Senscot Bulletin: 14-12-07

Dear members and friends,

“Any fool can give – it’s what we take from life that matters. That’s how we discover our outline – our identity – our passion.” I disagree with this passage, but since reading it last week, I can’t shrug it off. If our `takings` somehow defines us – why are mine so meagre; without partner – property – position.
 I believe our capacity to `take from life` is determined when we are wee – when our parents set our sense of how much we deserve, how much we’re allowed. But is this just an excuse? We are taught that society holds together because we all help each other – which is true – but maybe being a `winner` is too scary for most of us. So we make do with what comes easily – then feign some kind of Buddhism to convince ourselves that our piddling lot is chosen. I decided last week to be more forceful.
 My regular train from Dalmeny to Edinburgh costs £2.10. This week travelling from Falkirk to Glasgow I refuse to pay the man more than £2.10 (because I think I am on the Dalmeny train). He is polite and everyone is watching – but in my new `assertive` mode, I refuse to budge. When eventually I realise and apologise – we exchange a look of understanding – that this is an old guy starting to lose it. This incident demoralised me. Rather than increase my take from life – I’ll settle for hanging on to what I’ve got.

Laurence’s book `You’ve Got To Laugh` makes an original Christmas gift

The Concordat signed on Wednesday 12th December between English Central and Local Government is better than our Scottish one. I say this because as well as giving Councils more autonomy to lead in their areas – their Concordat also commits all government “to devolve power and engage and empower communities and individual citizens”. It is explicit for the first time that “there should be a presumption that powers are best exercised at the lowest effective and practical level”. Scottish Government is a full year off the pace in its grasp of `double devolution`. It would be helpful to know that our civil servants are at least aware of this.

I believe that John Swinney has a more realistic and honest understanding of Community Planning than did the previous administration. He understands for instance that some of the Partnerships are pretty feeble particularly with regard to involving local people. It’s unlikely that CP Partnerships will be relieved of their responsibility to engage with communities, because this requirement is embedded in the legislation. But there is certainly an acceptance that CPPs are not an effective channel to address community empowerment. This, of course, begs the question of how communities can best be assisted to achieve more self determination and this can be seen as an opportunity to help shape the future. Some thoughts from Bryan Poole, one of our regular readers.

The English Community Empowerment Action Plan was published in October with 23 action points. The Plan is 50 odd pages long but here is the speech at the launch . To promote the Community Agenda in Scotland several community sector intermediaries have come together in the Local People Leading campaign. Here is LPL`s latest briefings.

On Wednesday, 40 of us gathered in Edinburgh’s Engine Shed (great wee venue) to celebrate the 2nd birthday of the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition (SSEC). John Swinney and Professor Alan McGregor presided over a roundtable discussion which fair lifted my spirits. Some readers will remember 5 years ago when our Scottish Executive wouldn’t even mention social enterprise. Our SSEC must take a great deal of credit for raising our profile – particularly in the Parliament and among MSPs. Looking round the faces on Wednesday I felt a surge of optimism – this is an impressive group. Our sector is going forward. Our government seems to believe this. Here`s the attendees.
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: 15 vacancies, incl. posts with: Co-operative & Community Finance, Drake Music Scotland, FirstPort, Eric Liddell Centre, The Big Issue Cymru
EVENTS: 12 events,  Appreciative Inquiry in Education, Jan 8, Edinburgh; Haddington; Getting down to business, 7 Feb, Edinburgh; Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid, 21 Feb, Fife; Mental Health Awareness, 15 Mar, Kirkcaldy; More than Recycling 08, 11 Mar, Perth; Positive Energy: Creative Community Responses to Peak Oil and Climate Change, 22-28 Mar, Findhorn

There are social enterprise fundamentalists – who want clear definitions of who is allowed into the tent and who is not. There are others in our sector who want to focus more on social impact and less on legal structures. For instance, I personally have never seen any case for private investment in social enterprise – but this article by Daniel Brewer (The `mustard seed` example) asks me questions. Maybe the future will bring different forms of private/social hybrids. Apart from keeping the `chancers` away – we shouldn’t be afraid of variety.
In direct contradiction to the previous piece, John Bird, founder of the Big Issue, argues in a Telegraph article that the Social Enterprise sector must `protect the brand` against appropriation by the public and charity sectors. Congratulations to Red Button Design, a Glasgow company which has won an international social enterprise competition run by the Said Business School. From its website, it appears that Red Button is a private company – with no asset lock – which means it simply isn’t a social enterprise. Said is greatly influenced by USA culture where private companies with high social impact are considered social enterprises. In the UK, no asset lock means outside the tent.

This week’s bulletin profiles, for the first time, a credit union. Newarthill Credit Union (NCU), in North Lanarkshire, is one of the most successful in Scotland. First formed in the late 70s, NCU
has steadily established itself as vital asset to the town. It has granted over £30m in loans over the years and has built up £5m in assets. Recently, it opened new, custom-built premises in the town. Amongst their 5000 members, NCU includes over 1000 junior members.
Last week, Doris Lessing (88) received the Nobel Prize. In her acceptance speech she honours the storyteller – among us and within us all
“Ask any modern storyteller and they will say there is always a moment when they are touched with fire, with what we like to call inspiration, and this goes back and back to the beginning of our race, to fire and ice and the great winds that shaped us and our world. The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise . . . but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us – for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix that represents us at our best, and at our most creative.” Here’s the full version

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

Best wishes,

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