Senscot Bulletin: 22-02-08

Dear members and friends,

I have an aversion to databases – if possible I refuse to provide information – when there’s no escape I make silly mistakes – vary the way I write my name; DeMarco, Demarco, deMarco, Lawrence, Lorenzo, Larry. The notion of a state computer which holds our masterfile – I find scary. Underlying my paranoia is our society’s worship of money; how in the developed western world, we’ve allowed a few hundred individuals to become so rich that they are more powerful than elected governments. Politicians come and go, but these billionaires, loyal only to what they own, are beyond our reach. They control the money and the media and our elected leaders are frightened of both. When the central state database is operational – and these guys bribe their way into it – they’ll find a Blockbuster card for Renzo Marco, a Tesco card for Lorry Del Morco etc
 Gripping drama on Sunday TV – ‘The Last Enemy’ – first of 5 episodes – it’s got me hooked. Sometime in the near future – there’s been a major terrorist attack – Britain is a police state – security has supplanted democracy – cameras, armed police everywhere – all manner of high tech surveillance – a dastardly Government computer which knits together every recorded fact about everyone in the UK. The whole scenario didn’t seem so farfetched to me. There’s a real life outfit called NO2ID which believes that’s where we’re headed. They’ve already got 40,000 registered supporters – check it out.

Whilst hardly noticed in Scotland – the English Government has created a stooshie by sacking the board which delivered the Futurebuilders Programme – murmurings that it was too slow and had £30m underspend. The newly appointed manager of the £215m fund, the Adventure Capital Fund (ACF), has promised to make investment decisions “sharper, simpler and faster”. But sector analysts are saying this switch of contractors represents a change of emphasis in the Office of the Third Sector; away from nurturing start-up community level organisations – towards more mature investment-ready social enterprises. Stephen Bubb, who chairs, ACF says that the Futurebuilders programme should be about investment not grant giving; about doing sensible deals rather than a lottery that’s driven by an application process. This movement away from reactive grant making towards a proactive investment programme has direct relevance for forthcoming £30m Scottish Investment Fund.
I don’t know of any other youth training programme which has commissioned and published a report about itself which admits that it failed some of its trainees: “The truth is that the start-up of `Fifteen` was messy and the boat left port without all of its sails and supplies ready.” It’s great to see a social enterprise admit that we are trying to do is difficult and complex. Without a thriving restaurant, Fifteen is just another youth skills project unconnected to market realities; without a properly functioning training element it is just a trendy eaterie with a slick line in corporate social responsibility. Getting this balance right is the unique tension of the social enterprise business model.
Stuart Etherington, head of NCVO(National Council for Voluntary Orgs.) wants the third Sector to call itself `civil society` and thereby encompass organisations like trade unions, housing associations building societies, universities etc – even political parties. I haven’t made my mind up on this one – I’ll wait till I read Stephen Maxwell of SCVO`s take – he’s the best analyst I know of Scottish Third Sector Policy. David Brindle in the Guardian has some interesting comment.
The `take` from Senscot`s annual appeal for donations never varies much. No matter how `laid back` or `in your face` we play it – it always amounts to around £6k. So far this year 93 of you have donated £4,300 – muchas gracias. We’ll run it for another 4 weeks for all of you who have `nearly` sent a cheque. Link for details

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: 24 vacancies, incl. posts with: Routes to Work South, Edinburgh Cyrenian Trust, Groundwork UK, Deaf Action, Street Level Photoworks, Rum Community Trust, Princess Royal Trust Borders Carers Centre
EVENTS: 16 events, Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid, 21 Feb, Fife; Final Conference, EQUAL Social Economy Scotland Partnership, 21 Feb, Glasgow;  Mental Health Awareness, 15 Mar, Kirkcaldy; More than Recycling 08, 11 Mar, Perth; S2S Third Annual Social Enterprise Trade Fair, 23 Apr, Dundee

It’s been an active time for SEN members this week. Three local meetings took place – in Clacks, Tayside and Midlothian. There was also the 2nd `Community of Business` event in Aberdeen which was a great success with over 50 people attending. The 3rd in the series takes place in Glasgow on 5th March. On a more serious note, SEN members have been telling us about difficulties being faced at local level with the scrapping of Communities Scotland’s local offices at the end of March as well as cutbacks in local authority funding. For more on this, see Colin’s report
The Social Enterprise Academy looks to be going from strength to strength. This week, they start recruitment for a Programme Manager for their new `Developing Leaders for Sustainable Communities` programme. The initiative is a partnership between the Academy and HIE and will be located in Inverness. For more, see   

On Saturday (tomorrow), SCVO are hosting `the Village Hall Summit` at Aviemore. They expected around 100 folk – but the event has attracted an amazing 250 delegates. Understandably Village Halls are a hot issue in our rural communities.
On Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon announced a £2.5m Transition Fund for Healthy Living Centres in danger of closure as their Lottery funding comes to an end. Transitional help will only be given to those Centres which can negotiate ongoing funding from their Health Board or Local Authority by April 2009. During this period, Scottish Government will be reviewing how NHS boards can better support the Third Sector.
This week’s bulletin profiles the Boulevard Project which hosted this week’s `Community of Business` in Aberdeen. This is a new social firm set up by Inspire, one of Scotland’s largest charities.  Boulevard Project opened last year in brand new premises on Aberdeen Beach Boulevard. They operate a restaurant (cafe coast) and conference facilities, whilst also providing progressive employment, training, recreational and social activities for people with learning disabilities. For more, see

One of the milestones in the evolution of our Third Sector was William Beveridge`s 1947 report, Voluntary Action. In it he identifies citizen activity, separate from the state, as a key distinguishing mark of a free society – a vital check on state power. Beveridge says,
“In a totalitarian society all action outside the citizen’s home, and it may be much that goes on there, is directed or controlled by the State. By contrast, vigour and abundance of Voluntary Action outside one’s home, individually and in association with other citizens, for bettering one’s own life and that of one’s fellows, are the distinguishing marks of a free society”

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

Best wishes,

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