Our mission as a national support agency remains focused and ambitious for Social Firms and their people. The services we provide often involve collaboration with a diverse number of partners from all sectors, and we welcome every opportunity to establish an environment in which our members can develop and grow.


If there is anything you cannot find or need more information on please get in touch.

0131 225 4178 sfs@socialfirms.org.uk


of Social Enterprises employ people formerly disadvantaged in the labour market

Social Enterprise in Scotland Census 2017

“As CEO at Scarf I have found being a member of SFS to be of benefit to me and our organisation.  SFS have been brilliant at helping us meet other organisations working in the sector and given us opportunities to explore new ways of working and partnerships.  On top of this SFS have been able to provide us with a range of practical support from governance issues to future funding opportunities.  Being a member of SFS has definitely been a positive experience for us.”

Thane Lawrie, SCARF

Business Development Support

SFS provides business development support to our members across Scotland.  Our services are primarily aimed at assisting and supporting the set-up, development and growth of viable commercially focused Social Firms that can offer jobs, training and meaningful work-based experiences to people who face significant barriers to work.

Our team has a depth of experience working within our sector and we have specialist knowledge of Social Firms and Work Integration Social Enterprises which enables us to support, mentor and share learning across our member organisations.

By working with you we can provide specific business advice to assist with your needs and we can broker additional specialist help, where possible, to support your individual business and organisational needs.  We do this by working with a range of partners, sector and business contacts; a network and resource our members can call upon at any time.

Contact us for a chat to find out how we can help support your Social Firm development.

Policy and Representation

As the voice of the Social Firms Sector in Scotland, we take every opportunity to champion the work of Social Firms.  We campaign and raise awareness of the business model to position Social Firms as an effective solution to increase the employment/improve the employability of people who experience significant barriers to accessing work.

As a member-led organisation we are in a unique position of having a national overview of the Social Firm sector and the key issues and challenges our members faces both at the coalface and at policy level.  We engage and rely on our members and encourage and appreciate their feedback/input to inform our work; campaigning for change and improvements in the policy landscape to create the right environment for Social Firms to develop and grow.

As a support agency we aim to ensure that the key role Social Firms play in creating employment and meaningful work experience for people furthest from the labour market is widely recognised and valued.

Social Firms Scotland represents our members in the following areas:

  • Strategic engagement with Scottish Government on key policy issues
  • Support policy developments on reserved contracts/Community Benefits, Supported Businesses and Social Firms
  • Scottish Government’s Leaders Forum
  • Third Sector Employability Forum
  • Social Enterprise and Health and Wellbeing Roundtable
  • Learning Disability Employment Task Group
  • Ministerial led Supported Business Advisory Group
  • Procurement Supplier Group
  • Social Enterprise Strategy Steering Group
  • Social Enterprise Strategy Sub-Group
  • Social Enterprise Census Steering Group
  • Social Enterprise Collection Advisory Group – hosted at Yunus Centre, GCU
  • Social Enterprise World Forum Steering Group
  • Advisory Group member to investigate suitable Branding/Campaign for social enterprise in Scotland, in consultation with the SE sector
Information and Advice
We provide a proactive and responsive information and advice service to members, from answering general enquiries, to signposting to relevant sector opportunities, Scottish Government and other support programmes and investment opportunities.
We produce regular e-bulletins which provide accessible, up to date information pertinent to Social Firms. We also report on our activities and that of our members, alongside current funding opportunities and policy news.
Our tailored Members’ Briefings ensure that Social Firms across Scotland can access the latest information on key issues of importance to them, including succinct policy and investment news.
Connecting Social Firms

An important part of our role is to connect and network the sector, to allow members to share experience, learn from and trade with each other.  We do this in a number of ways:

  • Thematic Events and training
  • A study visit programme which funds members to visit each other;
  • Case Studies about Social Firms
  • Promote our members’ products/services, successes and achievements
  • Support the collaboration of Social Firms/enterprises
  • Encourage Social Firms to trade products with each another

By harnessing the knowledge and expertise within the Social Firms sector, we can create more opportunities for people to engage in valuable forms of work and training.

Acquisition & Mergers
Acquiring Business 4 Good (AB4G) was a Lottery funded programme (2009-2012) managed and delivered by SFS which supported third sector organisations to acquire successful private businesses and convert to social/community enterprises.
One of the main purposes of the programme was to raise awareness of and provide training and support to third sector organisations interested in using acquisition as part of their growth plan (as opposed to using the more traditional routes taken to expand and develop business activities).  We also supported organisations who were looking to work collaboratively, merge and/or develop partnerships to further enhance their business activities and portfolios.
A key part of the programme was establishing our own partnerships, connecting and working with a pool of trusted professional advisors from the private sector; they provided expertise and specialist knowledge at different stages of the acquisition process.
We worked with a mix of organisation including charities, community organisations, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), social enterprises and housing associations. In total, we delivered direct support to over 120 organisations across Scotland and supported 11 deals which included business acquisitions, mergers, joint ventures and partnerships.
There were a number of outcomes from the programme:
Events and Training
We hold an annual conference and AGM to report on our activities and highlight the successes and impact of our member Social Firms. In addition, we present at key sector events across Scotland to promote the contribution that Social Firms make to social inclusion, economic activity and health improvements.

In addition to our study visit programme (see connecting Social Firms), we offer members free or subsidised tickets to key social enterprise events. We are always keen to hear from our members on themes and training needs they feel would be valuable to them, without duplicating training that is already available.

Ready for Business
We are proud to be have been a founding member with Senscot and CEiS of Ready for Business LLP (2011-18), which, alongside KPMG, Social Value Lab, MacRoberts LLP and Sustainable Procurement Limited delivered the Scottish Government’s Developing Markets for Third Sector Providers’ Programme which aimed to embed and maximise social value in procurement.
The unique combination of fully funded consultancy support, workshops and online resources meant that we could provide accessible, responsive, tailored support to the commissioning and procurement community across the public sector.
Ready for Business provided information and support on Community Benefit Clauses, Reserved Contracts and the delivery of social value through the commissioning process, alongside access to a register of social enterprise providers willing and able to deliver public contracts.
Social Firms Scotland’s role in the Developing Markets Programme was focused on strategic engagement, and alongside KPMG, we had a particular specialism in supporting 5 strategic Public Social Partnerships (PSPs).
Public Social Partnership (PSP) is a model which focuses on involving the Third Sector earlier and more deeply in the commissioning and design process of a range of public services. It is based on the principle of the Third and Public Sectors working in partnership to design a new, or re-design a current service with the goal of delivering better outcomes for citizens, based on explicit feedback from those who use public services. Services are then piloted prior to a (potential) competitive tendering process. Through RfB we were also able to provide some guidance to social enterprises around the tendering process/accessing public contracts.
Further information regarding our work within Ready for Business can be obtained by contacting us and on the Ready for Business website
Partnership and Procurement Support

Partnership for Procurement (P4P), is a resource for supporting smaller, locally based third sector organisations and social enterprise(s) open to the idea of partnership working, cross sector / geography collaborations and consortia – aimed at informing and designing ‘better’ local services, scaling up and/or delivering more. P4P delivers a range of practical information and support, for identifying and responding effectively to, emerging commissioning / procurement opportunities.

P4P delivers on the three key priorities set out in Scottish Government’s action plan to take forward the vision of a ‘flourishing social enterprise sector’: stimulate social enterprise activity, develop stronger organisations and realise market opportunity. This initiative, developed in partnership with Social Firms Scotland, Scottish Community Alliance, Co-operative Development Scotland and led by Senscot, has access to a collective membership of around 2000 plus third sector organisations.

The suite of support includes: an on-going programme of engagement, events, surgeries and promotion on the benefits of partnership and consortia working as well as a series of online tools, which will include templates on best practice; tender ready documents; key learning points and checklist of mandatory documents.

Transnational Work
SFS has a history of engaging with relevant social economy agencies across the EU and internationally. This enables us to build the profile of Social Firms and Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISE) on a European and international stage and learn from our counterparts.
We are currently involved, with Senscot, in an EU Social Entrepreneurship Network which identifies and shares good practice and learning across the EU about what makes for a comprehensive support environment for social enterprise. With the overarching aim of improving the way the EU’s Structural Funds are used in relation to social enterprise, a report for this can be downloaded here
We have arranged a number of successful study visits for overseas people to visit Social Firms in Scotland and there continues to be great interest in this. Please contact us if you are interested in this and would like more information.
Employability SEN
Social Firms Scotland facilitates the Employability SEN, a peer support network specifically for social enterprises delivering employability outcomes.
The SEN was set up to complement, inform and strengthen existing employability fora with a strong and distinct social enterprise focus to ensure the role that social enterprises play in delivering employability outcomes is recognised and valued.  It aims to take a pro-active approach to influencing policy locally and nationally, promoting collaboration and co-production, and to sharing emerging information, good practice and opportunities for members of the SEN.
For more information see our dedicated webpage, and to join the SEN (free to join), please contact Jayne. All SFS Full members automatically join the SEN which currently has more than 200 members