland’s Shona Austin, area director SME Banking, Scotland, during a secondment with HIE to develop links between the agency and the banking sector.
The proposals were then developed by HIE ScotGrad placement, Catriona Mallows.
Catriona said: “Behind every successful social enterprise is a board providing strong strategic leadership and direction. This pilot programme is about providing social enterprises in rural areas with a range of expertise to which they might not otherwise have access.
“We’re very pleased with both the support from the Bank of Scotland and the level of interest from social enterprises taking part. We look forward to running the pilot and hearing how it has benefitted the organisations.”
Social enterprises operate like most other businesses but have a social and/or environmental purpose at their core; they reinvest all their distributable profit in the pursuit of that purpose.
The direct contribution the sector makes to economic growth, social well-being and improvement of public services is increasingly recognised by policy makers across the UK and further afield.
The sector is particularly strong in the Highlands and Islands.
While the region is home to nine per cent (9%) of Scotland’s population, it has 22% of the country’s social enterprises. These contribute more than £130 million to the region’s economy, provide employment for more than 7,000 people and opportunities for 14,000 volunteers.
Having a vibrant and expanding social enterprise sector is a priority for HIE.
Social enterprises taking part in the pilot are: Lochcarron Community Development Company; Moray Arts Centre; Westray Development Trust (Orkney); Urachadh Uibhist and Urran Nan Tursachan (Outer Hebrides); Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust; Cope Ltd (Shetland); and South Islay Development Trust (Argyll).