Senscot Bulletin: 04.03.11

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(Going out weekly to circa 4500; website version with searchable archive at

Dear members and friends,

 My bedroom looks out on an ancient stone wall – the boundary of West Shore Wood – hundreds of acres of deciduous forest – facing north to the river Forth.  The patch of woodland nearest my cottage is sadly neglected – dumped rubbish – rotting timber – collapsed drainage ditches – general air of abandonment.  Last week I heard an inspirational talk by Nigel Lowthrop of Hill Holt Wood – which is probably why I’ve been out four times this week (in almost spring like weather) tackling the mess.  I’ve made a pile of scrap metal – a pile of plastic – some glass – and a beautiful bonfire area, made of old tree stumps, where I burn dead and rotting branches.  The annual miracle of spring – ‘primavera’ – is almost upon us – but I also love natures winter ‘pause’ – our chance to ‘shape’ the coming profusion.
 I started ‘operation clean up’ at my usual break-neck speed – while doing one task, I’m looking to the next – and then the next – soon I’m exhausted.  But gradually I calm down – this environment has its own vibe – an eloquent stillness.  Hill Holt Wood reports remarkable success working with youngsters excluded from school for disruptive behaviour.  Nigel says that the woodland itself is the therapy – I think I understand this.  It sounds fanciful – but I wouldn’t be surprised if neuroscientists identify a part of the human brain which responds to trees. It’s only worrying if we start talking to them.

I’m still in shock from the news yesterday that the Coalition Govt has given the green light to further expansion of Rupert Murdoch’s UK media empire. No-one has done more over the years to degrade our public realm – and it’s now clear that our political leaders fear him. Without media plurality democracy itself is threatened – this is a very serious matter – for all of us.

Senscot is increasingly asked if the Big Society Bank (BSB) will operate in Scotland – nobody seems to know.  When Scottish Govt. opted, some time ago, to take our share of the dormant accounts money up front – this meant that we would do our own thing – which is still the case. David Cameron decided to put all the English dormant accounts money into his Big Society Bank – has now added a further £200m from mainstream banks – there will be more. BSB is developing into a major flagship initiative – the UK Govt`s main pipeline for investment to front line social lenders. At the time the Scottish decision was the right one (for self determination) but the goalposts have moved – and this week Francis Maude urged Scotland to merge our allocation with BSB. Does Mr Swinney intend to beef up Social Investment Scotland (SIS) to fill the gap – or should we all be part of BSB? One way or another – he should tell us. See,

The UK Govt’s white paper on pubic sector reform (due out any time now) is unlikely to reflect third sector values.  The new head of policy at No.10, Paul Kirby, recently left KPMG, where he co wrote a report (below) ‘Payment for Success’ – which describes a culture of service provision which is alien, not only to our sector but also to the best of our public service ethos.  The whole `payment by results` agenda, which threatens to overwhelm us, is not only unworkable – but it would also damage the essential relationship between third sector agencies and the people we serve. See,

I am excited by the preferred bidder choice in England – of Locality – to deliver the Community Organisers Programme. CEO Steve Wyler`s attached letter acknowledges that there will be cynicism about the English Govt`s motives – but is unequivocal that the consortium’s mission is radical grassroots empowerment. Community development in Scotland has withdrawn into a cosy niche in the state sector. It would be great to start again – with a Scottish community organisers programme – so that local people themselves can be in charge. See

Senscot does not host conferences to make a profit – our priority is to attract frontline practitioners. Still places left at this year’s ‘Fit for Purpose’ Health and Social Enterprise Conference on 18th March in Edinburgh. As well as presentations and workshops, the day will culminate in a debate exploring the impact of the current financial crisis on our Health Service. How big a threat is this to our local communities? Or does this present them with a unique opportunity to have a greater say in local delivery? Writer and broadcaster, Pennie Taylor, will lead the discussion. If you’d like to attend – it’s FREE – book your place here,

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See . This week: 
JOBS: Cornerstone, Engender, Gay Men’s Health Scotland, Turning Point Scotland, Voluntary Action Fund, Minority Ethnic Carers of Older People Project, The Advocacy Project, Lendrick Lodge, Shelter Scotland
EVENTS: Telling Tales, 7 Mar; Choosing a Legal Structure, 8 Mar; Planning & Delivery workshop, 8 Mar; Women’s History Bring and Tell Workshop, 9 Mar; The F-Word DVD Screening, 9 Mar;
TENDERS: Dalgety Bay Town Centre Study; Garden Aid Grounds Maintenance Services; Framework Agreement for Replacement Kitchens and Bathrooms; Supply and delivery of groceries and provisions;

NETWORKS 1st: Colin writes:  Over the last year, we’ve been giving you updates on progress re the setting up of Third Sector Interfaces across the country. Our particular focus has been to ensure the engagement of the local social enterprise community – either directly through Social Enterprise Networks (SENs) or, where they do not yet exist, through other local social enterprises. Last month, a letter was sent to 17 of these Interfaces. Almost 50% have now responded and discussions will be taking place shortly. Last week, the 32 Interfaces received notification from Scottish Govt of their specific allocations for 2011/12. See allocation list,  For more Networks News, see

This week marks the final call for donations to Senscot’s annual appeal.  We’ll probably end up with around 80 full company members and donations over £7,000 – our largest annual amount.  Thanks to all of you who took the time to donate – it’s very much appreciated. See,

Communities around the UK which have empowered themselves – have in common that they own and manage assets. Excellent collection of advice and tips on asset transfer from 8 experts in Guardian online.

CRNS will be holding their 6th Annual Conference – `More than Recycling` – on the 14th March at Westerwood Hotel, Cumbernauld. CRNS has also announced their shortlist for this year’s awards. See,

This week’s bulletin profiles a sports social enterprise in Orkney that is dedicated to developing a range of sustainable community projects throughout the Orkney Isles. Ouroboros Sports has been set up as a Community Interest Company (CIC) and specializes in business start-up, marketing and community project development. Their projects and facilities include a martial arts suite features, Orkney Boxing Club as well as a newly refurbished sports conditioning suite. For more, see

I have a very strong attachment to the story of Francis from Assisi (Il Poverello) – the gentle, mystical, `talker with birds` – who also had extraordinary passion and determination to serve the poorest. Norman MacCaig`s poem, Assisi, tells of a wretched beggar on the steps of the church – ignored by the rush of tourists, clucking contentedly, on their way to see the Giotto frescoes.

“The dwarf with his hands on backwards sat, slumped like a half-filled sack on tiny twisted legs from which sawdust might run, outside the three tiers of churches built in honour of St Francis, brother of the poor, talker with birds, over whom he had the advantage of not being dead yet. A priest explained how clever it was of Giotto to make his frescoes tell stories that would reveal to the illiterate the goodness of God and the suffering of His Son. I understood the explanation and the cleverness. A rush of tourists, clucking contentedly, fluttered after him as he scattered the grain of the Word. It was they who had passed the ruined temple outside, whose eyes wept pus, whose back was higher than his head, whose lopsided mouth said Grazie in a voice as sweet as a child’s when she speaks to her mother or a bird’s when it spoke to St Francis.”(See MacCaig`s format of poem, )

That’s all for this week.

Good luck with your adventures

Best wishes,


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