Senscot Bulletin: 02-06-2006

Dear members and friends,

In the 1930s a group of young nuns were asked to write a short biography. The papers were recently re-analysed in terms of the amount of positive emotion expressed in the writing. Although they all had very similar lifestyles, 95% of those who expressed most optimism were still alive aged 85, compared to 34% of the most pessimistic quarter. If optimism prolongs life, how do we go there?
 The emerging field of positive psychology considers that optimism and other positive emotions can be learned. The most popular class at Harvard University this year, with 855 enrolled students, is a course on ‘Happiness’. I’m uneasy about this. I understand happiness and sadness as flipsides of each other – both inevitable. The issue is not how we can always feel hopeful – but how we cope when we don’t – more helpful to teach resilience.
Gramsci said: ‘Pessimism of the intellect – optimism of the will’. I consider myself an optimist, but not because I can think for any reason to be optimistic. It’s something beyond reason – it may come from having felt and feeling loved. If that can be learned, so can optimism.

In his letter to Hilary Armstrong – the new minister for the Cabinet Office – Tony Blair has significantly ‘raised the stakes’ in the government’s commitment to social enterprise:
 ‘Within a year you should aim to have achieved a step change in the provision of public services by social enterprises, charities and other third sector organisations. You should get firm commitments from key Departments by the summer and have an implementation plan ready for publication in early autumn. You should also ensure that social enterprise solutions are properly incorporated into the policies and programmes of all relevant Government Departments, especially the DTI and its agencies, which should continue to promote social enterprise as a mainstream business model.  You also need to ensure that the Government continues to provide the environment, and the appropriate business support and investment, to help social enterprise to flourish and to help deliver the Government’s policy goals.’
 The question we all need to be asking our elected representatives in the coming months, is: will this be replicated in Scotland?   

The Executive’s ‘Futures Project’ is a valuable initiative – a ‘strategic audit’ of Scotland’s current strengths and weaknesses, and a ‘trends analysis’ of what is likely to happen in the future.
An interesting observation in the document is that ‘NGOs grew in the 100 years between 1900 to 2000 from 196 to 44,000. As global connectedness increases, regional and international structures are likely to continue to evolve in response – with governments increasingly likely to work with non-state actors as their influence increases.’ This trend reflects the collapse of political parties and the resultant ‘democratic deficit.’ The English response is Miliband’s move to refresh democracy from neighbourhoods up. The Scottish Labour Party doesn’t seem to share this appetite for community empowerment. The Futures Project document can be found here:

Senscot is one of the founding members of UnLtd, which has grown under John Rafferty’s leadership into a thriving organisation supporting thousands of exceptional individuals throughout the UK. John wants to move on to create something new and UnLtd has announced the appointment of Cliff Prior as its new chief executive. Cliff, 49, comes from the mental health charity Rethink, where he has been CEO since 1998.   

UnLtd UK awardee, Matthew Bolton launches his ‘Living Wage’ campaign next week, and Senscot will be signing up as a Living Wage Employer. The initiative is pushing for a fair wage for all cleaning staff. For more info’, see

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but submit jobs ( or events ( and we’ll post them on our site. This week:

JOBS: 27 vacancies, incl. posts with: Inclusion Alliance, Gorebridge Opportunities, Dundee CAB, Drylaw Neighbourhood Centre, Hays Social Housing, SCVO, Community Voices Network,

EVENTS: Comrie Alive, 11 June, Comrie; Midlothian Social Enterprise Trade Fair, 12 June; Money £or Change 06, Bristol, 22 June; 2nd National Procurement Conference,  SECC, 31 Oct.

News of another Local Social Enterprise Network emerging in Dumfries and Galloway. At a recent Local Social Economy Partnership event, it was agreed that the new Network would convene its first meeting on 19th June in Castle Douglas. This brings the current number of Social Enterprise Networks to 14. For further info’ on the Dumfries and Galloway meeting or on any of the other networks, contact or see

Social entrepreneur Mel Young has been influential in the start up of many social enterprises – including Senscot. Good interview in this week’s Society Guardian about his work with the Homeless World Cup, which this year is in South Africa, and his visions for where it could go:   

This week’s bulletin profiles a new Development Trust that is emerging in the village of  Comrie in Perthshire. Their Community Development Trust will be launched next weekend at the Comrie Alive Festival taking place in the village between 9th -11th June. The Trust is the result of the work of the Comrie Development Group that was set up last year to promote the sustainable development of the village and surrounding area for the benefit of the community. Some of the initiatives they are looking at include developing shared ownership of housing/workshop units and community owned renewables. For info, see

The Comrie Development Trust is looking to purchase the village petrol pump. There are already a few examples of this with other Development Trusts in Uig (Skye), Uig (Lewis) and Morvern in Argyll and Bute. Can anyone confirm?

On the subject of securing local assets, we hear that the Portpatrick Community’s  aim to buy and improve the village harbour has received a major boost after the Scottish Executive decided to register their interest in the land. See

For years I believed ‘Desiderata’ to be an anonymous, centuries-old affirmation of love and peace. It turns out to have been written in 1927 by an American poet/philosopher Max Ehrmann. Oldies like me will remember it pinned to walls in hippie flats – but it’s timeless: 
‘Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.’

That’s all for this week. Good luck with your adventures.

Best wishes,

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