Dear members and friends,
Since New Year I’ve been clearing out and tidying stuff. No conscious reason – but I’ve kept at it. Opening boxes – chucking out papers, letters, and all manner of things. My unconscious is clearing the decks – wonder why. The books that were scattered everywhere are now arranged on new Ikea shelves – a whole wall in the front room – over a thousand of them; by folk’s expressions, I suspect it looks daft. Found a box of personal journals 1981 – 1994 but something stops me chucking them – a sense of loyalty to the person I used to be? Still pondering this.
Another document unearthed was my 1973 Community Work Diploma from Moray House – I’d forgotten that I graduated ‘with merit in practical subjects’ – which recalls a good story. During our final year the 40 of us were taken to the Scottish National Sports Centre at Inverclyde for a week of intense exposure to a range of sporting activities; this included my first go at fishing. Our boat, just off Largs, must have been sat on top of shoal of codling because every line we lowered hooked one immediately. Back from the pub that evening we were having a great sing song – but folk got hungry so I filleted the beautiful fish and got the fryers going and sent up 30 fish suppers – which were greatly appreciated – as if I’d done a magic thing. That’s the true story of my ‘merit in practical subjects.’ As my old nonna used to say ‘Fisa chips hard work Lorenzo, but always look after you.’
Senscot’s vision is that social enterprise becomes an integral part of everyday life – changing the way our society is run. Over the past year, as our work has become the ‘hot idea’ of the political parties – some colleagues speak as though we’ve ‘arrived’ but I wonder if we’re all talking about the same thing. ‘Modernising’ local government by switching services to arm’s-length community interest companies is not the same vision as mine. For me the action has got to get nearer the people. There is a huge difference, for instance, between a community owned housing association which invests its revenue in its own community, and a national giant which measures success by expansion. It is likely that our movement will split between the big battalions working close to government and the small locally-owned enterprises which remain connected to their people. It is the latter which have the power to transform society but this is a slow process – much slower than politicians require.
At the big social enterprise bash in Manchester last week, Alun Michael, Minister at the DTI, made it clear that the bulk of resources for business support to our sector will go to the mainstream Business Link Service – Business Gateway in Scotland. Many people, including me, believe that this could be a mistake – that mainstream business advisors are neither interested nor equipped to take social enterprise forward. If I want to set up a development trust or a co-operative, I’d rather speak to someone who’s already done it successfully. I hope the English RDAs and Scottish LECs have the sense to sub-contract this work. Scottish Enterprise is currently reviewing its Business Gateway support to the social economy.
The question which engages most political commentators just now is whether there will be any policy differences between Labour and the Tories at the next election. The Demos Greenhouse website has posted two quotes – one from David Cameron and one from Gordon Brown, which I think indicate where the real dividing line will be drawn. Spot the difference. http://www.demosgreenhouse.co.uk/archives/001200.html.
Our website’s ‘Feedback File’ is a tool for us to share information. This week we launch a new topic. ‘Do you have any problems or solution to share on VAT?’ http://www.senscot.net/feedbackfile/index.php
NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but submit jobs (http://www.senscot.net/forms/submitjob.php) or events (http://www.senscot.net/forms/submitevent.php) and we’ll post them on our site. This week:
JOBS: 40 vacancies, incl. posts with: Social Firms Scotland, Poverty Alliance, Furniture Recycling Project Angus, Forth Environment Link, The Paths for All Partnership, Tullochan Trust.
EVENTS: ‘Rural Housing/Rural Development – Making Connections’ Conference, Dunkeld, 23 Feb; ‘Good Food in Tackling Homelessness’, Edinburgh, 2 March;
Woodschool, which featured in the ‘Dragon’s Den’ at the Social Enterprise Ceilidh last November, has bench space facilities available to any aspiring furniture maker / designer wanting to join the collective: http://www.senscot.net/docs/woodschoolspace.pdf.
Senscot will be carrying out a Research Survey over the next few weeks. The survey will feed directly into the Executive’s social enterprise strategy and will include an analysis of support needs and the local economic impact of the sector in Scotland. The questionnaire is available online: http://www.senscot.net/forms/researchsurvey.php. It would be great if you could take 20 mins or so to fill it in, as this is an opportunity to try a shape the support available to the sector over the next few years. Closing date – 17th Feb.
Our website now has an FAQ section to provide help answering common questions – from how to submit a job vacancy, to using the Exchange, to getting info about the networks: http://www.senscot.net/faq/faq.php
At Senscot, we value our independence – our freedom to innovate. But undertaking controversial (unfundable) activity depends on having some unrestricted funds. Every January we invite recipients of the bulletin to send a donation for new work. This year we’ve got ideas to help members access the massive NHS budgets. Individuals are invited to send £10, £25 or £50 and organisations £50 or £100. You can donate online here: http://www.senscot.net/donate.php. So far 35 of you have contributed £2401.
I’ve often thought the ‘ask the audience’ buttons in ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ would be a great tool for a community conference. Andy Milne at SURF has actually set this up for their conference on March
10th in Dundee – so that all delegates will participate directly in the debate. Great speakers and a chance for community reps to ask if those in power really want independent community organisations. Unlike
most conferences, which are priced for ‘suits’, SURF have got sponsorship for one third of the 120 places. I’d love to see how this new software works. http://www.senscot.net/view_event.php?viewid=4069.
This week’s bulletin profiles an emerging social enterprise recently awarded a level 2 grant from Scotland UnLtd. The Melting Pot is the brainchild of Claire Carpenter (Creating Connections) and aims to establish a flexible, shared work and meeting space in Edinburgh. Having developed a business plan over the last twelve months, The Melting Pot has received £20,000 from Scotland UnLtd to take it to the next level. The idea is to provide an incubator for progressive initiatives and individuals, and hope is by the summer of 2006 to have at least 3000sq ft available as a new kind of work and social space. The idea mirrors, in part, the highly successful Hub in Islington. Further info’, see http://www.senscot.net/view_prof.php?viewid=4137.
Good poetry has the power to start a fire in us. ‘The Journey’ by Mary Oliver is about transformation – I found it challenging. Here’s its start and finish: ‘One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice – … and there was a new voice which you slowly recognised as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do – determined to save the only life that you could save.’ https://senscot.net/?viewid=4134.
That’s all for this week. Good luck with your adventures.
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