Senscot Bulletin: 24.10.14

Dear members and friends,

 At the barbers – awaiting my turn – chap ahead catches my attention; my age but a more distinguished presence – used to being obeyed. When the barber says his name I recognise it – a retired (and knighted) captain of industry. Reminded of once being in the company of Alex Ferguson – in his Man U days; same commanding presence – with an edge of ‘don’t mess’. Over the years I’ve met several such alpha males – they have a kind of ‘forcefield’ around them.
 During much of my life – this was the model of leadership I understood and respected – but not now; I no longer believe in heroes – or that we become enlightened by imagining ‘figures of light’ to follow. As Buddhists say – the human experience is essentially one of anxiety – for which there is no enduring solution; all we can do is try to make our own darkness conscious – and soldier on. By doing our best each day – for ourselves, our work, those we care about – we can bring meaning to our story.
 This philosophical ground is beautifully covered in Leonard Cohen’s ballad ‘Anthem’: “ring the bells that still can ring – forget your perfect offering – there is a crack – a crack is everything – that’s how the light gets in”. Cohen’s gift is to observe that great leaders and perfect solutions are illusions – that whatever wisdom we attain – comes to us through the cracks of our own failings; through the ‘brokenness’ of things. I find this a very hopeful message. (Leonard Cohen discuss Anthem

“The vigor and abundance of voluntary action – undertaken by citizens not under the direction of any authority wielding the power of the state – is one of the distinguishing marks of a free society”. This was the assertion of William Beveridge – in his historic 1948 report. Most states around the world, now realise that they have a level of welfare provision they can no longer afford. An obvious solution is to bring ‘cheaper’ civil society activity, increasingly under state control. Heidi Sandberg discusses the Swedish experience  Most critically, this trend threatens the independence of our sector to challenge government policy – to campaign to change laws. We welcome the guidance note published by OSCR last week – confirming that, under Scottish law, charities have “a strong right to campaign politically”. See,

The Smith Commission has more to worry about than the autonomy of the Scottish third sector from London dictat; but hopefully it will establish a protocol for the ongoing reform of dysfunctional structures. Abuse of the Community Interest Company (CIC) model – by rogue single traders – threatens the credibility of this segment. Scotland needs our own regulator. We are also very poorly served by the national endowments – like NESTA, UNLTD etc. – all embedded in the culture of Westminster. There are many UK national charities with only a cursory understanding of the Scottish social policy context. The model should be autonomous sister organisations – rather than remote outposts of London think. See,

The present stream of civil society energy is very exciting; I wish someone would create an online hub – offering an objective overview of all this activity; where it connects or doesn’t. In our democracy – the electoral system eventually requires that you have a Party; with a manifesto – a Slate of Candidates – thousands of volunteers to knock on doors. The only truly progressive politicians just now are the Greens (almost Utopian); if the various civil society groupings, calling for change – were to converge on the Scottish Greens – it would make them a realistic electoral option. Maybe this is already happening. See,

What Joy!  A voluntary sector leader in England said last week what Senscot has been arguing for 10 years. That for much of the third sector – where a strong business model is simply not possible – to get involved in debt finance is absolutely the wrong thing. Kathy Evans, CEO of Children England, told an event run by Civil Exchange, that if we turn ourselves into something that looks like a private company – we kill our business model.  We can raise money from things beyond the reach of the private sector; ours is the only part of the UK economy not saddled with debt. – why should we compromise our future.  See,

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Mellow Parenting, Hadeel Fair Trade Palestinian Craft Shop, Edinburgh University Students’ Association, Social Investment Scotland, Trellis, Transition Extreme Sports Ltd
EVENTS: Celebration of Creativity, 29 Oct; Portobello Market, 1 Nov; Aberdeen Investment Readiness Workshop, 6 Nov; Dundee Investment Readiness Workshop, 11 Nov;
TENDERS: Hebridean Way Walking Route, New Skatepark – Berryhill Park, Cowie – David Adamson & Partners Ltd and Services for Homeless Households with complex needs – South Lanarkshire Council.

The SENs Weekly Update; Kim writes: This week, the SEN Co-ordinators met in Dundee, hosted by Dundee SEN. As always, there was a full agenda with sharing information and ideas across the SENs as well as some lively discussion on a number of specific issues that have and will have an impact on the SENs, their members and the wider social enterprise community in Scotland. These included the SE Code; the participation of SENs and their members in the development of a new SE Strategy for Scotland; as well as the ongoing issue of the consistency and level of financial resource dedicated to supporting social enterprises through the Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs). Senscot plans to continue working with VAS, TSIs, SENs and Scottish Govt to see how this situation can be improved. We will be discussing these matters further at our up-and-coming SE Conference and Ceilidh. For more info’, contact
For more SENs News, see

Deadline for Dragons’ Den applications for this year’s SE Conference and Ceilidh is this Monday, 27th Oct. To apply, see . Overnight places are now very limited – but we can accommodate more day delegates. For booking form, email
We have also now finalised our programme. See,

Following the success of last year’s inaugural Social Entrepreneurs’ Chat Show, the Melting Pot is hosting ‘round 2’ on Wednesday. 19th November (4.45-6.45pm). On the couch this time will be Frankie Hodge (Recycle Fife); Marian MacDonald (The Engine Shed); and Simon Turner (The Crags Community Sports Centre). The Show will be filmed in front of a live studio audience – with the three social entrepreneurs candidly sharing their personal stories. To book your place, see

This week is ‘Good Money Week’ (GMW) – which focusses on getting people to think about what our money is doing to improve society and the environment.  As part of GMW, the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) is coordinating the first international campaign by values based financial institutions across the world.  The GABV is a global movement of social banks that exists to use banking to bring about change in society.  This initiative chimes with the work of the Scottish Community Re-Investment Trust (SCRT) – which has the aim to use our own third sector resources to finance our work in a way that magnifies our positive impact upon society. More news on this in the coming weeks, see

This week’s bulletin profiles a new social enterprise that aims to act as a hub for Glasgow’s growing Gaelic-speaking community. Coffee and Craic, opening within the next week in Finnieston, will be a cafe for the Gaelic community to meet, access learning classes and materials, speak with others at various levels; bring their children who are studying Gaelic medium education, and other interested individuals who want to learn more about the Gaelic culture and heritage. Coffee and Craic has been supported by Firstport’s Ditto programme and has already raised over £2k through a crowdfunding initiative to bring in a Gaelic tutor to run regular classes. For more, see

Are you watching ‘The Human Universe’ with Brian Cox – our minds can’t grasp the scale of the universe – which he thinks might be ‘infinite’.  He quotes Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.
 “Consider again that dot [Earth].  That’s here.  That’s home.  That’s us.  On it everyone you love, everyone you know, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.  The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam… for small creatures such as we – the vastness is bearable only through love.”

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