Senscot Bulletin: 10-11-2006

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Dear members and friends,

Big thrill for me this week is the arrival of my book – 1,000 copies from the printer. It’s a selection of these weekly musings called ‘You’ve got to laugh’ and I’m delighted with the way it looks and feels. Writing a book is both exciting and scary. It asks a question. If it sells I could go on to become a real writer – if no-one buys it – a real plonker. It wouldn’t be my first flop. 
Tuesday was a spectacular autumn day – the sunshine brings me to Linlithgow – saunter the High Street  browsing the charity shops. Absorbed like a child all morning sifting through the detritus of folks lives. Find a great winter coat by Crombie of London – and a felt hat like Indiana Jones.. Lunch on fish and chips from Cabrellis – home via the garden centre for coffee and carrot cake. There’s an ornamental beech tree I’ve admired all year – its container’s too wee – stunted – it asks me to adopt it.
I can see it now from my desk window – shivering in the rain, but I’ve planted it well against the winter wind. I too am bedding down – had my flu jab – the shed is full of good burning hardwood. The weather will turn soon – projects uncompleted will have to wait as we coorie doon to brave the Scottish winter. Next hazard to negotiate is the festive season. ‘Let us brace ourselves for our duties.’ One good thing about my book – that’s the Xmas presents sorted. Find out more:

At Senscot we post entries into our database under three bands: A, B and C.  A are front-line social enterprises, B are intermediary organisations and C are other interested parties. Over the past year approximately 600 people have self-registered to our bulletin; of these, 21% are Band A, 38% are Band B and 41% are Band C. These numbers imply that for every one person ‘doing the business’ there are four supporting or observing. This indicates a sector which throws a much bigger shadow than is justified by real activity on the ground. Many of you, like myself, will remember how in the 1970s and 80s both community enterprise and co-ops were hyped unrealistically. If Scottish Executive support for social enterprise is based on its potential to deliver public services – it’s important that we all get ‘get real’ about how few there are at the moment ‘fit for purpose’. It’s in no-one’s interest to shape a strategy around an illusion.

I’ve visited Scottish islands and estates run by the laird’s factor – and those which have been taken over by the folk who live there. There cannot be a more convincing argument than the transformation of the morale of these places. This movement in Scotland is being spearheaded by our Lottery’s ‘Growing Community Assets’ Fund, which made an award of £2m last week to the residents of  South Uist towards the purchase of  the sprawling South Uist Estate, which also includes Eriskay and part of Benbecula.. This would be the biggest such acquisition yet.

We hear news of a successful London-based support organisation exploring the possibility of expanding into Scotland. Pilotlight seeks to bring together the skills of business people (pilotlighters) with the social visions of charities and social enterprises to create strong, sustainable organisations. Funded by the National Lottery to look at the feasibility of replicating their services in Scotland and Wales, Pilotlight normally offers its services to organisations with turnovers between £250,000 and £2m. They say they would aim to work with 25 such Scottish organisations in 2 years. (Are there such?).
My first reaction is to tell these Londoners to back off!  `Send them homewards to think again.` But `Scotland rules ya bass` is not good enough. In the private sector. more effective ways of working quickly replace the inefficient – and the ‘hindmost’ are eaten up or killed off. But the `protected` landscape of the third sector is cluttered with the hulks of moribund organisations which won’t go away. I sometimes think that a more robust market of support organisations would serve our customers better. 

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: 25 vacancies, incl. posts with: Royston Youth Action, The Ark Trust, SCVO, Crew 2000, Student Volunteering Scotland, The Scottish Executive, Spruce Carpets, The Rock Trust.

EVENTS: 22 events, incl. Prove, Improve and Account!  – Conference Social Audit Network (SAN), York, Dec 1; Social Enterprise Academy – Short Courses, 2007, discount deadline 31 Dec. IT training – a series of events (Social Firms Scotland & Scottish Business in the Community), Aberdeen, various dates in 2007; COSCA certificate in counselling skills, Cumbernauld 11-16 Feb 2007

‘I sat down with the president of Danone, Franck Riboud, over lunch in Paris last year and told him that I believed that capitalism had been straitjacketed into too narrow a definition. I told him about what I call my concept of ‘social business entrepreneurs’. And he responded instantly. Instantly! He said this was fascinating, and he agreed there and then to create Grameen-Danone. Our plan is simple: we’ll make yoghurt so cheap that poor people can afford it. And if things work out we’ll have 50 plants before long, each covering its own costs, all profits remaining inside the company.’ This quote by Mohammed Yunus is taken from a full article in the Observer which I found compelling and moving.

Next Thursday is National Social Enterprise Day with a number of events being staged across the UK. In Scotland, the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition (SSEC) will be launching its manifesto twice in one day. Firstly to the sector at the Network Ceilidh in New Lanark and, later in the day, to policy-makers at a reception at the Parliament. See press release

This week’s bulletin profiles a miner’s welfare club that is continuing to play a vital role in providing resources and leadership to its local community. The Loganlea Miners’ Welfare Society and Social Club is based in Addiewell, West Lothian. As well as generating income through the entertainment, shows and activities on offer, the Club provides a range of other services through its recent initiative – the Pitstop. The overall aim of the Pitstop has been to increase its engagement in social and economic activities for the good of the local community. Since it opened in 2005, this community owned building has been providing a range of services locally that include a fitness suite, sauna, purpose built 2 tier soft play room as well as a multipurpose room, offering internet access, games, children’s parties and group meeting facilities. For further info, see

Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall – think of it, always’.  The dominance of the good guys or the bad guys will ebb and flow endlessly. It’s easy to imagine that this is some struggle ‘out there’ between opposing forces. But the reconciliation can only happen within each one of us – can only begin when we understand that we each contain all the darkness as well as the light. Carl Jung said: ‘People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul.’

That’s all for this week. Good luck with your adventures.

Best wishes,

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