Senscot Bulletin: 13.01.17

Dear members and friends,

While he was Chancellor, Gordon Brown connived with investment bankers to punt the UK social economy as a new ‘asset class’ for the money markets – one of his crudest blunders; as Muhammad Yunus wrote: ‘common decency should forbid us to make a profit from the suffering of our fellow human beings’. To our credit, the third sector comprehensively shunned Brown’s model – but the money lenders stuck around – concocting ‘snake oil’ products like ‘impact investing’. This pieceis about performer-turned-activist Bono – and a bunch of self-made celebrity billionaires – promoting a new impact fund; along with good dividends, it promises improved measurement of how your profit helps the poor; no one appears to find this embarrassing

As our public and third sectors run out of money, these private sector encroachments will increase – swashbuckling privateers (with great media savvy) arriving to show us how it’s done. In the longer term it doesn’t really matter – they’ll come and go; because the core operating system which sustains our society is deeper embedded; a great coral reef of goodwill – millions of individual acts of kindness – thousands of local initiatives of every shape, size and duration – discharging their life-giving plankton to the open sea. 

When we are really listening – from an inner stillness – we can discern this energy out there: ordinary people who want to come together, to challenge injustice – make a better world. There is no need to force events – because this is an innate human impulse – always will be.


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This announcement by the board of Bella Caledonia, that it is to close for financial reasons – was a particular shock this week for those of us who support Scotland’s emerging counter-culture. Our mainstream press is foreign-owned and Tory; several journalistic platforms provide independent coverage of the ‘alternative’ agenda – Mike Small and Bella count among the best of them. Like much online journalism, these independent magazines – on which progressive initiatives depend – often lack a sustainable business model and are financially precarious. Even this bulletin – a relatively modest offering – can only survive as part of Senscot’s wider financial context. Perhaps independent journalism will only survive as part of generic think tank/consultancies doing a variety of paid work. POSTSCRIPT: A subsequent statement from Bella (Wednesday) indicates that a ‘regrouping’ is underway – inviting support.


A recent YouGov poll of 1,134 Scots found that a majority of us do not think fee paying schools should be charities. Because they define and maintain inequality, I wish private schools did not exist – but it’s also important in a democracy – that citizens are free to do as they wish within the law. All registered charities are subsidised from general taxation (rates relief etc). The question is whether Scotland’s 52 private schools provide sufficient public benefit to merit this subsidy; like the majority, I think not.


As a regular reader of Third Force News (TFN), I have come to trust its editorial line – a ‘quasi-official’ voice of the sector. It was disappointing to read this week a completely unbalanced piece – full of unattributed accusations – about Voluntary Action Scotland (VAS) and its support of the Third Sector Interface Network (TSIs). The evaluation it cites (to which Senscot gave evidence) was not conducted by Govt but by Blake Stevenson consultants – and it is much more balanced than TFN is reporting. This negative piece – clearly intended to damage VAS – compromises the journalistic independence of TFN; poor judgement. See full article – with some comments.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:

JOBS: The Ecology Centre, Port Edgar Watersports CIC, Social Enterprise Academy, The Factory Skatepark, Eco Drama, The Larder Cook School, Bandrum Nursing Home.
EVENTS: Pathways to Prosperity: Places, Spaces and Graces, 24 Jan; Retail resilience: Retail Finance, 31 Jan; Leading Growth for Aspiring Leaders, 23 Feb; Advanced Facilitation Training, 7 Mar.
TENDERS: National Third Sector Funding Highlands & Islands only Tranche 2 – Skills Development Scotland, Redevelopment of Clydebank Community Sports Hub – West Dunbartonshire Council, Facilitator – Falkirk Community Trust and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.

The SENs Weekly Update
: Kim writes: Last Friday, the £9.7m Social Economy Development Programme was launched. The Social Economy Growth Fund and the Social Innovation Challenge Fund are both being managed by SG Third Sector Unit. In addition to this the Aspiring Communities Fund (£19m) will be launched later this month. The funds totalling almost £30m will be widely welcomed across the sector – with all being match-funded at source – which means no requirement for third sector organisations to provide their own match funding. One note of caution, however, is that concerns have been raised with Govt re the Cost Model being applied which means staff must work 100% on the project in question.


Since its launch in March 2016, the Scottish Land Fund (SLF) has awarded £1.7m to 58 community initiatives across the country – 13 specifically to acquire assets. This week, SLF has provided a helpful update – including an interactive map of all those who have received awards to date.


“We tried that years ago – it didnae work” as a young community worker, exploring new solutions, I often met resistance from the incumbent vested interests – you expect that. Interesting piece in ‘deadline’ (an online mag) about the concept of Josh Littlejohn’s proposed homeless village, being challenged by academics and practitioners – that he is ignoring lessons of the past. I had thought myself, that the Big Issue in Scotland team, in its day, worked with thousands of homeless Scots – would have valuable insight to offer. But the Social Bite founder has already demonstrated an exceptional capacity to get things done; his ability to generate momentum is impressive. Academic comment is useful but ‘vive les entrepreneurs’.


Journalist Kevin McKenna did a piece in the Observer this week about Universal Basic Income (UBI) by interviewing Matt Kerr – the Labour Councillor who is running with the idea at Glasgow City Council. Kerr, an anti-poverty specialist, is very critical of the present benefit system and believes UBI would give people a degree of proper security. He concedes that the whole idea may prove to be unworkable – but believes it deserves investigation. Within weeks a team of academics and economists will look into the viability of pilot schemes in Glasgow and Fife.


Pleased that Jeremy Corbyn returned, this week, to the theme of inequality and the imposition of a maximum wage; we all know, of course, that the fatcats would dodge such legislation – but the issue raises an important philosophical point about the kind of society we want to create. Any Govt has the option to only contract with suppliers who hold to an acceptable ratio between highest and lowest paid in their companies. A populist movement against outrageous salaries might gather momentum; some of us remember pre-Thatcher – before it was smart to be greedy.


This week’s bulletin profiles a Health SEN member that supports people who are affected by hoarding and other conditions that result in clutter and disorganisation – 4-6% of the UK population are affected by hoarding issues. Life-Pod provides pragmatic and hands-on support for people in their home. Their main focus is on improving people’s health, safety and well-being. Life-Pod works in partnership with clients, helping them to understand their difficulties and support them to make positive changes in their lives. Last week, they announced a new Joint Award in Hoarding Practice for professionals who encounter hoarding disorder or chronic disorganisation in the course of their work.


The arguments for ‘violent revolution’ never convinced me – not even close; but the DVD of Motorcycle Diaries – about Che Guevara – affected me more than I expected. The philosophy and politics of a young idealistic physician being transformed by his encounters with the injustices of poverty.

“It is there, in the final moments, for people whose farthest horizon has always been tomorrow, that one comprehends the profound tragedy circumscribing the life of the proletariat the world over …… I knew that when the great guiding spirit cleaves humanity into two antagonistic halves, I will be with the people……The future belongs to the people, and gradually, or in one strike, they will take power, here and in every country…. Wandering around our America has changed me more than I thought. I am not me anymore. At least I’m not the same me as I was, not the same spiritual me.”               

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara; Argentinian Marxist revolutionary (1928-1967)

That’s all for this week.   

Best wishes,


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