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Social inclusion and poverty reduction

Our £9.7 million Growing the Social Economy programme and our £18.9 million Aspiring Communities Fund are part-funded by our third-sector budget and part-funded by the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Strategic Intervention under the 2014 to 2020 European Social Fund (ESF), one of the European Structural and Investment Funds.

Growing the Social Economy

Our Growing the Social Economy programme aims to strengthen and increase the role of the social economy, so that it can support disadvantaged groups to develop their skills and participate in society.

It splits into two funds - the Social Innovation Fund and the Social Economy Growth Fund - and one programme, Developing Social Entrepreneurs, in which funding recipients will be expected to participate. These funds will continue to support social economy organisations to develop and deliver new projects and additional activity until the end of December 2018.

We are using our third-sector budget to match all funding provided by the ESF, which means applicants do not need to find their own source of match funding in order to apply.

Social Economy Growth Fund

Round 2 of the Soical Economy Growth Fund is now open. The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Friday 22 December 2017.

The Social Economy Growth Fund is targeted at third sector organisations which aim to tackle disadvantage and poverty, and to promote social inclusion. It aims to increase organisations' capacity to develop, enhance and deliver support programmes to disadvantaged areas and groups, and to create more employment opportunities.

Funding is provided as grants of up to £250,000 and will be directly linked to organisational development, increased employment opportunities and job creation. Applicants to this fund must demonstrate the positive long-term impacts that the investment will bring to support disadvantaged people. This may be through:

  • expansion of existing business activity
  • diversification and creating new products, services or business models

Forms and guidance:

Social Innovation Fund

Round 2 of the Social Innovation Fund is now closed. Details of approved projects will appear on this page shortly.

The Social Innovation Fund aims to stimulate, test, support and deliver social innovation and enterprise within the social economy to encourage innovative approaches to tackling poverty and inequality. It supports partnerships between the third sector, academia, and other partners such as public bodies and SMEs with the aim of:

  • increasing capacity to deliver better outcomes for the most disadvantaged groups
  • sharing learning and good practice
  • creating sustainable employment opportunities

Developing social entrepreneurs

The Developing Social Entrepreneurs programme will be procured and delivered externally. It aims to optimise learning, invest in the skills of social entrepreneurs, and provide a development pathway for social economy organisations to progress to self-resilience.

Organisations with successful Social Economy Growth Fund and Social Innovation Fund applications will be expected to participate in this programme.

Aspiring Communities Fund

The Aspiring Communities Fund is now closed. All applications have been assessed and the lead applicants contacted by email with their results. If you have not received an email, contact the team on 0300 244 4000 or email

Our two-year, £18.9 million Aspiring Communities Fund is intended to help community bodies and third sector organisations in Scotland's most deprived communities to develop and deliver long-term local solutions that:

  • address local priorities and needs
  • increase social participation
  • build on the resources of local communities to reduce poverty

Following a flat-rate cost model, the Fund will contribute to direct staff costs and indirect costs associated with delivering approved ESF activity.

The Fund supports new or enhanced activity only, and cannot be used for activities previously or currently funded under any other ESF funding programmes.