Last week Leapfrog attended the Social Enterprise Summit held in Inverness, a two-​day event organised by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise which looked at social enterprise and trade fair celebrating the diversity of social enterprise in Scotland, especially in the Highlands and Islands communities. The event had some fantastic speakers from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Government. This unique event promoted the achievements in the Highlands and Islands communities in the last 50 years and the future visions and strategies for rural, hard to reach communities in the next 20 years. It brought together social entrepreneurs, public sector, Scottish Government and commercial representatives from across the UK to discuss the challenges and opportunities for rural social enterprises in achieving long-​term sustainability and learn about innovative rural solutions adopted by counties within and outside the UK such as Canada and Australia.

Key note speaker Yvonne Strachan, Head of Equality, Human Rights and Third Sector from the Scottish Government spoke about the “vision and strategy for social enterprise in Scotland 2015 – 2025”. One of key things that caught our attention was the significance of public engagement through the Co-​Design of services and connecting communities through stories. Developing new ways to help communities tell their stories and contribute to the design of local public services and facilities in ways that make a real difference is a major focus of Leapfrog’s activity and research over the next 3 years.

The event also comprised of discussions from various partners. An interesting discussion emerged around the topic of “Creative industries fuelling Social enterprise”. The Director of Eigg Box from Isle of Eigg spoke of the opportunity for collective discussion on realising the potential for social enterprise operating in the creative industries. Alongside this she highlighted the need for the growth of tourism, an increase in population and improved utilities and facilities such as electricity and broadband infrastructure. There is the also the potential for a business incubator (a physical space) in Eigg to encourage social enterprise. Sandra Holmes, Head of Community Assets, Highlands and Islands Enterprise who chaired the panel stated that “Such asset-​driven projects will transform entire communities and lead to long term growth”.

While Leapfrog are meeting with communities and partners to scope our first major research project in the Highlands and Islands, the real world issues and challenges the speakers raised about their communities provided timely insights and inspiration. For Leapfrog this constantly raises the question of how might we design ways to engage people of all ages and cultures and across remote communities in the decisions that affect their lives?