Dear members and friends,
I was blown away by a book I read this week: ‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney; it could well become a ‘classic’. Marianne and Connell begin their relationship, emotional and sexual, while still at school in rural Ireland; they are clever, sensitive, awkward teenagers; ‘normal’ except for an extraordinary closeness in the way they open themselves to each other. We follow their turbulent relationship over several years – through university; the tension which kept me turning the pages is difficult to explain; I ‘inhaled’ it over two days.
Rooney, who is only 27, shows a psychological acuity far beyond her years. Gifted, brave and adventurous, she writes about the myriad ways men and women try to understand each other in the pursuit of love; nor is she afraid of the darker corners of the psyche – our childhood woundings – the lies we tell ourselves…I find her portrayal of the ‘modern male psyche’ particularly poignant – struggling to understand and live-out painfully incoherent feelings.
‘Normal People’ is about human connection – and it’s a long time since I felt so much about two characters on the page; by the end though, whether they will remain together isn’t even the real question. Marianne has “never believed herself fit to be loved by any person”. Their relationship has set her free from that place – and, whatever happens next, it’s clear that this effect will be long-lasting. Rooney is saying that love changes us – but it also sets us free – and no one can take that away. I find much hope in this story.
Budget speeches contain so much double-talk and deception – that it takes a while to discern what really happened. From what we can gather, the Chancellor ‘got very lucky indeed’ – found £12bn ‘down the back of the sofa’ – which he splashed on the NHS, income tax cuts, even softening Universal Credit a bit; but nowhere near the end of austerity. There is strong pundit speculation that this was a pre-election give-away package – that Downing Street knows something we don’t. At the end of the day, only Tory MPs can bring this Govt down (or the DUP) – but in the context of the Brexit mess, who knows what’s coming next?
Many readers will already be familiar with ‘Social Europe’ – an online publication of the progressive, centre-left (Berlin-based); good article this week called ‘Why the left must talk about migration’, It says that the left needs to overcome its anxiety – that any mention or analysis of the effects of immigration is, in itself, xenophobic. On the contrary, it says, we need to define a policy on migration which is strong on anti-racism but does not ignore reality. Open societies need clear rules and strong institutions – which can help the new arrivals, “but do not let migration contribute to the undermining of social protection”.
An exciting new development in Scottish Govt’s ongoing Local Governance Review – on Wednesday the Common Weal ‘think and do tank’ published the result of its own deliberations – proposals for a new system of elected local democracy called Development Councils. Here. Robert McAlpine makes the case – and here is their report. More ‘considered’ comment next week.
For the first time in my life, I’m watching Tuesday’s US mid-term elections – the citizens’ verdict on Trump. Indications are that the Senate will stay Republican – but 85% likelihood that the ‘House’ will go Democrat. If the Americans pull back from Trump – perhaps the English will be emboldened to restrain their wilder Brexiteers.
Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was an American university professor of English literature; he famously urged his students to ‘follow your bliss.’
“Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that,
you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”
Loneliness and social isolation is increasingly being seen as one of the major health issues of our times. With Scottish Govt due to publish its own Strategy addressing this issue by the end of the year, a number of leading Scottish charities have come together to form the Action Group on Isolation and Loneliness (AGIL). AGIL has six specific ‘asks’ from Govt that they believe will allow our Govt to lead from the front and ensure Scotland can become a world leader in this area. While this initiative is to be applauded, it seems to ignore the existing work being carried out by locally-based social enterprises and third sector organisations actively addressing these issues – a trend being acknowledged in other parts of the UK. Our recent Senscot Briefing on this topic – demonstrated the key contribution and impact being made by community-based organisations make. National organisations clearly have an important leadership and campaigning role, but delivery at a local level is very much dependant on local organisations – and cannot be ignored. Their engagement in AGIL and its objectives would be of benefit to everyone.
Keep up to date with the latest jobs, events and funding opportunities in the social enterprise sector.
SEN dates for the diary: Our Joint Thematic SEN meeting on 15th Nov will focus on SEs currently involved in improving health and wellbeing through social and community activity. In addition, on 5th Dec, Senscot will host a Health SEN meeting that will include a Democracy Matters consultation in the context of health-related issues. The Scottish Govt team leading on this issue will contribute to the discussion. For more info’ on both events, contact email@example.com.
The re-scheduled SE Ref Sub-Group will take place in Perth on Thursday 6th December. This will be the third gathering of the year – and will provide us with an opportunity to feedback on the Govt’s own SE Ref Group (28th Nov in Edinburgh). Our Agenda includes a ‘half-time report’ on the SE Action Plan – reflecting on what has been achieved so far – and the gaps/omissions still needing to be addressed. The Govt is producing its own ‘highlight report’ which we circulate in advance. If you are from a front-line social enterprise or a membership-led organisation – and would like to attend – please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
During 2017-18, Glasgow Caley, working with Senscot and Social Firms Scotland, profiled 50 Scottish social enterprises – who were then showcased globally through the Aim2Flourish platform. Glasgow Caley is running the programme again from Jan 2019 and is actively looking to recruit more Scottish SEs who would like to showcase their work across the world. The videos will be the property of the participating SEs and can be used however they wish. For more details, contact Les Huckfield at email@example.com.
Over the last year or so, several SENs have been actively engaging in processes around City Region deals – particularly in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee. It is great to hear that this work is being formally recognised in Edinburgh with the appointment of Claire Pattullo (ESE) as vice-chair of the advisory body to the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal. This is not only good news for social enterprises in the area but also for the wider third sector.
Social Enterprise Scotland yesterday announced Chris Martin as their new CEO. Chris, currently manager of Callander Youth Project, takes up his new post in the new year. We wish Chris all the best in his new role.
This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise and DTA Scotland member, based in south east Moray, that is aiming to create jobs, attract new visitors and to celebrate and protect the cultural heritage of the Cabrach area. The Cabrach Trust was established in 2011 and, through funding and private donations, has been able to take ownership of Inverharroch Farm and its 170 acres of land. It is in the process of developing a working historical distillery and heritage site – providing accommodation and hospitality – as well as promoting culture and the arts, and training, education and recreational opportunities. The Trust is also looking to purchase other sites in the area – the old School House and the community hall – which, together, will help act as a catalyst to future economic growth.