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November 30, 2016

Plea for humility

Last week’s social enterprise conference run jointly by Senscot, CE, SFS and ourselves, explored the value of small scale, locally based social enterprises and how, through collaboration and building consortia, our sector might access more of the public spend and hold on to it for longer within our communities. If we become successful in this, tensions will inevitably arise with other parts of the sector – particularly the large national players. Or perhaps these tensions have always existed, as this open letter from Niall McShannon at Clydesdale Community Initatives makes plain.


Neil McShannon

Letter published in TFN

Dear Editor,

I note that Theresa Shearer concludes an article about Enable Scotland’s inability to successfully negotiate with the 32 Local Authorities by implying that this is somehow the fault of smaller voluntary sector social care organisations.

Small local organisations are more accountable to and more inclusive off their communities, they are better able to offer person centred, asset based solutions to individuals and communities and they tend to be more flexible and innovative at finding solutions to the practical challenges they face.  

Of course we have all experienced smaller organisations that suffer from big egos, over competitiveness, incompetence and downright dishonesty. We have also all witnessed these traits in the public sector and larger vol orgs, with the difference that in a small organisation scenario the amount of damage that rogue individuals and boards can cause is mercifully limited.

Larger national third sector organisations have increasingly become accountable to standards, practices, values and centralising tendencies that reflect the needs of their public sector partners and paymasters rather than the communities and individuals they serve. A national discussion about how to care for and support the disadvantaged and vulnerable in our communities is unquestionably required, I would suggest that this conversation begins with local authorities and national organisations showing more appreciation and humility in their relationship with the local organisations that represent true community engagement and empowerment.


Niall McShannon

Clydesdale Community Initiatives