Senscot Bulletin: 24.02.17

Dear members and friends,

It has always been important to me to have ‘favourite’ restaurants – where I become a ‘kent face’ – usually eating alone, but part of the social world – like ‘neighbourhoods’.  The food has to be taken seriously; the rooms clean and warm – good light; the morale of the staff is important – professionally courteous but also cheerful because they’re respected; finally, the interaction of customers with all this, imparts a unique ‘ambience’ (or not).  Saturday lunchtime finds me in a current ‘howf’ – a child friendly ‘farm deli and café’ outside Edinburgh – looking over the Forth estuary.
            Someone I know called Clare arrives with her two, nursery age, wee boys – I used to work with her partner Andy; tables are scarce – invite them to mine – she looks unwell.  The corner is set-up with toys – kids straight over.  Then Clare is eating her soup – telling me she is receiving chemotherapy for a tumour – very matter of fact – how the scans and stats indicate excellent chance of remission.  She acknowledges her fear and I feel admiration for her courage/stoicism.  From the ephemera of my weekend Guardian to the reality of life and death.
            Then Clare goes to the loo to take some medication – could I keep an eye on the kids.  They’ve discovered a sand tray – peacefully occupied – not going anywhere – arrived already.  Clouds clear – sunlight on the windows – on our table – in my face.  In his book ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ Haruki Murakami says “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”.  I reflect on the truth of this.


Senscot’s annual invitation for financial donations from readers wishing to contribute to the cost of producing this bulletin is nearing its end – last couple of weeks! 95 individuals have signed up to date – giving an average of £25 to become full company members. Each year, we target 100 – so a few more to go. Senscot’s board is elected by and is accountable to these members. We also invite donations from individuals (donors) or organisations (associate members) who simply want to support what we do. Please check here – that we haven’t missed your name out. To join or donate, see members page.


Thatcherism could never have so overwhelmingly captured the UK without the (silent) approval of the liberal left – the Blairite Guardianista’s who became Thatcher’s children.  It is relevant to ask to what extent the emergence of Trump was also ‘allowed’ by such silent – even subconscious – assent across the board.  Personally, I admit some enjoyment of his present calculated mayhem – the complacency of a pampered establishment and smug media – turned to consternation – what’s not to enjoy: except that this is an unstable egomaniac – unfit for public office.  It’s important that we don’t start to ‘normalise’ Trump – and as a prerequisite to being rid of him we need to be clear about the clever game he’s playing – the ‘faux anarchy’ bits we enjoy. As Frankie Boyle says in his (a bit rude) article ‘declined’ by the Guardian:“Trump’s base are people who believe that the U.S is a country run by elites enabled by mainstream media propaganda. Which, awkwardly, it is”.


I’m a fan of Michael Sandel, the American political philosopher who wrote ‘What Money Can’t Buy’. In this interview with the New Statesman, editor Jason Cowley (June 2016), he speaks about the failure of mainstream social democratic parties across Europe – how over recent decades they have lost their moral energy and purpose. Sandel calls on social democrats, not only to articulate a fresh vision of a just society – but also forms of political participation that could renew the democratic promise. Stirring piece.


One of the most persistent disappointments of my time in the third sector has been our inability to create our own banking mechanisms around the values of equity and mutuality eg. the recent demise of Airdrie Savings Bank. The Trusts and Charities of our social sector have billions of pounds – dispersed across, frankly promiscuous financial institutions; imagine the impact of these funds acting in collaboration. The Co-op Bank (once again for sale) is probably the nearest we got to a credible player. Eccentric billionaire required to lead the social economy.
NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Creative Carbon Scotland, Community Enterprise, Mull and Iona Community Trust, Eco Drama, Social Investment Scotland, With Kids, Victim Support Scotland, Pilton Community Health Project
EVENTS: How to Bid and Win! for the Third Sector, 28 Feb; Retail Resilience: Buying, 1 Mar; Social Enterprise: Start-up Awareness, 1 Mar; Advanced Facilitation Training (Edinburgh), 7 Mar;
TENDERS: Challenge Fund – Childcare, Grant Opportunity – Stirling Council; Community Based Support – East Ayrshire Council; Transport and Delivery of Meals on Wheels Service – Shetland Islands Council.  Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.
The SENs Weekly Update: One of the success stories in recent years has been the impact made by the Community Jobs Scotland programme (CJS). At the Gathering this week, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon announced a new round of funding – with a further £6.1m being pledged to help create new job opportunities for 16-29 year olds. Since it started 6 years ago, CJS, managed by SCVO, has help over 7,000 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds find employment. During this time, a good number of SEN members have participated in the programme – offering both placements as well as employment opportunities to scores of youngsters – and providing mutual benefits both to individual young people involved as well as to local social enterprises and communities across Scotland. See Nicola Sturgeon’s full speech.


Senscot has now recruited a new Research and Communications Officer – following interviews on Tuesday. We’re delighted to be welcoming Eddie Nisbet to Senscot. Eddie has a background in journalism having worked with both the Daily Record and STV. His role will involve research on policy developments (including briefing papers and position statements) on themes relevant to SEN members; overseeing Senscot’s web and social media presence; as well as collating existing and new information and data relevant to the work of Senscot and our partner organisations. Eddie will be starting with us on Monday, 13th March.


Following on from last week’s story about the ‘early actions’ being supported by Scottish Govt in advance of production of the SE Action Plan – here is a breakdown of the £900k being allocated – who will be doing what – and with whom. Amongst these, Senscot will be hosting a Partnership and Procurement Hub in partnership with Social Firms Scotland, the Scottish Community Alliance and Co-operative Development Scotland. A feasibility study into how a consortia model could work for local SENs is also on the cards.


It is currently fashionable for journalists to write about Universal Basic Income (UBI) – The Observer did a useful two-page spread; but most articles are repetitive ‘fluff’ – referencing the same ‘possible’ feasibility studies and pilots. I’m resolved to only visit this topic when something is actually happening. This piece from Canada says that the Province of Ontario has a budget commitment to roll out UBI pilots in several locations; it links to preparatory documents which seem a bit more rigorous and credible than usual.


The SE Exchange takes place on Tuesday, 21st March at the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh. Costs – SES members – £75 + VAT; Other SE delegates – £100 + VAT; Some bursaries available too. See link to book.


This week’s bulletin profiles the charity subsidiary of Cunninghame Housing Association in Ayrshire. Cunninghame Furniture Recycling Company (CFRC) was established in 2010 as a free and convenient service for those who want to get rid of unwanted furniture and white goods in an ethical manner and a valuable resource for those looking to furnish their home at an affordable price. CFRC is Revolve Accredited and since 2010 has helped more than 1700 households to furnish their homes; diverted over 200 tonnes of unwanted furniture and white goods from landfill; and provided 25 training and employment opportunities for previously unemployed Ayrshire residents.


The influential American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham (1894-1991) had an inspirational understanding of each individual’s responsibility to their own unique artistic expression.


“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.  The world will not have it.  It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions.  It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.  You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.  You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you, keep the channel open.’’


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210