Dear members and friends,
The Neon Rain by James Lee Burke – is the first of 25 crime thrillers which feature deputy sheriff Dave Robicheaux of New Iberia, Louisiana; on Tuesday during a blizzard, I re-read it – straight through. The hero is a recovering alcoholic – who has traumatic flashbacks to the Vietnam war: a tormented soul.
I was struck again by how beautifully this book evokes the American South – which I now want to visit. I want to feel the heat and humidity of summer; to drift with the wildlife among the swamps and bayous; to hear tree frogs; to see amazing skies: "the evening sky was streaked purple, the colour of torn plums." I want to visit the French Quarter in New Orleans; to feel the breeze off Lake Portcharrain; to eat crawfish Jumbo and dirty rice; to sip coffee at the Cafe du Monde.
It’s easy to dismiss crime thrillers as escapist pulp fiction – which of course most are; but they can also be aspects of "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" – the archetypal ‘monomyth’ which humankind will always recount. In Dave Robicheaux we have a solitary, conflicted, compelling anti-hero – a match for the baddest guys in town. But he speaks freely about his nightmares and depression – the recurring impulse to self-destruct. I wonder if our external battles with the bad guys – are ultimately a distraction – that our real struggle is with our inner demons.
I no longer take seriously reports about social investment (SI) – the hype of strangers – selling snake oil remedies. Great pleasure this week to discover "Shining Armour or Sheep’s Clothing" by Mary Duffy – which takes a more balanced view – describes a world we at Senscot recognise. As well as its benefits – Duffy can see that the SI community is riven with tensions and anomalies – she asks challenging questions about profit, impact, values, and motivations. She calls for open debate about the fundamentals. Most of her work was done in Scotland where she says "There is a sense of cultural identity – deeply uncomfortable with idea of profit distribution applied to social impact work". We can only hope that Duffy develops this work. Highly recommended. See Report summary, https://senscot.net/?viewid=13293
Should Intermediaries (including Senscot) – representing a constituency within the third sector – also deliver Govt contracts? Or is our role to comment on the quality of services – on behalf of users? Development Trusts in England had a members-led Association (DTA) – which became Locality – which last week won a £9.5m contract. The UK Govt has an excellent contractor – but at what cost to the Development Trust movement. This is not an easy tension to resolve – and it will determine the independence of our sector. See, https://senscot.net/?viewid=13294
The Brazilian Archbishop Dom Helder Camara famously said: "When I give to the poor – they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor – they call me a communist." This quote neatly summarises the split in the Catholic Church in South America – between those who support liberation theology – and those who oppose it. George Monbiot asserts that Pope Francis is on the wrong side. See, https://senscot.net/?viewid=13295
I have long believed that social enterprises should be established in prisons – so that inmates can get the hands on feel – and excitement – of trading in real markets (Our friends at Kibble could give some pointers). I understand that Harry Burns – Scotland’s dynamic chief medical officer – has taken up this theme – citing a model operating in San Francisco. I’d love to feel optimistic about this – but I fear the Scottish Prison Service has a long way to go. See, https://senscot.net/?viewid=13296
Scotland’s social enterprise community gathered in Glasgow yesterday for the SE Exchange. Good energy – professionally organised – and good scoff. Congratulations to SES, CEiS and all others involved.
Wednesday’s budget announcement – that the UK Govt. will introduce a new tax relief on social investment in 2014 – will inevitably raise the thorny question of definition; what in legal terms is a social enterprise. Recent research commissioned by Big Society Capital drew attention to "Private companies that are socially motivated" – but have no asset lock. It is difficult to understand how this can work without some regulation of investee organisations. See, https://senscot.net/?viewid=13297
During the past 10 years – as different influences from the south sought to dilute the meaning of social enterprise – our community in Scotland set down the 5 essential ‘Criteria’ by which we recognise each other. Until recently, the Scottish definition was contained in two documents – the 5 Criteria (2009) and the Code of Practice (2012). These have now been merged and shortened into one document – referred to simply as the Scottish Code. See, https://senscot.net/?viewid=13292
NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See http://www.senscot.net/jobsevents.php This week:
JOBS: Scottish Huntington’s Association, ELCAP, North East Arts Touring Ltd, GalGael Trust, Social Care Ideas Factory, Edinburgh University Students Association, Stramash, Partners in Advocacy (PiA)
EVENTS: Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Events, 23 Mar; Making Your Asset More Sustainable : Thursday 11th April – Edinburgh, 11 Apr; Youth Enterprise Nation, 16 Apr
TENDERS: Provision of Employee Counselling Services to North Ayrshire Council and The Economic and Social Value of Gaelic as an Asset. For more details, see www.readyforbusiness.org
NETWORKS 1st: Kim writes: Senscot facilitates quarterly meetings of SEN Co-ordinators – next meeting 17th April in Edinburgh. Next month’s meeting is being opened up to Third Sector Interface (TSI) staff with responsibility for delivering the TSI’s social enterprise function. There has been a great response so far – with 16 TSIs signing up. The meetings provide an opportunity to share information, experiences and offer peer support in relation to social enterprise activity at a local level. All being well, these meetings will build closer ties between SENs and colleagues working in Interfaces and develop further support available to local social enterprises. If you’d like to attend and have not signed up yet, contact firstname.lastname@example.org . For further Networks News, see http://se-networks.net/showbull.php?articleid=284
In 2014, a new 6 year round of European Funding kicks in (2014-20). For the first time, there is explicit reference to social enterprise and community-led local development and the role they can play in ‘complementing public sector efforts, and being pioneers in developing new markets’. Over recent months, Scottish Govt has been hosting a series of information meetings/events across the country. A striking feature of these well attended events was the lack of social enterprise and community sector representation. We need to be careful the train doesn’t leave without us. See, http://www.senscot.net/docs/EuropeanFunding(March2013).doc
Important series of 3 debates – under the Dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in London – on the topic of ‘The Common Good and the City.’ An impressive cast of speakers has been recruited to debate how Christian value might influence the shape of financial and economic institutions in the 21st century. See, www.senscot.net/docs/CityCommonGood.pdf
This week’s bulletin revisits West Lothian to profile a social enterprise that provides specialist video/DVD production and media training for third sector organisations all over Scotland. Broadleaf Community Media, based in Livingston and member of the West Lothian SEN, was established 3 years ago. It was specifically set up to offer tailored media solutions for social enterprises, charities, community groups etc – at affordable prices. They offer a wide range of services from producing DVDs to introductory media courses – all designed to assist third sector orgs produce their own professional media productions. For more, see
American thriller writer James Lee Burke on ‘what’s key to a successful life?’
"You do it a day at a time, I think. If I’ve learned anything it’s that maybe you don’t learn a lot. I feel as young as I was when I was 21. I’m probably a little more patient that I was then, probably less impetuous, but otherwise I think it’s one of the great myths that age brings you great wisdom. What we learn ultimately, I think, is that the things that are valuable really are not purchased with money. It’s one of those admonitions that’s true: Money keeps a mess of grief off your porch, but the things that really count are the things that you never can buy – family and friends, the good life."
That’s all for this week.
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