Senscot Bulletin: 21-04-2006

Dear members and friends,

Spent Easter holiday alone – it was great. Saturday, Sunday, Monday – pottering about the house and garden, doing very little. As I get older I find that I need more solitude and idleness – head space. And being unoccupied means being available for new things – for anything. I think that the benefits of stillness are underestimated.
 Monday evening – showered – fed – swaddled in bed – I watched a programme about a fresco in the small town of San Sepulchro in Tuscany. It depicts the Resurrection and was painted by a local, Piero della Francesca, around 1460. English novelist Aldous Huxley called it ‘the greatest painting in the world’, and I too find the face of this risen Christ astonishing. I still see those eyes – at once bold and gentle – trying to tell me something. I must get a print of that face.
 Asked if I believe in God I reply, ‘Sometimes’. The nearest ‘sense’ I have is of a ‘creative spirit’ which ‘renews the face of the earth’. The rational debate doesn’t interest me but sometimes ‘being’ feels like something more than chance. Muriel Spark the Scottish novelist, died in Tuscany over the holiday (aged 88). By all accounts, she seems to have been a free spirit. Asked about her belief in God, she said, ‘I believe in the spirit of life – that is really the Holy Ghost. I believe the Holy Ghost has been seriously underestimated.’ I think I agree with Muriel.

I can get ‘heated’ on the subject of how vested interests resist the decentralisation of democratic power in Scotland. Community planning is simply a control mechanism dominated by local authorities and no Scottish minister has emulated David Miliband as champion of genuine community empowerment. The article ‘Power to the People’ by Stephen Maxwell in the current issue of ‘View’ quarterly magazine is as good as anything I’ve read on the subject. His grasp of the issues is impressive – particularly the values that underpin local empowerment. Check out his idea that Scotland’s 100 most disadvantaged communities (say 7-8,000 residents each) should have the option of voting for ’empowered status’ and getting their own £1m or £2m budget to spend. This is a rewarding read. Get ‘View’ free from  

Over the years, Scottish Regeneration academics have been slow to assert the need to respect and empower our communities. One exception has been David Donnison, Emeritus Professor at University of Glasgow’s Dept of Urban Studies. I am grateful to Bob Holman’s great weekly column in Tuesday’s Herald for pointing me to the public lecture Prof. Donnison gave last October on the occasion of his 80th birthday. I found the lecture inspirational:

Over the last few weeks, we’ve posted information on a number of evaluations and surveys carried out for Senscot. The latest and last is the evaluation of the Networks. To date, there are 11 Local Social Enterprise Networks with a couple more in the pipeline over the coming months. When we started this work, Senscot was keen to have an ‘arms length’ approach. The feedback from the existing Networks is saying that while that approach has proved valuable, they would welcome stronger leadership. We’ll be discussing the findings of the evaluation with the Networks over the coming weeks. See the conclusions and recommendations:

This Tuesday 25th April I’m heading up to the Perth Concert Hall for S2S, Scotland’s first social enterprise trade fair. If you’ve said you’re going and haven’t yet registered, to help the catering, make sure you do at See you all there.

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

JOBS: 33 vacancies, incl. posts with: Theatre NEMO, Greater Easterhouse Development Company, Northwest Economic Network, Cuthbert Recruitment, Scottish Mediation Network, Snowsport Scotland.

EVENTS: Assist Social Capital conference, Glasgow, 9 June; Midlothian Social Enterprise Trade Fair, Dalkeith, June 12,  Money For Change 06, Community Development Finance conference, Bristol, June 22. Places are still available on the Social Enterprise Academy’s Leadership Masterclass: How Can We Make Social Enterprise the Norm? 1 June Edinburgh.

EXCHANGE: We’ve posted some examples of the queries we’re dealing with:

A couple of weeks back, we mentioned that Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition (SSEC) had been asked to submit a briefing paper to the Executive on the impact to the social enterprise sector of the fall in EC funding. Here’s a link to Jon Molyneux’s paper.  Senscot’s concern is that the sector will not get a seat at the table during the ‘divvying up’.  Les Huckfield, who’s been involved in this process for years, offers an insiders view:

Two new articles on our website about social entrepreneurs, and even though I wrote one of them I now find the debate tiresome about who is and who isn’t one. What does it matter? I use the term to embrace around 1% or 2% of the population – around 70,000 people in Scotland – plenty of room for variety. Kirsten Downer’s Third Sector piece: Laurence’s piece:  

This week’s bulletin profiles a four star visitor attraction in West Lothian. Almond Valley Heritage Trust is a community enterprise that has achieved full registration under the museum accreditation scheme operated by VisitScotland. The Trust was established in 1990 as the successor to a series of community-based volunteer initiatives that dated back to the early ’70’s. It now offers a unique resource for informal family-based learning for families and children, and provides a number of opportunities for community involvement and volunteer participation. The Trust has won a range of awards for innovative educational and interpretative work, and was named Scottish Museum of the Year in 2002. For further info’, see           
Increasingly I find myself wondering who I am. The patterns – loyalties – illusions. What distinguishes one person from another? What is the soul of a person? Of course most folk don’t have the time for such musings but as we get older it’s fitting to slow down – to make some accommodation with life – to learn composure and resilience for the next chapter. What I hope, for the rest of my life, isn’t clear yet but what Raymond Carver achieved would do: ‘To call myself beloved – to feel myself beloved on the earth.’

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

Best wishes,

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