Senscot Bulletin: 15.04.16

 Dear members and friends,


Happy ending to last week’s wee story about the threatened local café in London’s Hampstead; saved by community pressure.  Across the UK, lazier Councils simply appoint Corporates to deliver services – but better municipalities can see the benefits of building relationships with communities.  Good blog from USA, pointing out that ‘big govt.’ or ‘big business’ are not the only options; that vibrant local democracy can include the levers of the local economy; land, property, jobs etc.


            During the 25 years from 1970 – the brand new Edinburgh housing estate of Wester Hailes was the catalyst for an extraordinary demonstration of this kind of local democracy; hundreds of residents in dozens of organisations coordinated by their Representative Council.  The realisation that political democracy is powerless without economic democracy, inspired sophisticated structures for community enterprises, employment training, land and property transactions etc.  The arrival of major investment imposed a ‘Partnership’ – which smothered this life force; but changing fashions suggest that the whole thing could start over again.


            I hold with the book of Ecclesiastes – that in human relations ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’; that all the efforts of our times are about the recovery of what has been lost and found and lost again and again.  Humankind has only progressed if the passing centuries mean that we treat each other better – but with each generation starting from scratch – it goes round in circles.  TS Eliot cautions us not to be too concerned about the results of our work: “For us there is only the trying – the rest is not our business”.


The shocking state of Edinburgh’s schools re-awakens familiar anger around the ‘racket’ that was the private finance initiatives (PFI) – the mechanism used by Blair and Brown to privatize the public realm. It’s not just the dodgy accounting – but a failure of democracy – which saw whole sections of the public estate, in health and education, pass to the control of moneylenders and their lawyers. A serious examination is required into the havoc wrought by PFI – we can start with who signed off those schools? The legal term ‘odious debt’ means debt incurred without the consent of the people and against the national interest. I’m with those who would tear up these contracts and reclaim our schools and hospitals.


As a trustee of a charity which works with children in Glasgow’s east end, every few months, before meetings, I make a point of strolling the length of Duke Street.  It’s impossible to ignore that many families in Scotland live with a level of poverty which damages their health and life chances; how shameful that we all live so comfortably alongside this.  The political parties published their manifestos this week – their voices becoming even more strident – nasty noise.  Scotland is well served by the Poverty Alliance and I have used the context statement of their manifesto to get a relatively balanced overview of what can be done; their main document identifies 17 action points.


Not clear how it has taken me so long to acknowledge this – but something is rotten at the Augusta Masters golf tournament; more that 50% of the population of Atlanta, Georgia (the State Capital, 100 miles along the road) is African American – and yet I couldn’t spot any black spectators.  Cursory research makes clear that this is an institution which is still doing everything possible to deny membership to either black people or women – an incongruous relic of white supremacy.  The International Olympic Committee insists that a sport must be practiced without discrimination; the Augusta National club clearly holds this in contempt and should be excluded from any international community which respects human rights.


As of this week, we will be inundated with manifestos from our main political parties in Scotland – and their associated policy announcements. If you are struggling to figure out whose policies are most in line with your own views, a team from Strathclyde University – led by John Curtis – has developed an ‘online tool’ to help you decide. Remember, it’s a guide – they’re not telling you who to vote for!


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Greener Kirkcaldy, Dundee SEN, Edinburgh Social Enterprise Network, WHALE Arts, Kilmartin Museum Trust, Balfron Development Trust, Loch Lomond Steamship Company, Clackmannan Dev Trust
EVENTS: Northern Streams 2016 – Festival of music, song & dance from Scandinavia & Scotland, 24 Apr; Advanced Leadership Practice, 25 Apr; Everyday Lives and Kinder Communities, 26 Apr;
TENDERS: Developing Financial Capability – Renfrewshire Council, Funding Consultant – Kilmartin Museum Trust, Fundraiser for Major Heritage Lottery Fund Project – Loch Lomond Steamship Company, Adult Employability Services – Renfrewshire Council and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes:  Bookings are now open for Community Enterprise’s event in Edinburgh on Friday 24th June. –  ‘Where Community Meets Enterprise: The nature and scale of "community enterprise" within Scotland’s growing family of social enterprises. A debate and a celebration’. The event will focus on community based enterprises serving and re-investing profit in their own communities – responding in their way to local need and local market demand as it changes over the long term. Many of these initiatives have limited aspiration to grow outwith their core purpose and their local area and – as the recent SE Census demonstrated – these organisations represent the heart of the sector in Scotland. As well as community enterprises operating at a local level, the event is also aimed at support providers, policy makers, funders and intermediaries who form the SE and community regeneration eco-system in Scotland. To sign up, see Booking Form


The National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) publishes a Civil Society Almanac which offers a useful annual snapshot of the UK third sector; it will come as no surprise that the giant charities continue to dominate at the expenses of local community organisations. A spokesperson said: “At the moment, smaller charities find it hard to bid for public contracts due to commissioning practice that favours the largest organisations”. We need to find a way of connecting the procurement process to local groups and economies; they provide best value. Senscot, with Social Firm Scotland, currently offer practical support to social enterprises in identifying and responding effectively to emerging tender opportunities, including facilitating SE partnerships and consortia development – via our Partnership and Procurement Support Service.


On the theme of local economies and emerging trends – have you noticed the recent growth of microbreweries across Scotland; these four sites, from dozens, give a feel – small scale craft production, winning local loyalty.  As always, a central problem becomes size – with investment bringing new pressures; the likes of BrewDog is getting bigger, opening bars, expanding to the US, now over 400 staff.  Some years ago, an Italian ice cream maker, under pressure to expand, pointed out that his people were artisans, not production managers.  That’s the decision to be made.


News this week that Shetland Council is setting up a new Investment Fund from monies inherited from the old Shetland Development Trust (wound up in 2014). The Council is looking to re-invest the money through lending to local organisations and businesses – with the goal of maximising social, economic and community benefits. This concept of re-investment is similar to the founding principles of SCRT and is currently being actively explored – with others – in seeking to use monies within the third sector to re-invest back into the sector – and thereby maximising the reach and impact of the sector across Scotland.


This week’s bulletin profiles a new social enterprise and new member of the Health SEN. Next Stage, based in Edinburgh, delivers health and wellbeing education to schools, athletes, and companies and organisations across Scotland. Their mission is to increase the provision of health and wellbeing education across Scotland in order to improve wellness and performance – both at school and in the workplace. Next Stage works together with schools, sport organisations/clubs, coaches, and parents/guardians with a single aim of achieving long-term health benefits for young people through the delivery of quality and effective workshops – tailored to their audience – with the aim of making healthy choices, easy choices.


From ‘East Coker’ by T S Eliot


“In my beginning is my end. In succession houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended, are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.  Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires, old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth… And what there is to conquer by strength and submission, has been discovered once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope to emulate – but there is no competition – there is only the fight to recover what has been lost and found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions that seem unpropitious.  But perhaps neither gain nor loss.  For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210