Social enterprises bring a vital spark to Argyll

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Chris Annetts of Kintyre Youth Theatre Community Arts and Training, one of the Campbeltown Vital Sparks initiatives

Local leaders have commended the role of social enterprises in turning around economic decline in Argyll

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24th May 2016 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

Social enterprises have a key role to play in Argyll’s economic and social prosperity, according to local leaders.

CalMac chief executive Martin Dorchester, Nick Ferguson, chair of the Argyll Economic Forum, and award-winning journalist Lesley Riddoch all support the development of social enterprises in the area in a bid to turnaround economic decline.

They were speaking at an event in Dunoon promoting Vital Spark, an initiative designed by social enterprise agency Firstport, to help revitalise local areas in Argyll and the Islands.

Social enterprise makes a vital contribution to society and to the economy. It helps tackle social issues, promote equality and achieve sustainable economic growth - Douglas Cowan

The programme operates from local hubs in Dunoon, Campbeltown and Rothesay, and since 2015 has been working alongside local people to make their areas better places to live.

So far it is supporting a range of initiatives including a cooperative of growers in Dunoon, a culture festival in Kintyre and a new youth-led youth centre in Rothesy.

Funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise with support from Caledonian MacBrayne, Vital Spark was specifically designed to tackle the issues of population decline, youth migration and a lack of employment opportunities in the region as documented in a recently published Argyll and Bute Economic Forum report.

“Programmes like Vital Spark can and are already supporting the ambitious objectives of this report”, said Karen McGregor, Firstport’s chief executive.

“We believe that the best ideas to regenerate local areas come from the people who live there. And we have examples of ideas being developed through Vital Spark that directly relate to the areas of opportunity identified by the report.”

Ferguson said: “A clear conclusion from the forum’s report is that to achieve the potential of the area, a joint approach is needed and there are many possible solutions to achieve our shared vision. It is great to see that programmes like Vital Spark are playing an active role in realising that vision by unlocking local people’s potential to make a difference in the issues pertaining to their communities”.

The 2011 census showed a continuation of population decline in Argyll of 3.4% overall. Data also shows that it is losing younger people while gaining older, and cites the key challenge to the area’s future is to attract more people in the 20 to 44 age group by providing sustainable jobs.

Douglas Cowan, Highlands and Islands Enterprise strengthening communities director, said: “Social enterprise makes a vital contribution to society and to the economy. It helps tackle social issues, promote equality and achieve sustainable economic growth. We are delighted to see the progress that the Vital Spark participants have made towards developing their social enterprise ideas. Although diverse and wide-ranging, all of the ideas address the issues that matter the most to them and their communities.”