Senscot Bulletin: 15.04.11

Dear members and friends,

Both ‘big business’ and ‘big government’ diminish us. A more empowering vision for society is that of Fritz Schumacher – small, local, co-operative groups and enterprises – where folk exercise responsibility for themselves and for one another. The hamlet where I live (15 folk) is a case in point. If we got together we could heat our houses – look after our environment – even grow food – collectively. What stops us?
 In his absorbing journal, “Part of a Journey” – the late Philip Toynbee (dad of Guardian’s Polly) tells how, in 1974, he and his wife, Sally, turned their home into an organic farming community with a group of communards. But Toynbee learned that he lacked the patience for communal living (my own concern) – no replacement leader emerged – in 1978 Barn House Community dissolved – “an amiable, aimless confusion of good intentions”. I found it a sad, but brave, story.
 There is something very attractive about these idealistic utopian communities; Tobias Jones spent a year visiting several in Europe. He and his wife, Fra (and three sprogs) have now settled in ten acres of woodland in Somerset – which they run as a refuge for people going through tough times – or simply needing a change. Jones is a professional writer – captures beautifully the highs and lows of shared living. His upbeat piece in this week’s Observer has me asking (once again) if there is some mysterious law in the universe which favours those trying to do good stuff – maybe just for trying.

As a member of the Scottish Greens – that’s whom I’ll vote for on May 5th; but we all recognise that only Labour or the SNP will form the next Scottish Govt.  Our third sector has fared well under the present administration – if Labour is returned to power, John Swinney will be a difficult act to follow.  All the parties have now published their manifestos – and with the help of Duncan Thorp (Policy and Communications Officer at the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition), we have pulled together third sector themes for comparison – early draft attached, Not surprisingly, it’s the Greens and Lib Dems who are more comfortable with our world – who understand that there’s a whole different way of organising society. Scottish Labour lacks a credible champion for the third sector – someone who really believes in it.  The influence of COSLA is rarely mentioned – bastion of Scotland’s regressive municipalism; but it sits there – a deadweight from the past. 

Advice to the third sector to behave more like private business is a constant refrain from UK Govt ministers.  Splendid rant from Debra Alcock Tyler of the Directory of Social Change.  “The culture of commoditising social needs – characterising our needy citizens as ‘consumers’ of a public sector ‘product’ – is dangerous.  Vulnerable people aren’t consumers – they’re vulnerable people.  And we are really skilled at helping them.”  Read article,

There is consistent encouragement from Scottish Govt for the transfer of assets from Councils to community groups. (DTA Scotland was recently funded to facilitate this process The actual `deal flow`, however will be determined by the reaction of individual local authorities to this policy.  In this regard, Moray Council made its position clear this week by adopting a report which offers community groups a step by step guide to taking over Council assets. Moray Council shows the way. See,

In spite of its outstanding track record – the Wise Group was rejected as Primary Contractor for Scotland’s Work Programme – in favour of two private sector companies.  This decision has been picked up UK wide as epitomising the glaring inconsistencies in the Coalition Govt’s Big Society mantra.  Chris Grayling, the Employment Minister, has said that he is ‘disappointed’ that the Wise Group lost out – and I sense that this matter is not yet closed. See,

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See . This week: 
JOBS:  Geeza Break, Inclusion Scotland, Museums Galleries Scotland, Show Racism the Red Card, The Salvation Army, Spruce Carpets, Fyne Futures, Zero Tolerance, Venture Trust, Glasgow Wood Recycling
EVENTS: Leading Edge, 28 Apr, Bottled Tears: The Stow-Away War Bride, 5 May, Employment Law: The basics, 11 May, Using creative approaches to evaluate your project, 12 May
TENDERS: Supply of Electrical Equipment and Consumables; UK-Kilmarnock: Provision of Special Needs School Transport Service; Provision of Occupational Health Services to The Highland Council;

NETWORKS 1st: Colin writes:  As we announced last week, the first Social Enterprise and Sport National Conference will be taking place on 1st June 2011 at the Stirling Management Centre. Our online Booking Form is now available, see As with most Senscot events, attendance is free for Sport SEN members with subsidised rates also available should you require overnight accommodation prior to the conference due to distance travelled. The programme and flyer are also available – with a couple of speakers still to be confirmed. See, For any further queries, contact . For more Networks News, see

When it comes to American psychology gurus, my instinct is ‘bah humbug’ (thoughts of snake oil vendors), so the whole Martin Seligman positive psychology ‘bandwagon’ passed me by.  My own theory is that our potential for happiness is inherited – and that during our early years a ‘set level’ is embedded; the rest is tinkering.  I also believe that there are more important determinants of a fulfilled life than `measuring happiness`.  Read this week that Seligman himself has come to much the same conclusion – in his latest blockbuster book – ‘Flourish’. And so it goes. See,

OSCR this week announced that South Seeds, based in Govanhill, Glasgow, has become the first registered Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) – a new legal form unique to Scottish Charities – which Senscot believes will prove popular. See,

There’s a petition you can sign, calling on Govt. to suspend Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB takeover – pending a public enquiry into the phone hacking scandal. See, Also check out the petition organiser: AVAAZ – a pro- democracy campaigning movement with over 8 million members worldwide. See,

This week’s bulletin profiles a social firm that has enjoyed a hugely successful year following their move to a new purpose-built location in Bishopton in Renfrewshire. Erskine Garden Centre has broken through the £1.5 million sales barrier in the first year of trading since relocating, a 50% increase on expectations. The Centre is one of five social firms run by the veterans’ charity Erskine. The sales total is almost three times the total of the previous year of £557k. They are putting their success down relocation, better branding and a partnership with celebrity chef Nick Nairn in the Vanishing Willows Cafe. Between them the Garden Centre and Cafe employ 33 people. For more, see

Although he only died in 2004 – 2011 is the centenary of the birth of Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz: Seamus Heaney has written an admiring tribute which provides context and new insight to his life and work. When he was nearly 90, Milosz wrote this poem, ‘Late Ripeness’. 
“Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year, I felt a door opening in me and I entered the clarity of early morning.  One after another my former lives were departing like ships, together with their sorrow.  And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas assigned to my brush came closer, ready now to be described better than they were before.  I was not separated from the people, grief and pity joined us.  We forget – I kept saying – that we are all children of the King. For where we come from there is no division into Yes and No, into is, was and will be…” Full poem,

That’s all for this week.

Good luck with your adventures

Best wishes,


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