CEIS, the Glasgow-based body promoting social enterprise in Scotland, has unveiled plans to create or sustain 300 jobs in 2004/05, along with campaigns to boost childcare and employability.
A key target is to expand on the results of a pilot programme that was devised to engage with the estimated 100,000 'hidden' unemployed, such as those on incapacity or disability benefits.
Results from the pilot are expected in September. A more 'mainstream' scheme is planned for 2005, involving some of the statutory organisations.
In a separate move to improve employment prospects, CEIS is examining ways to improve the quality and provision of childcare in conjunction with Glasgow City Council. A five-strong CEIS team is leading the project.
In the body's operating plan for 2004/05, research by Glasgow University calculates that CEIS has created or sustained 284 jobs, exceeding its target of 195. Each job cost an average of £3,356, against a target of £4,410.
It also found that 80 per cent of its clients were satisfied or very satisfied with its services.
In the coming year, it plans to create or sustain a further 300 jobs and increase client satisfaction to 90 per cent.
According to new research into the social economy, the sector has approximately doubled in size, from 42,000 employees in 1997 to between 70,000 and 90,000 in 2003.
Called Revaluing the Social Economy, the survey found that most social economy organisations expected to grow still further. The survey involved 2,000 organisations.
CEIS lends up to £30,000 to each organisation. It has a five-year budget of £3.6m, with around a quarter being disbursed to not-for-profit organisations and the rest going to charities.
CEIS chief executive Alistair Grimes said: "The next challenge is to build on the momentum that exists to help the social economy become more of a business mainstream in Scotland. We want it to be a niche, not a ghetto."