Dear members and friends,
TV repeat this week of ‘Dancing with Wolves’, which I’d somehow managed to miss (since 1990!). We’re back in the 1860s – on the pristine Western Frontier – before the Lakota Sioux were subjugated and banished from their homelands. Like Kevin Costner, I become captivated by this exploration of Sioux culture – particularly the power dynamics of the village he joins. There’s the ferocious warrior (Wind in His Hair) who wants to tear everyone’s head off; there’s the thoughtful ‘medicine man’ (Kicking Bird) who represents our human ‘mystical’ dimension; and there’s the wise old chief (Ten Bears) – who, although of advanced age, clearly carries the authority of the village – to decide matters. This stays with me – the respect and deference of the Sioux culture for tribal elders.
Where Native American communities still exist, their children are raised not to fear death – but to accept it as central to the human condition; their elderly are respected for wisdom and life-experience which they actively transmit to the next generations. By contrast, we in the West regard aging and death with distaste and denial; in our culture of ‘shame’, our old people feel there is something wrong with them – a gradual loss of value. The psychologist Erik Erikson wrote: ‘Lacking a culturally viable ideal of old age – our civilisation does not really harbour a concept of the whole of life’. He is saying that, because we are not reconciled to the end of life, we are not psychologically and spiritually complete. Not so, the Lakota Sioux.
In 2016, Brexit and Trump exploded into our lives – major disruptive events; in the UK, Brexit is stuck fast – the US Midterms this week was their opportunity to rein back Trump – it was a mixed result – see Financial Times Overview. As predicted, the Democrats won ‘the House’ which will restore many of checks and balances of the American Constitution – but is this enough? Some commentators believe that Trump’s core support, perhaps one third of citizens, wouldn’t tolerate his removal from office – even by constitutional means; that they would believe his claims of an ‘establishment coup’. If these pundits are right, his incendiary campaign of falsehoods is taking the USA dangerously close to anarchy.
I read the Common Weal proposal for Development Councils, as the new tier of local democracy in Scotland – no hesitation in welcoming it as an important contribution to the present govt. consultation. We need to unpick how existing local action/enterprise (participatory democracy) will sit alongside a new statutory tier (representative democracy). My main reservation is the report’s assumption that development councils could be quickly established everywhere in Scotland. There are parts of our country where interest in local democracy will require to be grown from seed – and community development workers are now practically extinct. May this fresh thinking inspire more. CommonSpace carries this podcast (20 mins) with Craig Dalziel – Head of Research at Common Weal. Craig has invited feedback on the Common Weal proposal for Development Councils. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is noteworthy that Preston has been identified as the most rapidly improving urban area in the UK to live and work, according to the 2018 Good Growth for Cities index; it can’t be coincidental that the Lancastrian City has, for nearly six years, been pioneering ‘localist’ economic policies – particularly around the supply chains of the city’s largest employers (anchor organisations). The Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) is one of the UK leaders in this Local Wealth Building approach; this is their take on what’s behind the success of the Preston model and how its lessons can be shared.
Our community sector is most fortunate to have our own voluntary ‘writer in residence’ Lesley Riddoch; Lesley says she’s open to approaches from communities who have interesting/unusual stories to tell.
“It’s a widely accepted principle,’ he says, ‘that you can claim a piece of land which has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years, if only you repeat this mantra endlessly: ‘We discovered it, we discovered it, we discovered it….” Kurt Vonnegut, Deadeye Dick
“If the red man was supposed to keep hold of his land, it’d still be his. If the white man wasn’t destined to take this new world, he wouldn’t own it now. Here was the true Great Spirit, the divine thread connecting all human endeavour – if you can keep it, it is yours. Your property, slave or continent. The American imperative.” Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad.
Couple of SEN events to note this week. North Ayrshire Council hosted its SE Conference – which included an overview of the North Ayrshire SE Strategy; national and local SE support available; and the appointment of a new steering group for the local SEN (NASEN). Also, on Tuesday, Fife SEN held its own event – that included the launch of Fife Council’s new Community Benefit Guide. Over 40 attendees also heard from both local and national support organisations. A number of SENs have been encouraged lately by the increasing instances of national support organisations and others looking to engage with them with a view to extending their reach and delivery of their services at a local level. Anyone would think there’s a big contract on the horizon!! On a more serious note, these collaborations are only to be welcomed – and something that the SENs themselves have been arguing for on a regular basis. An objective, for us all, is to ensure that social enterprises – no matter their location – get equal access to good quality support. There are currently 16 active local SENs – with a joint membership/engagement of over 800 social enterprises.
Keep up to date with the latest jobs, events and funding opportunities in the social enterprise sector.
Senscot is hosting a Health SEN meeting – on 5th Dec – that will include a Democracy Matters consultation in the context of health-related issues – with Scottish Govt in attendance (see link above to sign up). Other national Intermediaries have held similar consultations with members – see observations from recent DTA Scotland Conference in Aberdeen. If you are interested in attending Democracy Matters consultations in your own area, see list of up-and-coming events. Due to demand, we are moving the Joint Thematic SEN meeting next week (15th Nov) to the Grassmarket. The focus is on SEs involved in improving health and wellbeing through social and community activity. Contact email@example.com for more info on both.
Over the last year, four SENs – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Health – have been participating in an impact evaluation ‘pilot’ using the Unlocking Potential (UP) tool (facilitated by Assist Social Capital) – as part of the SE Action Plan. The ‘pilot’ is nearing completion – full report available at the end of this month. The UP-Platform measures and evidences the impact of SENs by reporting on the quantity and quality of relationships both within a network and with external stakeholders. Early feedback suggests that the role of a dedicated co-ordinator is a crucial factor in the growth and development of SENs. Final Report out soon.
It was good to see SEN members both being short-listed as well as a couple picking up awards at this year’s Scottish SE Awards. Winners were CCI Scotland (SE of the Year); Point and Sandwick Trust (Environmental SE of the Year); Helen Houston (SE Champion); Jordan McPhail (Young SE Champion); Caledonian Cremation (One to Watch); and GTS Solutions (Social Impact). See full shortlist of awardees.
This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise, based in Edinburgh, that operates as a mental health project with an online magazine. Fearless Femme is seeking to empower women to help overcome stress, anxiety and other challenges they face – such as stigma, sexism and discrimination. Fearless Femme’s online magazine focuses on these issues – and looks to help boost women’s self-esteem, help develop positive body images; and how to manage academic, financial and work pressures. The gist of their various articles, podcasts and videos is saying that it is okay to have problems with your mental health. Fearless Femme was also short-listed in this week’s Scottish SE Awards in their ‘one to watch’ category.