Dear members and friends,
The Big Issue has been on the streets of Scotland since 1993 and over 15 years – from thousands of vendors – a great deal has been learned about life on the edge of society. The package they offer – steady work and associated support – helps many to stabilize their lives and move on. But particularly in Glasgow – laid waste by the industrial tsunami of recent history – thousands remain stuck in a vagrant, demoralised lifestyle – with devastating levels of self-harming and suicide.
I was through in Glasgow on Tuesday for the annual awards ceremony which celebrates the achievements of Big Issue sellers who have stabilised their lives – relatively. It’s a gathering of everyone involved – volunteers, staff, trustees, funders, friends – all of us kept grounded by the raucous banter of the vendors. Speak to a guy around 30 – with a lived in face: “I’m Laurence,” I say “a trustee, on one of the committees.” “Willie,” he replies “been selling for 2 years. If I hadn’t found the Issue I’d be deid.” This said without affectation – as though his grip on life remains fragile. The smell of drink – he’s neither drunk nor sober – his eyes convey a mixture of stoicism, humour and suffering. I register again how `real` the Big Issue’s work is – the ferocity of poverty – how close despair and death are for some people. Perhaps for this very reason I never fail to be moved and humbled by these occasions.
Until it was ‘nobbled’ by persons unknown, the SVA Think Tank, charged with modernising third sector infrastructure in Scotland, agreed three demarcations – voluntary, community and social enterprise. https://senscot.net/?viewid=8936 It’s a no brainer really what is required – three differentiated strategies – three representative bodies – coming together when appropriate as a third sector coalition. The current campaign to impose a `single interface` – whether at national or local level – has to recognise these distinct elements. This is particularly the case with the community sector – the least developed but with the most potential to grow social capital. As it did successfully with the social enterprise sector, Govt should now co-ordinate a differentiated strategy for the community sector and stop pretending that we’re all the same. Senscot is pulling together a short, position statement to which we invite contributions. The established order will only change if enough people demand it.
Last week saw the publication of the first ever ‘State of Social Enterprise’ survey. Commissioned by SE Coalition (England) and including the support of our own Scottish Coalition. Headline figures suggest there are 62,000 social enterprises in the UK contributing £24billion to the UK economy. In spite of the economic downturn, 56% have increased their turnover during the last 12 months and are confident of future growth. The survey also states that, compared to other small businesses, the sector could be described as `women-led`. See more, https://senscot.net/?viewid=8934
I’m following with interest the work on ‘community share issues’ which is being advanced with Govt. support in England. Ventures like community shops, pubs or energy generation – seem ideally suited for this type of investment and ownership. Senscot would like to hear of any Scottish exemplars to showcase. We could facilitate the availability of models rules and legal templates. See more, https://senscot.net/?viewid=8928
A chap called Alex Sobell from Yorkshire has pledged to buy nothing during November except from a social enterprise. His blog – reporting his progress – has attracted quite a following – including me. The inclusion of Waitrose (part of the John Lewis workers co-operative) means he won’t starve – but he says he’s missing his fish suppers. When I worked in Wester Hailes, the community owned two chippy’s. See more https://senscot.net/?viewid=8927
It would be a considerable boon to the social enterprise movement if there was an efficient way of demonstrating the social benefits of our work. Scottish and English govt’s have together invested £1m to develop SROI (Social Return on Investment) which they seem to prefer to the other popular system SAA (Social Accounting and Audit). But Senscot staff, who spend time with front line practitioners, report murmerings – that this issue is not sorted yet. Here’s a challenging article from Mike Gordon who seems to favour SAA in this month’s Social Enterprise Mag. See more https://senscot.net/?viewid=8932
NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but submit jobs and events and we’ll post them on our site. See http://www.senscot.net/jobsevents.php. This week:
JOBS: The Three Eyes Project, Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland, Community Enterprise, Almond Enterprises Ltd, Comrie Development Trust, Church of Scotland, Victim Support Scotland, Barnardo’s Scotland, The British Red Cross, Midlothian Sure Start, The Graphics Company Ltd;
EVENTS: Community Market 28Nov; Sustainable Innovation Ltd 26Nov; Refurbished Computer Sale 5 Dec; Ride Planet Earth 6Dec; Placemaking Seminar-evaluation & observation 9Dec; Xmas Arts Market 13 Dec
NETWORKS NEWS: Colin writes: Last week’s winners of the first Scottish Social Enterprise Awards – the Breadmaker, Social Enterprise Clydebank and Alloa Community Enterprises.- all go forward to the UK finals at an event to be held in London next month. The online voting website is now live today allowing people across the UK to cast their vote. Get your vote in now to support some fellow SEN members. Here’s the link https://senscot.net/?viewid=8896 For more Networks News, see http://www.senscot.net/networks1st/showart.php?articleid=118
Senscot has been a long-term supporter of the campaign for a Community Allowance, whereby benefit claimants can earn some money for community work without affecting their benefits. The Create Consortium is running a pilot programme involving three community organisations – all English: Foresight (Lincolnshire), Learning Links (Portsmouth) and St Peter’s Partnership (Manchester). For more, see https://senscot.net/?viewid=8931
The people who talk most sense about the benefits system are those who work directly with poor people – who know what’s really going on. Faisel Rahman is one such and in this column he calls for a simpler system that helps people step out of benefits progressively. https://senscot.net/?viewid=8929
A speech which I made to the DTAS Annual Conference in June 2008 has lain undisturbed in the Senscot electronic archive ever since – until recently. During the past few weeks around 60 folk have visited it – I can’t help wondering why. It’s called ‘‘The difference between civil and civic’’.
A couple of weeks back, we included an article from George Monbiot on local newspapers entitled ‘Champion of the Overdog’. The article identified the West Highland Free Press (WHFP) as one of the few local newspapers that continues to hold those in power to account. This week we hear that the WHFP has moved into employee ownership. 10 staff now own and run the business. We’d like to wish them well. See more, https://senscot.net/?viewid=8926
This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise in the East End of Glasgow that provides a range of services for children and young people. Playbusters, set up in 2004, has developed a range of services/projects that include environmental projects, play areas, arts projects and intergenerational activities. One of their most recent initiatives is the highly popular Easy Spanish Learning Programme that currently provides classes for up to 120 children, parents and grandparents. See more, http://www.senscot.net/view_prof.php?viewid=8925
Among my favourite browsing books are the Paris Review Interviews by Canongate – who have just published volume 4. I don’t know the work of Paul Auster but am attracted by his insights – here’s a snippet. ‘‘It’s the loss of others that so profoundly affects an older person – and you cant know what that accumulation of losses is going to do to you till you experience it yourself. Most of us are haunted by ghosts – spend as much time talking to the dead as to the living. Life is short, so fragile, so mystifying. After all, how many people do we actually love in the course of a lifetime? Just a few, a tiny few. When most of them are gone, the map of your inner world changes. As my friend George Oppen once said to me about getting old: what a strange thing to happen to a little boy.’’
That’s all for this week. Good luck with your adventures
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