Like thousands of others, when lockdown first hit, I duly logged on and signed up to do my bit – a mass mobilisation for what felt like a modern-day war effort. As it happened, my offer to help was never taken up. The system had been overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of volunteers stepping up and, other than an initial acknowledgement, I heard nothing more from the organisers. Which is a pity because if the challenges we faced last March were daunting, what lies ahead is likely to be even worse, and certainly more complex to resolve. By common consent, aside from those who have contracted the virus, it is our children who have been most affected by the pandemic. Educationally, emotionally, physically and socially – every aspect of their development has been harmed to an extent and for some, irreparably so. After her stellar performance at Biden’s inauguration, and when asked about her upbringing, Amanda Gorman reprised the old African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. In this, Scotland’s Year of Childhood, could our ‘villages’ be mobilised as part of a national effort to help our children recover? Other than reopening schools, is there a plan?
In the most recent briefing…
For obvious reasons, the older one gets the more one is able to relate to past events – often because of first hand experience of those same events. Which is one reason I’m enjoying a new feature in SENScot’s weekly SE Networks News – From The Archive. Buried deep in the 2008 files is a speech from Senscot’s founder, Laurence Demarco, which he gave at DTA Scotland’s annual conference in 2008. Focusing on the difference between civic and civil society, his challenge is as relevant today as it was back then – possibly more so. How independent from the state is our sector?
Although the relationship between local and national government has never been a particularly easy one, if some of those tensions could be resolved on a permanent basis, we would undoubtedly all reap the dividends. It’s why the Local Governance Review is such an important piece of work. But, despite their differences, our two tiers of government frequently manage to collaborate to great effect. A sterling example of this partnership working was announced last week with 26 community organisations receiving very significant capital investments – many of the awards being in the £1m+ category.
For whatever reason, lockdown seems to have shifted our attitudes towards food. Perhaps because we’ve become more acutely aware of the fragility of the global food system or it’s because we’ve more time on our hands, but the community growing movement is ever expanding and Councils across the board report ever lengthening waiting lists for allotment plots. In a bid to inspire and enthuse those of us who have yet to dig their first potato, Glasgow Allotments Forum are hosting FebFest later this month. Jill Edumdsen from Sheffield Uni explains why food growing is fast becoming an urban preoccupation.
In some ways the recent spat between EU and UK over vaccine distribution was wholly inevitable. At times of crisis, these fears and anxieties stoke feelings of nationalism and hostility towards others with any sense that we are ‘all in this together’ being quickly jettisoned. But clearly not everyone reacts in this way. A new book by psychologist Steve Taylor suggests that many who experience some kind of personal trauma in their own lives, undergo a form of ‘post-traumatic personal growth’ which moves them to a higher level of functioning and human development. He calls these people the ‘shifters’
There’s a lot of talk just now about how, when we finally emerge from this pandemic, we will do things very differently. Not to dismiss the importance of talk (always the necessary precursor to action) but experience suggests that talking is the easy part whereas the action usually proves to be much more elusive. Which is why we should all take a leaf out of the book being written to describe the Amsterdam’s conversion to Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics. From the city leaders to the average Amsterdammer, the ambitious talk is actually being converted into action.
Ever since social enterprise first entered the lexicon of third sector policy wonks, consensus about its true meaning has proved elusive. Ten years ago, in an attempt to bring some clarity, an idea imported from south of the border – the Social Enterprise Mark – was launched, only to sink with little trace a few years later. Undaunted by that experience, a new venture – Social Enterprise Places – has surfaced. Clearly well intended, but with little information about the benefits that accrue to these ‘places’, alarm bells are ringing. Sometimes, initiatives with the best of intentions can have unintended consequences.
No shortage of ideas for a post-Covid Scotland in the final report from the Social Renewal Advisory Board, convened by Cab Secs, Aileen Campbell and Shirley-Anne Somerville. Lots of ideas for what ‘should’ be done and what ‘needs’ to be done – less so, and perhaps more importantly, about what we have to ‘stop’ doing in order to bring forward this vision of a more just and equitable Scotland. Surely we need to accept where we’ve been getting it wrong and what we need to do less of in order to set a new course for a better, brighter future.
The root causes of our housing crisis are complex and not wholly to do with our dysfunctional land market. A longstanding attitude to home ownership and the rented sector has placed home ownership above all other options. It is of course very different in other countries where renting high quality, affordable accomodation for life is considered the norm. In Singapore, for instance, housing is considered to be a ‘social asset’, as a result of large scale state intervention in the market, which has enabled citizens to save for their retirement rather than enrich land and property speculators.
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