Senscot Bulletin: 10.06.11

Dear members and friends,

A mile or so from where I live, is a well run Garden Centre – with a great café/home bakery.  This is where I tend to meet people – or sit reading/scribbling; great banter with the women who work here – friends really; it’s both my ‘office’ and my ‘local’ – where they ‘ken me fine’.
 Writing this column each week must be egotistical – the assumption that personal reflections are of interest to others.  It comes, in part, from a conviction that we are none of us much different – that most human experience is universal. The novelist Margaret Drabble once said that writing can reconcile us to our fears – by recognising them.  Occasionally I get an email which affirms this connectedness. 
Surfside Beach, South Carolina, USA, 03/06/11: – "Dear Laurence – I have no idea why I am so drawn to Senscot from my home across the pond – but indeed I am.  I read every bulletin – and take great comfort from knowing that I am not alone…"  I feel sure that our new friend, Sally, won’t mind me sharing her message – not just to show off – but in a spirit of solidarity.  I’m writing this in the Garden Centre Café at 3pm – where Cissie has just brought me a slice of her new carrot cake.  I’m reflecting on our deep human instinct to connect – and to open to each other (hardwired).  It makes me feel hopeful – so I’m beaming smiles to Cissie and Sally.  Occasionally I catch a fleeting glimpse of my place in the family of things.

The definition of Big Society, in general use, is as follows: "A society in which power and responsibility have shifted: one in which, at every level in our national life, individuals and communities have more aspiration, power and capacity to take decisions and solve problems themselves, and where all of us take greater responsibility for ourselves, our communities and one another."  Cameron says this will be his legacy. Some cynics say that Big Society is code for ‘the state steps back – contracts reduced services to the market – urges civil society to fill the gap’. Compare this to Alex Salmond’s ‘Two Nations’ speech last month. Talk of ‘fairness’ – ‘a social wage’ – ‘the profit of the land shall go to all’. It is clear that these are different political philosophies. As a 71 year old without ‘reserves’ – I feel safer in Scotland than I would in England right now.

Mighty impressed by this profile of the Bryson Charitable Group from Northern Ireland – seven businesses employing 650 people – £30 million turnover – good grasp of the social enterprise ethic.  As always though, I have an instinctive resistance to the model of the big expanding organisation; my conviction is that the small ‘community nourished’ enterprises are the true life blood of our movement.  I can see a way though, how a right minded national social enterprise – with advanced professional capacity – could help empower local groups.  Specifically I’m thinking about asset acquisition – with the ‘national’ executing all the ‘due diligence’ stuff – ‘fostering’ the asset till the local organisation is ready. See,

This link is to a piece by Lawrence Tomlinson – a Sunday Times Rich Lister – whose company employs over 2000 people.  He outlines all the social good his company accomplishes – and resents that he can’t call it a social enterprise – he can’t see why not.  The reason, of course, is that his company has no asset lock and it’s important to keep reiterating this difference – because there are interests deliberately trying to blur it.  If, for instance, the social enterprises being spun out from the NHS have no asset lock – they will quickly be gobbled up by private corporations.  Social enterprise is not an adaptation of the private sector – it’s an alternative.

An estimated 1,000 transfers of public assets to community organisations are underway at present in England, according to new research.  Linda Gillespie, who manages the Community Ownership Support Service (COSS) at DTA Scotland agrees that momentum is also building up here: "a recent letter to Scotland’s 32 local authorities got an immediate response from over half of them – wanting to get involved".

The major supermarkets only spend 10 to 12 percent of their takings within local communities – seriously depleting local economies.  One way round this is the creation of ‘local currencies’ – which can only be spent in their own area.  Consideration is currently being given so introducing an ‘Edinburgh pound’ – and while I’m an instinctive supporter – I believe the concept of local currencies is not yet right.

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See . This week:
JOBS: Impact Arts, Spruce Carpets; The Place2Be; Better World Books; Federation of Scottish Theatre; Hear My Music; Scotland Malawi Partnership; Communication Forum Scotland;
EVENT: HISEZ Open Day, 13 Jun; Hard times: Self evaluation in a challenging climate, 17 Jun;
TENDERS: Provision of Content Managed Website Services for Renfrewshire Schools; Event Management Support for the City Economy Conference and Accommodation for Abused Women and their Children. 

NETWORKS NEWS: After eight years, Colin will be stepping back from day-to-day involvement with Senscot and Networks 1st from the end of July. His contribution, not just to Senscot, but to the support and development of the social enterprise community over this period has been outstanding. Not only is his knowledge of grassroots social enterprises in Scotland second to none – there have also been few better champions. Colin, however, has got another passion – social capital. Through his own social enterprise, Assist Social Capital (, he advocates the importance of social capital in building stronger and more prosperous communities. He will be devoting more time to this. The good news, though, is that he will not be disappearing completely. After a break in August, he will continue to be actively involved in supporting our work with the Health SEN and Roundtable and our social enterprise and sport initiative. If you’d like to know more about social capital, contact
For more Networks News, see

Senscot Legal will complete its first six months trading come the end of June. To date, over 30 social enterprises have used the service. Early patterns suggest particular demand for assistance in matters to do with employment, property (we’ve assembled a pool of property specialists to assist with this area) and, of course, governance. Our view is that the new legal form – Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) – could well be the structure of choice for social enterprises in the future. Senscot Legal is offering a competitive package (£600) to help organisations register. If you are interested, contact . For more on Senscot Legal, see 

Senscot’s experience of ‘crowd sourcing/funding’, to date, has been limited to last year’s Dragons’ Den at our Ceildh in New Lanark – where the audience raised £800 towards the winner’s prize.  Now we hear of  Borders SEN member – SoLoCo ( – who will be launching their crowdfunding pilot this summer. The gist of crowdfunding is to enable inspirational ideas to be funded by like-minded individuals throughout the UK.  See more, 

This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise run by Banff and Macduff Community Trust. The Green Tree Café is located in Banff’s town centre and operates as a coffee shop and restaurant. They are currently developing plans to establish a community hub where customers can access information about local events, activities and, of course, the work of the Trust. As a social enterprise, the Green Tree reinvests all profits into projects which benefit the communities of Banff and Macduff. See more,

One of the early influences which shaped my view of the world was the writing of Graham Greene; his novels introduced me to the moral ambiguity of the adult world.  Here’s a selection of quotes:
"The value of the truth is overestimated – it is a symbol for mathematicians and philosophers to pursue.  In human relations, kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths" __ "A murderer is regarded by the conventional world as something almost monstrous, but a murderer, to himself, is only an ordinary man.  It is only if the murderer is a good man that he can be regarded as monstrous." ___ "He felt the loyalty we feel to unhappiness – the sense that is where we really belong." ___ "Innocence always calls mutely for protection, when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm." ___ "If you have abandoned one faith, do not abandon all faith.  There is always an alternative to the faith we lose.  Or is it the same faith under another mask?"

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