Plaintive piece by Kevin McKenna, reporting the closure of ‘The Buteman’, after 165 years as the Isle of Bute’s local newspaper. The bulk of the local press is owned by a few large companies; to cut costs, they cut local content, until local engagement disappears. The profit seeking business model doesn’t suit local newspapers – inherently more ‘social’ than commercial enterprises.
On Sunday, at my favourite fish restaurant in Callander, I’m reading the excellent Ben Ledi View – produced and distributed by around 50 local volunteers. I then visit the Tourist Information centre for a Trossachs map, to find it operated by volunteers from the local development trust – Visit Scotland recently withdrew staff/funding.
According to the way standard economics is taught, this activity should not exist – because it requires people to suppress self interest in favour of collective interest; but, of course, voluntary economic activity is commonplace all across the land. Failed markets and austerity, increasingly create requirements for ‘alternatives’; new opportunities for people to co-create and co-own services like community housing, energy, transport – practically anything. We are beginning to get inklings of what economies could look like as capitalism begins to recede; as we shift gear, from the obsessive pursuit of growth – to living within our planet’s means. I anticipate the pace of life and economies slowing down – becoming more local, inclusive, convivial, participatory; we shouldn’t resist words like frugality and simplicity – to conserve resources. We may not always notice, but changes like these are coming to a High St near you. My optimism about the future economy owes much to ‘The Economics of Arrival’ by Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams.
In Scotland last year, 1.26 million people volunteered formally through an organisation or group (28% of the adult population). Realignments, in both the private and public sectors, mean that our voluntary sector is becoming increasingly influential in shaping our society. Here’s a timely publication from SCVO, highlighting 20 campaigns of successful partnership between the third sector and Scottish Govt. (worth a look). Celebrating big national campaigns is important – but there are thousands of small community groups without a voice – because of a missing tier in our democracy. As the 2014 Indy Ref showed, Scotland has a ‘submerged’ layer of civil engagement, waiting to be activated
The role of civil society in influencing govt. was played out at Holyrood on Wednesday – on the absolutely critical issue of child poverty. Earlier, 70 eminent poverty campaigners had petitioned Nicola Sturgeon to bring forward the timetable for family income supplement – proposed for 2022. On Wednesday, in Parliament, Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell announced – that in response to the voices of frontline poverty campaigners – the Govt. will further prioritise actions to tackle child poverty. A new Scottish Child Payment (£10 weekly for all eligible children) will commence a year earlier than planned. One senses that our Govt. respects and values the third sector.
I admire the journalist Fintan O’Toole – his grasp of history – his scorn for English imperialism. This week, The National carried an essay by O’Toole called ‘the potential of Scotland to be a new kind of state’ (from a new essay collection, Scotland the Brave). He writes: “National freedom isn’t another word for nothing left to lose – it’s another word for no one left to blame”. His essay considers Scottish Independence inevitable – enjoying friendship and support in many places; but he warns of the need to transition – from the cosy comforting self-image that dependent cultures create for themselves – to see our actual selves.
This quote is from Muhammad Yunus book, ‘Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs’:
“This is a badly distorted picture of a human being. As even a moment’s reflection suggests, human beings are not money-making robots. The essential fact about humans is that they are multidimensional beings. Their happiness comes from many sources, not just from making money. And yet economists have built their whole theory of business on the assumption that human beings do nothing in their economic lives besides pursue selfish interests. The theory concludes that the optimal result for society will occur when each individual’s search for selfish benefit is given free rein. This interpretation of human beings denies any role to other aspects of life – political, social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, and so on.”
Earlier this month, the SE Reference Sub-Group met in Glasgow. The gathering was, in part, to reflect on the progress of the current SE Action Plan (in its final year) – but also to begin discussions on how to help shape the priorities for the next Action Plan. Over 100 comments/observations were collected during discussions – with the idea that, over the coming months, a set of ‘Guiding Principles’ can emerge that can provide a template to inform our next Action Plan (April 2020) – reflecting the wishes, ambitions and priorities of the grassroots SE community in Scotland. The intention is not to state what should be delivered where and by whom, but to ensure that due consideration – via the ‘Guiding Principles’ – is given when taking these decisions – and to be clear about who are the intended beneficiaries. A series of local ‘gatherings’ are now being scheduled between now and October – with discussions underway for events in Inverness, Campbelltown, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Local events will be hosted by local partners, supported by Senscot, Social Firms Scotland and the Scottish Community Alliance. A list of dates and venues will be available shortly. Here are some of the Emerging Themes so far.
NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website.
Date for the Diary: The 14th SE Conference and Ceilidh will be held on the 25th/26th November 2019 at the Westerwood Hotel, near Cumbernauld. The focus, as always, will be about bringing together grassroots social and community enterprises from around the country – to network; share experiences; and highlight the challenges and opportunities for SEs operating within local communities. More details soon.
Senscot will be responding to the Scottish Govt’s current consultation on the new national public health body ‘Public Health Scotland’ – and is inviting SEN members to share thoughts/views/comments etc to help inform our response. Useful background documents include: A CHEX Briefing – an introduction to public health reform and role of community-led health; recent presentation from Public Health Reform team; and our own Briefing Paper on Social Enterprise: Creating Wellbeing in Communities. The consultation runs until 8th July. Responses to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wed, 3 July.
Last week, Birks Cinema hosted a Community Learning Exchange (CLE) focusing on health and wellbeing. Attended by a mix of start-up and established social enterprises, the group learned about both the intricacies and benefits of running a cinema and how Birks has created a hub for the wider Aberfeldy community, proving over 200 different community activities. The CLE coincided with the announcement, this week, of Regional Screen Scotland’s new two-year development programme – A Cinema Near You – which ‘aims to improve access to screen and cinema provision in Scotland, targeting those communities where the need is greatest, and where the benefits may be most significant’. See Senscot Briefing.
This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise that is supporting women who have experienced the Scottish criminal justice system and seeks to provide support in making positive changes in their lives. Positive Changes CIC looks to provide fulfilling employment opportunities for women through the making and selling of high-end chocolates branded as Grace Chocolates. The women are involved in all aspects of production, learning not only how to make chocolates, but also additional skills and practices which will be of value to potential employers. Positive Changes CIC was initially supported by both the School for Social Entrepreneurs and by Firstport.