A global gathering of Scots around the world aims to share ideas, says CHRISTINE ESSON
In September 2007 I sat in the records room at Ellis Island New York and was able to trace the 100-year-old ships manifest for my great uncle who set sail from Glasgow, via Liverpool, to start a new life in the US. The family arrived at Ellis Island in July 1907 with £50 to their name and lived in Pennsylvania, only returning once to Scotland for a visit. One of many “lost actors” for Scotland during this period.
Fast forward to May 2021 and a recent Linkedin article I posted brought a swift response from another family member now living in California. I remember the leaving party in the 1980s for my cousin and his family and the thought that there would be limited opportunities for engagement other than the obligatory air mail letters and occasional (possibly rare) visits to Scotland.
Yet here we were in the connected world of 2021 being able to immediately connect and share details of a Scottish initiative proving that this Scot in California like many across the globe could now be considered a “national asset” for Scotland rather than another “lost actor”.
Scottish Business Network adviser and global expert on diaspora engagement, Kingsley Aikins termed the phrase “lost actor” to reflect the belief that those individuals who left their homeland to start a life in a new country were “lost” to the nation of their birth. Yet now, thanks to technology and communications, anyone who has taken the bold step and moved beyond their nation’s borders should be considered a ‘national asset’
In 2019 SBN, a not-for-profit social enterprise, hosted the inaugural Celtic Diaspora conference in London joined by representatives from diaspora groups from the UK, Europe, and Australasia. The conference focused on how to mobilise these national assets to the social and economic benefit of the homeland. As Aikins highlighted on the day, with 215 million people living outside the country of their birth from their home country, they represent very significant concentrations of resources and advocacy.
The second Celtic Diaspora conference (delayed from last year due to COVID) takes place on 15 June in virtual format. The conference brings together global experts discussing techniques and strategies to be employed to engage the diaspora.
Speakers include Prof Sarah Louisa Birchly, global Welsh ambassador and Professor at Tokyo Gakuen University Tokyo, who will be providing insights into recent research into what motivates an individual to leave his/her home country to explore business opportunities. She will consider what experiences foster a global entrepreneurial mindset in the individual and whether this mindset can be taught. Scottish government minister Ivan McKee, Kingsley Aikins and a number of others will be confirmed this week.
The conference will also hear from Claire Alexander, originally from Falkirk, who has not only developed a successful events business in South Africa but has used her Scottish connections to develop the Africa Scotland Business Network. The ASBN works with strategic partners in Scotland, enabling direct connections with the continent to support commercial opportunities and provide an economic benefit to both.
New reports are appearing daily from the likes of Greece and Croatia who have recognised the value of their diaspora. Through the work of SBN, Scotland is in a strong position to do the same.
The Celtic Diaspora conference is online and free-to-attend. Book your ticket here
Christine Esson is co-founder and CEO of Scottish Business Network