Some time ago, I wrote about an elderly lady in my street who lived alone, was beginning to become a little confused and on occasion, would go for a wander. We’re fortunate on our street in that most folk know one another and so to some extent, we could keep an eye out for her – but in truth, only to make sure she was safe. Five months ago, after a couple of falls and spells in hospital, she was placed in a care home on the other side of the city, severing whatever local connections she had. There’s a depressingly familiar ring to this sorry tale because whatever other factors were at play, her increasing sense of being alone and isolated from those around her must surely have compounded them. Feeling lonely is the social scourge of our times and while we know it affects all ages, the elderly are particularly susceptible. Although Scottish Government has recently published its national strategy on the issue, anyone who experiences the pain of loneliness is unlikely to be comforted by government good intention. In this instance, only small acts of kindness between neighbours, and building stronger connections within communities will do the job.
In the most recent briefing…
The Scottish Government has signalled serious intent to combat Scotland’s loneliness epidemic in publishing its first ever Meanwhile, and under the radar as ever, local action on this issue has been evolving. Senscot have recently reported on a fantastic example of how miniscule investments, strategically placed using local knowledge, can generate huge social returns. Hopefully the proposed National Implementation Group will draw heavily on the experience that Senscot and others have acquired.. It lays out some high level aspirations and describes in broad terms how it will deliver on these.
Running as a constant thread through many aspects of government policy is the assumption that communities will somehow find the capacity to respond appropriately. Two things seems wrong with this. Firstly, evidence suggests that the most active communities over time are those with the most resources. So there is an issue of equality. The other concern is that communities are constantly forced into a reactive mode rather than being free to set their own agenda. The experience gained from the very popular Save Leith Walk campaign has led one of the organisers to argue for a national programme of community organising.
Back in the late 70’s and 80’s, the emergence of Scotland’s community controlled housing movement represented a fundamental challenge to the establishment view of what social housing could be – groups of tenants demonstrating unequivocally that they were better able to run their housing than the cash strapped councils. It’s always been a mystery (to me) why the community controlled model wasn’t adopted more widely. Interesting article from Timon Moss writing inwhich suggests that Scotland has some catching up to do on the new models of community led housing being developed elsewhere in UK.
Listening to successive Tory ministers defending the roll out of Universal Credit is dispiriting enough but impossible to imagine how it must feel if you are on its receiving end. And the impact of poverty seems to be so multi layered that the actual lack of cash is only a fraction of the many hardships experienced. For some time now a number of very small, self-help groups (mainly comprised of women) in some of Scotland’s poorest communities have been taking small steps towards changing their circumstances. It’s an idea that was born in India and it’s starting to make a real difference to people’s lives here.
It may seem fanciful given how often community councils are criticised for being the most toothless tier of local democracy, with few powers and even fewer resources at their disposal, but credible evidence has come to light that suggests that the far right grouping – New British Union – has plans to infiltrate community councils in order to build grass roots support for their ideas. By establishing small cells of their supporters in as many parts of the country as possible, their stated aim is to build a ‘quiet revolution’. Reason to worry?
Brexit dominates the news coverage in a way that leaves virtually no space for anything else. It’s a gift to those spin doctors who seek opportunities to bury bad news – no one has the head space to focus on anything else. And that goes for good news stories too. Just before Christmas, on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our First Minister announced Scotland’s ambition to become a world leader on human rights. New rights legislation is planned that could have major implications for the future direction of land reform. Land Commissioner, Megan MacInnes blogs.
In recent years there has been growing interest in different models of organisation and governance. Frederick Laloux, in his book Reinventing Organisations, considered a range of organisational models within the context of different eras through history. He concluded that in the modern era, we are beginning to see a new model emerge – the self-managing organisation. The ideas that underpin this model also seem closely aligned to the concepts of Sociocracy or Dynamic Governance which have been around since in 1945. One of the leading thinkers on Sociocracy is coming to Edinburgh next month. Worth catching.
The concept of the circular economy is typically thought of as a modern response to our rampant consumerism and the ease with which we throw away (to landfill) vast amounts of stuff. But it is more accurately a response to times of abundance, or at least the appearance of abundance, which is when people seem to accept more easily the idea of being wasteful. And because abundance is a relatively new phenomenon, it is important to see the current interest in circular economy as a bit of a throwback.