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How big is the social economy?

George Clark (Oct 2003)

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The social economy in Scotland is driven by 44,000 voluntary organisations. 22,000 of these are registered charities. The sector employs about 100,000 people (80,000 full time) and is supported by 700,000 volunteers.

In 2000 income to the social economy was estimated to be 2.2 billion which is 4% of Scotland's gross domestic product. This includes charitable funding by individuals of 370 million per year with another 90 million coming from charitable trusts.

And the social economy sector is growing. Since 1995 the paid labour force has nearly doubled and the income has increased by 40%.

"Social economy organizations working with socially disadvantaged groups spend around 500 million each year of self-generated income and income from private donors and charitable trusts, a sum which probably exceeds the annual total of the Executive's dedicated social inclusion expenditure." (p20) Ref: Scot Exec.

 

How are social economy organisations different from public and private sector ones?

Social economy organisations are different from other organisations because they

 
bulletare set up for a social and environmental purposes (not just to make profit)
bullethave unpaid, leadership (ie Board members, Directors or Trustees)
bullethave a lot of community or user involvement in how they are run
bulletreinvest profit rather than paying it out to shareholders

Social economy organisations have many advantages compared to other organisations. They are:

 
bulletclose to their customers and clients and therefore know and respond quickly to their needs
bulletable to provide services to groups of people that are hard to reach
bulletindependent of the state and therefore free to experiment and do things differently
bulletable to attract charitable donations (money, labour and contributions in kind)
bulletwell placed to make experience based contributions to public debates
bulletan effective way of building social capital (see box)

How can social capital be developed?

bulletbuild the capacity of communities to determine and act on their own definitions of the public good
bulletprovide ways for taking independent social action
bulletcreate networks of communication and decision taking in communities of place and interest
bulletdevelop neglected human skills
bulletlocate a social economy organization within a community
bulletcreate employment and encourage new economic activity

Ref: p11 Scot Exec

What do social economy organisations do?

There are many types of social economy organisations doing many different things. Some are small, low budget organisations with a very local focus while others are large, big budget organizations with national and/or international influence.

They may be linked to public or private sector companies on a more or less formal contract basis or they may be totally independent. They may or may not be registered charities and/or companies limited by guarantee. They range from corporate firms such as mutuals, employee owned businesses and cooperatives through housing associations and campaigning groups to small, self-help community groups.

What themes are covered by social economy organisations in Scotland?

bulletanimal welfare
bulletarts and museums
bulletchildren's services
bulletcivil rights
bulletcommunity care
bulletcommunity regeneration
bulletconservation
bulletcultural heritage
bulleteducation and vocational training
bulletenvironment
bulletenergy efficiency
bulletfair trade
bulletfinancial services
bulletfood processing
bullethealth
bullethousing
bulletinformation communication technology
bulletland industries: horticulture, agriculture & forestry
bulletlegal services
bulletlocal exchange trading
bulletmarine industries: fisheries
bulletmicro-finance credit
bulletoverseas development
bulletreligious activities
bulletresearch & policy engagement
bulletrecycling and waste reduction
bulletretail distribution and shops
bulletrural development
bulletsavings and credit
bulletsocial banking
bulletsocial landownership
bulletsmall scale power utilities
bulletsports and recreation
bulletsports hunting and fishing
bullettransport
bullettourism - local & green

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