Senscot Bulletin 14.05.10

Dear members and friends,

 I remember many years ago – watching the news, spellbound – a wee boy had fallen into an enclosure of gorillas – lay injured and unconscious.  The anxious keepers trained guns on the animals – in case they attacked the child – but what then transpired will always stay with me.  The dominant gorilla approached and touched the boy – guns were raised – but the movements of this awesome beast were entirely gentle, solicitous, protective.  I found this display of tenderness deeply moving.  It seems that the DNA of humans and primates is 95% the same.
 Along with many kindnesses – my 70th birthday this week was marked by a spectacular headlong fall – in the street outside Linlithgow railway station.  The time between tripping on the kerb, and hitting the ground, can only have been two seconds – but the human mind is an amazing computer – far faster than Google.  When I realise I’m going down, my brain remembers rugby training – as I whack the pavement, the thought in my mind is to turn my body – to make the ball available for the next phase of play.  My next conscious thought is relief – that nothing feels damaged – then with the help of the low wall around a pub beer garden – I pull myself up – shaken.  A lone woman sits watching – in her 30s – cold, impassive face – devoid of sympathy – eyes harder than the pavement.  Sitting on the wall, recovering, the thought pops into my head – I wish I’d fallen among gorillas.

I’m mostly satisfied with the outcome of the election – tho` I sense pain ahead; like my fellow citizens I wanted a clearout – a new vibe.  Labour needs to go into the wilderness for a while – work out what it’s for.  I was a bit ashamed of our First Minister – thought he came across badly – grasping – shifty – nae class.  The overarching theme for me is always the process of democracy – moving power much nearer the people.  It`s possible this issue is just a passing fad for Cameron and his people (Simon Jenkins in today`s Guardian thinks so) – but of all the political parties the Lib Dems have genuine credentials around community empowerment. The brothers Miliband also understand it.  I’m allowing myself to believe that we could be moving towards a redefinition of the relationship between the citizen and the state in England. Scotland, of course, would resist any such change.  Our Labour establishment prefers a compliant, dependant peasantry.

The SNP administration’s commitment to community empowerment has also been a big disappointment for many of us – the meagre resources allocated went mostly to university offshoots – the remote, comfortable world of community development professionals.  But in a speech this week, Alex Neill, Minister for Communities, gave indications that he is aware of this imbalance – called for more emphasis on front line activity as exemplified by the Development Trust movement.  He specifically cited the work of Neilston and Blairgowrie Trusts.  Good piece in Society Guardian, anticipating a severe cuts scenario – new mechanisms to enable communities to take over the running of non-essential services voluntarily. Scottish Govt has virtually no understanding of our community sector – it falls between two groups of civil servants. Expanding into new roles – Development Trusts, and other community anchor organisations, shouldn’t expect much help.

Scotland’s Development Trust Association, which has grown to 141 members, holds its 6th annual conference in Aviemore on 13th/14th June (I wonder if it’ll still be snowing!). The theme this year will be about the challenges facing local communities in the current economic climate and how these can be addressed. Each year the conference attracts up to 200 delegates and has established itself as one of the main events in the Scottish community sector calendar. Conference programme and booking form now available. See,

For me, the social enterprise model reaches peak effectiveness at community level – for instance when local people buy shares and operate their shop/post office co-operatively. Scotland has the excellent Community Retailing Network (CRN) supporting this activity ( ) and I’ve often wondered why they don’t link with the Plunkett Foundation doing the same thing in England.  Our old friend Martin Meteyard (of CRN) informs us that closer working (with shared board members) is imminent. Peter Couchman (of Plunkett) believes that ‘‘community shops from England and Scotland have much to learn from each other.’’

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: Inspire (North Berwick Christian Youth Trust), Greyfriars Community Project, Ardalanish Isle of Mull Weavers, Upkeep (Shettleston Community Enterprises), Community Enterprise Ltd:
EVENTS: The Fruitful Gathering, 22 May; Creating a difference- introduction to cultural social enterprise, 26 May; Living Wage Conference, 27 May; Exploring Sustainable Living, 28 May; Greyfriars Recycling of Wood – Display of Works, 11 June

NETWORKS NEWS: Colin writes: Pauline Douglas (Coalfields Regeneration Trust) contacts us re last week’s story on the Future Jobs Fund to remind us that the Fife and Clackmannanshire SEN posts are part of a successful bid managed by the CRT, which has the added benefit of extending the initial 6 months place to 12 months in total. In a similar vein, a partnership lead by Argyll Training is set to deliver 35 employment opportunities via social enterprises across Argyll. See,
For more Networks News, see

The Big Bang Lab (BBL) in London is a great example of a successful creative social enterprise. BBL works with young people, integrating communities across generations and cultural backgrounds ( Their Founder and Director, Sergio Lopez Figueroa, is a keynote speaker at Scotland’s first creative social enterprise conference on Wed 26th May in Glasgow. It’s FREE, with a few places still available. See Flyer and booking form,

Those of you who share Senscot’s interest in the campaign for a Community Allowance pilot programme may be interested in this letter from Naomi Alexander – director of the Create consortium. The new appointment of Ian Duncan Smith to Work and Pensions (DWP) will, I believe, help this cause.

I’m a longtime admirer of the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) – its action learning system was the model Senscot originally had in mind for the Scottish Social Enterprise Academy.  The Coalfield Regenerations Trust has commissioned SSE to run a programme in Ayrshire with the aim of facilitating the launch of 10 new social enterprises over a year.  I’d love to see several such incubator hubs (say six) established around Scotland – because this method works.  We’ll watch this with interest.

Short piece about Bristol Bike Project – one of those simple stories which makes you feel good. Before the funding and the constitution and the paid staff and the business plan – you can feel the spirit of generosity which fuels this enterprise. This is what it’s all about.

This week’s bulletin profiles one of Scotland’s foremost outdoor social enterprises. Based in Oban, Stramash
delivers top quality outdoor learning, outdoor activities, expeditions and outdoor sports development. These services are delivered to youth groups, adults as well as local schools. Altho` based in Argyll, Stramash will provide their services at locations throughout Scotland. For more, see

Arundhati Roy has only written one work of fiction – which won the Booker prize.  ‘The God of Small Things’ is one of those books I wish I’d read – will read soon.  Roy has chosen to spend her life as an activist, for political and social reform.  This quote captures some of her passion for social justice.  ‘‘To love.  To be loved.  To never forget your own insignificance.  To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you.  To see joy in the saddest places.  To pursue beauty to its lair.  To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple.  To respect strength, never power.  Above all, to watch.  To try and understand.  To never look away.  And never, never to forget.’’

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

Best wishes,


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