Social Enterprise

What is it?

Social Enterprise is an idea, a way of doing business.

A social enterprise is a business that trades to tackle social problems, improve communities, people’s life chances, or the environment. This might sound like charity work, but social enterprises are businesses. They make and do things that earn money and make profits like any business. It is how they work and what they do with their profit that is different: working to make a bigger difference, reinvesting the profits they make to do more good.

They do this in lots of different ways: creating jobs for people who would otherwise be left out; reinvesting profits in community projects; protecting the environment, providing vital services for people who might not get them otherwise. It’s this combination of doing business and doing good that makes social enterprise one of the most exciting and fast-growing movements in this country and across the world.

Social Enterprises are businesses and their goal is to make a profit which is what sets them apart from community groups and charities who fundraise to support their activities.

We would call that ‘enterprising activity’ and we’re here to support both outright social enterprises and also community groups who are looking to supplement their income by selling goods or services.

Who Does It?

All kinds of people! In Orkney some social enterprises that you may have heard of are Orkney Soap Company, For Art’s Sake, Craft Hub Orkney and Orkney Cheese.

Some other organisations that might be considered social enterprise are community halls and charity shops.

Most community groups in Orkney will have undertaken some enterprising activity at some point whether it’s a bake sale, selling tea towels or holding a jumble sale. The profits a group makes from these kinds of activities is what is called ‘unrestricted’ meaning there are no legal obligations on how it’s spent.

Wait! We already do that.

If you’re involved in a community group, chances are you are ‘enterprising’. We can help you develop your activity, review your legal structure, create a business model or plan if it’s appropriate and help you develop this potential source of income for your group.

Orkney Social Enterprise Network

The Orkney Social Enterprise Network organises opportunities for people involved in social enterprises locally to get together to discuss challenges, share learning and explore new opportunities. The meetings take place every quarter with learning and training opportunities held in between.

If you’d like to join the network or find out more about the events taking place, contact us. We’re always on the lookout for like-minded folk to join.

The Social Enterprise Group Orkney is made up of partner agencies working together to support local social enterprises: Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Business Gateway and VAO.

NatWest SE100 awards now open!!

The NatWest SE100 celebrates the growth, impact and resilience of social ventures in the UK – by naming the most impressive 100 social enterprises of the year in the Index, and giving seven SE100 Social Business Awards for the most outstanding achievers.

Applications are open to all UK-based social enterprises, and it costs nothing to enter

A place on the NatWest SE100 Index is a fantastic opportunity for social enterprises large and small to gain peer recognition and endorsement of their work. Each of the 100 selected organisations will also benefit from further media coverage in Pioneers Post throughout 2019, as well as involvement in a community of peers through the SE100 network.

In addition, the seven award-winners will receive a professionally produced film about their organisation which they can use for promotional purposes, plus a special trophy made by a social enterprise artist. Winners also receive a free ticket to our annual Good Deals & Beyond Good Business conference held in May.

Survey here

  • VAO Newsletter

    Have a read of our latest newsletter, look through our archive or sign up to receive it in your inbox.


  • Orkney Community Directory

    View our comprehensive list of community and voluntary groups in Orkney along with other organisations and services that may be of interest to you.


VAO Newsletter

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.