Building partnerships between social enterprise and universities

Woman working on a crafting projects
25th March 2014

Scotland’s universities are at the forefront of innovation. This increasingly includes the dynamic business model known as “social enterprise”. From Glasgow Caledonian University and their unique MSc in Social Enterprise, to increasing numbers of students, academics and researchers contacting Social Enterprise Scotland, we’re seeing a real awareness, engagement and enthusiasm for academic collaboration with social enterprise.

Firstly let’s be clear about what a social enterprise is on the ground. The quick definition is: “an independent business that exists specifically to deliver a social and/or environmental purpose”.

Social enterprise is best explained by successful, working examples like The Big Issue, The Wise Group, Kibble Education and Care, Glasgow Housing Association, Link Group Ltd, Capital Credit Union, The Grameen Bank, Mondragon Corporation and the Homeless World Cup. These all aim to make profit like any private sector business and see profit as a good thing – but they reinvest every penny back into social/environmental purposes. The social mission is clear, they operate ethically and crucially they’re asset locked. They’re in almost every community in Scotland as a practical, working reality.

The social enterprise could simply be a Limited Company or a registered charity, a Community Interest Company (CIC) or a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO). It could be a co-operative, credit union, housing association or community-owned development trust. Social enterprise is a diverse community – but it’s one united in improving lives and our environment.

Social enterprises of all shapes and sizes can benefit greatly by engaging with universities and colleges and exploring ways to work together for mutual benefit. Impartial and free services like Interface are ideally placed to take this forward, by providing a central point of access and matching academic expertise with businesses. We’re keen on all social enterprises finding out ways to benefit from academic research and expertise and we look forward to helping build these relationships.

For more information visit

Or contact Duncan Thorp, Policy and Communications Officer, Social Enterprise Scotland

0131 243 2654 /