Senscot Bulletin: 18.12.09

Dear members and friends,

My winter depression hasn’t arrived this year (touch wood) and I’ve been thinking lately that life gets better as we get older.  It may be that we realise how little is actually necessary for our happiness – or perhaps our private demons lose their power – maybe we just come to regard ourselves more kindly.
 I’ve made myself watch Gerry Robinson trying to fix dementia care homes (Tuesday BBC2) – very harrowing.  When it gets too much, I switch to Smooth Radio – then back.  Robinson himself is clearly upset by how dreadful this whole sector is.  Our Welfare State is a marvellous aspiration – but we either can`t or wont spend the money – our politicians just tell lies.  I’m seriously considering establishing an exemplar care facility where I can live when my time comes.  Is that cheating?
 This Tuesday – Dec 22nd – is the Winter Solstice – the shortest day – which I always consider to be the real turn of the year.  For seasonal greetings to our many friends I’ve chosen Raymond Carver’s Late Fragment.  For me these few simple words convey a message at the heart of the human experience: – ‘‘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.’’  It doesn’t sound like much does it?  But it’s everything.

All surveys show that attending a prestigious school is a significant advantage for a youngster’s career prospects; but some of us believe this is wrong – that a progressive society needs to equalise opportunities for the young.  In a democracy, we can’t stop people educating their children as they see best – but we can certainly ensure that the state doesn’t subsidise privilege.  We regulate charitable status because it bestows fiscal benefits – including financial subsidy.  One of the key rules is that public benefit must be accessible without ‘‘unduly restrictive conditions, including any fees or charges.’’  The decision of OSCR to preserve the charitable status of private schools – which charge fees of many thousands of pounds – is frankly disgraceful.  This amounts to a major failure of regulatory duty and undermines the integrity of the whole process – it must not be allowed to stand.  Read Stephen Maxwell.

The co-operative business model has been around for many years but I’ve often felt that in the UK the movement has failed to reach its potential – to punch its weight.  The new secretary general of Co-operatives UK in Ed Mayo – whose work I was aware of during his decade with the New Economics Foundation (NEF).  He’s a heavyweight social innovator – both thinker and entrepreneur – this seems to me an inspired appointment which could give new impetus to our cooperative movement.  I particularly like his point at the end of this interview, where he says we need to focus on building sustainable institutions rather than short term projects.  I wish I’d done more of that in my own work.

When Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett secured a publishing deal for their book ‘‘The Spirit Level’’ – they realised the potential for a widespread quality campaign based on all the evidence they have assembled.  In 2008 Joseph Rowntree Trust gave 2 years funding to pay for a website and a campaign manager – its called the Equality Trust – their site is worth a visit.

I’m struggling to get my head around the idea of ‘social impact bonds’, floated in the new govt. white paper.  It looks like another attempt to attract private sector investment into the third sector; but my problem is that I don’t believe in the basic idea.

Valuable as the new Social Investment Wholesale Bank may prove to be – its impact on third sector investment could never compare to legislation like the Community Reinvestment Act – which compels the mainstream banks to invest in poor areas.  It’s no great surprise that Liam Byrne`s previous ministerial enthusiasm has now been tempered by Treasury officials.

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: RECAP, Church of Scotland, Victim Support Scotland, The Three Eyes Project, Health in Mind, The Big Issue, The Scottish Society for Autism, Almond Enterprises Ltd, The Scottish Government
EVENTS:  Carbon Conversations Facilitators Training, 10 Jan; Learning from evaluation, 13 Jan; Facilitation Training Day, 21 Jan; Climate Change: Effective Communication (Edinburgh), 22 Jan

NETWORKS NEWS:  Colin writes:   2009 has been another busy year – maybe the busiest yet for LSENs. And, 2010 looks like it’s likely to be more of the same. Our objective remains to try and help the LSENs and their members develop and grow. There has been plenty evidence of this with: 24 LSEN members securing investment funding through Scottish Govt; LSENs playing an increasing role in Single Interfaces at a local level; increasing evidence of economic impact at a local level through Vital Stats; and increased procurement opportunities.  Senscot will continue to offer its support as best we can during 2010. Here are some of the documents/reports we produced this year. See
For more Networks News, see

Senscot has joined the Poverty Alliance – Scotland’s main network for tackling poverty. Next year’s programme of seminars has been announced   entitled ‘achievements and opportunities.  It starts in Glasgow on 15 Jan.

Interesting piece in Third Sector Mag reviewing 2009 and the key stories for social enterprise (in England). Amongst the stories selected are the £75m from dormant bank accounts; the joint venture between SEC UK and Rise to roll out the Mark across the UK; Peter Holbrook’s appointment as SEC UK’s new CEO and the Community Allowance pilot, being run by the Create consortium. I wonder what folk in Scotland consider to be our main social enterprise stories of 2009?

Over the last couple of months, we’ve covered a series of article from the Guardian that offer legal advice to social enterprises. The latest is on Charity Tax and VAT – groan! If it’s something that interests you, here’s more,

Over the past decade Senscot has worked with a variety of civil servants sent in to manage Scottish Govt’s relationship with the Third Sector.  It’s an unusual arrangement, because ours is a value driven sector – and there is no opportunity to ask these temporary ‘captains’ what their vision is for civil society.  In England, Campbell Robb has recently been replaced by Rolande Anderson .  Here in Scotland, Tracy Slaven has been replaced by Christine Carlin. We await her nudge to the tiller.  

This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise in Kirkcaldy that runs a number of projects and activities that are designed to offer soft skills and confidence to unemployed and marginalised groups and individual in the area. The JRD Trust was set up in 2000 and now occupies a building on the esplanade in the town. The centre has become a community hub that offers space for local artist, operates a cafe and, most recently , has opened its own theatre space that also doubles up as an exhibition and conference space. For more, see

Sunday on BBC 4, I watched Mark Lawson interview the writer AS Byatt.  I don’t know her work, but was attracted by her spoken opinions – the candour and wisdom of age.  Here’s a quote from her while I like.  ‘‘A man is the history of his breaths and thoughts, acts, atoms and wounds, love indifference and dislike, also of his race and nation, the soil that fed him and his forbears, the stones and sands of his familiar places, long-silenced battles and struggles of conscience, of the smiles of girls and the slow utterance of old women, of accidents and the gradual action of inexorable law, of all this and something else, too, a single flame which in every way obeys the laws that pertain to Fire itself, and yet is lit and put out from one moment to the next, and can never be relit in the whole waste of time to come.’’

That’s all for this year.  Senscot will be on holiday from Tues 22 Dec to Tues 5 Jan.  We wish all our members and friends a restful break and much joy.

From Aidan, Anna, Colin, Karina, Kim, Laurence, Varda & Victoria.

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