An interview with Pauline Gordon - Director, SENScot

Question 1:  From your day to day work, what project, situation, SEN member or person have you found inspiring? 

Answer: I’m probably inspired in this job more than any other I’ve had but there are far too many people and organisations to mention. I guess I’m inspired by ‘good-doers’. I’m proud of the work we did on Public Social Partnerships to encourage new ways of working across the public and third sector - and more recently the knowledge exchange programme I was involved in Co-producing Justice International Social Economy Network which examined the role of social and cooperative structures in a community justice context – in particular in supporting employment and social integration for people with convictions. This work brought together academia, policy makers and practitioners to share the learning from research and established social cooperatives/ enterprises internationally to inform future structures of employment in a community justice context in Scotland. I was inspired due to the multidisciplinary and international nature of the network but also because the focus was to translate the learning into action. The 2 main people in this context that continue to inspire me are Dr Beth Weaver from Strathclyde University and Callum Hutchison, a mentor with Street & Arrow.


Question 2: What trends do you see over the horizon that will impact on the sector?

Answer: Hopefully a heightened and long-term policy emphasis and collective action to alleviate the poverty and inequalities that the Covid pandemic has exposed and one that recognises and values the contribution of the social economy.  As the profound social and economic impacts of the pandemic endure, we’ll need some creative thinking to tackle the immediate and long term consequences for social enterprises and the people and communities they support. There’s a great deal of insecurity and uncertainly at the moment but we’ll need to pull together as a sector and a nation to weather the storm, grow in resilience and focus on creating a far better, fairer and healthier new normal.


Question 3: Why and how did you decide to join this sector?

Answer: Well I kind of stumbled into the social economy after many years in Marketing in the FE sector and community regeneration roles. In 2000 I applied for a Development role at SCVO and to my surprise I was successful! That proved timely for me since I was asked to lead a bid for an EU EQUAL programme to develop the social economy in Scotland and that 6 year project really sparked my passion for social enterprise – and incidentally that’s when I first met Douglas at CEL and Kim Wallace at SCVO. (Seems we’ve come full circle since Kim and I are now leading the new Social Enterprise Network Scotland as a result of the merger between Social Firms Scotland and Senscot).  The EQUAL programme, having a transnational component, also strengthened Scotland’s links with and learning from members states across the EU where the sector had grown faster than the UK.  The Equal programme challenged thinking and tested innovation - with the aim of mainstreaming new approaches to social enterprise development, taking considered risks with the investment and addressing the barriers to social enterprise development prevalent in Scotland at that time. That project brought £5M to the sector in Scotland, and much of its work informed the first SE Strategy in Scotland back in 2007.  We’ve come a long way since then and It remains a privilege to work in the sector.


Question 4: Outside of work, what interests you?

Answer: Well it’s no secret that I’m a huge football fan and I see the world through red and yellow spectacles! I’ve been following Partick Thistle for 50 years and not much gets in the way of that to be honest.  If I need cheering up (usually after the football) I watch any Bette Davis or Pedro Almodóvar film or get a good dose of Billy Connolly or the late Bill Hicks. The most important people in my life are without question my family – especially my husband, daughter and 4 grandchildren who bring me joy every day! In saying that if my daughter, Sarah asks ‘ can you watch the kids Saturday Mum’ I have been known to respond ‘ erm there’s a game today honey’!