Senscot Bulletin: 23-02-2007

Dear members and friends,

I’ve got fungus growing all over my body – Yuk. Every winter I get itchy – usually just scratch and bear it – but this year it got so bad I showed the doctor – ‘That’s fungal’ he said. The fungicide cream he gave me had no effect – so now he’s prescribed a steroid ointment. ‘Use that sparsely ‘he says, ‘it can harm the skin.’
 Sunshine cures my winter itch – so I’ve been browsing the holiday ads. 4 weeks half-board in Cyprus for £499 – beachside hotel – short stroll from Paphos old town – bright winter sunshine. But it’ll be hundreds of oldies like me – institutional food – afternoon bingo – ballroom dancing – I’d hate it! Anyway I’ve taken against flying. For the young, change is stimulating but now I prefer routine – my own wee house – central heating – home cooking – my bed – even my own pillow is important.
 I’ve swotted up about fungus – how outdoors, especially in woodland, we walk through an invisible mist of microscopic fungus spores. If we don’t go out enough, there’s no diversity and one fungus can take over – run amok. It is recommended that we walk in the woods in light clothing to ensure a healthy variety. This sounds a bit daft in mid winter – but so is smearing steroids on your body. Come the first bright day, I’m out in my Bermuda shorts – hugging a few trees.

By the way, if you`re thinking about Christmas presents, how about giving a friend my book, `You`ve Got To Laugh`.

The more stories I hear about the giant Glasgow Housing Association (GHA), the more I am convinced that this is a rogue institution which has no intention (never had) of transferring its 80,000 houses to community ownership. How can the self interest of a bunch of bureaucrats be allowed to overturn the decision of the Glasgow tenants who employ them and defy the will of Scotland’s government. It’s beyond belief. The fear is that the SNP administration will simply walk away from the mess – blaming Labour. Judging by the recent Housing Green Paper (Firm Foundations), it’s not clear whither the SNP leadership yet understands the compelling arguments in favour of community controlled housing associations. That they act as the anchors for community development and empowerment; for community regeneration and enterprise; for advancing the confidence and competence of our communities to become sustainable. Anyone who knows an SNP politician – get them telt! There’s a massive principle at stake here. In community empowerment terms – this is the Alamo. A reader sends us this.

Social Investment Scotland (SIS) was launched in September 2001 to provide loan finance and technical assistance to social enterprises which though viable, may not be bankable in the conventional sense. The initial £5m investment was provided by Scotland’s 4 clearing banks, the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Highland and Island Enterprise. After 5 years of operation, in March of this year, the public sector agencies commissioned TERU to review SIS and their final report is attached here in PDF format. The report seems to say that SIS has done well enough in the supply side of the equation – but that more effort is required to stimulate demand from our sector for loan finance. Public sector officials are now in discussion with SIS to agree the way forward.

I got a great personal lift from attending the Senscot Ceilidh at New Lanark last Thursday. I think it’s something to do with the experience of meeting so many kindred spirits. Conferences tend to be for suits – the officials and consultants who feed off our sector. When the frontline entrepreneurs take a rare day off to meet each other – something magic happens. This event gets better every year. See attendees`

OSCR has published figures about Scotland’s 24,000 charities. Two thirds of them (16,000) have incomes under £25k which means they barely employ anyone. All our communities have many more informal groups than they have registered charities – so we can assume that around 50,000 projects out there muddle along on incomes between zero and £25k. This is the heart of the community sector – without voice or co-ordination – quietly building communities. They consume less than 1% of voluntary sector income. This is a great untold story.

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: 27 vacancies, incl. posts with: Drake Music Scotland, FirstPort, Forth Sector, Big Issue Scotland, Enable Scotland, Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland
EVENTS: 12 events, incl  ASC Social Firms Network Group, 10 Jan, Edinburgh; Banking the unbanked: Where are we now?, 22 Jan, Glasgow

So far 19 families in Fife have signed up for what is being called The Fife Diet. They are trying to reduce their ecological impact by buying only local food – regardless of season – for one whole year. This means no tea, coffee, wine etc. There’s a good article in Society Guardian about it. I think pasta and coffee would be my undoing.

Jim McCormick, formerly Director of the Scottish Council Foundation, has been appointed as the new Scotland Advisor of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Jim said, ‘I’m delighted to be working with JRF on their key themes of Poverty, Empowerment and Place.’ This looks to us like a well matched collaboration which will benefit Scotland.

A new report by Glasgow Churches Action has found that 315 churches in the city deliver nearly 2000 projects, many in the most deprived areas. Church congregations are embedded in our communities and deliver benefits that are often ‘not recognised or valued.’

This week, Colin attended the launch of the Fife Social Enterprise Strategy. Edinburgh has also published its own local strategy. Do we know of any others? These are important initiatives for the Networks, particularly with local authorities having responsibility for business support and procurement at a local level.

This week’s bulletin profiles a community centre in Greenock that operates a number of social enterprises. Craigend Resource Centre was officially opened in 1995 with the aim of providing the local community with a wide range of resources, information and opportunities. In order to achieve these objectives, they have created a number of social enterprises that not only provide important local services but also provide an important source of revenue for the Centre. These enterprises include the Fruit Barra, a Laundrette and a café. For more, see

 Bill Gates, in a speech at Harvard in June 2007, explained why he had decided to invest $39bn in projects addressing inequality and put the case for social enterprise:

‘If you believe that each life has equal value then it is disgusting to learn than some lives are worth saving and some not…We asked `How could the world let these children die?` The answer is simple, and harsh. The market did not reward saving the lives of these people and governments did not subsidize it. So the children died because their mothers and fathers had no power in the market and no voice in the system. We can make market forces work better for the poor if we develop a more creative capitalism.’ See more

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

Best wishes,

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