Senscot Bulletin: 11.09.15

Dear members and friends,

            This week the weather taunted us – glimpses of the summer we missed – some fine gardening days.  The trees I planted 10 years ago have grown too big – so it’s been a week of culling; the willow and the cypress are gone – the beech lopped – bigger shrubs cut back.  I’ve done well this year – kept ahead of the game – but the physical challenges of my hobby are becoming an issue.  I choose low maintenance projects – take lots of rests – try to learn patience – with myself.
            When I am no longer physically capable – the garden will lose interest for me; the joy comes from doing it – not the finished product; the journey not the destination.  I enjoy shaping my immediate environment – the seasonal conversations with my own wee natural world.  This week the big daisies are nearly gone – and the foxgloves; most plants are on the turn – telling me its autumn – and then the dreaded winter hibernation.
            From my cottage its only 10 minutes stroll, down through the woods, to the south shore of the Firth of Forth.  On a clear blue morning this week – tide out – dead calm – hundreds of geese bobbing on the water.  Probably in from the Arctic – a stopover – on their way south.  Over the next half hour, they continue to arrive –in groups of about two dozen – building to quite a hubbub; being among them feels special – their calls ‘harsh and exciting’.  Back home, I’m browsing travel sites – not ready to hibernate yet – the call of the wild – I feel a trip coming on.


Ever since the early inflated rhetoric of Big Society Capital – this bulletin has challenged the validity of Ronald Cohen’s vision: of social investment generating commercial returns – a new ‘asset class’ for the money markets; we argue that this is a delusion of city bankers – ignorant of the social economy. The truth is – that except on very rare occasions – social interventions require subsidy – and when occasionally loans are considered – losses can be anticipated. In June, data was published of 426 closed deals, from 3 separate social lenders –data which largely confirms our sector’s subsidy requirement. One of the most consistently well informed bloggers about social investment is David Floyd on the Beanbags site; his latest post discusses this data and its implications.


The photo of the wee boy, washed ashore dead – has shifted public perceptions of the refugee crisis; now politicians are falling over each other in a compassion competition. Giles Fraser (Guardian Loose Canon Column) fires an angry volley at politicians who invoke Christian morality for electoral advantage. He says, ‘If they ask what the bible says about how many we should take – the answer is every single last one’.

Enjoyed this short piece by Gerry Hassan in the Daily Record – about the growing concentration of power in the Scottish govt. – as opposed to in our parliament or wider civil society. He argues that Scotland is already one of the most centralised societies in Western Europe – with no structure for local democracy: a combination of austerity cuts and the SNP’s instinct for central control, is damaging our democracy.


A remote highland community has launched an appeal for a teacher for its 5 pupil primary school. Scoraig is a peninsula west of Ullapool with no road – only a three mile coastal path – and the boat. It is an off-grid community of 40 households – water from springs – power from wind/solar/hydro. In spite of its remoteness – Scoraig is seeing an increase in new families settling and having children. The advert says “more babies on the way”.


Andy Wightman has circulated the opening chapter of Tom Johnston’s ‘Our Scots Noble Families’ – written in 1909. Read it, he says and remember that politics and political writing once had revolutionary potential.
Lesley Riddoch’s site reports a good turnout for Wightman’s Newhaven meeting – explaining why we must axe the 100% tax exemption for derelict land; and prevent ownership registration of Scottish land in tax havens – for reasons of transparency.


From my time as a front line community worker – I have appreciation and respect for the impact community journalism can have on local empowerment: an independent voice for communities. What is now called ‘hyperlocal media’ has spent some years in the doldrums – but research from OFCOM suggests grounds for optimism. Funds like Nesta, Carnegie and Innovate UK are investing in this arena – several yoonies conducting research. Damian Radcliffe on the emerging evidence base.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Tayport Community Trust, Healthy n Happy Community Development Trust, Glenrothes Salvation Army, RAMH, Out of the Blue Arts & Education Trust, New Caledonian Woodlands, GalGael Trust
EVENTS: Project Management – Achieving Goals, 22 Sep; Social Enterprise Work and Wellbeing Conference and Exhibition, 24 Sep; Coalfields Community Network Event, 25 Sep;
TENDERS: Young People Supported Accommodation Service – West Lothian Council, Provision of Services to Aid Recruitment Process – East Renfrewshire Council, Digital Website Design Services – New College Lanarkshire and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update; Kim writes: We now have our SE Conference and Ceilidh Draft Programme  available. The focus, as always, will be on SENs and their members – and how they can maximize both their opportunities and contribution in some of the following areas: future Employability Programmes; the new round of EU Funding; the Community Empowerment Bill; working better with Intermediaries; improved linkages between local and thematic SENs; and how social investment can work better for social enterprises. The event, taking place again at the Westerwood Hotel, near Cumbernauld, on 12th/13th November, will also include regular favourites such as the Dragons Den and ‘speed networking’. 120 places are available – with around 50% already being taken up. To book your place, see bookings.


The Scottish Community Re:Investment Trust (SCRT) will be hosting a Conference on 19th November at the Roxburghe Hotel in Edinburgh. This will be the first Conference of its kind in Scotland – looking at ‘Social Finance: Social Investment: Social Banking – what makes them Social?’. Programme and booking forms are now available – with discounts for SCRT members and third sector organisations – see details. The Conference will be seeking to address how we can ensure that social finance meets the demands of the wider third sector and the contribution it can make to a fairer and more sustainable society – drawing on examples from across the UK as well as abroad.


One of the main events within the community sector is the annual SURF awards – for Best Practice in Community Regeneration. This year, the Awards have 5 categories: Scotland’s Most Improved Town (small, medium & large): Large Scale Infrastructure; Employability; Creative Regeneration; Community Led Regeneration. Closing date for entries in this Monday – 14th Sept. See details


The Senscot bulletin goes out to around 4,000 people every week. We average around 5,000 hits per week on our website and popular individual links tend to attract around 100/150 hits per week. Top hits remain Jobs Page – 20,000 per annum. Some stories grow in interest over time – like this one (over 3,000 hits over 12 months); and others immediately hit the mark with folk. Last week’s SE in Scotland: Census 2015hit the jackpot with readers with over 1000 hits in one week – a record. Here’s a community sector take on Census.


This week’s bulletin profiles a community enterprise, based in Campbelltown, that supports other locally-based organisationsturn their ideas and aspirations in to robust, sustainable community enterprises. Inspiralba was established in 2009 and provides a number of services that assist organisations deliver a range of environmental, social and economic benefits for communities across Argyll and Bute. Their services include: Business Support; Community Engagement; Project Development, Management and Evaluation; and Financial and Income Generation Planning. Inspiralba is part of the Just Enterprise consortium and is currently working in partnership with Firstport to deliver the Vital Spark programme


More than anyone in my lifetime – Muhammad Yunus has been the champion of social enterprise, as a clearly defined alternative approach – separate from the worlds of business and charity. This from his 2010 book – Building Social Business:


“Social business is about totally delinking from the old framework of business – not accommodating new objectives within the existing framework. Until you make this total delinking from personal financial gain – you’ll never discover the power of real social business. Let’s be very honest: the profit motive is extremely powerful. Once it gets its nose under the edge of the tent – it soon takes over the entire dwelling space.”


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




Subscribe to this bulletin:


To unsubscribe or change subscription address/ e-mail


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