Unleashing the Global Potential for Social Enterprises in Scotland

An image of the earth with many toy people standing on top of it

Social enterprises are changing the world, one community at a time. But what if they could do more? What if they could expand their impact beyond their local communities and make a difference on a global scale?

The Global Impact of Social Enterprise

Social enterprises have the unique ability to address social and environmental issues while also generating economic growth. They combine the best of the non-profit and business worlds, using market-driven strategies to achieve social objectives. When these enterprises expand internationally, they can scale their impact and bring innovative solutions to new communities around the world.

Why Expand Internationally?

Expanding internationally can be an exciting journey for social enterprises. As they venture beyond their local borders, diversifying income streams becomes crucial for sustainability and growth. Here are practical examples of how social enterprises can achieve this:

  • Selling directly to individuals (online or in person)
  • Selling directly to other organisations or businesses
  • Memberships or subscription – a great way to generate recurring revenue
  • Public sector contracts & tenders – bid for contracts that are issued by the public  sector and private businesses, to become part of their supply chain or service delivery
  • Affiliate / Partnership sales – partnering up with individuals or businesses who get a proportion of the sale they sell
  • Franchising or Licensing – having a great product/service/business model or brand which others could replicate or use for an agreed term, licensing could provide income through licensee fees and royalties
  • Hosting events / knowledge sharing events (webinars, training, conferences, etc)

Remember, diversification requires strategic planning and adaptability.  By embracing a mix of income streams, social enterprises will be better equipped to create lasting impact on a global scale. 

This blog post provides some encouragement for those considering this exciting step as well as outlining how Scottish social enterprises can expand internationally with guidance on the key routes to market.

Key Routes to Market

1. Direct Export

    The most straightforward route to international markets is through direct export. This involves selling products or services directly to customers in other countries. It requires a good understanding of the target market, including customers’ needs, local regulations, and competition.

    2. Partnerships and Collaborations

      When social enterprises aim to expand internationally, forming partnerships with local organisations in the target market is essential. These collaborations can enhance impact, foster sustainability, and create meaningful change. Here are some specific examples of how social enterprises can forge partnerships:

      • Cross-Sector Partnerships: Collaborate with corporations, NGOs, and government agencies. Joint initiatives can lead to shared funding opportunities.
      • International Alliances: Join global networks and alliances specific to the relevant sector. These connections can open doors to funding, knowledge exchange, and joint projects.
      • Local Chambers of Commerce and Industry Associations: Organise trade fairs, connect entrepreneurs with international buyers, and facilitate exports.
      • Social Enterprise Networks and Clusters: Can provide access to a global community of social entrepreneurs. These networks facilitate knowledge exchange, funding opportunities, and joint initiatives.

      These partnerships can provide valuable local knowledge, resources, and networks. They can also help navigate local regulations and cultural nuances.

      3. Online Marketplaces

      Expanding internationally through online marketplaces is a smart strategy for social enterprises. These platforms enable organisations to showcase products or services to a wide audience, test the waters in new markets, and connect with potential customers globally. Here are some noteworthy examples of online marketplaces that can help social enterprises expand internationally:

      • Amazon Global SellingAmazon, operates in 13 countries across the globe. However, its sellers can reach customers in over 180 countries. Social enterprises can list products on various Amazon marketplaces and manage international orders. Social enterprises can leverage Amazon’s vast customer base and logistics infrastructure to expand their reach.
      • Etsy: Etsy is a popular marketplace for handmade, vintage, and unique products. It attracts a global audience interested in ethical and sustainable goods. Social enterprises specialising in crafts, artisanal products, or eco-friendly items can find a receptive audience on Etsy.
      • Shopify:  While not a traditional marketplace, Shopify provides an e-commerce platform for businesses to set up their own online stores. It integrates with international payment gateways and shipping providers. Social enterprises can create customised storefronts and expand globally using Shopify.
      • Fair Trade Marketplace: Fair Trade organisations often collaborate to create online marketplaces that exclusively feature ethically produced goods. Social enterprises committed to fair trade principles can showcase their products in a like-minded community.
      • Good Market: a curated community of social enterprises, cooperatives, responsible businesses, civic organizations, networks, and changemakers. On it you can find Good Market approved enterprises working on farming, food, and fashion, energy and waste management, conservation and restoration, health, education, software, finance, business services, and media. There are also restaurants, retail outlets, coworking spaces, and ecovillages, artists and musicians, service clubs, advocacy groups, and more.

      Remember, each marketplace has its unique features, requirements, and audience. Social enterprises should choose platforms aligned with their mission, values, and target markets. 

      4. Social Franchising

      Social franchising involves replicating a successful business model in a new location. It allows social enterprises to scale their impact without having to manage operations directly.

      Taking the Leap

      If you are a social enterprise considering international expansion, take the leap! The world needs your innovative solutions and your passion for social change. Remember you are not alone in this journey. There are numerous resources and networks available to support you, which we can help you access. So why not start planning your international expansion today and unleash your global potential.

      Support for International Expansion

      Several organisations provide support for social enterprises looking to expand internationally. The International Social Enterprise Observatory (ISEO) provides services for both Scottish social enterprises looking to expand internationally and international enterprises looking to locate in Scotland.

      Expanding internationally can be a rewarding but challenging endeavour for social enterprises. However, with careful planning, a clear understanding of the target market, and the right support, Scottish social enterprises can successfully expand their impact globally.

      Remember, the journey of international expansion is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires patience, persistence, and a willingness to learn and adapt. But the rewards – increased impact, diversified revenue, and the opportunity to learn from different cultures and context – make it a journey worth embarking on.

      We have helped businesses expand into international markets. Examples include:

      Ready to Take Your Social Enterprise Global?

      We hope this blog has provided you with valuable insights into expanding your social enterprise internationally. But remember this is just the beginning. International expansion is a journey, and we are here to support your every step of the way.

      If you are ready to take the next step, we invite you to reach out to our team of experts. We offer personalised guidance, resources and support tailored to your unique needs and goals.

      The services we offer can range from light touch, such as simple legal support, to helping you through your expansion journey from beginning to end. Learn more about our services here.

      Together, we can help you navigate the complexities of international markets and make a greater impact on a global scale.

      Do not wait to make your mark on the world. Contact us today and let us start your international expansion journey together.

      More News Stories

      a large group of people huddled together, smiling at the camera for Sweden's Social Enterprise Movement.

      Sparking Ideas and Relationships to Progress Sweden’s Social Enterprise Movement

      a women standing on stage next to a sign reading SEWF

      Reflecting on Social Enterprise World Forum 2023: Key Learnings for Advancing Social Enterprise Globally

      People standing in a large open space talking to each other and networking

      4 Great Ways Networking Can Help Grow Your Social Enterprise

      Thank you for your interest in the International Social Enterprise Observatory. To sign up to our newsletter, please complete the below form.

      You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

      We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices.