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October 18, 2022

Innovation Challenge

Listening to Aidan Pia give the John Pearce Lecture last week in which he shared his reflections on 20 years at Senscot, I was reminded that a legacy of that period was the establishment of Firstport – a start-up agency for social enterprise. What I‘d forgotten was that part of its remit, as well as to encourage individual social entrepreneurs, was to support start-up community enterprises. One programme that they run is the Social Innovation Challenge – this year a £50,000 competition for rural communities tackling the challenge of climate change. Four fantastic projects are through to the final stage.


Meet this year’s shortlist

The Social Innovation Challenge funds and supports innovators to kick-start solutions that tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time. The programme will address a new theme every year and in 2022 we looked for innovative solutions to climate change issues faced by rural communities in Scotland. This was in response to the increasingly worrying climate emergency and its effects on the most at-risk communities within Scotland. 

We received 13 applications in response to the Challenge, from the south of Scotland to the very north. We were thoroughly impressed by the caliber of the applications we received, as well as the passion demonstrated by the innovators behind these ideas. Over the last two weeks, our shortlisting panel had the very difficult task of selecting the strongest applications. This has led to four projects being progressed to the final stage of the Social Innovation Challenge. The four shortlisted solutions are: 

  • The Farr North Community Development Trust are looking to ensure that everyone in Farr can get to the places they need to get to, when they need to get there. Their aim is to establish a Community Transport Enterprise, utilising volunteers to drive pool electric vehicles. It will be an on-demand service offering affordable door-to-door transport across a very rural, sparsely populated and challenging geography which features in the worst percentile for geographical access. The solution will address rural inequalities and deprivation, as well as delivering significant carbon savings through the use of the electric fleet of vehicles. 
  • Iona Energy Ltd (IEL) is a community-led company on the ‘island off an island’ of Iona, which is a two-ferry three-hour journey from the Scottish mainland. IEL will install a ground source Heat Network, which will provide energy efficiency and affordable, sustainable low-carbon heat for a remote, fragile island community. The Heat Network will deliver a single-step transformation of over 40% of the combined residential, business and visitor heat-load of this globally renowned island. The Network will increase energy security, reduce bills, boost businesses, retain energy revenue, generate permanent community income, and catalyse further expansion of Iona’s Roadmap to a comprehensive cross-island low-carbon energy transition. 
  • Propagate (Scotland) CIC are looking to grow the Local Food Hub in the Glenkens by creating a thriving, producer-led but community-involved sustainable and local supply chain. The Food Hub will address the challenge of availability and accessibility of locally produced good food in the local community. It will do this by cooperating as a producer-led collective, combining resources on a shared platform to offer a wide range of products. Produce will be delivered within a defined radius, partnering where possible with the local community transport company using electric vehicles.  
  • Ullapool Unpacked C.I.C. is set up to address the challenge of access to sustainable shopping options in a rural, Highland community. They want to help people produce less waste with a focus on reducing single use plastic consumption. They want to expand upon their existing service (currently a small refill trailer) and open a large Bricks-and-Mortar Refill Shop and Community Climate Hub. The Hub side of the enterprise will offer educational workshops and events around sustainability, as well as providing a space for food preservation and mending.