Senscot Bulletin: 13-01-2006

Dear members and friends,

I wonder if it’s possible to live in one of these wee villages in Southern Spain on a state pension – not counting rent, I mean. My pal Tom who lives here says that everything is cheaper to buy and most villagers have an allotment so that staples like vegetables, eggs, chickens, firewood etc are plentiful. While we talk a neighbour drops in to use Tom’s internet for half an hour – then removes the front door which is sticking, fixes and re-hangs it. It seems like this kind of exchange is normal. The downside is that it appears to be very difficult to sustain paid work linked to back home – everyone seems to ‘go native’ and lose the UK work rhythm. Tom’s view is that in some respects village life is like a pre-industrial culture. It has all the benefits and reciprocity of community life, but requires that you remain open and responsive to people – a deadline-driven lifestyle is not possible.
 I ask him to explain but there’s a kerfuffle in the street and we go out. Nieves, who lives opposite, has lost her horse – so we start looking. As we move through the narrow streets more folk join in, chatting and laughing. Soon the horse is found and it’s all back to Nieves’s house to sample the new wine called Mosta. An hour later the party’s still going, and as I leave, Tom comes over. “What I was trying to explain….” “It’s okay, “I smile, “I think I get the message.”

Easing myself back into work mode I am conscious that UK think tanks are cooking up lots of interesting ideas for the year ahead. Miliband’s local democracy agenda is being developed by both the Young Foundation and the Smith Institute. Helena Kennedy’s ‘Power Inquiry’ about the health of our democracy will report next month. Demos has its ‘everyday democracy’ work, and the radical New Economics Foundation has its ‘well-being manifesto’, ‘local economies’, and ‘measuring social benefit’ agendas. The Fabians and IPPR are working on life chances, and social mobility. Pressure group Compass is writing a manifesto for the democratic left and all this intellectual ferment moved their chair Neal Lawson to write in the Guardian last week that the real centre ground is left of both Blair and Cameron and that Gordon Brown should lead New Labour back to its core principles. A trifle optimistic methinks.  

Have a look at Polly Toynbee’s article on social enterprise in today’s Guardian. She talks about social enterprise’s growing popularity with the political parties down south who increasingly see it as an alternative to ‘big government’ – but cautions against unrealistic expectations.

Work is ongoing developing a Social Enterprise Strategy for Scotland – here’s the update fact sheet A draft is expected in March, final report in June. Meanwhile, down south, they are currently reviewing progress on their 2002 strategy.  A working party, chaired by Hilary Brown, Director at the Social Enterprise Unit, is looking at 4 priority areas for the future. Their longer term goal is that social enterprise should be valued and seen to deliver; considered an integral part of the business landscape and a credible delivery channel within the public sector; capable of attracting dynamic new entrants and, vitally, that social enterprises have to access appropriate and relevant business support. Let’s hope that these issues will be seriously considered in the development and implementation of our strategy. (     

Snippets from Scotland: Consultants ODS are helping Communities Scotland to draft the Scottish Social Enterprise Strategy – Focus groups are being held in Dumfries (20th Jan.), Inverness (25th Jan), Dundee (26th Jan) and Clydebank (27th Jan): At the Scottish Executive’s Voluntary Issues Unit, Mike Palmer is replacing Elinor Mitchell as head: Sad news that social enterprise the Nolly Barge has ceased trading:

NOTICES/EXCHANGE: Space constraints mean we can’t carry every notice sent but please any relevant items (before noon Thursday) to and we’ll post them on our site. This week:

JOBS: 47 vacancies, incl. posts with: Impact Arts, Spruce Carpets, Built Environment Forum Scotland, Forth Sector, Open Secret, North Ayrshire CAB, LGBT Youth Scotland, Fife Employment Access Trust.

EVENTS: ‘Reconnecting People and Place’, Green Space Scotland seminars, Edinburgh (1 Feb), Girvan (2 Feb); ‘Rural Housing/Rural Development – Making Connections’, Dunkeld, 23 Feb.

CAN YOU HELP? Malayalam speaker wanted. A community group in Glasgow urgently seek a tutor who could assist with training a young social researcher and journalist in Malayalam, the predominant language of Karalla:

In December, the Social Enterprise Academy celebrated the success of its very first group of learners gaining their Endorsed Award in Starting Your Social Business from the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM). The day was a significant milestone both for the graduates and for the Academy.  This is the first accredited programme of its kind in Scotland, specifically designed for social entrepreneurs. Well done everyone. Currently, there are another four groups of learners on Academy programmes around Scotland.  For more details and to check out the spring schedule at:

Interesting research carried out by Social Firms UK mapping the social firm sector in the UK. The report gives a fairly detailed analysis of the sector in terms of employee information, business areas, number of trainees and also provides a regional breakdown. One of the main findings is that the sector is characterised by a high level of niche market businesses. They tend to be in catering, horticulture, recycling and training. It’s worth having a look at the executive summary. See

This week’s bulletin profile is of a Scottish based social enterprise that operates on an international basis,  matching motivated and skilled individuals to focused short term voluntary placements overseas. Challenges Worldwide (CWW), established in 1998, has placed over 300 Volunteers in 7 different countries across 3 continents. They currently work in Central & South America and Central & South Asia. As well as receiving support from the likes of unLTD and Esmee Fairbairn. CWW is operating as a self-sustaining social enterprise, generating revenue on a per capita basis from each volunteer they place. For further info’, see   

The philosopher J. S. Mill once observed that there are two kinds of wisdom in the world: “In the one, every age in which science flourishes surpasses, or ought to surpass, its predecessors; of the other there is nearly an equal amount in all ages.” The first kind of wisdom is scientific – what we know about the world and how it works. The second, Mill calls ‘the wisdom of ages’, which consists of psychological rather than empirical facts – which, it seems, every generation has to learn anew “in that great business of ours, of learning how to be, to do, to do without, and to depart.”

Epicurus (341-270 BC) said this:
“A man is wealthy in proportion to the things he can do without.” “Nothing is sufficient for the man to whom the sufficient is too little.” “Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth.” But after twenty three hundred years, each of us has to discover for ourselves the truth of these aphorisms – or not.

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

Best wishes,

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