Back in January I wrote an article about plans being hatched to set up a new type of support network for women social entrepreneurs in Scotland. The article sparked considerable debate around whether there’s a need for yet another women‘s network and I’m pleased to say that there’s been lots of interest. As a result Karen Birch and I recently set up Women in Social Enterprise (WISE).
The underpinning values of WISE include collaboration, sharing, being inclusive and most importantly peer support. Peer support is not a new thing. People have always benefited from the insight of others who’ve walked a similar path. It’s a system of giving and receiving help based on the key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and a mutual agreement of what’s helpful. These are all values we share, not things we do on our own.
I have spent quite a bit of time pondering why people are so interested in being part of something new and different as opposed to joining one of the many women’s business networks that exist all over Scotland and I think I’ve got it!
Individuals and informal groups who are working to make their communities better in some way often become social entrepreneurs by accident. They do not immediately identify themselves as entrepreneurs, business people or change makers. They are just doing what they do to address issues that are important to them. All too often these socially entrepreneurial individuals have little or no experience of how to expand and sustain the social and economic impact of their work. These people are unlikely to consider joining an existing network for people running their own business because they simply do not think of themselves in this way.
If you can relate to any of this, then WISE could be just what you’ve been waiting for. This new movement will be a diverse mix of community activists, unlikely change-makers and social entrepreneurs who do not yet know they’re social entrepreneurs. Added to the mix we will have experienced private and social entrepreneurs, business angels, movers and shakers and high level influencers. People who are dipping their toe into the world of social change for the first time and those who have been at it for years. We will be working with people launching brand new ideas, folk who have experienced success and those who have taken considerable knock-backs. We also welcome people who simply have a general interest in doing business in a more ethical and responsible way.
One of the key element’s of WISE that really excites us is our plan to facilitate connections between “peers” who would never normally cross paths in their every day lives. We envisage these sometimes unlikely connections having profound, even magical results.
Picture this: you’re trying to get something off the ground in your community but you have few connections outside your local area and no experience of running a social venture let alone a business. Where do you go for help? How do you ever get the opportunity to connect with experts in your field?
Now, imagine a place, actual or virtual, where you get the chance to spend time with top influencers, social investors and people who’ve trodden the same path you’re just starting out on, all in a truly collaborative, non-intimidating and informal environment? That’s WISE.
In addition to facilitating these exciting relationships, we’ll also offer practical support, coaching, mentoring and inspiring new opportunities for learning.
As I said in my previous article, this isn’t “just another women’s network”! We’re about to transform the landscape of support for women in the business of social change in Scotland and beyond and you can be part of it!
Eileen Inglis is co-founder of WISE-net, a platform for learning, connecting, collaborating and making change!