3/6/20 notes – Rural social enterprises and their supporters connected virtually at the Rural SEN meeting last week, giving people from as far north as Lerwick, to as far south as Kelso, the opportunity to share experiences, learning, and identify areas for future action and collaboration. A number of reports and resources were shared during the meeting, these are linked in the notes, which can be downloaded here: Rural SEN 3rd June Meeting Notes
Key themes to emerge from discussion included:
- The importance of localism, and the ability of community organisations to be agile and responsive to local needs. The essential role of social enterprises and community organisations in supporting local communities, especially vulnerable groups, should be recognised post-crisis.
- Concerns for the sustainability of many small and rural social enterprises in the coming months, given the substantial disruption to income streams. There is particular concern that impact will be more greatly felt over the winter months, with summer income for those organisations that rely on seasonality being affected.
- Retail and service-based social enterprises are exploring ways to safely re-open, but have concerns about the safety of customers, service users and volunteers, especially where these groups are particularly vulnerable to Covid 19.
- Some enterprises highlighted challenges in moving services or operations online, citing a lack of capacity and knowledge around best online platforms, how to use them, and having in place effective safeguarding policies.
- There is a feeling of optimism in people using their skills and time to support the local community and community wellbeing. Community support for small businesses and the activities of social enterprises has been overwhelmingly positive.
The geographic spread of attendees was mapped, and is displayed here. This shows a high density of attendees across the west of Scotland and central belt, and a scarcity of attendees from the Highland region and north-east Scotland. These areas will be targeted to promote awareness of the Rural SEN and encourage more people from these localities to join future meetings.