Senscot Bulletin: 04.05.12

Dear members and friends,

When does sadness become depression – I’ve been hovering between the two for some weeks now.  The dividing line for me is waking early – before 5am – which has started again; I’m anxious and irritable – movement and speech slower – energy, confidence and self esteem lower; my psyche is trying to tell me something.  April was cold and dark; this is maybe mild Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – I’ll wait and see – wait for the sun.
 Evolutionary psychologists have a different attitude to depression than doctors.  They see it not so much as an illness – but as ‘an evolved mechanism of distress’ – signalling that our coping system is overwhelmed.  It is telling us to step back, to hibernate – or escape – a wake-up call that something needs to change.  Perhaps we have unreasonable beliefs – make unrealistic demands on ourselves – need to cut ourselves some slack.
 My instincts tend more to the artist than the scientist – sadness can be seen as a source of creativity.  A quote from the great Hermann Hesse: "Everything is within us – gold and mud – happiness and pain – the laughter of childhood and the apprehension of death.  Say yes to everything; – shirk nothing.  We like to play the solid citizen – wise and harmonious but we are birds in the storm – let it storm – let it drive you… Always, again and again, dark days will come.  We have to pay for our loved and lovely life with days like these."  ‘Wandering’ – Hermann Hesse’s slim volume of musings is long out of print.  I love the melancholy of this piece called Rainy Weather.

The government’s switch from grants to competitive contracting is changing the culture of the third sector – making it increasingly predatory rather than collaborative.  Such was the evidence given at the meeting of the Baring Foundation’s ‘Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector’.  The panel also heard that the gap between grass roots organisations, and ‘big boys’, is widening – that unless something is done we are replicating what Tesco did to our High Streets.  In each Scottish council area – Senscot believes a local third sector agency (with commercial savvy), should be appointed as deal brokers.  These would identify and assemble ambitious SEs – assist the formation of thematic consortia – liaise with the council’s procurement process.  The aim is to have service providers who know and live in the communities they serve; they simply provide better value than the mega national contractors. 

Of the various commentators on Scottish affairs – particularly third sector issues – the one I got most from – trusted the most – was Stephen Maxwell’s column in TFN.  It meant so much, to have someone with such intelligence and experience – share my own enthusiasm for community empowerment.  Stephen was a fundamentalist – for whom empowerment meant the transfer of real power; money to spend – the acquisition of land/property – renewable energy generation.  I’ll never forget his disappointment when the SNP (the party he helped create) reneged on its 2007 manifesto commitments to ‘New Power for Communities’ – just to appease COSLA.  Below is what he wrote at the time.  Stephen was clear about what he believed – it was thought through.  As a campaigner, he combined fierce commitment with gentle persuasiveness.  In the best sense of the word – he was a gentleman.  He will be widely missed.

Steve Wyler’s column this week (Locality) takes a look at Big Society Capital (BSC) – elicits some good comments – two of which are attached.  Ben McCall says ‘the deck is rigged – we should not play their game’.  Hugh Rolo says ‘it’s the only game in town’.  I’m with Ben – BSC is mistakenly trying to make our sector into a market – third sector leaders are dithering.  But maximising profits usually conflicts with the needs of our clients.  It is not appropriate that SE’s strive to become investment vehicles in the normal sense.  We need investment from sources which support our social aims; and our own mutual investment funds, based on SE values.

On the same theme – BSC makes it clear that it intends to vigorously promote SIBs (Social Impact Bonds) – based on ‘payment by results’ contracts.  The hype continues.  The prospect of more stable funding may tempt some SEs into this more ‘marketised’ culture – but they risk the loss of their third sector ‘moral energy’.  See

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  This week:
JOBS: Scottish Huntington’s Association, WHALE Arts Agency, Long Term Conditions Alliance Scotland, Cowal Council on Alcohol and Drugs, Glasgow Credit Union, The Village Storytelling Centre
EVENTS: Finance Training for the Third Sector, 31 May; Getting to Grips with Social Accounting & Audit and Social Capital, 17 May; SROI Practitioner Training, 14 Jun; Social Innovation Camp Edinburgh, 11 Jun
TENDERS: Outer Hebrides Destination Marketing Website, Provision of Tenancy Support Services, Supply of Ergonomic Furniture and Local Public Services in the Borders. For more details, see

NETWORKS 1st: Kim writes: This year’s annual Fit for Purpose Conference: Social Enterprise and Health on 14th June will bring together individuals from the NHS, local authorities and social enterprises, looking to further develop a shared understanding about an Asset Based Approach to Health Improvement which Sir Harry Burns, CMO is keen to encourage. Dr Mairi Scott ( will deliver a keynote speech on ‘The doctor-patient relationship – a key asset in Health Improvement’. The assets based approach to people’s health focuses on behaviours and influences and also the social factors which impact people’s health and wellbeing, especially in their early lives. Book your free place at   For more Networks News, see

Splendid rant from George Monbiot on Western imperialism – how it hasn’t gone away – just changed shape.  "Reading the emails passed between the offices of James Murdoch and Jeremy Hunt, it struck me that here too is a government which sees itself as an agent of empire – Murdoch’s in the case – and which see the electorate as ornamental".

Gerry Hassan picks up on the theme of Oxfam Scotland’s launch of its Humankind Index – which provides a much more considered measurement of quality of life than the limited GDP.  Hassan believes that this Index – when refined – enables a different kind of political conversation – informed by a radical vision of what an alternative Scotland could be like.

I can get despondent when I see how the world’s power elites can circumvent democratic systems.  It’s a great comfort that the World Wide Web – by its very nature – is uncontrollable.  Good article about some current web radicals. See,

Firstport is Scotland’s specialist agency for our next generation of social entrepreneurs.  These 10 short case studies gave me a snapshot of what’s bubbling out there.  Kim writes more about this on the Networks 1st site.

The Melting Pot is calling on new and emerging social innovators to apply for a fully funded scholarship – their new Social Innovation Incubation Award.  Closing date is 8th June.   See
Last week, the Village SOS Project held a Roadshow in Dunfermline designed to help communities set up community-owned and run enterprises. This week’s bulletin profiles one such example in the Perthshire village of Kirkmichael. The Kirkmichael Village Shop was set up as a CIC in 2009 with the specific intention of operating for the benefit of the community. Today, the shop also acts as a post office; petrol station; and a small café. See more,

From the Alexandria Quartet (1962) by Lawrence Durrell.
"The greatest thoughts are accessible to the least of men.  Why do we have to struggle so?  Because understanding is a function not of ratiocination but of the psyche’s stage of growth.  There, Brother Ass, is the point at which we are at variance.  No amount of explanation can close the gap.  Only realisation!  One day you are going to wake shouting with laughter.  Ecco!"
‘The psyche’s stage of growth’ Durrell says transcends class – experience – intelligence – learning – everything.  There is an argument for dispensing with the political class entirely.  Draw lots for our parliament – like Jury Duty.

That’s all for this week.

Good luck with your adventures

Best wishes,


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