Firstport's Social Innovation Competition is now open for entries - celebrating individuals and start-up companies with imaginative ideas to solve Scotland’s social issues.
The competition especially champions innovations around culture, heritage and tourism, and I’m delighted to have been asked to help judge this year’s entries. There are three £5000 awards up for grabs, alongside a package of Firstport's support. Perhaps just as valuably, the awards offer recognition, profile and celebration for emerging social entrepreneurs - rewarding individuals who are championing new and vibrant solutions to Scotland’s social challenges.
As both a grassroots community organiser and a social entrepreneur, I have a very personal understanding of both the challenges and the opportunities of the early days of establishing a new social business. I developed my own social enterprise thanks to Start It investment from Firstport, and benefitted both from their practical knowledge and advice, and the sense of encouragement and investment in my idea that their funding represented.
If you are planning to enter the Social Innovation Competition in the coming weeks, here are my top tips for an entry that stands out:
1. Help us to really get to know you
The really unique thing about Firstport is their investment in you, as an individual. So help us get to know you - what motivates and inspires you? Tell us why you’re a great person to lead your idea, whether that’s because of your professional expertise, your personal experiences in life, or your particular understanding of your area of social impact. This isn’t a CV - help us to get a real sense of who you are and what drives you.
2. Be clear about who will benefit from your idea
What social impact are you trying to achieve, and who would benefit if your idea really took off? Why is this change necessary and important? The judges have a good general understanding of the social landscape in Scotland, but we want to really understand the particular area of focus for you and your idea.
3. Convince us that you’ve thought through the nitty gritty
A great idea is one thing, but it’s only as good as your plan to make it happen. Have you spoken to potential customers, researched possible competitors and thought about costs? Help us understand how your business will work.
4. Get us excited about the year ahead
We’re looking for people and ideas with exciting plans for the future. Help us to understand how winning this competition would help you to achieve your dreams over the coming year. What would an amazing next 12 months look like for you?
5. Think about long term sustainability
We know that lots of new social enterprises aren’t profitable at first, and many need lots of support to get them up and running. Long term, however, we need to see that your idea can start to sustain itself. Show us that you have plans for working toward that stage, even if it won’t happen straight away.
6. Embrace the process
Perhaps most vitally, I’d advise that you embrace the process of preparing your entry for your own benefit. Use it as an opportunity to ask yourself the tough questions about the future, challenge yourself to do more to understand the impact you could make, and think about how best to articulate your idea and its potential. Regardless of the outcome of the competition, this process will stand you in great stead for building the future of your enterprise.
7. Recognise what you’ve already achieved
And finally, take time to celebrate yourself. In a world that’s too often criticised as disconnected and selfish, it’s a joy to celebrate the very many people who dedicate their time and energy to making our communities happier, more vibrant, and more connected. I'm excited to see what Scotland's social entrepreneurs are developing to address our social issues, and am delighted to be part of supporting the growth of Scotland’s social enterprise movement.
Firstport’s Social Innovation Competition is open for entries now, with a closing date of 9th October. Full details are at http://www.firstport.org.uk/programmes/social-innovation-competition.