Dear members and friends,
I have long been an admirer of Henning Mankell – the Swedish writer who gave us the great sequence of crime novels featuring the clever, but sometimes crabbit, Inspector Kurt Wallander; Kurt and me are good friends. Another of Mankell’s novels to make a particular impression on me was called ‘Italian Shoes’ – which was the subject of this column in May 2009; I read the book again earlier this year. Frederik Welin, an aging former surgeon, lives alone on a remote island in the hauntingly beautiful Swedish archipelago; we reflect with him on a life, told in a sequence of failed relationships – he’s no hero. This sounds bleak, but at my age, I’m a sucker for stuff about reconciling the past – about aging, mortality etc; a need to understand ourselves – forgive the blunders.
Astonished to learn this week that Mankell revisited Welin on his island, with a final novel, called ‘After the Fire’; published in 2015, the year he died of cancer – but not translated into English ‘till now. This news felt like winning a raffle – bought it immediately – top of my bedside pile. The timing suggests, that Mankell worked on this book knowing his own cancer diagnosis; fans like me will wonder how much of this elegiac meditation on mortality is personal. It crossed my mind that – facing his own death – the author might have allowed ‘hope’ to slide from his text – but the reviews tell us different: that the end of ‘After the Fire’ is both comforting and even inspiring: ‘Mankell’s own candle in the lightless void’.
Soon, the Scottish Labour Party electorate will select their new leader (to be announced on Nov 18). If, as seems likely, they choose Richard Leonard – the Party in Scotland will explicitly align itself with the ‘Corbyn surge’ which won them six seats in the recent Westminster election. On many issues – like progressive taxation, nationalisation, council housing etc – Corbyn’s ‘socialist’ manifesto is left of SNP social democracy – and would be likely to play well in Scotland. Particularly if Leonard can ditch the unionist tag – becoming a champion of federalist home rule? – Labour could once again become a force up here. For those of us who remember how ‘rotten’ it became, this is a sobering thought. But maybe all ‘one party states’ become rotten.
I find it totally unacceptable that the directors of Bield Housing have decided to close twelve care homes because of ‘severe financial pressures’ – as though it was a ‘for profit’ company. Charities exist to respond with compassion where the ‘market’ fails – to find new sustainable solutions; but some get too big – thousands of properties – forget what they are for. Care of the elderly is more challenging now than it was 40 years ago when Bield was founded – the need is greater. If your management can’t deliver on your mission – change the management not the mission.
Over the years, I’ve stopped reading online newsfeeds from the third sector in England – an arid culture obsessed with fundraising and contracts. The size of the dominant organisations is the main problem – many display the values and behaviours of private corporations. Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, let rip, in a conference speech last week, at the ‘big brands’ which use privileged power to advance their own positions at the expense of our sector. The same, perhaps, could be said in Scotland. In Italy, the size of the social co-operatives which deliver many of the public services is strictly controlled. Their approach is to achieve the advantages of scale through collaborative regional consortia.
Senscot champions a clear vision, of services delivered by community-scale, social enterprise providers – embedded in their own locality; better quality, better value, building the local economy. Scottish Govt’s recent awarding of the big employability contracts to the private sector was a disaster for our cause; TFN’s research shows how remote these contractors are from Scottish community life. Again, private lobbyists sweep the board; again, the SNP’s wobbly commitment to community empowerment is exposed. This is a piece from David Powell of the New Economies Foundation – which applies the ‘community scale local providers’ model to the current crisis in the adult social care sector. Not principle, but sheer necessity will drive change – but it’s slow.
NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See https://senscot.net/jobs/ this week:
JOBS: The Touring Network, Highland Wholefoods, Re-Union Canal Boats, Coalfields Regeneration Trust
EVENTS: A Culture Strategy for Scotland: Engagement Phase, 25 Oct; Leading Growth for Senior Leaders, 25 Oct; Groundwork Training – Practices for good team collaboration, 01 Nov;
TENDERS: Community Integrated Care – Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) SVQs, Homelessness Prevention – Food Education Service – The City of Edinburgh Council
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The SENs Weekly Update: After a bit of coming and going, we are now delighted to be able to say that our new website is officially ‘live’. We are grateful for the work and support in this area from Luma IT and Cunning Fox Digital. The new site merges, in effect, two sites – Senscot and the SENs – and will provide greater profile and support to the work and activity of SENs and their members. We now have a dedicated resources page full of useful information and multimedia, as well as updated networks’ pages with specific thematic resources. We hope the site continues to prove a valuable resource for anyone involved with social enterprise in Scotland. Please take the opportunity to look at the new website and – if your details need updated/amended etc – please let us know. Other glitches will be ironed out over the coming days. Any queries etc, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over 80 delegates have now registered for our SE Conference – Collaborating towards a Sharing Economy – at the Westerwood Hotel on 7th and 8th December – still space for another 40 folk. If you’d like to join us, see Booking Form. The overnight rate – including dinner, bed and breakfast – for SEN members and other SEs is £70; for intermediaries/support agencies/public sector etc – £100. With the programme evolving, we have news of a different approach to this year’s Dragons’ Den. In keeping with the theme of ‘collaboration’, we will be inviting ‘pitches’ from SEs who are either delivering or planning to deliver a new or amended service by working in partnership with others. Application forms available from next week.
In 2014, Senscot, working with others, helped to established the Scottish Community Re:Investment Trust (SCRT). Its objective was to try to pool the financial resources of our third sector for the mutual benefit of the sector and the communities it serves. SCRT is now actively exploring the establishment of ‘loan funds’ for the sector – beginning with a bespoke fund for SENs and their members. SCRT has prepared this short survey (6 questions) to test the water for both potential ‘borrowers’ and ‘investors’. Your co-operation would be very much appreciated. The survey will remain open till 31st October 2017.
We’re not really fans of Awards for the best this or the best that – but everyone seems to quite like a list. Last week, the NatWest SE 100 Index produced their list – WISE 100 – of some prominent women in social enterprise from across the UK – including a few familiar names from our sector in Scotland. Congratulations to those listed. However, let’s not forget the thousands of others – doing equally impressive work – who, for a variety of reasons, continue to remain ‘under the radar’.
This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise that is providing bespoke cinema events for communities round the country. Cinemor77’s aim is to bring people, of all ages, together through cinema, film, music and more. They have extensive knowledge of film across a broad range of themes including children’s films, music, animation, world film and documentary – which allows them to create a unique cinema event for special occasions or bespoke programmes of films reflecting your festival or event. One of their key features is their Cinema Yurt that has been touring round various Scottish film and music festivals this year. On the theme of community cinema, a Community Learning Exchange is being hosted by The Tower Digital Arts Centre in Helensburgh on 30th Oct – if this is of interest, see booking details.
The Man Booker prize was won this week by American author, George Saunders; his acceptance remarks are worth quoting:
“If you haven’t noticed, we live in a strange time, so the question at the heart of the matter is pretty simple. Do we respond to fear with exclusion and negative projection and violence? Or do we take that ancient great leap of faith and do our best to respond with love? And with faith in the idea that what seems ‘other’ is actually not ‘other’ at all, but just us on a different day. In the US, we’re hearing a lot about the need to protect culture. Well this tonight is culture, it is international culture, it is compassionate culture, it is activist culture. It is a room full of believers in the word, in beauty and ambiguity and in trying to see the other person’s point of view, even when that is hard.”
That’s all for this week.
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Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210