Aside from the excoriating criticisms levelled at the UK Government by the United Nations special investigation for its deliberate pursuit of policies that condemn a fifth of the population to live in poverty, almost as striking was the response it provoked from Westminster. Stopping just short of accusing the UN expert of spreading ‘fake news’, Ministers chose to counter aggressively, with a point blank rebuttal of the evidence – all of which is irrefutable. This is the world we now live in, where figuring out who to believe and how to tell the difference between fact and fiction has become a constant challenge. And ironically, just when we need a trusted local media as never before, it seems no one can make it pay in the digital age. Many now fear that the steady erosion of serious investigative journalism, particularly in our local press, represents an existential threat to democracy itself. For without it, how can we speak truth to power? More ironic still is the news that Facebook, who along with Google hoover up over 70% of all advertising revenues, have just announced plans to fund the training of 80 ‘community journalists’ to support local news. Now that really is troubling news.
In the most recent briefing…
Prior to the establishment of the Scottish Land Commission, there had been concerns that the momentum behind land reform might drift despite the best efforts of campaigners and community land owners. After all, it had happened in the years following the first legislation in 2003. But since the Land Commissioners were appointed last year, a huge amount of work has been undertaken and land reform now seems firmly embedded in the policy landscape. Latest publication is a set of seven recommendations to Ministers which if implemented would make community ownership of land the new normal.
When the world’s climate scientists come together as one to proclaim the human race is literally facing the prospect of it own extinction, it’s unnerving to observe how little attention this attracts in the media. Brexit is important, as is whatever Trump says and does but in the scheme of things surely safeguarding the future of the planet trumps Trump? In response to the general lack of response from our leaders, concerned citizens are taking things into their own hands. The intention is to clog up our police cells, courts and prisons until government takes notice. The Extinction Rebellion is spreading.
As yet another national audit report highlights the lack of any real progress in the integration of health and social care, one can only speculate as to the root cause of the inertia that seems to afflict these huge bureaucracies. A new report just out from New Economics Foundation might shed some light on the way forward for the commissioners if they ever get round to thinking about how to engage with the 3rd sector. Rather than defaulting to the large scale social care providers, spare a thought for community enterprise.
Someone should commission a book (maybe they already have) of all the awards that the Scottish Land Fund has made since it was launched. This book would try to capture all the untold stories and unintended benefits that have flowed from these investments. The sheer number of communities to benefit and the variety of projects that this funding has helped to kick start would be interesting in itself – it would also inspire more communities to follow suit. The most recent funding announcement sees £1.6million split between 10 groups stretching from Wigtown in the south to Sandwick in the Shetland Islands.
Schumacher is generally credited with the ‘small is beautiful’ credo but his ideas were shaped when studying under the political scientist, Leopold Kohr. Khor protested all his life against the "cult of bigness" and promoted the concept of human scale. If an organisation was in trouble it was usually because it was too big. The recently published findings of the Civil Society Futures Inquiry look to have drawn heavily on the ideas of Kohr and Schumacher. The report sends a warning to those charities that have gone for growth that they run the risk of becoming irrelevant.
Post financial crash, faith in the market to conjure up creative (and profitable) solutions to the big challenges of the day took a bit of a knock but it’s still the default position for many. The City has long viewed the public purse as a soft touch (public finance initiatives, privatisation of public utilities etc) but the public service reform agenda has proved a tougher nut to crack. When some City whiz came up with the idea of Social Investment Bonds – private investment on a payment by results basis – licking of lips commenced.
Attended an event last week entitled Scotland’s Place Leadership Summit. A publication describing a Place Principle was launched which, not surprisingly, referenced place many times. Place based work is being heralded as the next big focus for regeneration although as many have already commented, place has long been the focus of their work. Best input of the day came from Ted Howard of the Democracy Collaborative (based in USA) who set out the case for fundamental system change and a radical democratising of the economy by drawing in those who are usually economically marginalised, and giving them an active stake.
A new report from Carnegie UK Trust written by Julia Unwin highlights what she sees as the blind spot in public policy – a space in which kindness and human relations can be considered. She begins by acknowledging what the problem is. Talk about kindness and public policy in the same breath and you get one of several reactions and none of them are easy to deal with. It’s just not considered a very grown up, professional thing to do. And so we don’t. But perhaps if enough folk read her report more folk will try and, as she argues, we’ll all be better off for it.