Senscot Bulletin: 19-10-2007

Dear members and friends,

We live in an age of reports – measuring everything. Obesity out of control – a million Scots drinking to excess – our children the most stressed in Europe – personal debt at record levels – an epidemic of depression. Taken together, these are indications of a profoundly unhappy people – “without meaning to themselves” -. As well as booze, fags and junk food, I know people addicted to gambling – exercise – money – sex – work – starvation – all kinds of drugs. And that’s just my friends. I wonder if this level of restlessness has always been there, or are we seeing something new – a kind of societal nervous breakdown.
 Colleagues who work with victims of life-threatening addictions tell me that statistically the faith-based agencies are more successful. The most effective recovery programme in the world is the ‘12 Steps’ of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is spiritual in content. This is not meant to be an advert for God – it’s a simple acknowledgement that people with spiritual meaning in their lives are happier, less prone to self-damaging addictions. But with religion in decline in our society – where can new spiritual meaning originate? Business, politics, media – don’t do spiritual. Some artists ‘carry the light’ – but our meaning is our own responsibility. Viktor Frankl, the legendary psychotherapist, once said: “Don’t ask what is the meaning of your life – that’s the question being asked of you.” (See end)
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Following the publication of the UK Comprehensive Spending Review, I’ve been reading details of English Third Sector allocations for the next 4years. An excellent summary is attached – most of the items are confirmations of evolving policy, which has been debated week on week. In Scotland we won’t know Third Sector allocations until November 14th. There is no sense of a national debate about Third Sector priorities – we don’t even know the items our civil servants have asked for. The summary below links to Public Service Agreement 21 (PSA 21) which spells out a vision for community empowerment in England. In Scotland we’re light years away from this clarity and coherence across departments. Reality on the ground in England will also be light years from PSA 21 – but at least they’ve got a vision and allocated funds. We’ve not even got a debate.

The Isle of Rum once supported a thriving community that farmed and fished. But in 1826, the then Laird ordered its ‘clearance’ – the 350 inhabitants were forcibly shipped to Nova Scotia. Rum is now owned by Scottish National Heritage (SNH), which employs most of the 28 people left on the island. SNH’s policy has been to keep folk off the island – to protect it as a nature preserve – but now the Rum Community Trust says it’s time to repopulate.

In England the government commissioned the Social Enterprise Coalition to select 34 Ambassadors to go about the country extolling the benefits of social enterprise. They are now in place and reading their individual stories is indeed inspiring. Senscot is about promoting social entrepreneurs – so why am I uneasy about this initiative? It all seems a bit cosy – too close to government to feel right. Or is this just the unattractive Scottish trait which resents individual achievement? It’s interesting that the Scottish government hasn’t commissioned ambassadors?

Edgar Cahn, the 72 year old American social entrepreneur will shortly be visiting Scotland. He started his working life as a civil rights lawyer – wrote speeches for Robert Kennedy – but 30 years ago, following serious illness, he had his ‘light bulb’ moment. Cahn realised that “Every capacity that had enabled our species to survive – caring for each other, trusting each other, relying on each other – has become excluded from our economic system. He went on to found the international Time Bank movement (the UK has 86, with 36 in development). Good article in the Guardian:  Cahn is one of three international speakers at the Assist Social Capital Conference in Edinburgh on November 9th. There are generous bursaries available for attendees from Scotland, so that finance is no barrier to attendance.

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: 21 vacancies, incl. posts with: Edinburgh Furniture Initiative, Changeworks, Forestry Commission,

EVENTS: 22 events, incl Glasgow Equalities Partnership ‘Equalities Hub consultation event’, Glasgow, 1 Nov; Renfrewshire CVS Conference and Trade Fair, Paisley, 2 Nov; Fife Employment Access Trust, AGM & Launch of ‘Journey to Work”, 14 Nov, Glenrothes; Ethnic Minority Social Enterprise Showcasing Conference, 26 Nov, Edinburgh, ‘Making the Move: from homelessness to employability’, 30 Nov, Glasgow;

The postponed parliamentary debate secured by the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition on public social partnerships is now to take place on October 25th  just after 5pm . Book your place by phoning 0131 348 5200.

The Local Social Enterprise Networks’ Ceilidh takes place again this year at New Lanark. Dates are 15th/16th November. If you’re interested, see

The Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) is holding a conference on 6 November called “Will the last Housing Association to leave please switch out the lights” What a great title!  These are folk fighting for community ownership – in the proud tradition of tenant empowerment which regenerated many Scottish communities. They’ve got Alf Young and Lesley Riddoch contributing.

Lively reaction to my intro last week about the possible environmental collapse of the planet. There’s lots of communications on the web – someone linked me to this summary of humankind’s predicament. But it’s a bleak read:

Kelso based CESEL (Community Enterprise and Social Enterprise Links) has just launched the ACE Centre, a new community facility and local social enterprise centre. The building, which was acquired in August 2007, is part of the Border Ice Rink in Kelso.  The Facility comprises of a community cafe, a soft play area, serviced offices and meeting rooms, a small conference facility or function room and a gym. Internet access, Sky TV and a pool table, with catering provided and crèche available for any occasion. For more, see

Viktor Frankl survived four Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz. He was a psychotherapist who taught that humanity’s primary motivational force is the search for meaning:
 “Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run – in the long-run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”  

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

Best wishes.

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