Dear members and friends,
Even before the emergence of religious sensibility in humans, our ancestors celebrated the winter equinox; the profound connection between the returning of light and life itself. With its symbolism of rebirth and new beginning – I find this the most natural season to take pause – to reflect on the direction of our lives; wrapping up a spent year – unwrapping a fresh one. But for those whose daily lives are a struggle to survive, such reflection can be a luxury beyond reach.
Among my newspaper clippings, I find a 2012 interview with singer Susan Boyle, in which she says: “There is an abject poverty in the UK that I feel is hidden – a general unawareness of the struggle that people face every day. Before my ‘big break’, I lived on £30 a week – I never again want to feel that gut-wrenching panic or misery”. I think our political leaders see the ‘gut-wrenching’ inequality which shames Scottish society – but they are culpably timid – reluctant to displease the better off.
For the fortunate like myself – whose basic needs for food, warmth, companionship are in place – it’s easier for the new year to be a time for relaxation and renewal. I offer a quote from the black writer and campaigner, Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. Then go do that. What the world needs is people who have come alive”. Love that. May this festive holiday connect all of us to whatever ‘brings us to life’.
This extract from the Scottish budget statement on Wednesday – makes clear that the third sector and social enterprise are valued by this Govt; but our most effective troops are the thousands of small platoons sustained at the front line by local funding – and the money for Councils has been hammered; next year could bring heavy casualties. It’s clear that the theme of public service reform will increasingly dominate – with much of the third sector undecided whether this offers opportunity or a poisoned chalice. For some, the loss of independence from the state, is too high a price to pay for funding; crunch times ahead. Senscot’s up-and-coming AGM in January (see below) will have a special session on this topic.
Each week I check out the columns of a dozen political commentators – mostly online; my selection can vary – but one of my fixed points was the journalist Ian Bell – and I already miss his voice. Socialist, republican, compassionate – his work was rigorously researched – didn’t do personal attacks – a born writer. I had no personal knowledge of Bell – but it is clear from the tributes that his peers had the highest regard for his integrity and personal kindness. A moving tribute from his son, Sean.
Scotland’s Commission on Local Tax Reform released its report this week – and, unsurprisingly, recommended the abolition of the present system of Council Tax; but what should replace it has got everyone stumped – and the decision has once again been postponed. No-one seriously disputes that citizens should pay local tax according to their means – but none of the political parties has the bottle to suggest how this can best be achieved. Good piece from Andy Wightman of the Greens.
Before we leave 2015, I’d like to acknowledge two books which I believe were gutsy countercultural blasts against the soulless rule of global corporations. The first was ‘Reinventing Organisations’ by Frederic Laloux, which carries the hopeful message that human consciousness continues to develop – and that a shift is currently underway. The book is a compilation of 12 case studies, of organisations which have created workplaces of authenticity, passion and purpose. This is a thoughtful review by the Coaching & Mentoring Network.
Another source of inspiration this year was Paul Mason’s ‘Postcapitalism’; information technology, he says, makes possible the vision of a more socially just economic system – which is already forming, unseen, in the niches and hollows of the market system; the book dares to think of a mutualised economy, beyond markets and private ownership. Here’s an interview with Huck Magazine . Mason has also done a Guardian piece about the disappearance of the USA middle class – a movement towards the future Thomas Piketty predicts for the world – a starkly divided society of rich and poor.
NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See http://www.senscot.net/jobsevents.php this week:
JOBS: Social Enterprise Academy, New Caledonian Woodlands, Queensferry Sports and Community Hub, NatCen / Scottish Government
EVENTS: "Aladdin" (TRAM Direct Theatre Company), 20 Dec; Media Training – Edinburgh, (Talk Action), 21 Jan;
TENDERS: : IT Disposal Service contract – Scottish Government, Family Support Service – Dumfries and Galloway Council, Care at Home – The City of Edinburgh Council, Programme to Improve the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Young People – NHSGGC and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.
The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes: As is customary for the last SENs Newsletter of 2015, we reflect on activity over the last 12 months. The year has been the publication of two significant documents – the SE Census 2015 and the SE Vision 2025. A major part of our work is in supporting the SENs and their members. The SENs themselves – 17 local and 5 thematic – now have around 1100 social enterprises as members or engaged. This has risen sharply from 350 in 2011 – an increase of approximately 300% – and would suggest, as per Census figures, that around 20% of Scotland’s 5,000 SEs are now engaged with local or thematic SENs. In order to offer appropriate support to this expanding network and the challenges and opportunities that are presenting themselves, we plan, as reported last week, to refresh our approach, particularly in view of ongoing developments in areas such as ‘Sport for Change’; Health and Social Care Integration; Tourism; Employability; Partnership and Procurement; and the emerging EU Funds 2014-2020.
Date for your diary: Senscot will be holding its 16th AGM on 29th January at the Grassmarket Community Project in Edinburgh. The formal AGM will follow an open session looking at the implications – challenges, opportunities and risks – for social enterprise and the third sector in playing an increasing role in public service delivery. More details after the festive break.
Last week’s piece on social investment being an illusion prompted a response for Senscot to consider a more ‘nuanced approach to social investment’. Jim Bennett (SKS Scotland CIC) writes to us about the experience of Freedom Bakery in accessing start-up capital: “It is important to recognise that community share issues and Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) provide real opportunities to bring small investors into financing social enterprises. People who have no connection with social enterprise before, providing risk capital less expensively than standard lenders is great. If they need to get a modest return for doing that, where’s the harm? After all, would people prefer them to invest in banks, tobacco and the arms industry?! It’s a win-win situation, promoting ethical investment at the same time as getting a new stream of cheaper finance into social enterprises”. Here Jim gives a bit more background.
With funders and investors raising the ante, of late, about social impact and impact measurement etc, it is important to remember that much of the earlier work on this theme came from within the sector itself – lead by the likes of the Social Audit Network. Alan Kay – well-known to many – has been invited to do a monthly blog. Here’s his first.
This week’s bulletin profiles a social venture in Edinburgh that diverts its profits towards supporting a range of local food-related projects in the city. Kilted Lobster, set up a couple of months ago in the Stockbridge area, is first and foremost a seafood restaurant but channels its surpluses into their Cooking Up A Storm initiative that will be running the following projects: Workplace training for local young people; ‘Meal Banks’ for individuals and families facing financial hardship; and Cookery Classes for single parents as well as for individuals diagnosed with food-related health conditions. Kilted Lobster is supported in this work by the Princes Trust; the Employment Services; and Queen Margaret University.
Antoine de Saint Exupery (1900-1944) was a French writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist and pioneering aviator. These three quotes glimpse the originality of his wisdom. Both a mysterious and alluring character.
"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea…”; “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral…”; “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
That’s all for this year.
Everyone at Senscot hopes you and those you love have a great holiday – next bulletin Jan 8th 2016.
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Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210