While Laurence has been sunning himself in Andalucia, Iâ€™ve been traipsing the highways and byways of Berlin and Genoa. Itâ€™s been hard going but the weatherâ€™s been a bonus. What has been most striking is the contrast in the nature of social enterprises between the respective countries. Germany seems very much geared towards the social firm model whereas the Italian model is mainly the co-operative.In both countries, the government actively encourages such enterprises. The German Government will pay start up costs, consultancy and wages in the first year. This applies to commercial start-ups as well as social firms. This assistance and support produces impressive results. In Italy, the social co-operatives can access a variety of contracts with social clauses up to a limit of 200,000 euros. Above that, the contract will be put out to tender. However, this `closed tender` is only for social co-operatives. It is abundantly clear that having social clauses included in tenders for public services is a sure way to level the playing field.The last couple of days will see us visiting an aquarium and a museum being run as social co-ops in this beautifil city. I am disappointed to hear that the weather at home appears to have been as good as here. Let`s hope it lasts.Story in the main bulletin about the Academy`s new initative in the Highlands and Islands. Hopefully, members in these areas can take advantage of these new programmes. http://www.senscot.net/view_news.php?viewid=7213Had a good response to our Network 1st portal. There`s still a bit of work to be done but over the coming weeks you`ll see more info` and events being added. If you`ve got any news you want included, please me know. See http://www.senscot.net/networks1st/index.phpDates for your diary:More here http://www.senscot.net/networks1st/diary.php Coalfields SEN: Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Alloa, at 1pm on 13th May. (Snack lunch before meeting at 12.30pm) Clackmannanshire SEN: Friday 23rd May at 2pm, Room 1 in KilncraigsEdinburgh SEN: 25th May 2008, 3.00pm Social Enterprise Academy, Thorn House, 5 Rose Street Edinburgh EH2 2PR Fife SEN: Thursday 26th June at 10.00am, The Roundhouse in Kirkcaldy.