Senscot Bulletin: 12-10-2007

Dear members and friends,

Last week I read a book called `The Road` by Cormac McCarthy – which changed the way I see our world. In it, an environmental catastrophe has destroyed our planet – all animal and plant life has been killed. A grey ash covers everything – pollutes the air – masks the sun. The few surviving humans are feral – live by foraging – by hunting and eating each other – civilisation has collapsed.
 Through this ravaged landscape, a man and a boy move slowly south – pushing their possessions in a shopping trolley. We follow their terrible adventures and privations – they have no names – it’s the story of us all – in extremis – digging deep for courage to keep going. Reading this book, I felt several times that, in their position, I’d choose death – but in the end it’s a redemptive story. McCarthy believes that someone, somewhere, will always `carry the fire` of human compassion – so that it can be rekindled. Through all the bleakness and terror he asserts the supremacy of courage and tenderness and hope. For me, it’s a masterwork – the first great novel of the global warming generation.
 I read `The Road` in an evening and a morning – 10 straight hours. Afterwards, shaken, I strolled in the woods near my house. Soft afternoon rain – the trees turning their amazing October colours – giving up their seeds and fruit – the birds, squirrels, rabbits, celebrating the harvest. I feel a surge of joy and gratitude that it’s not too late to enjoy all this teaming life – that our planet still lives. Amazing how a story can shift the way we see things. (See End Piece)

When I read about government policy to empower communities I get agitated – the citizen empowers government – not the other way round. Does anyone believe that politicians and civil servants will willingly devolve power? Scotland had to `take` power from London – it’s the same with communities. England’s Communities Dept. (DCLG) has recently backed a National Empowerment Partnership (NEP) – made up of `experts in empowerment`. Take a look at the membership of a couple of regional groups.  NEP is led by the Community Development Foundation (CDF) which is a non departmental govt. body – paid for by DCLG. CDF has a branch in Scotland called the Scottish Centre for Community Development (SCDC). (All SCDC staff are listed as CDF staff members). The point I am trying to make is about the ownership of the community empowerment process in Scotland. Our designated Centres for Regeneration and Community Development are too close to government. The community sector needs it own independent voice.  

I think the term `social innovation` is going to get used more and more – the latest example is an `Innovation Exchange` being funded by the English Government. Senscot might catch some of this slipstream with our own Intrapreneurs meetings – we’re exploring if there is an appetite for a new support network. Here’s a note of last week’s meeting. Date of follow up to be announced.

Last July OSCR decided that the High School of Dundee charging £8,300 fees is not `unduly restrictive` – and that it should be allowed charitable status. Personally I think this decision has undermined OSCR`s authority. There are lots of legal minds around OSCR – including on the board. I can only assume that they are allowing themselves to be influenced by the legal precedents of the charity commission years instead of applying the new legislation which takes precedence. Stephen Maxwell sets out a detailed challenge on two counts. Let’s hope there’s a legal challenge to this flawed decision.

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: 26 vacancies, incl. posts with: DAB Plus, Changeworks, Drake Music Scotland, Assist Social Capital
EVENTS: 22 events, incl Making the Pitch – how to generate ideas and turn them into social enterprises, 24th October 2007; Creative Community Consultation – ideas to make it fun and effective, 7th November 2007; Community and Project Development, March 20 – April 10 2008; Media and Communications training for activists, 24th Jan 2008 till 14th Feb 2008;

Bookings are open for the Networks` Ceilidh this year at New Lanark. Dates are 15th/16th November. If you fancy coming along, see

Yesterday, we attended the formal launch of First Port. John Swinney did the honours. What an impressive politician he is – his grasp of an amazing range of issue, along with an accessible humanity. I’m a fan. First Port has a new initiative called `Ideas into Action`, which might be for you. See

I can remember the beginnings of Govan Workspaces – visiting Pat Cassidy 25 years ago. It’s a spectacular success story and the PDF attached is an inspirational vision for the net 10 years. Social enterprise is best for me – most impressive – when it also empowers communities. Govan Workspaces has put local people at the centre of the regeneration of Govan. If you want a lift – check this
A word of congratulations to Claire Carpenter on the opening of the Melting Pot. It’s difficult to exaggerate the amount of work that she and her colleagues have invested in this new incubator for start-up social enterprises. They have created a beautiful space (above the Abbotsford in Rose Street, Edinburgh) – Senscot wishes this venture all success.

The term `Anchor Organisation` has been adopted by Government and is gaining wider understanding. The English Community Alliance has published a PDF, profiling nine exemplars. Our own Local People Leading is proposing a similar publication of Scottish examples. Here’s the latest summary of what LPL is and does.

Communities Scotland will hold three workshops – Glasgow, 29th October – Aberdeen, 27th November – Edinburgh, 10th December to hear public views about community empowerment. This is a rare opportunity to influence policy making and Senscot will attend.

This week the bulletin revisits another social enterprise that has moved on since they were last featured. Next month (2nd Nov.), Here We Are launches their new wood chipping plant – Our Power. Based in Cairndow at the head of Loch Fyne, Our Power will be the first community-owned chipping plant in Scotland. Profits from this initiative will generate revenue for Here We Are, a social enterprise that provides a range of services to the Cairndow community. For more, see

Cormac McCarthy`s heart-rending book `The Road` is about our planet following an environmental catastrophe. This is the last paragraph in the book – a poignant postscript about a time before we lost it all.
‘Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.’

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

Best wishes.

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