Senscot Bulletin: 02.05.14

Dear members and friends,

           The third sector – where I’ve worked for almost 50 years – is increasingly coming under the influence of the business world; we are told that the culture of competitive markets will improve our efficiency – but I doubt they understand or respect what we do. Among the new behaviours emerging – is the spread of unabashed self-promotion; suddenly everyone wants to win awards – be a prizewinner – a ‘centre of excellence’ etc; everything gets hyped – overstated – like selling soap powder.
          One of the most successful social interventions ever devised is Alcoholics Anonymous and there is much to learn from this worldwide organisation. It has almost zero central infrastructure – all self-promotion is prohibited – yet this self-organising fellowship carries hope to around 2 million people. A good restaurant doesn’t need to advertise; if you’re good, they’ll find you; if you’re not – they’ll find you out. This is how the third sector should operate.
         I visited a project recently – a basic drop-in centre in a peripheral housing estate; run by a passionate  50 year old woman – assisted by three scallywags. 15 of us sitting around in a transportable unit – inadequately heated and smelling of damp – provision to make yourself a mug of tea and a cheese sandwich. This project will never win any awards – or consider itself a ‘centre of excellence’; but from the respectful way people treat each other – I have no doubt it’s the real thing; a carrier of the light. 

We still have copies of Laurence’s book ‘Kindness’; a selection of Bulletin intros from 2007 – 2012. See,

The UK’s first Social Impact Bond (SIB) at Peterborough Prison – has now concluded – but as so many of us predicted – the results are inconclusive; the link gives some of the numbers – but the exchange of comments on social media can’t decide whether it was a success or not – see, and . It doesn’t matter anyway – because the UK Govt is ideologically committed with a new £30m SIB launch. This time private investors are invited to turn a profit from helping some of our most vulnerable youngsters into work; I wonder if it needs to be a paid job they get? See,

Big Society Capital (BSC) has celebrated its second birthday; the grandiose hype has quietened – their pitch has become more modest/realistic. It provides relatively expensive capital for safe, ‘senior’ lending – a service which has never been scarce and fails to understand what our sector needs. The mistake was made in the planning; BSC is simply the wrong animal for the job; most people now realize this. In the link below, Robbie Davison, who runs the social enterprise, Can Cook, in Liverpool, hits the nail on the head: “ What our sector needs is  patient capital – which can wait six or seven year for repayment”. This is pretty much where we’re trying to go with the Scottish Community Re-Investment Trust. See,

Various societal functions need to be organized differently; I learned this week that a third of our pension savings is retained by the Financial Services Industry – which is outrageous; surely pensions would be better organized on a not-for-profit, mutual basis. Another obvious mismatch is the way football clubs are owned by individuals rather than the fanbase: in the case of Hibs – an individual who has no feeling for the club. Let us welcome the debate being led by Green MSP, Alison Johnstone – which will bring fan ownership nearer. In recent decades – commerce has encroached deep into areas of our lives which fall more naturally into the realm of the commons; we must reclaim them. See,

The legendary proponent of community empowerment, Tony Gibson, has died – just short of his 95th birthday. His friend and colleague, Pat Conaty writes, “We have lost a giant of a man – indefatigable – and such profound teachers and practical leaders are so rare.” He has also forwarded a blog by Ed Mayo’s (Co-operatives UK), see

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Firstport, Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre, Blake Stevenson Ltd, Turning Point Scotland, Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Transition Extreme Sports Ltd, Ettrick & Yarrow Community Development Company
EVENTS: Social Enterprise Trade Fair, 7 May; Wiff Waff Wednesday, 14 May; SIIA 2014-15 Information Evening, 16 May; OOTB is 20!, 17 May; SURF Award Study Visit – Oban Phoenix Cinema, 19 May;
TENDERS: Wind Feasibility PQQ, Healthy n Happy Community Development Trust; Aids for Daily Living, North Lanarkshire Council;

The SENs Weekly Update; Kim writes: The UK’s largest trade union, Unite, has appealed to third sector organisations across the UK not to take part in the UK Govt’s  new ‘Help to Work’ Programme – describing the work placement element of the scheme as ‘forced unpaid labour’. SCVO’s Martin Sime has echoed these views, stating “Approaches like this are demeaning, counterproductive and undermine genuine volunteering. There are so many better ways to help unemployed people. We need to see more initiatives like Community Jobs Scotland (CJS) which has already created more than 4,550 paid jobs for young unemployed people in charities and third sector organisations across Scotland”. The CJS initiative is currently closed but expected to open again shortly with a further 1400 job opportunities for young people. To find out more, see
For more SENs News, see

Following last week’s piece on Senscot Legal, we’re pleased to say that their recruitment process has proved successful. Karina and Jennifer will be welcoming Helen Turner to the Senscot Legal team in Bath St at the end of May. See more,

Senscot, with our SSE Alliance partners – Social Firms Scotland and Social Enterprise Scotland – has secured Scottish Govt support for a new post of Partnership and Procurement Officer. The post will be dedicated to supporting social enterprises interested in bidding for public sector contracts that may be outwith the capacity of single organisations. It will seek to broker partnership or consortium development as well as helping to respond effectively to tender opportunities. More on this next week.

The BIG Lottery (Scotland) is developing a new strategic framework to cover the period 2015-21. The new framework – Your Voice Our Vision – will seek the views of charities, social enterprises, community organisations and the wider public on its future strategic direction. An online platform will be available with four main themes: Vibrant Communities; Addressing Disadvantage; Working Together; and Stronger Sector. To participate in the ‘conversation’, see

The Wise Group, one of Scotland’s largest and best known social enterprises, is looking to recruit up to 5 new Directors for its Board. Operating across Scotland and North East England, the Wise Group, in the last year, has helped move around 1,000 people into employment as well as providing mentoring services to over 700 ex-prisoners on release from Scottish prisons. For more, see

This is a great wee 90 second video clip of Renfrew’s finest – sharing how much they enjoy their allotment. The only woman, ‘wee Jean’, was a renowned community activist – who sadly died earlier this year. See,

This week’s bulletin profiles a theatre and drama company, based in the Royston area of Glasgow,  that was first ‘profiled’ in this bulletin in 2003. Toonspeak, established in 1987, provides free, high quality drama and theatre activities for young people aged 11-25 living in Glasgow. Their work is separated into three strands – Centre Stage; Green Room; and Front Row – with each strand focussing on different ways young people can engage with theatre. All Toonspeak’s work is led by young people with 6 places allocated for young people on the Board of Directors. For more see,

In 1969, the American writer, John Cheever, was interviewed by the Paris Review; and asked if he ever felt ‘god-like at the typewriter’. This is what he replied. Cheever was an alcoholic – are his comments delusional or ‘real’?

“No, I’ve never felt god-like. No, the sense is of one’s total usefulness. We all have a power of control, it’s part of our lives: we have it in love, in work that we love doing. It’s a sense of ecstasy, as simple as that. The sense is that ‘this is my usefulness, and I can do it all the way through’. It always leaves you feeling great. In short, you’ve made sense of your life.”

That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,


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Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210