Senscot Bulletin: 23.10.09

Dear members and friends,

 I recently revisited Jean Giono’s beautiful wee book ”The Man Who Planted Trees” – about a simple French shepherd called Bouffier who, over 4 decades, plants hundreds of thousands of acorns and other seeds – creating a great forest – restoring the ruined ecosystem of a desolate valley.  It’s a ‘feel-good must-read.’  Saturday’s glorious sunshine had me out on my knees planting bulbs – listening to the footy – when a man from the Council appears at my fence.  ”The graveyard faucet is leaking,” he says ”this plan says the stopcock is in your garden – that can’t be right.”  ”I think that’s it there,” I say.  Don’t mention that when I took this cottage, there was no front garden – that I’ve ‘borrowed’ a five metre strip from the village green.  I’ve got 500 daffodil bulbs to spread around our wee clachan and though it’s hard, repetitive work I’m sustained by the spirit of Bouffier.
 I like to think that there is also a social eco-system which nurtures human society.  I reckon that over 4 decades I’ve been involved in around 50 social plantings – some of which, in their turn, begat offspring.  Of course not all acorns become great oak trees – some of our social saplings wither – or are destroyed by storms – but that’s not the point.  There’s a quotation on my pin-board from T.S Eliot which says: ”For us, there is only the trying.  The rest is not our business.”

If you asked me the most useful way to delineate the Third Sector – I would say that it falls naturally into three sub sectors – the voluntary – the community – and the social enterprise sectors: Senscot has advanced this perspective for years.  You can imagine our satisfaction then when in June the Supporting Voluntary Action Think Tank published its vision for future third sector infrastructure as follows: ”Our vision is of an independent infrastructure which has the capacity, capability, and confidence to lead a strong and thriving voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, in Scotland.”  SVA is the biggest third sector support programme ever – (around £20m) and has the support of the entire establishment (Govt., Lottery, SCVO etc) – so this was a major breakthrough.  But wait a minute!  When the final Think Tank report was published this month the vision has shrunk to: ”an independent infrastructure which has the capacity to lead and serve the third sector.”  The report says that the term ‘third sector’ is interchangeable with ‘voluntary sector.’  So basically nothing has changed.  Senscot and the SSEC (Coalition) have written to the Govt. pointing out that we don’t acknowledge SCVO as representing the social enterprise sector.  Here’s our letter.  If we get a reply we’ll publish it.

I recently watched a programme on BBC about the youth orchestra in the Raploch in Stirling: The Big Noise, as it is called, is inspired by La Sistema in Venezuela, which has created over 100 youth orchestras – mostly in very poor communities.  I found the programme very moving – especially watching the nursery and primary one tots – the sense that these wee ones have unlimited potential.  There is some really good work being done – by really dedicated people – heartening.  Here’s an extract of Richard Holloway talking about The Big Noise.

Academics can be helpful to practitioners in the third sector – as long as they’re kept in their place.  The community development profession is an example of things getting out of balance – of the tail wagging the dog.  The attached is a flyer for an academic seminar called ”Social Enterprise and Social and Economic Theory”.  Some of the themes caught my interest.  Does Scotland need a debate about a theoretical framework to underpin our movement.

According to the Scotsman on Wednesday, our top politicians are to plead with Lloyds Bank in the dispute with Lloyds TSB Foundation Scotland.  This looks like a move by London to impose control and uniformity.  I spent several years as the Scottish runt of a London based charity – which made me a warrior for independence.  The Scottish Foundation needs our support.  The loss of these old mutual’s is a betrayal of the history of our movement?

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: Almond Enterprises Ltd, Spruce Carpets, Church of Scotland, Penumbra, Princess Royal Trust, Lothian Centre for Integrated Living (LCiL), Health in Mind, East Fife Women’s Aid, Bethany Christian Trust, Hyzone, Scottish Churches Housing Action, Barnardo’s Scotland, North East Scotland Credit Union
EVENTS: Funding Issues Conference, 27 Oct; Crafting The Arts: Voluntary Arts Scotland’s Conference, 31 Oct; The Radical Book Fair, Out of the Blue, 1 Nov; Basics of Being an Employer, DTAS, 3 Nov;

NETWORKS NEWS:  Colin writes: is now ready to accept full registration and tenders!  Senscot, in partnership with CEiS and Social Firms Scotland, and with support from the Scottish Government has developed ‘Ready for Business’, a register for social enterprises, to promote Community Benefit Clauses and to offer support to social enterprises interested in bidding for tenders by building consortia. Ready for Business will highlight tender opportunities in procurement portals such as Public Contracts Scotland. For more Networks News, see
The Scottish Govt. doesn’t really understand the workings of our community sector – a silent army counted in thousands – one of the great untold stories of our time.  Senscot is supporting the Community Development Alliance Scotland (CDAS) to host a conference in Stirling on 10th November which will focus on the fundamental role communities play in making Scotland a wealthier and fairer place to live.  Strong bunch of speakers, including our own Colin and Dave Simmers (CFINE) an Aberdeen SEN member.

Speaking at the SNP conference on Friday, John Swinney said, ”we have been working with the third sector and our local authority partners to ensure that the third sector has a strong place at the top table of decision making in Scotland.”  I’d much rather spread optimism than doom and gloom, but sometimes Mr Swinney’s observations sound like wishful thinking.  Senscot’s research and feedback indicates that many local authorities don’t take the role of the third sector, and the proposed single interface very seriously.  At a recent conference in Cumbernauld the minister made it clear that he intends to confront Community Planning Partnerships that fail to include the third sector at the top table.  We’ll see
The question of which legal form a social enterprise should adopt has no answer really – because it depends on the philosophy, personality and aims of the founding entrepreneur or group.  I found the Guardian piece about this helpful – I think that now I nearly understand the benefits of the CIC model.
This week the bulletin profiles The Gladiator Programme in Glasgow. Set up in 1986 by Alex Richardson in a coal bunker in Kildermorie, Gladiators runs a wide range of physical activities for children and young people. The Programme now owns two venues, organises over 350 gala events each year, delivers services in over 2,200 venues, generating 2/3 of its own income, and still remains true to its roots running local after schools & night time play halls free of charge for all children.
The fabric of society is not held together by the economy or the welfare state but ultimately by the informal exchanges of support among families, friends, neighbours, communities etc.  This beautiful poem describes the gathering of friends around a bereavement.  The Unprofessionals by U. A. Fanthorpe. 
When the worst thing happens, that uproots the future – that you must live for every hour of your future – they come – unorganised, inarticulate, unprofessional; they come sheepishly, sit with you, holding hands – from tea to tea, from Anadin to Valium – sleeping on put-you-ups, answering the phone – coming in shifts, spontaneously – talking sometimes, about wallflowers, and fishing, and why – dealing with Kleenex and kettles – doing the washing up and the shopping – like civilians in a shelter, under bombardment, holding hands and sitting it out – through the immortality of all the seconds, until the blunting of time.

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

Best wishes,

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