Dear members and friends,
This quote is from John Le Carre’s classic 1963 cold war novel ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’; it is spoken to the central character Alec Leamas, by his lover Liz Gold; “I know you believe in something – you’ve got that look soetime – as though you’ve got something special to do – like a priest.” I collected this quote in 1979, recognising perhaps, something I wanted for myself – to be a hero with a ‘special calling’. Now this only sounds grandiose – delusional.
There is overwhelming evidence, that for our basic mental health, the human psyche needs to ‘believe in something’: adopt a structure of meaning, we can call ‘real’. Ideally, we afford our ‘framework’ enough ‘cred’ to live it passionately – but always aware that it is a construct – one truth among many. In the lifelong exploration of our personal values, it helps if we can avoid ‘closed’ belief systems – infallible by divine revelation; it also helps if we can avoid neurotics – driven by the impulse to save us all.
Mike is an old friend – with whom I’ve worked intermittently over the decades; we share many values, including candour. Over cake and coffee at the garden centre, I’m sharing my vehement rejection of charismatic leaders with missions from ‘beyond’. Was I ever like that? “Laurence, you were a functioning alcoholic in those days; now you’re sober and many years older. Your denigration of leadership sounds like an adjustment to old age; saying that anything you were going to do is now mostly done.” Ouch!
Every year about now, the Sunday Times ‘giving list’ reminds me of my extreme distaste for celebrating the distribution of ‘crumbs from the rich man’s table’; we should have ‘moved on’ from the privileged whim of philanthropy. As the welfare state declines, the UK is returning to similar levels of poverty – with similar causes – that brought it into being. (This is the argument of Prof. Pat Thane discussing her new book.) I’m a social democrat rather than a socialist, because I believe that, by imposing a limit on individual wealth – the ‘turbo’ of market economics can be deployed to serve mutual prosperity, rather than greed. But our society is well short of that level of maturity – still at the level of the Sunday Times giving list.
I find myself increasingly ashamed to read about Scotland’s polluted salmon farms; food writer Joanna Blythman calls them ‘an environmental disaster for our west coast’. Mainly through the investigative work of the Ferret, we’re now getting league tables of the worst examples of animal neglect: death rates, overcrowding, lice infestation etc. It is no exaggeration to say that Scotland enjoys the very highest reputation for our food products – particularly from the waters around our shores. The Scottish Govt. should forget about expanding this dodgy industry, until it cleans up its mess.
Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) commissioned the Indigo House Group to research access to banking in rural areas; the work, including extensive surveys and interviews, was done between February and July this year – see Executive Summary. Interestingly, the recommendations include ‘collaborative hubs’ – offering municipal, civic, banking and community services, from the same generic base.
The Finnish basic income trial finishes at the end of the year; Tuomas Maraja (a journalist) is one of the 2000 jobseekers, randomly chosen to receive a monthly income of £475; in this Guardian piece, he says the psychological effect of this was transformative; providing the flexible security to seek out other opportunities, it is far more motivating for jobseekers than a benefits system, which locks you in or out.
I have a deep regard for the writer, William McIlvanney (1936-2015). He loved, and wrote about the best of Scotland’s working class heritage. I think of him in a smoky pub, with a glass of whisky – philosophising. This is a fragment of a 2012 interview:
“What do you wish you had known when you started writing?
I think I know a lot of things now that I didn’t know then, but I don’t wish I’d known them then, because that’s the way I was then, and I respect that. Also, I don’t think my knowledge now is so impressive that it would have made a great difference to my life. Most of what I think I know has gone into my words. It’s hard to be as innocent as I was then, but that innocence was a very valuable commodity and I hope some of it remains.”
The launch of the Forth Valley Social Enterprise Network (FVSEN) takes place on 23rd August at Callendar Youth Project. FVSEN sees the coming together of three existing SENs – Falkirk, Stirling and Clacks – and will be supported by the 3 respective Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs). TSIs currently are funded to provide local support to the three distinct strands of the third sector – community, voluntary and social enterprise. Some of this support will naturally be generic – but other types of support require to be more specialised and/or differentiated. For social enterprise, SENs – where they exist – are the natural providers of this support – and play an increasingly important role in our SE eco-system. This role is recognised in both the SE Strategy and Action Plan with Scottish Govt’s committing to ‘strengthen and extend the role of SENs’. This commitment to ongoing investment and support for local SENs will be critical if the ambitions of the Strategy and Action Plan are to be realised.
Keep up to date with the latest jobs, events and funding opportunities in the social enterprise sector.
Loneliness has received greater recognition recently in terms of the challenge it represents within our communities. In January, Scottish Govt circulated a draft Strategy for consultation and, down south, the UK Govt appointed the first ‘Minister for Loneliness’. This New Statesman article looks at the difficulties faced in trying to address this issue – highlighting a dearth of research on effective interventions. Age UK states that ‘social capital is responsible for up to 55 per cent of wellbeing in the older population’ – and the article suggests greater significance be given to social prescribing – that, for older people, many issues could be addressed by supporting local community services and activities. The work of social enterprises in this area was the focus of earlier Senscot Briefings – see, ‘Loneliness and Social Isolation’ and ‘Social Prescribing’.
Last week’s announcement of 22 organisations funded via the Social Economy Growth Fund was part of Scottish Govt’s european-funded Growing the Social Economy Programme. A second programme is under consideration and Scottish Govt is running a survey to get feedback on the first programme. Feedback will be anonymous – with a closing date of 31st August 2018.
Job of the week: Today (10th August) is the closing date for applications for the Development Manager post on the Isle of Ulva. Following the community buy-out earlier this year, North West Mull Community Woodland Ltd (NWMCW) is looking to appoint the person who will help realise the community’s plan to regenerate the Estate. See more Jobs .
This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise – based in Aberdeen – that uses the arts and drama as a vehicle that can lead to an improvement in the life experiences, health and the status of people with learning disabilities. Mixed Fish was established in 2012 – as a coming together of two charities that had existed in the city for almost 50 years – The Friends of Woodlands (1962-2003) and the Friends of Elmwood (2003-2011). Mixed Fish has built upon the work of the previous charities in providing time and resources to children and adults who were associated with the two hospital that specialised in support for people with learning disabilities. Mixed Fish is a regular contributor to Aberdeen’s annual Festival of Arts and Drama