Senscot Bulletin: 16-12-2005


Dear members and friends,

Last week I visited hospital – ‘flow test’ for dodgy prostate. Shown into clean bright room with table, four chairs, curtained bed and ensuite toilet. Two guys already seated – we all smile, a bit embarrassed. One is Asian called Akram, around 55 – of mournful countenance. The other, Tom, has the skin colour and settled aroma of a street person – ‘of no fixed abode’. In charge of us all is Norah, a slightly dumpy 40 year old – exuberant good nature and steely resolution – wise to the ways of the delinquent prostate. The drill is that you drink jugs of water till you need to go – you pee into a special pail which electronically records flow – then Norah measures what’s left in your bladder. All this twice.
 After 30 minutes, Akram’s first to go – then Tom. After 1 hour and 2 litres of water, I manage my strangulated dribble into the machine (called an ‘eezy peezy’ – no kidding). Norah moves an ultrasound probe over my bladder – which I didn’t realise is below your navel. ‘Look at the chart’ she says, ‘your flow stopped completely and started again.’ I feel apologetic. Then she says there’s quite a lot of liquid left. Back at the table, Tom and Akram give me sympathetic looks. In the queue later to pay my parking ticket, I overhear two nurses, ‘Are you still in ward 19?’ – ‘No, I’m in ward 26 with the old smellies.’ She didn’t say it unkindly but it stung. Hope I don’t end up an old smelly.

2005 was the year when the term social enterprise officially landed in Scotland – when our parliament decided to draft and implement a ‘differentiated’ strategy for the sector. That’s not the job done but at least we’re underway – we have our own ship to sail. A great deal of the work – definitional and strategic has already been done by the UK Governments Social Enterprise Unit in London – and most of it sound. Let’s hope that this process is not beset by the political indecision and delays that we’ve come to expect from the Scottish Exec. The other area where we lag behind England is our lack of a differentiated strategy for the community sector as distinct from the voluntary sector. Community organisations serve a specific geographical area and have a quite distinct set of issues. This is not quite Senscot’s ‘bag’, but next year, with others, we could be instrumental in assembling an appropriate initiative.

Member Brendan Murphy has been around since the beginning of our Network and remains a passionate champion of genuinely local media. He believes that new digital local TV could provide a missing tier of public service media giving local communities the capacity to deliver services and present key issues on their own terms. As France and Spain prepare to introduce 1000 local digital TV channels, Brendan says the argument has still to be won in the UK. The debate will hot up following Ofcom’s Report, expected early next year. Check it out:

I am increasingly convinced that efforts by social enterprises to win public service delivery contracts would bear more fruit if we gave the same focus to Health Boards as we are giving to local Councils. Stories are trickling in from the network of encouraging initiatives and early next year Senscot will broker some meetings. Take the case of Boo Armstrong who has successfully launched Get Well UK which makes complementary medicine free to patients on the NHS. Boo convinced two London Health Trusts to purchase ‘up front’ a package of treatments. She then convinced GPs to refer patients for acupuncture, chiropractic or osteopathy (other therapies to follow). Her company brokers between patient and therapists – monitors customer satisfaction and pays practitioners. Boo would like to spread her business to Scotland and would like to meet with interested parties. For info’, contact  –  

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: 48 vacancies, incl. posts with: Gorebridge Health & Regeneration Project, Bits and Bobs (Committee member), Capital City Partnership, Plantation Productions, Scottish Churches House, Project Scotland.

EVENTS:  Out of the Blue Presents ‘Art not Oil’, 15 Dec-16 Jan 06; ‘Rural Housing/Rural Development – Making Connections’, Dunkeld, 23 Feb 06.

Today’s the last day to register for free exhibition stands for Scotland’s first social enterprise trade fair, S2S, which takes place in Perth on 25 April 2006:

On Thursday through in Glasgow presenting Scotland UnLtd level 1 awards to a new crop of social entrepreneurs. I always get a buzz from a roomful of ‘livewires’ pitching their business ideas and even more so when they are social businesses. The human drive to improve the world is just as enduring as that for personal gain. Makes me feel hopeful.

In spite of resistance from some traditionalists, consultation is ongoing towards the drafting of a differentiated social enterprise strategy for Scotland. When it comes down to how best to organise support for our sector, we need to resolve the respective roles of Communities Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and local Councils. Another remaining topic is the extent to which social businesses should be treated differently from private sector business. This is the theme of an interesting letter I received recently from an Economic Development Officer with Cambridge Council who asks whether business incubators should house both social enterprises and ‘normal’ enterprises. Good question.  

On the theme of how best to organise support for the sector, New Start magazine reports from Merseyside on a call for a ‘rationalisation of business support agencies ‘in view of the ‘plethora’ that currently exists. Scottish Enterprise is currently evaluating their provision. Our sector needs to consider this as well.


This week’s bulletin profiles a theatre company, based in Elgin, that is committed to combating social exclusion. The Out of the Darkness Theatre Company (ODTC) was founded in 1992 and has transformed itself into an independent full time professional theatre company since its early days as a well-supported voluntary organisation. As well as heightening awareness of issues such as disability and wider social exclusion, ODTC also provides education and training in theatre skills. They are also in much demand to perform issue-based work at conferences and events. Their most recent tour, highlighting the effects of drug abuse, was performed around schools in the North East and supported by Grampian Police. For info’, see    

This is the last bulletin before the festive season – a welcome two week pause. Next Wednesday is the shortest day – the winter solstice – which has been celebrated for at least 4000 years as the day that marks the return of the sun. It was probably inspired by ancient fears that the light would not come back. 1600 years ago, Christmas was transplanted into the same week – new sun – new birth – new hope – new year – our ‘festival of renewal’ has powerful symbolism. The religious and heroic myths of all cultures are telling essentially the same stories from our collective unconscious. At this time of year we feel the impulse to let go of the past and start again. Ralph Waldo Emerson understood this;
‘Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.’

Wishing you and your family peace, joy and renewal,

from Laurence, Aidan, Alison, Colin, Pat, Simon and Varda.

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