Dear members and friends,
My mum died before I was five – so my core family was my dad and older sister; then a ‘foster’ aunt/uncle with two sons – my quasi brothers; then three grandparents; then seven aunts and uncles; then dozens of cousins. Four years at boarding school (Chesterfield) – two in a seminary (London) – contributed to a confident but arrogant young Laurence. At 21, I married without my father’s consent; he returned to Picinisco – the Italian village he left aged 10 – married a local – settled into rural sunshine.
For multiple reasons, the trajectory of our lives diverged; by the time I visited his Italian life, he was in his 70s – much reduced by strokes etc – highly dependent on his wife as carer. I came to regard him as an exile in an alien culture – who probably regretted leaving Scotland; but I don’t know how much of this bleak scenario I imagined.
In an Edinburgh fish restaurant this week, I’m approached by an Italian chap, around 60 – who asks, very respectfully, if I’m the son of the late Tony Demarco. He has an open, smiling face – soft eyes – I invite him to sit. Called Pietro, he lived in Picinisco when my dad was an active citizen – and they became close friends for several years (a surrogate son?). For nearly an hour, I hear many happy anecdotes which convince me – that during his retirement, my dad found many reasons to be cheerful – reasons for joy. I told Pietro how grateful I was for what he shared with me
Each year, Senscot invites financial donations from readers who wish to contribute to the cost of producing this bulletin. Traditionally, around 100 individuals give an average of £25 to become full company members. Senscot’s board is elected by and is accountable to these members. We also invite donations from individuals (donors) or organisations (associate members) who simply wish to support what we do (amounts between £5 and £500). To join or donate, see members page. Numbers for 2018 are now at around 80 – 20 places to fill. Check members page in case we’ve missed your name out. Our ‘membership call’ runs until mid-March.
Most shameful about the Oxfam story is having to accept – that when it comes to powerful, predatory men exploiting vulnerable women and children – our sector is no different from other walks of life. This informed article from Andrew Hind, in Civil Society, provides some context – suggests, in fact, that Oxfam’s safeguarding policies are among the best – so what then is the reason for this industry-wide malaise; I start from the position that when something is wrong – something is too big. The distortions of ‘giantism’ which play out in conglomerates like Carillion, are increasingly infecting our third sector, both internationally and in the UK. In pursuit of ‘growth’, we see successful ‘community scale’ enterprises adopt the practices of commercial corporations – priorities drifting from ‘moral leadership’ to the ruthless financial demands of survival. Awareness is spreading that we’ve got this wrong – that we need to reinvent our organisations to make them smaller; return authority and responsibility to the local, front line; where ‘scale’ would be a significant advantage, we will become better at collaboration.
Although I’ve been preoccupied for years with the option of a universal basic income (UBI) – doesn’t mean I’m convinced by it. No-one really doubts that technology will result in less people having paid work – I try to follow political responses to this prediction from both the left and right. (UBI gets support from both – which makes me wonder). Good piece from Anna Coote, of the New Economics Foundation, who argues against UBI – strongly for UBS – universal basic services. The goal here is ‘Free public services that enable every citizen to live a larger life – by assuring access to safety, opportunity and participation’.
Years as a development worker in Scottish housing estates taught me that most of our community leaders are impressive women – often exercising an authority they’d been unaware of. Clear evidence of Scotland’s discomfort with powerful women is the shameful lack of tributes/statues celebrating their contribution to our social history; which is why the unveiling of a statue in honour of housing campaigner, Mary Barbour deserves our attention – the first of many? I have a sense that the unrealised potential, particularly of women, in working class communities – could transform civil society.
NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website.
JOBS: People United for Banton, Social Investment Scotland, Museums Galleries Scotland, Factory II Limited, Scottish Borders Social Enterprise Chamber, Bridges Programmes, CRNS
EVENTS: Visitor Data into Action, 20 Feb; Glasgow SEN Meeting, 20 Feb; EDGE Workshop with Social Investment Scotland, 21 Feb; Buy Social Academy – Creative Industries, 27 Feb; Fife Soup, 02 Mar
TENDERS: Supported Bus Service for Aberdeen City Council – Aberdeen City Council, Soft Skills and Leadership Training – VisitScotland, Provision of Monitoring Services at Loch Ewe – Scottish Government,
The SENs Weekly Update: Over the last few weeks, we have been running a survey amongst Thematic SEN members – to identify key priorities for the year ahead. Similar surveys in recent years have highlighted issues such as: Loneliness & Social Isolation; Dementia; Cinema & Regeneration; social prescribing; community tourism; mental health and employability; and running a sustainable sport facility – all offering scope for collaboration between both thematic and local SEN members – and have been reflected in our recent series of SE Briefings. We are closing this year’s survey on Monday 19th Feb – so if you have not got round to completing it, here’s the link – Tick-Box survey. The response so far has been very encouraging and top issues being identified, to date, include improving health and wellbeing; mental health and wellbeing; addressing isolation; and partnership working and collaboration. We’ll have a final list over the coming weeks.
Readers who have a professional role around the raising of children will be aware of the current term Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which over recent years has been the subject of countless books and research papers. If you’re from a split home, for instance – or one with problem drinking, undue violence etc – a startling connection has been established between your parenting and your subsequent physical and mental well-being. Scottish writer and activist, Carol Craig has published a new book relating ACEs directly to Scottish ill health. Andrew Hook reviews it in Scottish Review.
Glasgow SEN member, Flourish House is putting out a call to companies and firms in the city to offer temporary (paid) work placements to its service users to help them build confidence and experience in different. roles. Flourish offers education, training, employment and social activities to around 300 members – who are in recovery from mental health issues to regain confidence and life skills whilst achieving social and financial goals. Employers who have signed up in the past include Ikea, Sainsbury and Hampden Stadium. This video gives more background. Maybe there’s a role for some of Glasgow’s more established social enterprises to contribute to Flourish’s employment programme.
The number of individuals and organisations purchasing Community Bonds from Scottish Communities Finance (SCF) is steadily growing. In an effort to make it easier to translate the many ‘notes of interest’ into actual purchases of Bonds, SCF has now set up an online application and payment system. If you are interested in supporting the Bond Offer (the link above offers more info) – but have not got round to following up on your ‘note of interest’, see following links to online application form and payment system.
This week’s bulletin profiles a community enterprise whose aim is to develop and improve the way of life and standard of living in the Gairloch and Loch Ewe area of Wester Ross. The Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum (GALE) works with a range of community groups and volunteers to develop sustainable community projects that tackle important issues within their community, such as improving the social life, the local economy and the environment. Some projects are ‘one-offs’ – carried out to completion; others are ongoing and include their Community Markets that have been running since 2000; volunteering opportunities for local people with varying support needs; as well as the local community shop – with all profits being used to fund new community projects or subsidise GALE’s existing work.
The vision of E.F. Schumacher continues in the many institutions which his work inspired. He began his book ‘A Guide for the Perplexed’ with this anecdote:
“On a visit to Leningrad some years ago, I consulted a map to find out where I was, but I could not make it out. From where I stood, I could see several enormous churches, yet there was no trace of them on my map. When finally an interpreter came to help me, he said: “We don’t show churches on our maps.” Contradicting him, I pointed to one that was very clearly marked. “That is a museum,” he said, “not what we call a ‘living church’, it is only the ‘living churches’ we don’t show.” It then occurred to me that this was not the first time I had been given a map which failed to show many things I could see right in front of my eyes.”
That’s all for this week.
Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210