Dear members and friends,
When I was young, no-one used the term ‘autism’ – which suggests we had other language to understand and describe these behaviours: ‘painfully shy’, ‘slow’, ‘disruptive’ etc. In the last two decades, we’ve become aware of a range of developmental disorders, which we call Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD); these vary, from mild, social and communication challenges, to serious disabilities which require intensive support. At the mild end, I often speculate if X or Y is ‘on the spectrum’ – but I’ve never applied this to myself – until last week.
Psychiatrist Dr Matt and I get on well; at a gathering last week, he asks if I’ve ever considered where I sit on the spectrum of autism. Totally surprised, I ask “Are you referring to my preference for solitude – or the ‘obsessive’ nature of certain projects.” “I refer” he says, “to your blunt way of speaking – as though ‘a filter’ is missing”. “But I’ve always been proud of this – the courage to say it, the way it is”. Matt smiles, “yes it could be courage, but have you considered that it could be autistic.”
On Sunday I’m replacing rotted panels in my picket fence – four hours (obsessively) digging holes for fence posts has exhausted me; recovering on my bed, I reflect on the Dr Matt conversation. Even allowing that I am recognisably ‘on the spectrum’ – but so what? There must be millions like me; ‘borderline’ personalities, with ‘bumps’ in our behaviour, familiar to friends. Looking forward, I think it’s the challenges of decrepitude which will demand my attention. Alzheimer’s rather than Asperger’s.
A garden plant, which I assumed had succumbed to frost (Lathyrus, white pearl), suddenly sprouted new shoots this week – lifted my mood. The cultivation of local democracy under the SNP has a similar effect – just when you think it’s dead, a wee shoot appears. For around the next six months, a Local Governance Review will take place – including a ‘community conversation’ called Democracy Matters – worth a look. But don’t imagine for a minute, that politicians have suddenly converted to the philosophy of subsidiarity – this agenda is driven by cold pragmatism – the need for communities to help deliver services. The next few years could see the further spread in Scotland of the network of community-owned ‘Anchor’ development trusts – the engines of local economies; this assumes that someone briefs the ‘procurement’ people.
I’m an Edinburgh boy, born and bred in the Lauriston area of the city – easy walking distance from George IV Bridge and the Central Library. Richard Branson was on TV this week, punting his new Virgin Hotel – for the top-end, very rich. Campaigners, including some famous Edinburgh writers, say that this planning consent disrespects and diminishes the Central Library – and should be rescinded. Many of us believe that Edinburgh is in the process of ‘selling its soul’ to the tourist trade – like Venice and Florence – at the expense of the resident population. Many areas of Scotland struggle with this ‘balance’.
Rumi said, “Silence is the language of God, all else is a poor translation.” According to Pascal, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” And Lin Yutang’s “If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.” This is Pablo Neruda’s poem ‘Keeping Quiet’ – which contains the following lines: “If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death.”
Senscot held its AGM last Friday in Glasgow. The discussion topic this year was ‘resilience within our SE community…..’ and attendees heard from Alex Weir (Spruce Carpets) and Jean Cumming (Crisis) on some of the challenges they have faced over the years. The wider discussion focused on procurement and the ongoing difficulties many social enterprises continue to encounter. Feedback suggested that in spite of the Procurement Reform Act and 6 years of the Govt’s Developing Markets Programme – many public agencies continue to focus on price as the main (and often only) measure in determining the outcome of tender bids. We are sure there will be examples where progress is being made – but the practice of ‘strategically commissioning’ social enterprises or other third sector organisations to deliver services in local communities still seems a long way off – and remains an impediment to building resilience within our sector. This bulletin has, in the past, featured the Preston Model. We believe this approach is being currently explored by North Ayrshire Council. It would be good to know if any other local authorities are showing a similar interest. In same vein, Locality (DTA Scotland’s sister organisation in England) has produced a five step guide for councillors and commissioners as part of their ‘Keep it Local’ campaign.
Keep up to date with the latest jobs, events and funding opportunities in the social enterprise sector.
P4P has now entered its second year – looking to support the development of new partnerships or consortia, as well as to provide one-to-one support, with tendering for contracts for social enterprises and third sector organisations in Scotland. In its first twelve months P4P supported 7 contract bids – with two proving successful. To build on this work, they have now produced a new ‘Collaboration Toolkit’ that provides a
comprehensive guide for organisations who are thinking about forming a new consortium or partnerships. P4P is also running a webinar – ‘Introduction to Partnership and Collaboration’ – on Friday 22nd June at 11am. To sign up, contact email@example.com.
Over 17 Sport SEN members attended last week’s Community Learning Exchange (CLE) – hosted by Aberdeen FC Community Trust. Those attending were given an overview of AFC Community Trust’s work; a tour of the stadium; and an opportunity to speak with project staff and participants. Their Programmes include: Football For Life; Education & Early Intervention; Healthy Communities including Dementia Friendly Communities. For further info on SE and sport, see the latest Sport SEN Newsletter.
A new report out this week from ‘What Works Scotland’. Transforming Communities? explores the developing role of key independent community sector organisations known as community anchors – community-led, multi-purpose organisations. It draws from six exemplar anchor organisations to explore their roles in engaging with, leading and challenging public service reform; how public services and the state can better support community anchors and community sector development; and the potential roles of anchors in building local democracy, community resilience for sustainable development, and wider social change.
Our AGM last Friday saw Foster Evans stand down after 10 years on the Board of Senscot. Apart from chuntering on about the Jags, Foster will be sorely missed. The good news is that he will continue to serve as Chair of Senscot Legal. We also welcomed two new Board members – Derek Marshall (Factory Skatepark) and Ailsa Clark (InspirAlba) – who, we are sure, will both be great additions to the Board.
This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise café in Motherwell that acts not only as a community hub but also as a vehicle for providing young people with learning disabilities employment, volunteering and learning opportunities. Windmills Café was set up in 2006 by a group of local school pupils – who believed that young people with learning disabilities should have equal access to meaningful work experience opportunities. Windmills has gone on to develop award winning teaching resources – allowing local young people to achieve mainstream qualifications and ‘hands on’ experience. In 2016, they were awarded the Investors in Young People award as well as launching their own Modern Apprenticeship scheme.