On Tuesday I’m going to Edinburgh.  I’ve not been to Edinburgh for years, and I’m going to the Social Enterprise Places Biennial Meeting where I know I’ll be inspired by the wealth of social enterprise activity across the country.  There are now 26 Social Enterprise Places (or Zones, or Cities) in the country and we are all working to reach out to and involve, local councils, businesses, charities, consumers and budding social entrepreneurs - bringing them together to grow their social enterprise communities.

We are using our place or zone status to build a strong and resilient local, social and enterprising economy that recognises, maximises and values the unique qualities of our social and cultural economy, and helps to empower and inspire both individually and collectively.

CaVCA launched the Yorkshire Coast Social Enterprise Zone in April with a safari and summit hosted by Social Enterprise UK, showcasing local enterprise and bringing people together to share ideas and to be inspired. At the same time we also heard that we had been awarded funding from the Advantage Coast Community Led Local Development (CLLD) Programme to enable us to staff the Zone for three years.

Whilst it has been outwardly quiet during the summer, we have been working with the CLLD team to finalise the contracts and we are delighted that we have now been able to recruit two highly skilled workers to act as ambassadors for our zone – to inspire, to nurture and to support.  We are anticipating they will start in October.

Work behind the scenes to engage a wider group to our Social Enterprise Zone has begun in earnest – not only those enterprises or organisations that identify themselves as social or community businesses, but also those who take an entrepreneurial approach to making things happen to improve quality of life, or plug a gap, or raise an issue. This is what we hope our Zone will be about – bringing all those people with passion and ingenuity together to take ownership of commonly held issues and make the difference. The wealth of activity that is already happening in our communities, with little or no traditional infrastructure to assist, is monumental. I was in Whitby this morning, listening to how the various ‘small’ activities create their own energy and connections, growing and developing in line with emerging needs, needs which only come to light when people feel confident that they are being authentically involved and they are genuinely valued.  The role of our Zone will be to help to build these connections, to harness the creativity and ingenuity, and to enable the community to be self-determining and more resilient as a result of listening to its own voice, raising its own needs, and addressing them for itself.