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The Scottish government is set to engage every schoolchild with social enterprise under a new three-year plan. Can Australia do the same?


7 April 2021 at 8:56 am
Nikki Stefanoff
“Aussies and Scots both have a social justice-led view of the world, the only difference is that Scotland is militant about getting things done.”


Nikki Stefanoff | 7 April 2021 at 8:56 am


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The Scottish government is set to engage every schoolchild with social enterprise under a new three-year plan. Can Australia do the same?
7 April 2021 at 8:56 am

“Aussies and Scots both have a social justice-led view of the world, the only difference is that Scotland is militant about getting things done.”

At the end of March, the Scottish government published its 2021-2024 Social Enterprise Action Plan and with it announced the country’s plan to put the sector at the heart of its recovery from the pandemic. 

Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell said at the time that a post-COVID society needed to be “free from inequalities and disadvantage”.

She added: “The Scottish government wants to create a wellbeing economy that works for everyone. Social enterprises will be central to this work, demonstrating this ethos through conducting business with social purpose. The social enterprise model can also help us to deliver on our aim to protect the environment, ensuring a just transition to a net zero future.”

Additional government funding included £2 million (A$3.6 million) to engage school children with social enterprise projects. The aim is to ensure that by 2024 every schoolchild can engage with a social enterprise project. 

Leading Scotland’s Social Enterprise Schools education program, and helping the government hit its target, is Social Enterprise Academy, an organisation with partnerships all over the world including one with Victorian-based ACRE. 

For the last six years ACRE has been working closely with the Social Enterprise Academy in bringing its Social Enterprise Schools program to classrooms across Australia. 

Co-founder and CEO of ACRE, Matt Pfahlert, told Pro Bono News that ACRE is intrinsically linked to Scotland’s social enterprise initiatives. 

“What they’re doing in Scotland is one and the same as the work ACRE is doing in Australia,” Pfahlert said. “Aussies and Scots both have a social justice-led view of the world, the only difference is that Scotland is militant about getting things done.

It’s a country where social inclusiveness is a key pillar of their economic strategy.” 

“It’s taken 14 years of hard work for the team in Scotland to get to where they are today but it won’t take long for us to catch up. At ACRE, we’ve got everything in place and we’re ready to go.” 

Pfahlert has built a strong relationship with the team in Scotland and refers to the Social Enterprise Academy as being the superheroes of social enterprise ecosystems around the world. 

He first travelled to Scotland in 2013 after being awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study youth entrepreneurship programs and social enterprise models in rural communities. In 2015, ACRE developed a social license agreement with the team in Scotland and since 2016 it’s been running the Social Enterprise School program in North East Victoria.

Over the last five years ACRE’s Social Enterprise Schools program has been used in 90 education settings and been mapped to the curriculum, predominantly rolled out across regional and rural Australia, as per ACRE’s mission statement to drive a positive, vibrant future for rural and regional Australia. Pfahlert acknowledged that the enforced shift to online learning has made it easier to imagine taking the program nationwide. 

“We want it to be in all schools all across Australia and have spent the last five years making sure everything’s in place to make that happen,” he said.

“It’s only been through COVID-19 that we’ve been able to take the program to schools outside of Victoria, including the Northern Territory and South Australia. It’s meant that momentum for the program has started to build.”

He said the impact an education program like this can have on young people can be life-changing. 

“It impacts young people deeply because it engages a range of talents. It’s student-led, which puts young people in the driver seat of their learning and means they are connecting to world issues that interest them.”


Nikki Stefanoff  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Nikki Stefanoff is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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