Senscot bulletin: 19-05-2006

Dear members and friends,

There’s a line somewhere in Hemingway which goes; ‘The war still went on, but we didn’t go to it anymore.’ This phrase captures the state of mind which has settled on me over the past year – a kind of disengagement. Increasingly I feel I am in a time and culture whose values I don’t really share – that it’s no longer my war.
The biblical span of life is 70 years – I’m only 4 years short of that – disengagement is entirely appropriate. Each year it takes more maintenance (and pills) to keep this machine on the road. My legs are a bit ropey and I’m half-deaf – I appear more doddery than I am – but only a few things really matter in life. Health of course – a few true friends – an appetite for creative work. It would be fine to have money, but I was never any good at that. It would be comforting to have a faith – but to believe in God is not something we can choose.
Looking back at my working life – the wars I’ve been in – it all seems so inconsequential now. But for the future it’s surprising how little we need to be happy. I’ll do a bit of writing – the odd meeting to help something new be born – and cultivating the garden – learning about the soil and the seasons like my forebears. Voltaire had a good attitude, ‘How infinitesimal is the importance of anything I do, but how infinitely important it is that I do it.’

What advancement there has been in Scotland of social enterprise is largely in the slipstream of English activity. It’s still very low priority with our Parliament – no new money is expected to implement the Scottish Social Enterprise Strategy when it eventually surfaces. For this reason I attended the big Regeneration Conference in London on Monday to get a feel for current shifts in UK Government policy. What I found was general approval of the new Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) as physical and social regeneration can now be planned together. The UK financial climate is expected to get chillier, but the anticipated ‘double devolution’ white paper under Ruth Kelly’s stewardship is still expected to radically raise the profile of community empowerment as specified in Tony Blair’s letter to Ruth Kelly

Whilst increasing financial uncertainties within councils and the NHS will make them look for alternative delivery, most senior managers haven’t heard of social enterprises – and even if they have, everyone knows there’s a shortage of mature ones with the capacity to deliver reliably. This gap should be the priority of the new strategy for our sector. In the meantime there is the opportunity to create ‘hybrid’ companies – with NHS or council staff seconded to social enterprises jointly owned with local communities, and responsibility gradually moving across as confidence and capacity increases. Les Huckfield, who has been doing a fair bit of work with the NHS in Scotland, offers some views.
Also, take a look at the Social Enterprise Coalition’s recent pamphlet to newly elected Councils in England promoting social enterprises as alternative vehicles for delivering local services.

Social enterprises which want a shot at tendering for local government contracts have an opportunity to ‘strut their stuff’ at the Scottish National Procurement Conference on 31 October at the SECC. There’s no reason why we can’t raise our banners among all the commercial service providers. We can do it ‘together’ to defray costs.

The new minister for the Third Sector at the Cabinet Office, Ed Miliband, introduced himself to Third Sector representatives at a reception on Monday at No.11 Downing Street. Here’s his speech. It’s a bit long but worth looking at

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

JOBS: 27 vacancies, incl. posts with: Sustainable Scotland Network, Morvern Community Development Co., Glasgow Media Access Centre, Turning Point Scotland, Shelter Scotland, Health Spot. 

EVENTS: ‘Social Enterprise Network Opportunity’, 26 May, Castle Douglas; Glasgow Community Health Care Partnerships-what will the changes mean for Glasgow care providers?, 31 May, Glasgow; Social Enterprise Academy Inspirational Leadership Masterclass, with Olivier Mythodrama, 1 June, Edinburgh; ‘From the Sublime to the Ridiculous’, Pass IT On concert, 11 June, Edinburgh; 

I am a fan of the Centre of Human Ecology, which quietly brings great credit to Scotland. Human Ecology is about uncovering and understanding the connections between personal action, social systems and the ecology of the planet. It’s about making a better world. CHE is hosting a discussion seminar next Wednesday, 24 May, in Glasgow. John Ralls will speak on ‘Economics and Reality’, exploring the new economics emerging from another way of looking at the world:
Colin McLeod of Galgael died tragically last November – only 39 years old. I was lucky enough to know him briefly – and fall under the spell of his optimism and huge compassion. On Saturday 3 June, Gehan is hosting a celebration of his inspirational life – as poet, prophet and chieftain. It’s for anyone touched by his life:

Next Sunday, 28 May, is the annual conference of ‘Supporters Direct in Scotland’ at the Craiglockhart Campus of Napier University in Edinburgh. Supporters Direct is a Europe-wide movement seeking to examine and promote co-operative models of organisation in the football industry. They share many of the values of the co-operative and social enterprise movements.

In September 2006 the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff is launching an MBA in Social Entrepreneurship. This is the only one Senscot knows about. They allow relevant experience to be part of the entry qualifications:

This week’s bulletin profiles a recycling company based in the Scottish Borders. Berwickshire Furniture Restoration Company Ltd. (BFR), based in Duns, run their furniture restoration service from their warehouse in the Earlsmeadow area of  Duns. Furniture and goods are made available to people of limited means who are setting up a home. Otherwise all of their stock is available to the public at low prices from their warehouse. As well as focussing on furniture, BFR also recycles electrical items, computers and paint. For further info’, see

Ben Okri in ‘Birds of heaven’ writes of the power of stories:
‘Nations and peoples are largely the stories they feed themselves. If they tell themselves stories that are lies, they will suffer the future consequence of those lies. If they tell themselves stories that face their own truths, they will free their histories for future flowerings. It is easy to forget how mysterious and mighty stories are. They do their work in silence, invisibly. They work with all the internal materials of the mind and self. They become part of you while changing you. Beware the stories you read or tell: subtly at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world. I am not referring to just any story, but to those great ones rich and rare, that haunt, that elude, that tantalise, that have the effect of poignant melodies lodged deep in barely reachable places of the spirit. The human race is not blessed with many stories of this quality.’

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

Best wishes,

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