Senscot Bulletin: 22.01.10

Dear members and friends,

 Sunday, I climb Gullane hill to visit the skylarks which nest on the golf course.  This is one of my favourite spots – wonderful skies and vistas – but alas no skylarks – gone, it seems, to winter abroad.  Watching golfers, I recognise David whom I’ve played with – walk next hole together chatting – he’s a bit of a philosopher.  On the radio this morning, he tells me, someone was asked to say what ‘‘consoles’’ him.  ‘‘How would you answer Laurence?’’  No answer comes.  ‘‘I’ll need to ponder that David – consoles me?’’
 I trudge on till the path descends to the beach at Gullane Point – for the next hour I hug the coast through glorious linksland – all the way to Dirleton – where my cousin has transformed a local tavern into an award-winning bistro.  The waiter, Andy, recognises me – ‘‘they’re all through the back’’ he says – ‘‘who are?’’ – ‘‘your family’’.  And there they are – my favourite cousins – the whole gang – three generations – including the newest toddler, Gabriella – who’s gorgeous.  Impromptu celebrations are the best – two hours – everyone telling stories – reminiscing – laughing.  I had great fish and chips – then Luca’s ice cream.
 Driving back up the Al after dark, I consider some of the things which console me.  Fish and chips – ice cream – skylarks and beaches – certainly music and books.  But if David asked me that question now my answers would be – friendship.  Ultimately, I believe, we’re consoled by love.

Our social enterprise community is frequently urged to blur our differences with private business – in order to attract more investment.  The latest such advocate is Doug Richard – chair of the Conservative Party Small Business Taskforce.  Personally, I don’t believe that anonymous investment for profit sits well with what we do – but others disagree.  Attracting investment while preserving an asset lock has innate tensions – and eventually comes down to percentages.  Sara Burgess, the CIC Regulator, has judged that the CIC dividend cap should be 35% of a company’s distributable profits. (see below)  I think she’s got the balance about right.  The official Social Enterprise Mark (SEM) – sponsored by the English Govt’s Office of the Third Sector – will shortly announce their criteria – including a Social Enterprise dividend cap. Whitehall would have the third sector uncomfortably close to the market.

Last week, we featured the changes being made by the CIC Regulator, Sara Burgess, with regard to the level of dividends CICs can pay. She kindly sends us a statement offering further clarification on her thinking behind these changes – which take effect from April 2010. Read more, 

The third sector stands alongside faith groups – campaign organisations – trades unions etc as ‘civil society’ and in many important respects we share a common vision for society.  Senscot is one of the partners in calling a Civil Society Summit in Edinburgh on Feb 18th as a step towards creating a platform for more effective joint working.  If you’d like to attend contact   Read more 

Senscot offers support to several geographical social enterprise networks (SENs) across Scotland – but also to thematic ones: Sport – Culture – Health – Coalfields.  The thematic SENs in particular have recently attracted a level of energy (and funding) which merits a more focussed level of engagement. For example, the relationship between social enterprise and health, in particular, has only scratched the surface. In the year ahead, Senscot is hoping to extend this model in new areas such as Youth and Justice.  

At the start of every year, Senscot invites financial donations from readers who wish to contribute to the cost of producing this bulletin.  Not a condition – but your support is a real encouragement.  Senscot’s governance is accountable to our company members – around 100 self-selecting individuals who support our work – submit the application form and pay an average of £25. Company members elect trustees at our AGM.  There’s a new link on our home page for online donations.  Read more.

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: Edinburgh Advocacy Representation Service (EARS), The Scottish Huntington’s Association , The Scottish Government, Theatre Nemo, The Soil Association Scotland, Camphill Blair Drummond, Quarriers, Penumbra, Scottish Network for Families Affected by Drugs
EVENTS:  View from the centre, 23 Feb; HISEZ Annual Conference, 26 Feb; SROI, 9 Mar; Introduction to business planning and strategy & measuring social impact, 10 Mar; CRNS 5th Annual Conference, 17 Mar

NETWORKS NEWS:  Colin writes: As Laurence reports in this week’s bulletin (see above), our work supporting thematic networks has been gathering pace over recent months. This is reflected in bespoke events over the coming months looking at social enterprise in relation to Health, Sports, Coalfield communities and the Cultural sector. In line with this, we’re particularly pleased to announce that, with the support of the Robertson Trust and Sports Scotland, we will be recruiting a new member of staff to work specifically with sports-related social enterprises. We’ll have more news on this next week. For more Networks News, see

Our Network has long been enthusiastic about the support of early stage social entrepreneurs – a process now impressively led in Scotland by Firstport.  The attached article offers a glimpse of start-up funding on the English landscape – and seems to reflect a picture at best static.  In Scotland however, the availability of our Govt’s £1m social entrepreneurs fund has resulted in a 60% increase in awards – from 54 to 87 over the last year.  The attachment includes comments from Firstport’s CEO Naomi Johnson.

The Social Enterprise Academy is currently recruiting for its Post Graduate Certificate in Social Enterprise for 2010. This is the second year of the programme. The first year is about to reach completion and has had 18 participants that have included Housing Association Managers, start-up social entrepreneurs and community activists from cultural and faith-based organizations. If you interested, see

On a recent visit to London I met with Mark Johnson – founder of the charity Uservoice and himself a former drug user.  Hearing some of his life experience – including prison – it struck me what a valuable influence he would be in shaping public policy.  In this deeply felt piece for the Guardian, he writes about the misery and waste of the methadone programme and pleads for more emphasis on abstinence – based recovery.  He makes a compelling case.

This week’s bulletin profiles an emerging social enterprise in Edinburgh that seeks to fill a gap in quality theatre provision for 8-25 year olds in the city. Strange Town works with a wide range of artists; actors, designers, directors, writers, musicians and dancers, to explore creative possibilities and to offer links to the profession for young people. Already, Strange Town is active in a number of Edinburgh schools and is one of the founding members of the Network of Youth Theatres in Edinburgh.  For more, see

The death has occurred of much loved rugby commentator Bill McLaren, who brought a touch of class to our enjoyment of rugby internationals over the years.  He epitomised that generation of icons – Carpenter, Arlott, Longhurst etc. – who became identified with the sport they loved.  The advent of professionalism saddened Bill and when colleagues praised the physicality of spear tackles and the like, Bill didn’t agree – said they were dangerous should be outlawed.  His death symbolises for me the passing of a gentler, more forgiving age – where I’d rather live. At the last match he commentated on, the crowd sang ‘‘for he’s a jolly good fellow’’ – as if to a friend.  I never met Bill – yet we all felt we knew him.  That’s a great gift.  I enjoyed Allan Massie’s tribute in the Scotsman.

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

Best wishes,

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