Visible Heart 2020 - Where Money Meets Meaning

Raise Awareness, Tackle Challenges, Manage Impact for Scottish Social Enterprises. Strengthen Scotland's Global Leadership in the field.

We did it!

On 17th Sep 2018 we successfully raised £902 with 10 supporters in 42 days


A fresh vision for social enterprise in Scotland...

the place where ‘money meets meaning’

The Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) is returning to Edinburgh for its Tenth Anniversary in September of 2018, which is why this project is being planned this year. SEWF provides a rare and unique opportunity to share wisdom, build networks and more specifically to maximise our probability in tackling the three key challenges facing Scottish social enterprises.

‘Visible Heart 2020’ is a carefully designed three-phased project running from 2018 to 2020. 

Phase 1 (2018.1-2018.9) : 200-page Book of Invisible Hand with Visible Heart

Phase 2 (2018.9-2019.8) : Multimedia Communications for Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019

An exciting online and offline portfolio of website, social media content, photographs, campaign films, documentaries, bite-size explainers, information packs and monthly newsletter will be delivered periodically and at the end.

Phase 3 (2019.9-2020.8) : Impact Intelligence Instrument

Customisable and practical Impact Intelligence Instrument for the whole cycle of social impact creation, calibration and communication. A consolidated database for data collection, analysis and insight using machine learning and artificial intelligence is also planned. Tutorials will be conducted via online courses, webinars and workshops.


Throughout the twenty-first century, social enterprise has emerged as a global phenomenon aimed at meeting individual and community needs that have arisen amid evolving environmental, economic, and social developments. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor suggested that new social start-ups are emerging at a faster rate than more conventional, commercial ventures. By influencing social behaviour for the good, social entrepreneurs are also initiating systemic changes around the world.

In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a ground breaking agenda to tackle various global challenges and guide development efforts for the period 2015 to 2030. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which could be perceived as branches of the tree of human prosperity, and social enterprise can be the water source to nurture the SDGs. 


The term “social enterprise” was first used in 1975 to distinguish the types of marketing activities used by governmental and cooperative enterprises from those used by the private sector. Since then, both academics and practitioners have made a handful of attempts to describe social enterprise but have not agreed yet on a singular definition.

For the purposes of this campaign, we will define social enterprise as a business venture created for a social purpose, one that intends to mitigate a social problem or a market failure and to generate social value while operating with the financial discipline, innovation, and determination displayed by a private sector business.

To put it simply, consider the motto of Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York: “We don't hire people to bake brownies; we bake brownies to hire people.” The below figure is a simplified spectrum of four types of practices.


Scotland is one of the most supportive environments for social enterprise—it’s the first country in the world to have a social enterprise strategy and action plan. The Scottish government has demonstrated its commitment to the third sector by investing millions of pounds into the support structures, compared with other governments who may talk about what they plan to do while investing few resources into their plans. In 2016, the government published Scotland’s Social Enterprise Strategy 2016-2026, which reaffirms its significant position in the entire Scottish economy (see diagram below). A Social Enterprise Census has been taken since 2015 to track progress, and the 2017 Census offers the latest analysis of the strategy’s results so far. Some key facts include: 5,600 social enterprises exist in Scotland, and they are 20 years old on average; 81,357 full-time equivalent employees are working for social enterprises, generating £3.8bn total annual income and £287m combined operating surplus. 


Despite this supportive environment, there is a limit what the government could do and Scottish social enterprises are facing three key challenges:

I.           Awareness & Communication

Few people has comprehensive knowledge about social enterprise, even in Edinburgh. When starting a business, most people don’t realise they have a choice other than a traditional private business. Misconceptions exist towards social enterprise, such as its difference with charity and the quality of goods/services it provides. While some social enterprises collaborate with others, the majority still work in silos and don’t communicate much. Consequently, there is an urgent call for channels to share successes, failures, learnings and lessons to support and develop the sector. 

II.           International Visibility

Scotland has along history and good reputation in the area of social enterprise, yet the recognition does not match its contribution. It is crucial to strengthen Scotland’s place and standing in the world. Only 7% of Scottish social enterprise operate internationally and Scottish government believes in its “enormous potential” and has “ambition for international excellence, leadership and impact in the social enterprise field”.

III.           Impact Management

Impact measurement enables social enterprises to demonstrate their contribution to society, as well as attracting employees and investment for development. Though some basic training or support is available, there is currently no free or continuous hands-on support to help social enterprises manage their impact. In addition, most existing methodologies (e.g. SROI) are either too complicated, too expensive or too time-consuming, adding burden to social enterprises that are already tight with budget and resources.


Realise it or not, most (if not all) of us are related to social enterprise directly or indirectly and will benefit from this project. The direct stakeholders include a entrepreneur who already runs a social enterprise, or a person intending to become one; a policy maker seeking to make the most appropriate decision; an academic interested in the field, or a student considering a career choice; or perhaps an investor looking into this latest business trend as the millennial generation pays close attention to social responsibility, ethics, and sustainability. There are also indirect connections with social enterprises. For example, a responsible consumer may examine the social impact of a product/service together with its carbon footprint in order to support the right organisation.


My name is Suwen Chen, and I came to the UK from China in 2010. After obtaining a master’s degree in translation technology from Imperial College London, I worked in advertising and marketing industry and quickly built a successful career but soon felt that the consumerism promoted by the advertising world was in conflict with my personal values. What is the point of working so hard to persuade people to buy things they don't really need? Something had to change.

To gain a better understanding of how the business world works, I moved from London to Edinburgh in 2016 for an MBA. While pursuing my studies, I discovered the social enterprise sector, which is not solely about making a profit but also having a positive impact on society. Whether helping vulnerable or disabled people or conserving the natural environment, the main purpose of social enterprises is to bring about social good. And in order to be financially sustainable, an organisation has to make profit as well. Whereas the goal of traditional private businesses is to maximise profit, social enterprises embody a unique shift in focus where profit is generated along with a positive social impact. This paradigm shift appealed to me, and I found my new mission.

Since then, I have been actively working and volunteering for various charities and social enterprises including Maggie’s Centre, North Lanarkshire Leisure, Bethany Christian Trust, and others. I am about to start a 3-year PhD Programme in Impact Investing in September of 2018 at the University of Edinburgh, intending to use academic research to make a real difference and to help transform our world into a more loving, caring, and sharing place.


Phase 1 (2018.1 – 2018.9): 200-page Book of Invisible Hand with Visible Heart 

Edinburgh serves as a microcosm of the social enterprise universe. One of the best ways to learn what’s going on in the social enterprise sector is to explore people’s individual stories. As the opening lines of The Tudors declares, “You think you know a story but you only know how it ends. To get to the heart of a story you have to go back to the beginning.”

I have been planning the book since January 2018 and have conducted over 15 in-depth, one-to-one interviews (each between 60-90 minutes with transcriptions totalling about 130,000 words) and site visits with social entrepreneurs who shared their genuine insights and first-hand, personal experience. The enterprises surveyed range from those newly established in 2018 to others who have been serving their communities for thirty years. Each story contained in this book is unique but also representative of the broader circumstances, advantages, and challenges that social enterprises everywhere face. Academic papers, industry reports, government data, online news and so forth serve as the secondary source of information in the book.

Read Table of Contents and Introduction of the book.


I urgently need your support to complete Phase 1 and move to Phase 2 & 3 of the “Visible Heart 2020” project, because the book only touches the tip of the iceberg, and the three key challenges mentioned above are interlinked with each other and cannot be solved easily, quickly or in isolation. 

The total budget for this project is £40,000*

Phase 1 costs £4,000 and we will initiate Phase 2 with additional £12,000 for website building, photo taking, film making, poster printing, venue renting and other third party fees. 

To launch Phase 3, £24,000 is needed to cover research time, feasibility check, testing cost, purchases of materials, conference tickets, fieldwork and other related expenses. 

Full proposal for Phase 2 & 3 will be available by end of 2018 to allow time for consultation with supporters and partners, as well as resource arrangement and confirmation. 

*Crowdfunder platform takes 8% (i.e. £3,500) of the fund raised therefore the total pledge is £43,500.


There are various ways to get involved in this exciting project at different levels - from purchasing the book to be a Hope Provider, a Dream Initiator, a Vision Embracer or a World Changer! 

Please contact us if you have interesting ideas or would like to collaborate in other ways (e.g. as a film producer or an app developer!) - we will be delighted to welcome you as a member of Visible Heart Club! 

At the moment, social enterprise has been simply looked as another public service subcontractor and subject to the same criteria. However, the recognition of new ownership and organisational forms to productively manage assets that are neither the state nor for-profit entities can do is crucial.

"The Best Way To Predict The Future Is To Create It." 

Let's Build an Economy That Allows Social Enterprise to Thrive Together!

Thank You!

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