Community Business Scotland (CBS) was founded in April 1981 and inaugurated on 10 July 1981 as a successor to the Scottish Community Enterprise Forum (SCEF). The SCEF Steering Group wanted to set up a new organisation to promote the interests of and support the growing community business movement in Scotland. CBS was incorporated in September 1987 to become Community Business Scotland Ltd and in August 1999 changed its name to Community Business Scotland Network Ltd (CBS Network Ltd). By that time it was operating as a national network for community enterprise, based in Scotland, but with members from all over the UK and abroad. CBSN closed in 2015.
CBS was a registered company, number SC106472. From 1981 – January 1984 it operated from the Scottish Council of Social Services (SCSS office) at 266 Clyde Street, Glasgow. On 1 Feb 1984 it moved to an office at 39 Vicar Street, Falkirk. From September 1986 to December 2002 it operated from Unit 34&45, West Calder Workspace, Society Place, West Calder EH55 8EA. CBSN then moved to Edinburgh and was based in the following premises: Princes House, 5 Shandwick Place, Edinburgh EH2 4RG (December 2002-May 2005); 45/47 Albany Street, Edinburgh EH1 3QY (May 2005-Dec 2007); The Melting Pot, Thorn House, 5 Rose Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PR (Dec 2007-2013).
CBS had six main objectives: to encourage and promote the formation of new community businesses; to offer support for community businesses to share ideas, experience skills and knowledge; to offer and arrange access to training opportunities for community businesses, to represent the interests of community enterprise with governing bodies, financial institutions, and other public agencies at local, national and European level; to promote the concept of community business to the public, media and community organisations; to seek financial resources and establish channels for the financing of community business.
Anyone could become a member on payment of a subscription and there were five categories of membership: corporate, provisional corporate, advisory agency, individual and associate. A Board of Management was elected by the members. The Board met every 2 months and office bearers, elected by the Board, met regularly to carry out the Board decisions. Office bearers included a Convenor, Vice Convenor, Treasurer and Secretary. Convenors were as follows: George Burt (1981-1984); Willy Roe (1984-1985); Grahame Robertson (1985-1986); John Pearce (1986-1989), Glen Buchanan (1989-1991); George Hood (1991-1994); Mike Walker (1994-1997); Alf Hannay (1997-2000). Other office bearers included John Anderson, Richard Bluer, Kay Caldwell, Andy Cleland, Alan Tuffs, and Felix Mulholland. After its incorporation in September 1987 an Annual General Meeting was held each autumn, during which a Board of Directors was elected. Funding for CBS was raised from grants, publication sales, donations, consultancy fees and membership subscriptions.
In 1981 CBS drew up comprehensive proposals for financing community business in central Scotland, drawing attention to the needs of community businesses to a wide range of bodies. They continued to lobby organisations in Britain and Europe for policy and funding changes to support development of social enterprise. CBS worked with 8 regional councils to establish independent development units to support community business and enterprise across Scotland including Community Business Central Ltd (1983) and Strathclyde Community Business Ltd (1984). At the time of its incorporation in 1987, CBS set up a sister company, Community Economic Development Ltd (CED), to provide a specialist consultancy service in enterprise development and employment creation. In 1989 CBS launched a subsidiary company, the Scottish Community Enterprise Investment Fund plc (SCEIF). Members of the public, commercial and other organisations were invited to purchase shares and the funds raised were lent to community enterprises via an appraisal process. In 1989 CBS set up a Legal Structures Working Party to revise the existing (outdated) model rules, examine charitable status and work towards the creation of the ‘Community Benefit Corporation’. In the 1990s CBS researched and developed methods in Social Accounting and Audit, working with partners across Europe. From 2003-2005 CBS managed the Bridge to the Social Economy project, which initiated the establishing of Social Enterprise Scotland.
CBS/CBSN produced a quarterly journal Community Business News (CB News), first published in December 1981. By 1984 almost 2000 copies were distributed across Britain with a small readership from abroad. It was succeeded by New Sector in May 1992 as a co-publication with Community Enterprise UK (CE-UK) and the Industrial Common Ownership Movement (ICOM). It ceased publication in July 2009. CBS/CBSN held an annual convention where members and people active in the community business movement could to meet and discuss the issues through keynote presentations, seminars, talks and workshops. The first annual convention was held in October 1981.
CBS/CBSN also carried out international work. In September 1988 John Pearce attended the Commonwealth Conference on Local Economic development in Goa, India. The outcome of the conference was to establish a Commonwealth forum for exchange of experience and promote activity in the area of social and economic development at local level. In 1990 COMMACT (Commonwealth Association for Local Action and Economic Development) was established. John Pearce was the UK representative and established COMMACT UK. From 1996 CBSN supported a partner organisation in Kerala, The HiLDA Trust, to develop a community enterprise and micro-credit programme for disadvantaged groups in the Wayanad district. HiLDA’s director, Lukose Jacob, had been the COMMACT bursar hosted in the UK in 1996. In 1998 CBS received a National Lottery Charities Board international grant to fund a 3 year programme to support the Akshaya Programme. The National Lottery Charities Board also provided international grant funding for CBSN to work in partnership with the Bangalore based Rehabilitation, Education and Development (READ) projects in rural Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in India.
CBSN withdrew from frontline support, of providing information, advice and member services, for the social enterprise community in 2005. The Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition (SSEC) had become the main vehicle for promotion of social enterprise in Scotland and there had been a growth of other social enterprise support agencies, all members of SSEC. In its new form CBSN continued to support the SSEC; CBSN International; CBSN hosted projects, such as the Social Audit Network (SAN) and COMMACT UK; and carried out consultancy work through its sister company, CBSN Services Ltd. CBSN closed in 2015.