Senscot Bulletin: 21-12-07

Dear members and friends,

I haven’t sent Xmas cards for the last 3 years – not sure why – a kind of withdrawal. But I’m back – this week I sent 26 – all with the same message: ‘Wishing you and your family the joy of Christmas’. What is the joy of Christmas? Is it children opening presents – families gathering for a meal; for some it’s the winter solstice – symbolising the return of sunlight; for others it celebrates the birth of a special child – surely one of the greatest stories ever told.
 L`Arche is an international organisation which creates communities (130 so far) where people with lifelong disabilities, and those who assist them, share life together. The founder of L`Arche, Jean Vanier said, ‘My heart is transformed by the smile of trust given by some people who are terribly fragile; They call forth new energies from me. Contact with people who are weak and who are crying out, is one of the most important nourishments in our lives.’ Vanier’s special insight is that human beings are nourished by responding to each other’s needs – and that this exchange of gifts brings a special joy.
 I’m going to my sister’s again this year – 10 of us – three generations. I’ll stuff myself with turkey – Xmas pud – the lot; then I’ll watch the children opening parcels – which makes me feel like a child again because I can`t work any of these electronic contraptions.

I’m a community worker to trade – 30 years in the field – assisting local people to understand and challenge power structures – to create their own power base. Community Development these days seems to have been reduced to encouraging local involvement in social planning and service delivery. The lead Community Development Agency in the UK is the Community Development Foundation (CDF). It is funded by Government and has been assigned the role of administering the £130m `Grassroots Grant` Fund. Is it not ironic that our lead organisation for the promotion of self-determination is itself an agent of government. Across Scotland, local communities are routinely ignored and opposed by Councils – our Community Sector needs a strong collective voice to challenge this overbearing municipalism. But community development practice has stepped back from frontline power issues. If the new Local People Leading campaign is to fill this gap, it needs to avoid the `honeytrap` of Government funding – so that if necessary it can stand up to public sector bullying.
The debate about what is, and is not a social enterprise will chunter on for years; it’s easy to mock, but we need these legalistic people. The social enterprise network for south east England (RISE) is to be congratulated for its courage in piloting a social enterprise kitemark – along with detailed criteria of eligibility for the award. Seeing these criteria written down makes it even more complicated for me – not sure if this will catch on. Some movers and shakers of our sector gave the new kitemark a fitting launch at the Eden Centre on the 29th November – but I expect they’ll wait and watch before committing to a national roll out.

Scotland’s small community owned housing associations have done a great deal to empower local residents and have produced some of our best `designed` housing. The new Housing Green Paper `Firm Foundations` proposes an end to this activity, in favour of a small number of large specialist developer associations. Bulk procurement may reduce price per unit but at what social cost? Colin Armstrong argues that history provides salutary warnings of what happened in Scotland when cheap and plenty determined housing policy.
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: 15 vacancies, incl. posts with: North East Arts Touring, Co-operative & Community Finance, Drake Music Scotland, FirstPort, Eric Liddell Centre, The Big Issue Cymru
EVENTS: 12 events, incl Appreciative Inquiry in Education, Jan 8, Edinburgh; Haddington; Getting down to business, 7 Feb, Edinburgh; Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid, 21 Feb, Fife; Mental Health Awareness, 15 Mar, Kirkcaldy; More than Recycling 08, 11 Mar, Perth

Being without money or credit is worst at Xmas – when everything you can`t have is right in your face. Senscot reader Darragh Hare informs us that the Glasgow Caledonian University is to host a conference called `Banking the Unbanked` on 22nd Jan. Bookings at

The Cultural Social Enterprise Network is looking to set up a Business Lunch Club that will meet regularly around key topics. The first business lunch will be on Friday 8th Feb. The topic will be ‘How can cultural social entrepreneurs access financial investment?’. The venue is still to be confirmed but will be in either Glasgow or Edinburgh. The cost will be approximately £20 per person. There are a limited number of places available for this first event. For info`, see

As the Unclaimed Assets legislation moves to the Lords for consideration of amendments – a coalition of 52 UK charities is lobbying for changes. The coalition wants to extend the definition of unclaimed assets to money held by insurance companies. They also want the financial sector to be compelled to surrender assets. The present proposal is on a voluntary basis.

The Tory leader of England’s Local Government Association (LGA) has praised the governments ‘courage and commitment’ in the recently signed concordat. Hazel Blears, the minister responsible said, ‘It sets out in some detail our respective roles, responsibilities, rights, with emphasis not just on shifting power to councils, but also making it incumbent on councils to shift power to their communities. For me this is the big prize.’ It`s this ‘double devolution’ element which makes their concordat so much better than the Scottish equivalent.
The Quirk review was about the transfer of assets from the public sector to local communities and to accelerate the process, Whitehall has funded a £500k ‘Advancing Assets for communities’ programme. So far, 34 councils have volunteered to participate and transfers are being facilitated by the advancing assets partnership of DTA England – Local Government Association and Community Matters. Senscot believes that Scottish Government should follow this model. Invite councils to volunteer to participate – then commission a small Third Sector partnership to facilitate the deal flow.

This week`s bulletin profiles a community that has recently taken ownership of their local primary school. The Upper Eskdale Development Group has taken over the former Eskdalemuir primary school for £1. The group has ambitious plans to set up a community café and resource centre at the school which will be run for the community by the community. Eskdalemuir is one of the remotest settlements in the Dumfries and Galloway area and over the years it has seen the loss of its shop, pub and many public services. They believe that, in time, the project will become self-financing and generate jobs and business opportunities in the local community. For more, see
Last quote of 2007 from Franz Joseph Radermacher ‘The world is convinced that market systems can solve all problems. Markets, however, mean the combination of competition and frameworks. It is the frameworks that are insufficient; we are quite good at competition. I advocate the framework of an eco-social market economy as an alternative to market fundamentalism. This model will include the social cultural and ecological needs of our whole world’s society, and not just the economic expectations of a small wealthy minority.’

As is our custom the Senscot bulletin will stop for the festive holiday. Back on Jan 11.

Wishing you and your family the joy of Christmas,
From all at Senscot.

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