Senscot Bulletin: 30.10.09

Dear members and friends,

 Barak Obama says that his favourite TV programme is ‘The Wire’ – his favourite character, Omar Little – snap – me too!  I’ve now watched all 5 seasons of the series – 60 one hour DVDs –impressed that the US TV industry makes programmes of this quality and honesty.  ‘The Wire’ depicts a world where untethered capitalism has triumphed completely – to the extent that the social fabric has unravelled.  Business interests control enough politicians to prevent change; all the characters are compromised by the institutions they serve – rebels are spat out.  West Baltimore, where much of the action happens is a poor, black community devastated by drugs and violence.  The main storyline portrays the war of attrition between the police force and the drug dealers – but wider social issues are addressed.  It’s hard, bleak stuff.
 Where ‘The Wire’ is different is that the viewpoints of all the characters are shown in an unvarnished but even handed way.  We’re allowed to glimpse the humanity of the ‘bad guys’ as well as the police – the moral complexity of real life.  Omar, my favourite character, is an armed robber.  These 60 episodes tell harrowing stories – but they are told with compassion and affection for the characters.  They keep faith with the courage of ordinary people to somehow endure – with humour.  Baltimore could easily be a Scottish city – I feel part of these people – engaged in the same timeless struggles.

Discussing the so-called `single interface`, some colleagues argue that it is not for Govt to determine how we organise and represent ourselves – that the social enterprise sector should ignore this new arrangement. But the message seems to be, that henceforth Community Planning Partnerships will be the only game in town; So Senscot and the Coalition wrote to the Minister explaining that our approach is sufficiently different to the traditional voluntary sector to merit our own seat at the top table. Even allowing for civil servant speak – the Govt reply seems to indicate that they heard what we’re saying – I think? – discussion continues.

You may be aware that Senscot and the Scottish Coalition commissioned a simple study to count the number of times Scotland’s 32 current Single Outcome Agreements (SOAs) mention social enterprise.  Only one – East Dunbartonshire – mentions it as relevant to all four sections of its SOA. Here`s the report The chief executive of E.D. Council at that time was Sue Bruce who has now moved to Aberdeen and she hasn’t wasted any time in making contact with the flourishing Aberdeen social enterprise network (ASEN).  This week, ASEN made a presentation to the Council`s Heads of Service. Future meetings are planned with individual directors to look a procurement opportunities. This is an example of how the emerging local interfaces could work where council officials understand what social enterprises can deliver.

Specialist commentators on the world microfinance sector say that it has reached a ‘moment of reckoning’ in the debate over whether the industry should be prioritising profits for investors or the wellbeing of the poor.  Muhammad Yunus, who invented microfinance 32 years ago, is in no doubt – but some imitators (like Compartamos in Mexico) are public companies which charge the poor 100% interest.
 Senscot believes that the social enterprise sector should head off this problem – make it clear that only businesses with a transparent asset lock are part of our movement.  This is why we support rigorous qualification criteria for a social enterprise mark – to regulate our sector – keep out the chancers.  There are lots of private business which do good things – the more the merrier; but a social enterprise has an asset lock – period.

My pal has a skip business – recycles the contents from two transfer stations one serving Glasgow – the other Edinburgh.  Each depot shifts around one thousand tons of waste a week but the scrap metal recovered from the East is double that from the West – he showed me the stats.  I believe that this is a graphic illustration of an entrenched poverty divide in Scotland.  Generations of hardship make people conscious of waste.  Glasgow has more people on benefit, because it has more poverty.  Politicians need to stop blaming poverty on its victims.

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: 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: The LSEN Reps group met this week to have its first look at the `Model Rules` for Social Enterprise Networks, based on the LSEN Blueprint. Whilst this legal model may not suit every Network, it does offer a bespoke legal structure for LSENs, specifically designed to enhance the benefits of joint working. We’ll be speaking to individual Networks on this topic over the coming months. If you have any queries, please contact
For more on this and other Networks News, see

Earlier this year, Scotland’s Councils of Voluntary Service (CVS) decided that they wanted more autonomy – so they broke away from SCVO and formed the new Voluntary Action Scotland (VAS). VAS has announced that membership of the new organisation will now embrace Scotland’s Volunteer Centres – and that they want to talk to the social enterprise community about extending this further. We need to consider carefully where we position our movement on the shifting landscape.


RISE has contacted us this week to inform us that the formal national launch of the Social Enterprise Mark will now take place at Voice 10 –  being held next year in Cardiff (1st-2nd February). Originally planned for next month, the new launch date will allow for higher levels of publicity at both a national and local level. If you`d like to know more, contact For more, see

The Scottish Community Foundation is an established grant maker which distributes around £3.5m yearly across a whole range of themes. SCF is currently seeking to appoint new members to its Grants Committee.

This week’s bulletin profiles an Aberdeen SEN member who produced the leaflets for yesterday’s ASEN presentation to Aberdeen Council’s Corporate Management Team. Iceberg Design and Print is a new social enterprise set up in 2008 by the Cyrenians. They have a fully equipped modern print-shop providing design, commercial print, full colour digital output, large format printing and much more. Iceberg is run as a community interest company all profits going to help the work of the Cyrenians. Their customer base now includes the private, public and third sectors. For more, see

The Zen Master – Shunryn Suzuki (1905-1971) said ‘‘there is no set path for us.  Moment after moment we have to find our own way.  Some idea of perfection set by someone else is not the true way for us.  Each of us must make our own way – and when we do, that will express the universal way.  This is the mystery.  When you understand one thing through and through, you understand everything.  The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything.  The search for our essential self is life’s mission and only resting place.”

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

Best wishes,

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