Senscot Bulletin: 08-06-2007

Dear members and friends,

There is a beautiful old stables abutting my cottage where swallows nest and where I keep my firewood – it would make a great studio. I see a creative space – wood and stone, open to south sunlight – an exercise mat, a workbench with tools – my inner sanctum. The rehabilitation of an abandoned property has always been a powerful metaphor for me – even in dreams – and one I have enacted in real life many times. My intuition suggests that this comes from an unconscious sense of myself as somehow unclaimed. I love Grand Designs on TV – its themes of boldness – optimism – redemption.
 In 1990 I had a super one bedroomed flat in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge. The flat upstairs came on the market so I lovingly restored the Georgian townhouse to its original grandeur. But I borrowed beyond my means – couldn’t make the payments – someone else has it now. Maybe I’ll just stick with my wee cottage – leave the swallows in peace. With age it becomes easier to let things be.
 On Wednesday, a letter from the hospital saying that they found no malignancy in my prostate – great relief. Thursday (yesterday) in court to plead for my driving licence. When the magistrate enters I recognise her – my pal’s wife. This could be a result! Wonder if I should inform the clerk – reckon that’s up to her. When I’m called she speaks to the PF, who announces, “Justice Mrs —– declines jurisdiction in this case.” Can’t win them all. Great result on the biopsy though. Lucky laddie.

In Wester Hailes the community had its own employment training agency; children we knew on our playgrounds grew up through local training programmes; eventually had their own children. We knew our people – they trusted us – we dealt in what is now called social capital. Around 1997 Scottish Enterprise destroyed this local dimension – gave this work to bigger players – easier to administer. Now private sector operations – like Reed in Partnership, Working Links etc – regard this field as a ‘dripping roast’. The money is in volume – contracts for thousands of placements – steered through channels corresponding to targets – often no more than movement from welfare poverty to workforce poverty.
 There is much talk in our sector about doing more in this field. If we’re talking about the Wester Hailes model this is good news. But if we’re talking about juggling stats – the private sector is welcome to it. How can we urge our young people to aspire to work they are proud of – unless we are proud of the work we do.

Senscot attended this week’s masterclass hosted by Kibble with Jim Schorr from Juma Ventures, a social enterprise in San Francisco that employs around 150 young people. Jim gave an insight into their work and also offered his take on a key issue facing the social enterprise sector on both sides of the Atlantic – ‘sustainability’. Jim’s view is that many existing social enterprises will never generate enough income to subsidise their other activities. He believes scaling up is the only way to go. His article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review is worth reading. I don’t share Jim Schorr’s view. I believe that it’s the smaller social enterprises which punch above their weight – which are more resilient – because they’re embedded locally. The ‘tescoisation’ of our sector must be resisted. Barbara Phillips, who set up the original Social Enterprise Unit at the DTI, agrees with me.

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal picks up on the same theme. It suggests that the ‘social enterprise’ model is flawed in that an overemphasis on creating a viable business detracts from an organization’s social mission:

Senscot’s AGM takes place at the Quaker’s Meeting House in Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh on Wednesday 27th June between 12 and 2pm. John Swinney’s coming as our keynote speaker which we’re delighted about.  If you’d like to attend, please contact

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

JOBS: 41 vacancies, incl. posts with: Lodging House Mission, New Economics Foundation, Carronshire Community Centre (consultancy), BabyGROE, PACE Recruitment, Community Woodlands Association, 

EVENTS: 10 events, incl. Learning Festival for Disabled People, Glasgow, 22 June; SME recycling collections seminar, Stirling, 27 June.

It’s time again for the Big Tent, from 15-17 June at Falkland Palace, Fife: music, culture, great speakers, activities for all the family. Some of Britain’s keenest minds will explore big questions of today to stimulate thinking and actions that “mind the future”.

Senscot is co-hosting a health and social enterprise conference in September. There is a feeling, particularly south of the border that, within the NHS, there are significant opportunities for social enterprise. This, however, looks like being resisted by the unions:

Not usually a fan of awards, but good to hear about a couple last week. The Scottish Business in the Community bash recognised Des Ryan from Edinburgh Cyrenians for his work with the private sector to provide better opportunities for homeless people in Edinburgh: Also, good to see our friends at Aberdeen Foyer pick up the award for social enterprise of the year:

This week’s bulletin profiles a well known Fife social enterprise that has set up a new trading arm over the last 12 months. The Ecology Centre, based in Kinghorn, has been on the go for over eight years, providing education, recreation, training and volunteering opportunities as well as catering for hundreds of school parties every year. Out of the Wood is part of the newly formed trading company which will provide high quality, individually designed wooden products for external use. They are currently working with Housing Associations and the local authority and have already secured their first contract. For info’, see

From my journal, 25th September 1988:

“Richard Burton ‘made himself up’ – literally. You could sum up his life by saying, having made himself up, he then proceeded, slowly, deliberately, to destroy his creation. The abandoned, motherless child was father to the volatile, generous, self-hating man. Jung would say the human journey is a search for our true self – even nervous breakdown has this purpose. Burton’s destruction of himself (the self he invented) could be seen as positive, creative – the pursuit of authenticity.”
 The human psyche (and that of an ape) clearly has coping mechanisms (including shutdown) to restore equilibrium from stress. But to claim that we are also ‘hard-wired’ to seek ‘our true self’ is much more. It’s an attractive thought.
That’s all for this week. Good luck with your adventures

Best wishes.

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Laurence’s book, ‘You’ve Got To Laugh’ is available See: