Media release - Issued Wednesday September 30 2009

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is sponsoring two local community run enterprises in a trip to Australia to attend the Social Enterprise World Forum.

Representatives of the Shetland Arts Development Agency (SADA) and Argyll Training Limited, along with HIE's development manager Kerrien Grant, will fly to Melbourne to attend the event which will promote high level discussion on the future of social enterprise.

The group will be joined by a larger Scottish contingent including representatives from housing associations, NHS, Scottish Government and successful social enterprises and social firms from across Scotland. The highly charged programme will allow the participants to interact with each other and international policy makers, funders and support agencies.

SADA is the lead arts agency in Shetland and is overseeing the creation of a top class arts and education centre, Mareel, due to be opened in 2011. Director Gwilym Gibbons says that this is a key time in the development of the Agency. "We are very grateful for HIE's support in allowing us to attend this event. The timing is perfect for us as SADA is actively developing along the social enterprise model. Attending an event of this scale will bring huge benefits, both by allowing us to connect with other creative arts enterprises nationally and internationally and by learning from other creative local enterprises with successful sustainable business models," he said.

Argyll Training is a limited company with charitable status which was formed in 1991. Managing Director Fraser McCowan has overseen the growth of the business, which now employs 26 people across seven locations in Argyll and the Islands and Renfrewshire. Fraser has also been a member of the management committee of Fyne Homes for four years and is a director of the Argyll & Bute Social Enterprise Network (ABSEN).

He commented: "I am delighted to be going to this event as a representative of the Highlands and Islands. For me it is an opportunity to share ideas - both at the formal conference and additionally through visits to social enterprises operating successfully in Australia. The Highlands and Islands certainly faces challenges in delivering services in our rural areas, but this is an issue which will be magnified in Australia. I look forward to seeing what techniques they employ."

HIE's Kerrien Grant is also looking forward to the opportunities the study visit will offer.

"One particularly interesting aspect of the Forum is focused upon how organisations acquire existing businesses and change them into social enterprises. This is a relatively new angle on social enterprise development and I think that it will open up new ideas and options for the Highlands and Islands. Community and environmental regeneration through social enterprise work will also be considered within workshops and discussion groups. The rural aspects of social enterprise in Australia mirror those of the Highlands and Islands, with long distances and dispersed populations being two obvious comparisons to make." she said.

As well as the world forum event the group will visit social enterprises in Broome, a tourist town in the Kimberley region of West Australia.

Kerrien added: "After the World Forum we will meet with a number of Aboriginal people who have set up and are running social enterprises in eco tourism, crafts, health, media and aquaculture. By being given the chance to see, question and experience these social enterprises we will be gaining insights into the motivation, commitment and future potential of these communities.

"I believe that HIE can learn a huge amount from the international practitioners that I will come into contact with, and that HIE will also have a great deal to contribute to discussions. I expect to bring many new thoughts and approaches back here to share with clients and colleagues when I return."


Note to editors:

The trip to the event co-ordinated in Scotland by Community Enterprise in Strathclyde (CEiS), an organisation which develops, supports and finances social enterprises, runs from October 4 - 19.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is the Scottish Government's regional development agency for an area which covers half of Scotland, from Shetland to Argyll and from the Outer Hebrides to Moray. Visit for more information.

A photograph of Gwilym Gibbons, Director of SADA, is available by contacting [email protected] or 01463 244238

For further information contact: Kim Thain HIE Communications Tel: 01463 244238 [email protected]