Senscot Bulletin: 17-03-2006

Dear members and friends,

I attended another funeral this week – that’s three already this year – and there’s another one looming.  Death makes us ask again if there is any special meaning to human life.  Perhaps only those of us who live well can afford the luxury of such considerations but the need for meaning seems deep – an essential part of mental health. Herman Hesse said that meaninglessness can only be overcome by giving our own lives meaning – again and again. 
 The wooded valley where I live is the domain of a pair of buzzards; they soar for hours in the sky and leave half-eaten rabbits about the place. On days when I doubt philosophy, the physical world is all that remains. The swallows will return any day now to the old stable behind my cottage. They are aggressive and untidy neighbours so this year they’re only getting the loft. I’ve glazed the windows and sealed the roof space to keep them out of my wood store. Today I adapted and hung an old door and when the latch clicks shut I feel chuffed.  And to give even more meaning to my life today I’m giving a friend supper: Rigatoni with porcini mushrooms and cream – a speciality of the house.
 One of my favourite poems is this ‘Late Fragment’ by Raymond Carver. ‘And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? I did. And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.’

No matter who wins the next General Election, social enterprise is going to attract serious government investment for several years – and we need to be wary not to become their creature.  Already, the criteria by which we are judged are being set by government – which wants public sector reform, sustainability, and – in Scotland – ‘closing the opportunity gap.’ But many of us work for enterprises which don’t aspire to run public services – and which will never balance the books through trading alone. Village communities, where social enterprises can be the only option, don’t even qualify for ‘close the gap’ funding. Our sector needs to establish our own bench marks of success. We need to learn how to measure and ‘financialise’ the benefits of our work – like: ‘Our youth club saved the criminal justice system £60k last year.’

Senscot’s database lists 1000 social enterprises, which is probably one third of the total in Scotland. A comprehensive mapping exercise is underway. Our recent survey of the support needs of the sector is producing interesting stuff.  111 questionnaires were completed (an 11% sample). These enterprises have a collective board membership of 710 people.  This indicates that the social enterprise sector in Scotland may engage 20,000 people at board level. Support Needs survey results by end of March.

John Lewis has 63,000 staff who are partners in what is effectively a ‘workers co-operative’.  Last week, in a survey of shoppers it was voted the most popular store in the UK. Also last week, the staff (partners) all received a bonus equivalent to 8 weeks pay following an outstanding year’s trading.  They must be doing something right.  The European Union counts employee-owned businesses as part of the social economy.

Last October in London, a European Social Enterprise Policy Colloquium was held, looking at experience from various EU member states. Focus was on how, in opening up the procurement process, social enterprise can delivery best value public goods and services.

At the recent Community Voices weekend conference Professor Michael Carley of Heriot Watt University presented a critique of Community Planning Partnerships which included some of the real challenges.  He has consented to his presentation being circulated.

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but submit jobs ( or events ( and we’ll post them on our site. This week:

JOBS: 48 vacancies, incl. posts with: ‘The Skinny’ magazine, Out of the Blue, Turning Point Scotland, Community Transport Association UK, Forth Sector, Indigo Project Solutions Ltd and Almond Enterprises.

EVENTS: Highlands and Islands Social Enterprise Zone (HISEZ) Annual Conference, 19 April, Strathpeffer; Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs, Sustainability conference, May 16, Birmingham.

CAN YOU HELP?: One World Shop Ltd. is now looking to recruit additional members to its Management Committee:; Do you have a spare bigger than normal printer?

Interesting article in the Spectator about how professional economists are rediscovering the entrepreneur.
‘Of 1,091 Canadian inventions surveyed in 2003 only 75 reached the market.  Six of these earned returns above 1.400%, but 45 lost money.  A rational manager will balk at such odds.  But the entrepreneur answers to his own dreams and demons – a ‘touch of madness’ is probably one of the chief qualifications for the job.’

Article in Wednesday’s Guardian by Richard Lewis (senior fellow at the Kings Fund) on the development of a ‘social enterprise’ model of GP medical provision in Hackney in London. The Fund is also producing a report on ‘Social Enterprise and Community-based Care’ in the spring. Have a read:

CRNS held their annual Celebration and Awards Event this week in Glasgow. Speakers included a range of recycling social enterprises as well as Ross Finnie (Minister for the Environment and Rural Development) and Terry MacDonald from SVDP in Oregan. This year’s Awards, voted on by CRNS members, went to FEAT Enterprises and Spruce Carpets:

Jon Molyneux (SSEC) is keeping us informed on the publication of a number of reports from the Parliament. These include the Parliament’s Business growth Inquiry and the McLellan Report, which recommends an overhaul of public sector procurement:

This week’s bulletin profiles an environmental company in Aberdeen that is working hard to become more self financing and reduce the need to continually chase grant funding. Aberdeen Forward was set up in 1999 to fund and support local waste minimisation and recycling projects. In 2002, it widened its remit to deliver a number of sustainable development projects of its own. These include Community Composting, Creative Waste, Master Composter & Grampian Real Nappies – all run by Aberdeen Forward. For further info’, see       

Czeslaw Milosz was born in 1911 – which makes him 95.  His poetry is not widely known in the UK but it rings my bell.  He probes with courage into the basics – both pain and joy of human existence.  He wrote this poem ‘A poetic state’ when 66 – in which he describes an attuned state of mind.  I’m 66 too but not yet….. ‘Things once difficult are easy but I feel no strong need to communicate them in writing.  Now I am in good health, where before I was sick because time galloped and I was tortured by fear of what would happen next.  Every minute the spectacle of the world astonishes me: it is so comic that I cannot understand how literature could expect to cope with it. Sensing every minute, in my flesh, by my touch, I tame misfortune and do not ask God to avert it, for why should He avert it from me if He does not avert it from others?…..I was impatient and easily irritated by time lost on trifles among which I ranked cleaning and cooking.  Now, attentively, I cut onions, squeeze lemons, and prepare various kinds of sauces.’      

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

Best wishes,

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