Swinney was speaking at the annual meeting of Social Investment Scotland (SIS), the public-private fund that supports Scotland's burgeoning social enterprise scene. Loans average £93,000 and the total amount lent out is expected to reach £15 million next year.
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Although social investment has its critics - including those who ideologically object to wealthy individuals influencing social interventions or expecting a return from "investing in misery" - SIS can point to a large and varied group of society-enhancing ventures which owe their existence to its money and expertise after more than a decade in operation.
Welcoming SIS's findings about the onward march of social enterprise in Scotland, and about the impact of SIS's own contribution, Swinney said: "Social enterprises, the voluntary and community organisations play an important part in Scottish society. They deliver superb services, from creating employment opportunities to connecting with the most vulnerable people in our society. The Scottish Government is committed to doing all we can to ensure the third sector continues to flourish during times of economic challenge."
Whatever the effects of the long slump on conventional business, SIS appears to be well positioned to make further leaps and bounds.
This is also the view of Alastair Davis, the former HBOS property banker now rehabilitated as SIS's chief executive, whose bullishness about the growth of the social-investment sector is borne out by the statistics from the 130 or more businesses now benefiting from SIS involvement.
SIS's funding comes from the Scottish Government's Social Investment Fund, which sits at about £32.8m, with a further £6.2m fund coming from a cluster of banks taking advantage of a tax-relief mechanism called Community Investment Tax Relief, a "very under-used fund", according to Davis. The long-term goal is to increase funds under management to about £100m.
The variety of SIS clients is testament to the creativity and energy of the Scottish social-enterprise sector, as well as illustrating the depth, intractability and geographical coverage of the severe social problems that still bedevil Scotland.
Generations of politicians have blamed each other for these blights, while themselves illustrating the shortcomings of top-down solutions. But social enterprise works best from the bottom up. One-third of SIS clients help children and young people, one-third are in social care and the rest mainly divided between sport and recreation and renewable energy, plus a few miscellaneous projects.
Research among 47 of the social enterprises and community organisations that have been supported by SIS found that around eight in 10 (82%) respondents anticipate an increase in turnover over the coming year, while two-thirds (66%) have experienced an increase over the previous 12 months. Just over half (52%) saw an increase in trading income during the same period.
Despite the fact that the economic recovery is far from locked in, "most SIS customers are confident they would maintain if not grow the scale and scope of their activities over the next three years".
According to chairman Nick Kuenssberg, SIS sees its success to date as a spur to do better in future: "Our goal over the coming years is to help to try and connect more capital with more communities to help make real, measurable and sustainable impact on people's lives."
Davis points out the irony that, for all its other grim effects, the recession has had unexpected benefits.
He said: "The best thing that happened to Scotland and the wider social-investment marketplace is that the banks stopped lending to social enterprises to the same extent, if not more, that they stopped lending to businesses. So Scotland's social enterprises have had to look to organisations like ours to raise the capital they require.
"It's not like the housing market when things just stop, quite the converse really. Organisations are now more willing to consider taking on social investment they have to pay back, a concept that's quite new to many. It's made them more commercial and look more closely at their own sustainability."
Last year, SIS earned £332,000, up about 22% on the previous year, made up of interest and fees, plus other income from managing funds on behalf of others - a spurt that suggests how the market for this kind of investment is growing. Davis compares the increasing appetite for the "social pound" to increased awareness of ethical consumption.
He said: "We believe the institutional community, perhaps the private investment community, are more open to social investment since the collapse of traditional markets. Younger people now are more responsible from a social sense than predecessors have been. There is a whole ethical seam that runs through business activity more generally; people want to know where their money is invested and we want to provide a route to market for social-investment funds, a goal that Mr Swinney shares."
After all the ethical and reputational shocks of the great financial crisis, a scheme that promotes the tangible benefits of connecting capital to communities is one to be nurtured.