Senscot Bulletin: 30-11-07

Dear members and friends,

For most of my life I looked younger than my years – but this is no longer so. An early whiplash injury damaged my neck – which gradually damaged my legs – and now I move with an elderly gait which is still new and strange to me. Though I’m adapting to the slower pace and the unsteadiness, it doesn’t accord with my sense of myself which feels more robust. But I’m stoical and there is advantage in everything. No one minds if I speak to toddlers now – smiles from mums; macho men don’t eyeball me anymore – one dunt would put me on my erse. So gradually my self image will adjust to that of an old guy – sitting on a park bench. Its as well we don’t know what lies ahead of us.
We like to think of our ‘self’ as a stable and constant entity, but the reality is different – a jumble of thoughts and feelings some noble, some shameful. We like to explain our actions from a rational standpoint – but they mostly come from the primal ground of our being which we hardly know. We like to regard our story as the brave unfolding of our ‘true’ self – but its as much a lurching from crisis to crisis. We can only try to open ourselves to all the churning; of joy and suffering; of friendship and betrayal; of laughter and tears. Writer Usula Le Guin wrote: ‘The only thing that makes life possible is a permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.’
Laurence’s book `You’ve Got To Laugh makes an original Christmas gift

I went on Tuesday to hear John Swinney speak to the massed ranks of local government suits about Community Planning (CP).  I’ve only ever seen Swinney at Third Sector events – animated and upbeat.  This was a strangely muted appearance – as though he enjoys our world more.  Asked about the role of local people he said that if Community Planning helps communities build capacity – that’s good and fine- but CPs main purpose is the better co-ordination of services.  He referred to the Third Sector’s generous budget settlement: ‘There are plenty other avenues for community development’.  This is a shift of policy.  Up till now, community regeneration, engagement, empowerment – community everything has been steered through CP.  I wonder if he knows this.
The ‘Local People Leading’ campaign for strong and independent communities in Scotland has issued its latest briefings to supporters.
Community controlled housing associations (CCHAS) are increasingly establishing parallel Development Trusts as vehicles for wider community enterprise activity.  Such diversified CCHAS provide a powerful model of Anchor Organisations with the impact to empower communities.  The governments housing green  paper ‘Firm Foundations’ fails to appreciate this potential and deliberately favours the role of the larger housing associations without local identity.  CCHAS in Glasgow (GWSF) have commissioned a response to the green paper (collated by Jim Harvey).  There is still evidence that this is an administration which listens to the experience of frontline workers.

The founding of Senscot was partly inspired by reading Charles Leadbeater’s 1997 report ‘The rise of the social entrepreneur’.  Now, 10 years later he has written another pamphlet which reflects on the past decade of social enterprise- and sketches strategies for the next 10 years.  Leadbeater is one of our sector’s leading thinkers- its worth checking his views.  Table on page 5 defines where he thinks social enterprise sits in the economy.

Last year, when the Miliband boys were on the circuit talking about democratic renewal – I believed that the English Parliament was seriously going to devolve power to the communities.  I no longer believe this – Hazel Blears is a New Labour fixer- her empowerment action plan is tokenistic. Ed Miliband’s last speech at the Third Sector Office conceded that it would require a major cultural change at local government level to shift power down to communities in the UK.  At a recent empowerment conference Stephen Thake spoke of the mentality of local government ‘there are thousands of nay sayers and a few people who say ‘we can do this’. The issues are in people’s heads – they are cultural not substantive’.  Excellent blog by Julian Dobson of New Start.

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: 18 vacancies, incl. posts with: Drake Music Scotland, FirstPort, Forth Sector, West Fife Enterprise Ltd
EVENTS: 12 events, incl ASC Social Firms Network Group, 10 Jan, Edinburgh; Banking the unbanked: Where are we now?, 22 Jan, Glasgow

England’s communities department (DCLG) is accelerating its centrally driven programme to persuade councils to transfer assets into community ownership. 14 new demonstration areas have been added to the current 20 – and a target of 80 areas has been set (within 2 years)  In Scotland, it seems that Government will leave initiatives on community empowerment, asset transfer etc to the discretion of individual councils – which means that some will work with communities and some wont. Senscot believes it would be helpful to create a kind of ‘council watch’ monitor to showcase monthly examples of good practice community empowerment. This could feed into an annual league table. Do you think this idea has merit? Email your response

Foyer Enterprise, the subsidiary trading arm of Aberdeen Foyer opens a new venture in the city early in January. `Foyer at HMT` will operate a restaurant, café bar and hospitality suite at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen city centre. This adds to their already impressive string of social enterprises that include the Foyer Restaurant and Gallery, Foyer Graphics, Foyer Drive and Ben & Jerry’s. For more, see

Bethany Christian Trust is running their Caring Christmas Tree Appeal again this year. It has been running since 2005, has funded more than 7000 bed spaces for homeless people at Bethany’s Winter Care Shelter in Edinburgh and helped fund the charity’s five drop-in facilities in Fife. See more

This week’s bulletin profiles a community interest company that is aiming to contribute to the economic development of Bangladesh through fair trade and, at the same time, enhancing employment opportunities in Wigtown. The Book Bag Company, set up this year, is a wholesale company, importing and marketing products from IFAT (the global network of Fair Trade Organisations) organisations in Bangladesh. Their products include customised bags made from natural jute to your own design and a wide variety of handmade paper. For more info`, see

Expanding our sense of possibility is the most empowering gift we can give or receive: Edgar Cahn
Until that time, comedians I knew were English or American but Jimmy Logan and Stanley Baxter were being funny in my accent. The light of possibility was switched on:    Billy Connelly
The possibility of stepping into a higher plane is quite real for everyone. It requires no force – or effort – or sacrifice. It involves little more than changing our ideas about what is normal:  Deepak Chopra

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

Best wishes,

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