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Published 19 January 2017

A befriending service for the elderly, a design studio, a support system for ex-offenders and a project to market Bowling Harbour as a destination are the latest to benefit from a Council fund aimed at improving the economy and creating sustainable jobs.

The Social Enterprise Challenge Fund was launched by the Council in 2012 to help create local businesses that address social or environmental needs, and offer new employment opportunities.

Successful applicants receive investment of up to £15,000 and the latest recipients of funding represent a diverse range of innovative, community-focused ideas.

 Now in its fourth year, the Social Enterprise Challenge Fund was set up with an investment of £225,000 and sees the Council working alongside Scotland’s social enterprise development agency Firstport. Firstport helps applicants develop a case for funding before they approach the Council for consideration.

 This year, the programme has awarded four successful applicants with funding support to get their ideas off the ground after they impressed a panel of experts in a Dragon’s Den-style presentation. As well as meeting the essential criteria, all four winning proposals were able to demonstrate how their service would benefit financially challenged people and families across West Dunbartonshire.

 The successful applicants were:

  • Audrey Mutongi from Alexandria who recently launched a befriending service for the elderly and their families in West Dunbartonshire. High demand has helped her to quickly grow her social enterprise and offer the service across wider communities, creating local volunteering opportunities. Audrey has been awarded £12,000 through the Social Enterprise Challenge Fund to create a full time Co-ordinator post so she can expand the service she offers to the community.
  • Alison Bell from Clydebank who was awarded £15k through the fund to cover start-up costs for her social enterprise business which aims to establish a design and manufacturing studio (with a pop-up store) for commercial delivery and training of young people in West Dunbartonshire. Inspired by West Dunbartonshire’s rich heritage and Singer sewing machine connections, Alison will deliver training for local young people in visual and creative art and design, creating products that can be sold to generate income that will be reinvested into the business for growth.
  • Alan McGlashan from Renton who plans to start up a social enterprise supporting and rehabilitating ex-offenders by providing them with training in the construction services and enabling them to move into employment or self-employment.  The enterprise will provide paid employment and training to local individuals while providing a service to the social and private housing sector in property maintenance.  Alan has been awarded £10k towards the start-up and running costs of his business which he plans to launch this month (January).
  • Jain McIntyre from Bowling who will launch a community interest company which will help market Bowling Harbour as a destination point for visitors while also offering creative and educational workshops and events for local communities.  Working in partnership with other local businesses and social enterprises, she plans to develop a Creative Hub for the delivery of creative industries training to young people and new enterprises.  Jain has been awarded £15k towards start-up and running costs.

 Councillor Patrick McGlinchey, Convener of Infrastructure and Regeneration, said: "Once again this fund has helped to unearth some excellent social enterprises with creative business ideas that will benefit the local community. The purpose of the Social Enterprise Challenge is to support enterprising and innovative activities which address social and environmental challenges to achieve greater social impact and create local job opportunities. My congratulations go to Audrey, Alison, Alan and Jain and I hope that, with this help, they go from strength to strength and inspire others."

Proposals for the Social Enterprise Challenge should be from local individuals or groups proposing to operate in West Dunbartonshire and should be able to show that they have:

•             A new business idea with clear social benefits for the local area

•             The ability to create local job opportunities

•             A proposal which identifies clear outputs and impacts

•             The ability to define sustainability for the business

•             The drive and vision to take the idea forward

Councillor David McBride, Vice Convener of Infrastructure and Regeneration, added: "The social enterprise fund is just one of the ways that we as a Council are supporting businesses and job creation. The four successful applicants for this latest round of funding have all come up with great ideas I look forward to seeing them take shape with the help of the Social Enterprise Challenge fund. I would encourage any individual or group with an idea, to contact the Council's Business Support team on 01389 737777, or e-mail business.support@west-dunbarton.gov.uk for further information."

Audrey Mutongi, of Befriend, said: “The funding has helped us get a team of passionate volunteer coordinators together to support our growing team of dedicated volunteers. It has been such a positive move that has helped us to support more people in West Dunbartonshire who find themselves lonely or isolated.”